(Fairhaven School has just graduated seven students. As a way to celebrate the class of 2009, over the next month, we will be posting the theses that they successfully defended. Below is a brief description outlining how somebody earns a Fairhaven diploma, followed by the sixth thesis. Enjoy!
Students who have spent at least three years at Fairhaven School may earn a diploma by defending the thesis that they have prepared themselves to become effective adults in the larger community. Diploma candidates must declare their intent to graduate and answer questions at a special winter Assembly of parents, students, staff and public members. They also meet with their individual graduation committees, and defend their written theses before a Diploma Committee made up of three experienced staff members from other Sudbury schools. A majority of positive votes from the Committee is the final requirement of the diploma process.)
Making My Mark
by Zoë Woodbridge
“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
I believe that all effective adult make their own marks, whether it is in their own community or in the world. This is how I have made mine.
There are many qualities that I think every effective adult should have. I am only going to describe the ones I believe are most important and ones that I possess. The first is the ability to provide for oneself by having a job or career with a steady income and the ability to manage that income. Effective adults should also have the ability to express their opinions. This goes along with the third quality that these adults should possess, which is being able to communicate with and contribute to the larger community. Lastly, but certainly not least, I believe that all effective adults should be able to find happiness and know what it means to be happy. I will describe in detail all of these qualities and abilities and how I, as an effective adult, embody them.
The first quality of being an effective adult is being able to provide for oneself by having a steady income. I think all effective adults should have a job or have had one in the past. By doing this, one is able to provide for him or herself. By having a job, one makes money, which is used to provide shelter, food, clothing and other necessities. Without a job, I do not think one can even begin to think about being effective in the larger community.
I have been babysitting since I was thirteen. When I first began this endeavor, I only made about $5 an hour. As I started to baby-sit more often, families got to know me better and tell their friends about me. I baby-sit for a lot of families at my church. Just this past year, I started babysitting a 2-year-old girl every Thursday and sometimes on weekends. I am responsible for feeding and entertaining her, giving her a bath, and putting her to sleep. This is a lot of responsibility for a teenager. It makes me realize how difficult raising a child is. I sometimes find myself being worn out after just two hours. It makes me glad that I am waiting a while to have kids of my own.
Another job that I currently have, which I started this year, is office assistant at school. I really enjoy it. I mostly answer phones and do other administrative work. One huge task I have had is updating the school’s Management Manual, which is probably more than 200 pages worth of information on running the school. This is an incredibly significant task that I will probably be working on for the rest of the year. Having a job also relates to how effective adults, like me, spend and save their money. Since I started working in the office, I have put almost every paycheck I get into my savings account. I also have money from babysitting and money that I received for gifts in this account. I plan to use this money for college expenses such as books or a laptop. Speaking of money, this past year when I turned 18, I decided to open a checking account. I put some of my salary into this so that I can pay for everyday things such as gas and food. With this account, I can write checks and have my own check card. It works like a debit card, not a credit card, something I hope never to have. But even without credit cards, one can still run into money problems. I was once buying groceries and thought I had more money in my account than I actually did. A week later I got a letter from the bank stating that I had spent more money than I had. They were also nice enough to tell me that I owed them a $35 fee. Making mistakes like this urges me to pay better attention to what I buy and how much I spend my money. I hate to have just talked about money as much as I did. Sometimes I wish that the world was still a place where people traded, not bought and sold things. But I believe that handling money responsibly is part of being an effective adult, so I have learned how to do so.
Though I already have a job, I realize that I will probably not be a babysitter or an office assistant forever. My dream is to be a published poet. I know this will take a while, so I have also thought of being a teacher, psychiatrist or newspaper writer. I know that in order to make the money that I need by working any of these jobs, I need to go to college. This past semester, I applied to six colleges: Drexel University, Brown University, Washington College, Hollins University, St. Mary’s College of Maryland and Guilford College. I think of going to college as making an investment in my education and career, whatever it is I decide to pursue.
The second quality which I think everyone, but especially effective adults, should possess, is being able to express their opinions. Many effective adults that I look up to, such as my parents, embody this quality. They have always been honest with me, even when I was young. When I make a decision that they are not pleased with, they let me know. They are not mean about it, but they do tell me exactly how they feel. They always taught me to say when I thought something was not right, or if I or someone else was being treated wrong. Most of what I know about voicing my opinion I learned from them.
