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Friends Having Breakfast

Meet Me in Medford | School Committee Member Nicole Branley

As one of Medford’s newest School Committee members, Nicole Branley’s heart beats in sync with the city's pulse. From her roots as a lifelong resident to her current role on the School Committee, Nicole's commitment to Medford is unwavering. We spent some time with Nicole to discuss what she loves about the Medford community and her determination to drive positive change for the place she proudly calls home.

First and foremost, congratulations on your School Committee win! We’ll get to that in a little bit, but first, let’s talk about your life in Medford. You are a Medford gal through and through! What neighborhood did you grow up in?

Thank you so much! I bleed the blue and white, there's no doubt about that! I grew up on Princeton Street in South Medford, and my mom still lives there. I went to the Kennedy Elementary and Lincoln Junior High Schools and hung around at Tufts Park. I’m a Medford High School graduate, and next year, my classmates and I will celebrate our 30th class reunion.

Today, I live in West Medford, off Grove Street, not far from the Oak Grove Cemetery. I like to say we have a lakefront property, but only when the leaves fall and we can see the Mystic Lakes through the trees.

What do you love about Medford? What makes you continue to choose Medford as your home?

The best thing about Medford, and I’ve said this many times, is that we have a small-town feel within a big city. We’re a city of nearly 60,000 residents, yet you feel like you know everyone; you’re one degree of separation from the next person.

When you're born and raised in a place you are comfortable in and love, it can’t help but feel like home. I'm happy to raise my family here. I'm proud my kids go to Medford Public Schools. We’re also a city where you can get everything you need. We have entertainment at places like The Chevalier, and now we have Tacuba in the Square and Medford Brewing Company in West Medford. At the same time, long-standing businesses like La Cascia’s and Modern Pastry are hallmarks of our community.

You mentioned Medford Public Schools, an excellent segue to my next question. What inspired you to run for School Committee?

Not only did I go to school here in Medford, but I also decided to send my kids here to Medford Public Schools. I also worked as a Kindergarten aide at Brooks Elementary for many years.

Once a Brooks Bee, always a Brooks Bee, and they’re always in my heart. My work there was a great segue back to the workplace after being a stay-at-home mom for many years, and it allowed me to be on the same schedule as my children, who also attended the Brooks.

I loved connecting with families at the Brooks and because I understood how they felt, I could be empathetic to their needs. I knew what it felt like to send your child to school for the first time and how the children felt, especially those who didn’t want to leave their parents.

But as a full-time employee, I was making $17,000 and did not have a contract, and I had to make the tough decision to take a job elsewhere. I work in the Special Education Department at Somerville Public Schools, so I say I am a Highlander 40 hours a week, but I’m a Mustang through and through.

So now I’ve been in public education for ten years, and I’ve seen it from all sides — both parent and employee, so I knew I had perspective to share in service to our community.

But what truly inspired me was my daughter, Jaclyn, who was the victim of bullying and a brutal physical assault at Medford High School.

First, the outpouring of support we received from the Medford community was enormous — the emails, cookies dropped at our door, phone calls, and messages of support reflected the Medford that I love so much. But what really needed to happen was the institutional change. I began working with Medford High School and the School Committee to revisit and revise our bullying policies and implement the protocols and procedures I saw as lacking. I am proud to say that we now have a revised bullying and intervention plan that is far more comprehensive than there was previously.

It was very satisfying to know that there has been change, and it makes me happy for the students and for the staff and teachers, who are there every single day, day in and day out.

What are some of your favorite spots in Medford, what you’d call the hidden gems?

I don't know if I have a hidden gem, but I can tell you that walking in Oak Grove Cemetery is one of my favorite things to do. The sunrise over the cemetery in the morning and the sunset are stunning. I don't know if the Mystic Lakes have anything to do with that sunrise or sunset; we're nestled between these absolute gems. I also walk the path to the Brooks Estate regularly, and I gain so much peace there.

The one underappreciated spot is the top of the steps at the corner of Playstead Road and Winthrop. The view there is stunning, and no one knows you’re there. It’s a popular spot for prom night photos, but it’s truly a gorgeous spot to take in the view and be with your thoughts.

If your best friend said she was considering a move to Medford, what would you tell her? Although your best friend probably lives in Medford, yes?

My best friend lives in New Hampshire! Her family moved when we were in middle school, and we were pen pals for years, so this is a great question! I’d tell her that Medford is a great city where you can have the best of both worlds. You can find a serene spot to stop and appreciate life for a minute, then head to the Magnificent Muffin, where you see everyone you know and find yourself in the hustle and bustle, with trucks and cars beeping and life moving along. You also have access to Boston and other cities and towns.

But most importantly, Medford is where you make great connections. I’m so blessed. I have my mom friends, my gym friends, and friends I’ve known since elementary school. Medford is a great community, and I know I will never leave.

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