(Fairhaven School graduated seven students last June. As a way to celebrate the class of 2011, over the next month, we will be posting the theses that they successfully defended. In italics below is a brief description outlining how somebody earns a Fairhaven diploma, followed by the second 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.)
My name is Ginger Engel, I’m sixteen years old, and five of those years have
been spent at Fairhaven School. It’s been five years of ups and downs, highs and
lows, and too many experiences to tell. It’s been quite the adventure and
although I’ve enjoyed it, I’m ready to start a new adventure; an adventure
outside of Fairhaven. But I didn’t become ready overnight. I’ll start at the
When I was twelve years old I was enrolled at Fairhaven with nothing to
lose, really. I had no real direction in my life and no idea what to do with myself.
Fairhaven seemed like a good place to figure those things out. I spent the first
week or so of school mostly just watching people. The only other person I knew
was my older sister, so I had to make new friends, something I’d never been good
at. But after spending so much time just watching people I fell in with a group of
people that I still call friends today. I spent the rest of the year trying to get
better at interacting with people.
My second year started off much like my first, talking to people, hanging
out, and trying to figure things out. During that year I learned how to crochet (a
type of craft, similar to knitting, which involves a single thread and a hooked
needle). At the time it was just a hobby that I did in my spare time. It wasn’t
really a big part of my life. In the spring, Fairhaven held an arts and crafts fair that
my friend and I registered for. We sold pillows and stuffed animals, all of which
were hand sewn. We made a considerable profit and it was a lot of fun. That’s
where it all really started.
The following December I registered for a craft fair at a church with my
mom and sister. I didn’t sew anything this time but I had gotten good enough at
crocheting to make scarves and hats to sell. The fair was successful and I really
enjoyed it, but crafting still seemed like a hobby more than anything else.
It wasn’t until almost two years later that I considered being a crafter to
make a living. Fairhaven held another Spring craft fair, which I was quick to sign
up for. That’s when I decided to start entering craft fairs on a more regular basis.
That same year in late August I registered for an ongoing fair in Silver Spring called
The Fenton Street Market. This turned out not to be the best idea, it being back–
to-school time. In October I registered with The Fenton Street Market again and
got a better turn out, but still not great.
That December I registered for a fair at the church that I had registered
with years before. I wasn’t able sell anything I’d made. But I met the person who
I now think of as my only role model, despite the fact that I don’t know her name
and she’s about 60 years old. I met her when I was walking around the fair to
look at the other vendors. She caught my eye because she and her husband were
selling crocheted scarves and gloves. I walked over and she and I started talking.
She told me about how she loves to crochet and it’s what she does with most of
her time. But it was two words she said to me that still stick with me. “Keep
crocheting” she said. I’d never felt that kind of support and inspiration from
anyone else. I decided to keep that bit of advice and keep crocheting no matter
After the fair in December, it occurred to me that fairs may not be the best
place to try to sell crafts. So I decided to start selling online. I’m signed up on
Etsy, a website that hosts crafters. Right now the specifics are being worked out
(payment methods, shipping costs, etc.) and then I’ll be ready to sell. I’d like to
eventually have my own website to sell my wares on but I think Etsy is a better
place to start. I’m taking my time with the online selling though. When I do
something I want to do it right. I don’t want to rush into a totally new
environment without knowing what I’m up for first. Walk before you run, right?
Being at Fairhaven has taught me a lot of things, like time management.
This year I ran for JC clerk for the first time. About three years ago I had been a JC
alternate and I didn’t enjoy it in the least. But I figured that it was 3 years ago and
my opinion of clerking may have changed. So Matteo and I ran for clerk
unopposed and, as you can imagine, got the job. There’s quite a bit of time
management needed to clerk because you have to factor in the time it takes to do
the sentence list, whether you need a sub for anyone, getting a runner, finding
missing JC members, and take into account that JC may run anywhere from 20
minutes to 2 hours. I feel I fulfilled my role as a clerk pretty darn well. I’m still not
sure how much I enjoyed the experience though.
Another lesson came up with a write-up that involved a few friends, a
buried time capsule, and a total lack of permission to dig it up. It didn’t really
occur to us to go to school meeting or ask the grounds clerk or anything like that.
We just started digging. Although I always feel people should do what they feel is
right, it’s important to go through the right portals to do it. Then maybe you
won’t end up getting sentenced to three grounds jobs.
There are some things I learned at Fairhaven just from being around other
people. One valuable lesson I learned was to not be afraid to ask questions. When
I was a kid and I didn’t understand something, I wouldn’t ask anyone to explain or
at least not immediately. I was really shy and didn’t want people to think I was an
incompetent fool. So I kept quiet. Which never worked out very well. Because
then I would eventually have to ask someone what to do and I’d feel twice as
foolish because I’d waited so long. When I got to Fairhaven and started to hang
out with people who seemed so comfortable with themselves all the time, I
realized that it’s better to ask questions now rather than later, even If it does
I also learned how to interact with people who are significantly older or
younger than me. The first time a student who was older (about five years older)
than me said hello to me, I was so startled and didn’t know how to respond. I
thought maybe he wanted something from me but I couldn’t think of what he’d
want. But he just wanted to say hello. After I got over my strange fear of older
people I actually became friends with that particular student. On the other end of
the spectrum are younger students, and Fairhaven has plenty of those. I used to
find small children rather irritating and would try to avoid talking to them. Then I
remembered what it was like when I was seven years old. I wasn’t all that
different from the kids I was trying to keep away from. Now when approached by
kids I try to remember myself at that age and I’m able to have a conversation with
them. A lot of them are pretty cool in fact.
There are also some valuable (if not simple) lessons I’ve learned outside of
Fairhaven, but with people from Fairhaven. Like checking the train schedule for
the Metro. That way you don’t miss the last train out of Washington, DC and end
up having to call your dad at 1:00 in the morning to have him pick you and your
friends up. Or remembering to bring tip money when you go out to a restaurant.
That way you don’t feel like a total jerk when you only have enough money for a
two dollar tip. I still have a hard time with that sometimes but I’m working on it.
I believe it’s all of the experiences somebody goes through that makes
them an effective adult, an effective person, a person at all. I haven’t mentioned
all of my Fairhaven experiences since there are too many for me to remember
and some may be lost in the back of my memory. I’ve mentioned things that I
believe to be most significant. I believe that these are things that make me the
person that I am, the effective person that I am, and the effective adult that I’m
becoming. If there’s anything that my sixteen years have taught me, at Fairhaven
or otherwise, it’s to never regret anything. Realize your mistakes, learn from
them, and know you’re better because of it.
Headwork: n/ mental work or effort : THINKING