The First Step: First 2011 Thesis

(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 first 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.)

The First Step
By: Sarah Boyd

“When you walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen: There will be something solid for you to stand upon, or you will be taught how to fly”
-Patrick Overton

Every graduating student strives to be an effective adult, so it’s no revelation that I would desire to be one as well.  First, I must define the term; and to be honest, that term is highly subjective.  Is there really a “correct” definition?  To me, an effective adult means to be the kind of person who knows what they are doing in the present, while still being able to accept that they don’t know where the future is going.  They must be able to make themselves happy without hurting others, and make others happy without hurting themselves.  A large part of this includes self-awareness, as well as being aware of others.  Taking both into consideration is vital in order to be a beneficial part of society.  Independence is also a large part of being an effective adult.  Someone who depends on others not just for financial aid, but also for emotional aid is not an effective adult.  An effective adult must be able to function integrally with others, as well as stand on their own two feet.  They must also know when to say that they need help.  Even though I have most of these traits, I do not find myself to be an effective adult yet.  I have plans for today, as well as plans for what to do tomorrow.  I even have an agenda for the next few years.  I am aware of how I have changed and how I would like to continue changing.  However, I must be in the world and prove my independence on my own before I can call myself an effective adult.

Past

My past has made me who I am in the present; and inevitably affects my future.  I grew up with three siblings.  My closest sister is five years older than me, and the next sister is ten years older than me.  I also have a brother who is thirteen years older than I am.  I don’t know my siblings as well as I would like to, but we talk often and seem to get along pretty well.  I grew up in a working class family and went to public school for the first nine years of my academic career.  For the first few years, I had a lot of fun.  I am a tomboy, so I played a lot of tackle football and had a lot of friends.  The summer that I was going into middle school, my father died after a two-year battle with lung cancer.  This would have made it hard enough to deal with, but I was also a minority and was picked on a lot.  Before that summer, I was so young it didn’t seem to matter.  It was during seventh grade that everyone noticed I was different. Seventh and eighth grade are the only two grades in middle school grades in my area.  For those two years, I was pretty miserable.  All the friends I had moved away, and it was hard to make new ones.  The ones I did make were tentative friendships, so I spent a lot of time at home, simply existing.  It took awhile, but my mother finally saw that public school wasn’t working anymore.  Until then, coming to Fairhaven was not necessary.  It was okay for me to be in public school, but at this point, we knew it was time for a change.  So at age thirteen, I came in for a visiting week.  And I loved it!  I went through a couple of groups of people before I found my place; I met a lot of great friends.  I learned a lot more than I ever thought anyone could know, and mostly about things I never even knew existed!


Fairhaven And Present


It’s been almost four years at Fairhaven.  I still feel like it’s an entire new section of my life, so I feel it deserves a new section of text.
I grew to really like the people at Fairhaven.

I came from a really hard situation where I felt like people and society were my enemies.  I never talked to people, and often wore dark colors to deter people from talking to me.  I found the easiest way for me to transition into the Fairhaven culture was through video games.  I played a lot of those in the first month before I finally got out and started to meet people.  I made a few quick friends, including Caroline, who stuck with me for the first year.

I was starting to become comfortable in the Fairhaven setting, and I felt like my broken self-esteem was on the mend.  I became involved in the school plays, and discovered a true passion!  Through my first theater production, I met Pallas Bane, who was graduating that year.  We became fast friends, and she invited me to “Tuesdays.”  This was when a large group of friends gathered at the Bane’s home for pizza and socializing.  It happened on Tuesday, thus the name.  A social situation for high school students involving no drugs or alcohol was very different than what I was used to.  My first Tuesday was rather awkward.  It involved a few shy introductions, and a lot of sitting with Pallas, just talking about things.  Despite how antisocial I was at the time, it was really fun; I returned every week for the next two and a half years.  This was the first time in my life that I felt that it was okay to be a little straight edged.  In public school, it was the norm to do drugs and drink.  Even though I never said so, I was uncomfortable with that situation.  At Tuesdays, it was ok to not want to be around drugs or alcohol; this was an amazing feeling of relief.

