Senior Morgan Young stepped up to the microphone at the end of CRMS’ All School Meeting holding a heavy, oversized chain. From it hung a copper letter “B,” jagged and raw. Morgan began to read from a black and white notebook. “This person has taught me how to be a better listener, a kayaker, a geologist, and hopefully someday a teli-er,” she said. “This person is special. He’s special because he moves you with not only his words, but his actions.” When she finished, Morgan lifted the mammoth chain and handed it — the Braj Award — to its latest recipient, “The Infamous” (her words) teacher Kayo Ogilby.
The “Braj” as it is called at CRMS, is a play off of skier slang for the word – bro or brah. It was created four years ago when a former student, Nic Reitman, CRMS Class of 2014, created it as a way to thank his former Nordic skiing coach and teacher Matt Bowers.
“I get all the credit for it but if it wasn’t for one of my classmates it wouldn’t have happened,” says Reitman, now a junior at the University of Utah. According to Reitman, the legacy of the award began after the All School Meeting in which he thanked Bowers “for being a true Braj.” A classmate named Jamison Orr encouraged Reitman to keep the award going as a way of recognizing and promoting acts of selflessness and compassion, and inspire others to act in the same way.
That night Reitman and the freshly created “Council of Braj” formulated the rules and structure associated with the award, as well as a list of “commandments,” some of which included:
a) One cannot pass the Braj Award onto the same person twice
b) Whoever passes on the Braj has to offer a speech shedding light on the kindness or exceptional acts for which they are awarding the Braj to the new recipient
c) The recipient must wear/keep the chain for the week
The council then went to Ace Hardware in Carbondale and asked the salesperson for “the biggest and heaviest chain in the store.” A man went out back and brought back an oversized galvanized steel chain. “It took him a half hour to cut through it,” Reitman says. The “B” which stands for “Braj” was crafted by another classmate, Justine Timms, who purposely didn’t round the edges “to make it more substantial, more badass,” Reitman explains.
“The intent was promoting a sense of community, inspiring others to commit acts of kindness and compassion,” says Reitman. “The chain itself? It’s a little ridiculous; it’s kind of silly. It’s a huge chain and medallion like Snoop Dog would wear. It gives the award a kind of comic relief.”
Four years after creating the award, its original mission lives on and has evolved. This year, recipients of Braj Award are recording the stories behind the people receiving CRMS’ heftiest award and their outstanding acts. Every story is now kept in a black and white journal, including the story of Kayo Ogilby’s impact on his student Morgan Young.
“I think the award has a lasting and profound effect because human beings are caring and social creatures who aspire to live lives that connect with those around us and make a difference in the lives of others,” says Ogilby. “Our journeys are not isolated – they are connected, and thus, I think the award touches on this crucial element of the human spirit and human nature. It reinforces our ability to transcend ourselves and connect deeply with those around us.”
Click the video icon below to see a recent Braj speech.