Jasmine Niernberger W’01 was introduced to the St. Patrick’s community at three years old, when she would accompany her mother to the church. She then joined the Nursery School and remained a St. Patrick’s student until the end of Grade 6. Today, Jasmine is the Co-Owner of Brightwood Design+Build, a neighborhood builder and general contractor, based in Petworth, Washington, DC. Their passion is building community, the value of which Jasmine learned during her time at St. Patrick’s.
Tell us a little bit about your life since you left St. Patrick’s.
After St. Patrick’s, I went to St. Andrew’s Episcopal School for Middle School and High School. I then attended Bucknell University on a full-tuition scholarship from the Posse Foundation. This is a unique organization that supports talented students from diverse backgrounds and provides them with opportunities that are conducive to them becoming 21st century leaders. It was founded in 1989 because of one student who said, “I never would’ve dropped out of college if I’d had my posse with me.” This instigated the idea of sending a group of students together to college to “back each other up.” For me, it always goes back to community, to that support system that carries us through hard times and experiences. I learned and felt the value of community at St. Patrick’s, and that is the common theme that has reverberated throughout my life.
After college, I joined Deloitte as a summer scholar and went on to work with them as a Consultant for three years. I then joined Toffler Associates as a Strategy Consultant and worked with them for seven years. In 2017, I bought my first condo in Columbia Heights, and that decision changed the trajectory of my life.
The condo was a total gut job. The unit needed a lot of work. No one had lived there for 10 years and there was even a sign on the fridge that read “do not open.” I took on the challenge, and afterward, I had a space I loved and a space I felt confident in. It was at that point, I realized this was something I was passionate about and I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing.
I grew up in a rent-controlled apartment. The contrast between my experience and that of many of my private school friends has always stuck with me. To put it simply, they felt confident in their space, in their home. With the renovation of my condo, I realized my passion of giving others the same opportunity to have that confidence that comes with a space you love. And that, coupled with my passion for community, gave birth to Brightwood Design+Build.
So what does Brightwood Design+Build do exactly?
We build beautiful, functional spaces. We support clients through the entire renovation process, from planning through construction. One of the things that’s important to my business partner, Noah, and myself, is representation. There’s just not a lot of representation in the home-renovation space. It’s a gap, but I feel like it’s a gap we can help fill. Everyone deserves spaces they’re excited about and feel confident in—no matter the size of your budget, where you live, or who you are. That’s so important to me and my business partner.
With less than 4 years in business, we’ve completed over 50 projects, expanded from residential to commercial, and are currently developing a program for a national media platform. To establish an infrastructure that can support the national exposure, we are raising capital by giving the community the opportunity to invest directly in our business through the SMBX Small Business Bond marketplace. Rather than go to a bank, we want to repay our investors directly for supporting our expansion.
How do you think your time at St. Patrick’s impacted your life?
St. Patrick’s taught me the value of community. I was raised by a single mother and, as they say, “it takes a village to raise a child.” St. Patrick’s was my village. It was the place that grounded me and supported me. I spent most of my time there, from church to school to Extended Day. I made friendships and built connections that have lasted my whole life. St. Patrick’s is a special place that occupies a special place in my heart. It’s a community that has grown and evolved across the years, but always stayed true to itself. The values that I learned there and the experiences that I had made me into the person I am today.
Also, I’m dyslexic, and that is actually the reason my mother enrolled me in private school. She noticed, early on, that I was struggling with reading and spelling. St. Patrick’s was able to provide me with the support and resources that I needed to succeed. There were days when I was extremely hard on myself and called myself stupid, but the faculty and staff worked with me and believed in me. They helped me to believe in myself. I’m grateful to have had those support systems in place at St. Patrick’s.
What is your favorite memory of St. Patrick’s?
There are so many, it’s hard to choose just one, but I’ll start with one that is dearest to my heart. I was in Grade 2 and it was Twins Day. My best friend, Sarah Asterbadi W'01, and I were dressed in matching overalls and white t-shirts, and we had our hair in pigtails. A child came up to us and said, “You can’t be twins, you look different.” My best friend responded, “Well, our hearts are the same.” That was our truth. At St. Patrick’s, I felt I belonged. I formed connections and friendships that I still have today.
And then, of course, there were the arts. St. Patrick’s did that right. I made numerous clay figures, paper mache masks, and a Dizzy Gillespie watercolor in Pam Jones’s art classes. We performed handbells at the Kennedy Center, sang on the Today Show, and had plenty of opportunities to get on a stage, from the kindergarten circus to the year-end musical – a big shout out to Ms. Ference. It still amazes me what she was able to pull off. I was given so many opportunities at St. Patrick’s that I just would not have had anywhere else.
Why did you volunteer to be St. Patrick’s 2022-2023 Annual Fund Alumni Chair?
St. Patrick’s has given me so much, and I embrace the opportunity to give back in any and every way that I can. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the time I spent at the Day School.
I support the Annual Fund because I know that it is a critical source of revenue for the school, enabling St. Patrick’s to maintain the excellence of their programs, moderate tuition increases, and fund a robust financial aid budget. As alumni, our support means so much and is a tremendous vote of confidence in the place that helped raise us.
Do you have an exciting life update to share with your fellow alumni in an upcoming issue of the St. Patrick's Press?