The next two years were kind of a blur.  I remember a lot of just sitting around shooting the breeze with a lot of different people.  I remember learning about how to deal with younger kids.  I made friends with a young girl named Livia who greeted me with a hug every morning. This was new for me because I was the youngest in my family, and never had experience with younger kids.  Now I feel comfortable interacting with children of any age on a regular basis. This has been a huge change for me because I was so timid around kids before.  I was afraid of hurting them because I didn’t know my own strength.  Now, I know how to be careful around them without being overly timid.  Infants have a tendency to stare at me; I take that as a compliment.

Having learned how to interact with kids better allowed me to be JC clerk three times in my second year, once in the fall and twice in the spring.  Clerking JC was a huge responsibility. At first I was timid due to my lack of confidence, and also late getting things done.  That was quickly remedied; soon I was consistently early.  I became more authoritative with time, and I quickly obtained the ability to keep JC in check with phenomenal ease.  I remember friends coming and going a lot in this period.  I was pretty busy a lot of the time, so I went through a lot of “best friends” before I settled on three at once.  That’s when I learned that I could have more than one “best” friend.

In my third year, I was JC clerk twice; once at the very beginning of the year and once at the end.  Through this, I learned perseverance; clerking with headaches and being held accountable for my time.  Time management came into play because for the entire year, I was also School Meeting secretary.  I remember having to stop clerking JC fifteen minutes early on Wednesdays so I could run downstairs and prepare the SM agenda; which I did as accurately as possible.  It was a lot of hard work, and it was never perfect but I held things together anyway.  This situation proved to me that I could push myself; even when I didn’t have space to breathe, I found the time anyway.  I even managed time to socialize!

During this time, I also found myself good friends with Becca and her family, who have unofficially adopted me.  This was strange at first because Becca is three years younger than I. In public school, any age difference between friends was unacceptable.  I no longer have any problems being friends with people of different age groups.  My adopted family is pretty great. They take me on all of the family vacations and are just cool in general.  By knowing them, doors have opened for me in unexpected ways.  They taught me that vacations more than two hours away are accessible.  Being from the working class, I never dreamed that I would go on a cruise.  I now have been on a cruise; I have seen the world, and it is wonderful.  Then they taught me that vacations can be a lot closer that that; vacations can be as close as a car ride alone.  It is with this mindset that I continue to live.

Here I am at Fairhaven for the fourth year.  It’s been a really great run.  I never took enough classes, regretfully, but it has still been very productive.  I feel I contributed a lot to school and now I’m ready to leave my stories behind and move on.  I was the first of this graduating class to have a driver’s license.  Last semester, I had two classes at PGCC and a weekend job.  I worked hard to find time for everything, thus proving I am an over-achiever.  I have not done very much at Fairhaven this year besides the theatre productions.  It’s not because I no longer care; it’s because I have started more classes at the local community college.  Even though they can be rough, I find them fun and exciting.  They are exactly what I need to start me on the path to where I’m going.  I have gotten an attendance exception so that I can attend Farihaven and college at the same time, without penalty.  I feel as a graduating student, I have done well to be at Fairhaven and at the same time learn effective prioritization. Being a graduating student, I have struggled hard to find a part time job as well as my college courses.  This means that I attend Fairhaven less frequently.  However, I feel I have taken steps to transition well because next year, I won’t be here at all.

Future

From the past and the present, is born the future, so it is here that I focus most of my attention.  The future is never set in stone.  I will often change my mind and the way I live, even to things completely different from what I envision now.  Alas, there is also a need for direction.  In my plans, I keep both of these things in mind.

I had thought about what to do with myself for a long time before I settled on Theatre.  Music and art are also passions of mine, but I feel they would become something I would despise if faced with having them as a career.  Theatre is the one thing that I see both as work and play at the same time; as if it is a meeting in the middle.  It’s hard for me to conceive that I would leave theatre for another career.  I love the environment and the people.  If I don’t succeed as a performer on the stage, I would be more than happy to work behind it.  I would love to create scenes for the characters.  I could paint sets, build stages and create worlds.