Another place where I have learned to speak up is at Fairhaven. In JC, whenever I feel that a charge or sentence isn’t fair, I let people know. When I first came to Fairhaven, I was a bit soft spoken and still am in some ways. It took me a while to learn how to comfortably voice my opinion, after years of being told to shut up in public school, even when I was not talking. I also get to voice my opinion in School Meeting (SM). I did this more my first and second year. This entire school year, I have been SM Chair. It can be a really tough job that requires a lot of patience and often consists of a lot more listening than talking. Though listening is a good quality to have, I feel like I already have it. I need a bit more practice with voicing my opinion. However, I do try to tell people when I disagree with a motion. Mostly, I agree with the rules and regulations that we as a SM pass. I also get a chance to speak up when someone is out of order or not speaking on the current motion. This was really difficult for me at first because I hate interrupting people! Even though I have a ways to go with my ability to convey my feelings and opinions to people, I think being in a democratic environment has definitely helped me in the process. Having this quality certainly helped me when I was applying to colleges. I was required to write admissions essays for each one to which I applied. In each of these six essays, I had to be very clear about my opinions of myself, of learning, and many other topics. I also had to voice my thought clearly during my interviews with each of the colleges to which I applied. The interviewer would ask me very specific questions which I had to answer articulately. I would say I did fairly well, considering I was accepted to my top three college choices. I like to think that my acceptance is partly because of this quality that I possess.
As a third quality, I believe effective adults should communicate with and contribute to the larger community. I am currently a part of two communities. As I previously mentioned, I have been and am currently SM Chair. This is my 5th term. When I was first SM Chair, the terms were six weeks long. Now they are half of the school year, or one semester. I have also been Judicial Committee (JC) Clerk and Alternate twice. I love being part of a democratic system. When I realize that something is unfair, I am allowed to speak up about it. My voice can change things. As a student, that means a lot to me.
In school, I am also an active member of Music Corp, Kitchen Corp, and Theatre Corp. This is my second year being secretary of Music Corp; my first year I was executive director. I always help out with our coffee houses, dances, and other fundraisers. We have been trying to get a music building built so that students can play loud music whenever they want. I have been pretty involved with the planning and fundraising that goes along with that. As for Kitchen Corp, this is only my second year being on it. I am involved with cooking projects and fundraisers. We recently held a Parent Appreciation Night which included a lot of cooking, almost three hours. I helped with the preparation and baking. Everyone seemed to love the food. It felt good to have our work be appreciated. With Theatre Corp, I am also the secretary. I attend all the meetings and take notes. I have also been involved with all of the plays since I started attending Fairhaven. I was Mrs. Wayne in The Rise of the Dark Knight, the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, Wendy in Peter Pan, and most recently Meg in Mr. Winkler’s Birthday Party. I love being involved with the plays, not just acting but set production and costumes as well. My time with all of these corporations is always well spent. I feel that I am adding something to them and to the school. Not only time, but energy and ideas as well. I look forward to seeing what these corporations look like in a few years, as they are very special to me.
Besides Fairhaven, another community that I contribute to is my church, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in College Park. I have been attending this church since I was about four years old. It is a significant part of my life. I have made precious friendships there. I am very involved in my church’s youth group, which meets every Sunday before church. Attendance requires waking up at 9:00 on a Sunday morning, which is really hard for a teenager! I try to get there as much as my sleep-deprived body allows me. We participate in a lot of service projects whether it is the 30- Hour Famine, where we raise money for third world countries and then fast for 30 hours, or making lunch for the homeless in the church’s kitchen. As well as being in youth group, I also participate in the actual church services. I am an usher, a person who welcomes everyone when they come to church. I’m also an acolyte which means I am in contact with the priest and I carry torches, crosses, etc. Being a part of a church family is very special to me. I love contributing to St. Andrew’s in as many ways as I can. I only hope to have a community like it and like Fairhaven in my life ten years from now.
The last but, in my opinion, most important quality that an effective adult should have is the ability to find ways to be happy. Now, of course, no one is happy all the time. And the people who act like they are probably fake it and are a little scary. But I think when one has all the aforementioned qualities, one can be genuinely happy with good reason. An effective adult can also be happy when he/she has things that they love doing. I myself have many hobbies and activities that I enjoy. Writing is the most important to me. I also love singing, dancing, acting, painting, and spending time with friends. When I am not happy, I know that I have to do one of these things to cheer myself up. There were definitely times, mostly in my pre-teen years, when I did not know how to do this. I would sit in my room alone, maybe reading or sleeping. I was not being very effective or happy. I finally realized that I had to get up and do something. Though I still sometimes go back to that place of being sad, I know how to get out of it, which is the most important thing.
As of right now, I consider myself to be happy. I am going to Washington College next year to continue my education. My plan is to major in English and minor in creative writing, since I want to pursue it as a career. I know how to take care of money, I can convey my opinions, and I am part of and contribute to more than one community. All of these abilities are ones that an effective adult cannot live without. They provide one with the basics to live independently and contentedly. These abilities also allow one to feel that they have a place and purpose in life. I believe that I am already an effective adult and will continue to be one when I leave Fairhaven. I have cherished my time here and enjoyed the help that it gave me to become an effective adult, though I was already on my way to becoming one. All that I can hope is that I make some sort of impact on the world during my time here, even if it’s just a footprint.
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a road and I –
I took the one less traveled by
And that had made all the difference.”
~from The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost