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Alumni Spotlight: Five Questions with IPS Alums — Valerie Bradley Looks Back at How IPS Made a Difference in Her Life

Indianapolis Public Schools is proud of our graduates and their diverse, inspiring journeys. We have created the IPS Alumni Spotlight to celebrate our former students and showcase their experiences, accomplishments, and personal interests. We believe that every graduate has a unique path, and we can all learn from their journeys.

IPS recently asked Valerie Bradley, a 1963 graduate of Crispus Attucks High School, about her journey that began in the state’s largest district and took her to New York.

After earning a B.A. degree at Indiana University and completing graduate studies at the University of California Berkeley School of Journalism, she spent the next 50 years as a journalist and publicist.

 In 1977, she moved from San Francisco to New York to serve as Deputy Counselor for Press and Public Affairs at the United States Mission to the United Nations, where she was a spokesperson for ambassadors Andrew Young and Donald McHenry. Bradley also held positions in the State Division of Housing and Community Renewal and the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development before launching her business. Bradley operated The Bradley Group, a public relations and event planning firm for 28 years before she closed it in 2022. 

A native of Indianapolis, Bradley calls Harlem home. Her commitment to protecting Harlem’s architectural and cultural heritage has made her a true Pillar of New York.

Q—How did your experiences at Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) shape your educational foundation and career aspirations?

A— Because my teachers at School #24, #4 and Attucks insisted that to those much has been given, much is expected, I have made it my mission to work to uplift the African American communities in which I’ve lived and share our rich and fascinating African American history because it is American history. It started at #24 when the principal would hold monthly gatherings in her office for students who had performed well and read poetry and prose from Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, and Paul Lawrence Dunbar. It continued at #4 when I discovered the love of reading, researching, and writing about my people. At Attucks, I embraced journalism because there were teachers who recognized that I had that talent and they nurtured it.

Q—Can you share memorable moments or teachers who had a significant impact on your time at IPS?

A— I remember my junior high school teacher Ms. Leslie Henderson who believed so in me that she often visited my home to give my parents feedback about my work. She entered me in the Indianapolis Science Fair where I simulated a volcano eruption that I built from the ground up. I remember Dr. Gaither, the first Ph.D. I ever met. He was chair of the English Department at Attucks, and he stressed the classics. People told me that a paper that I wrote on Camu’s existentialism remained on exhibit at the Indiana State Fair for decades. That was Dr. Gaither’s influence. Blanche E. Ferguson inspired me to write about Malcolm X in 1961. I was fascinated with him, and she did not discourage me from writing about him even though at the time he was extremely controversial. By the way, until recently, she was the author of the definitive biography of Harlem Renaissance poet Countee Cullen. My teachers were extraordinary, and they taught in segregated schools. Without their wisdom and knowledge, my life probably would not have been as rich as it has been.

Q—How has your education at IPS influenced your personal and professional development since graduating?

A— You know, these teachers kept up with me. Often, they visited Indiana University and would frequently take me to lunch to chat and check on my progress. It was gratifying that these teachers cared about me even after graduation and it kept me on the straight and narrow. In addition to feeling responsible for doing well for my parents, I knew it was important to make those teachers back in Indy proud of me too. Occasionally I got a note from a few of them, especially when I was working at Johnson Publishing in Chicago. They have all passed on now, but they remain alive in my memories.

Q— What specific skills or knowledge gained at IPS have proven most valuable in your current life or career?

A— I think the most important skill I gained from the IPS teachers was having pride in my work and as such, putting my best effort into a project. Second, I learned the importance of finishing a project.  

Q—What challenges did you face during your time at IPS, and how did overcoming them contribute to your personal growth?

A—I can’t recall that I had challenges in school. While I went to segregated K-12 schools, my teachers insisted that we reach for the stars. I competed and excelled in my school and on a city-wide level. I won the Altrusa Merit Award for Girls; I went to the Indiana University Summer Journalism program for 2 years and I received a B’nai B’rith Scholarship to Indiana University. I felt insulated from slights and racial adversities and my teachers created an environment free of racial stress. What they did was build my self-confidence which prepared me to meet the challenges that I faced later in college. I had hard-working parents who supported me if I went to school and did well. They and my teachers had high expectations of me, and I internalized these expectations.