As I previously stated, I currently take classes at Prince George’s Community College.  I have taken Sociology and Drawing I.  I am currently taking Beginning French and Introduction to Theatre.  Because I am also in high school, my major is General Studies.  However, as soon as I leave Fairhaven, I plan to change to Theatre.  I will be focusing on Musical Theatre, so I may decide to minor in Music as well.  I plan on forging my way to Broadway someday.  I listen to musical soundtracks every day.  I try to get my hands on as many as I possibly can in order to strengthen my base knowledge.  It can be a very hard road to walk down, but I know I can do it. Even if I never achieve Broadway status, I will have lived according to my dreams.

Now, as an effective adult would, I have back-up plans in consideration.  I have recently developed an interest in hands-on life saving, such as becoming a paramedic.  This is a challenging path, but I enjoy having challenges in my life.  No matter what happens, I keep the philosophy in mind that life is always changing.  I know that whatever happens, I will adapt in a positive manner.  I know I will continue to search until I find a path that feels comfortable for me.

How Fairhaven Impacted Me

I think the first thing Fairhaven taught me was that I had an opinion, and it mattered; I learned this through School Meeting.  At first, the opinions I voiced in school meeting were a little silly.  Now that I look back, I realize that they really weren’t that great.  I often considered one thing, and that was myself.  Now I realize that there is a lot more in the world, and when thinking about something, I must try to consider all sides. Over time, I thoroughly learned the ins and outs of the school and came to understand my own opinions.  As a further revelation I realized that my opinions mattered; other people listened to my opinions and took them into consideration. This was a very strange thing to me; where being raised in a traditional family everything was dictated by my father and mother. Before then, I had little to no say what happened in my environment.

The second thing I learned was how to manage myself, and give forethought to my actions.  I learned that my actions had consequences, and what those consequences would be.  Two things in particular brought this to my attention.  The first was JC.  I was called to JC for being a “stupid teenager” and going off-campus with too many people in one car.  As a result, I was restricted to campus, and it was not fun.  I wanted to go places and be free; I never repeated that incident.  The second way I learned this lesson was through School Meeting.  When I had a motion at SM, it passed if I was there to argue for it.  If I didn’t show up, my motion was essentially ignored.  I learned how to care about what I wanted, and how work for it as well.  This situation, as well as serving on JC and SM, also taught me time management. I had to be on time in order to get what I wanted.

Fairhaven has taught me many other things as well.  It has taught me that my world is not small.  Everything I learn about myself applies to others as well.  Everyone is human, and I must learn how to accept them in spite of that.  Everyone has opinions that need to be cared about, and worked around.  I need to accept my anger as well as my happiness. I am not the only one with worries, fears and anger.  Also, I do not need to like everyone, and certainly they do not need to like me.  A life is a life, and respect must be shown to it.

Being at Fairhaven, I have finally had the time to grow socially.  I have learned how to interact with small children.  I learned how to talk to people my own age as well as those who were older.  This involved learning how to adapt my interactions to be understood by those with whom I was interacting.  I now know how to interact with people in a positive way; that a lot of what I thought was the norm such as fights, cursing, and general aggression is actually looked down upon.

Conclusion


I have not listed every single lesson Fairhaven has taught me because that would be impossible; there have been millions of them.  The lessons I have discussed here are the ones that were the hardest to learn, and I felt the most important.  Fairhaven has had a huge impact on my life.  When I first arrived here, I was a very self-conscious and lonely teenager.  Now I find myself standing as an adult, full of confidence and on the same level as everyone around me.  This is a privilege I have not had before and have worked hard to achieve. I am independent, strong-willed, and I know exactly whom I am. I know where I came from and where I want to go.  I have a renewed faith in myself; this is something I intend to hold on to.

I have tried hard to show you what kind of person I was, and how I have become closer to the person I want to be.  I feel that as a student, as an adult, and as a human I have made tremendous leaps in my life.  I am ready to make the leap of graduating from Fairhaven and continuing my path in a different setting.  I hope I have proved to you that I will be an effective adult by showing you what progress I have seen in myself; not just through Fairhaven, but also through my life experiences.  I have found joy in Fairhaven for many years, but I feel that I am ready to move on to the next stage in my life.  I have found solutions to problems placed in my way, as well as finding ways to help others with theirs.  Despite the hardships, I am here today; ready to encounter the next set of challenges.  I am immensely happy that I have proved to myself what I can do; this was the hardest step for me.  I feel that I have said and done all I can do to prove the same to you.

Sarah Boyd