My Last Walk Home (second 2010 thesis)

(Fairhaven School has just graduated five students. As a way to celebrate the class of 2010, 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 seventh and final 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 Last Walk Home

Hello! My name is Zachary Taylor Bennett. I am seventeen years old and have been attending Fairhaven School for 13 years now. Every single second has been a learning experience because Fairhaven has allowed me to pursue my passion in whatever way I saw fit at the time. I love adventure, being outdoors and exploring. Among other things, early on, I wanted to become a paleontologist and a geologist, so I spent alot of time getting muddy in the stream searching for shark’s teeth, and finding that one rock that was so much better than the rest! I spent days, weeks, months and years exploring, happy with my wet clothes caked in mud and God knows what else. I was diligent, devoted and playing hard.

One of the things that Fairhaven urges its students to do is follow the rules. When I was younger, I spent a lot of time in the Judicial Committee.. I was suspended, indefinitely suspended, and even expelled at the age of six because I left school property three times. I decided to walk home, and got pretty far the first time. I was angry, frustrated, and wanted to get away from being bullied. Since my independence made me a liability for Fairhaven, I was expelled. I attended Davidsonville Elementary where I came to the realization that my opinion meant nothing. I had no control over anything; it was the opposite of everything I was used to. I was determined to do better the next time at Fairhaven where freedom is everyone’s right.

I have been traveling since the age of three months. I have been to several places including St. Martin, Bolivia, Panama, Mexico, Canada, Jamaica, the Canary Islands, Hawaii, and all over the United States. I have seen huts with dirt floors, given clothes and toys to the poor, and enjoyed the pinnacle of extravagance. I saw the devastation of 9/11 a month after the fact. I remember playing in the Circle Room of Fairhaven’s old building that morning and not knowing what was happening. At the end of September, my mom showed me. I was nine years old, with my scooter, in the city of New York. It resembled a war zone yet the people stood stong and proud. Being an effective adult means showing up.

Presently, my passions are snowboarding and spelunking. I helped organize the annual Fairhaven ski trips to Seven Springs three years in a row. I have been caving and snowboarding for ten years and traveling from coast to coast, often alone, to do it. After you do something for that long, you find ways to relate it to your life in general. For example, when you’re coming up on a thirty foot jump, there are a few things going through your head: Am I going fast enough or too slow? Am I going too far to the right or left or am I in the middle? Is there someone at the bottom of the jump? All these factors are in play. Let’s say I have a job and am excelling. If I tell them I can do things I cannot really do, I am going to overwhelm myself and get fired/ fall. On the other hand, if I take my time, in business, good jobs are quickly taken by people willing to take that hard fall.

I enjoy caving because it is one of the most beautiful ways to see nature at its best. Most caves remain untouched for thousands of years before we find them. They are a sight to behold. You would never believe how amazing it feels to be hundreds of feet underground until you have done it. I have been in lava tubes, tight spots, gigantic rooms, and in complete darkness. There is a cave in particular in West Virginia, named Simmons Mingo. Just entering the cave is a feat of its own. You literally climb down a thirty foot hole in the ground about as wide as a barrel of wine, followed by several other decents. In general, cavers must be prepared with the correct eguipment, cooperate and trust each other. We also take out of the cave whatever we bring in and the trash others leave behind. It is a sport that requires patience, endurance and skill, just like life.

Fairhaven has taught me to give back to the community. Whether you are sentenced to by J.C. or you do it on your own, it’s positive. Since I enjoy helping others, I decided to volunteer at the Woodland Beach Fire Department. From cooking at fundraisers to cleaning the trucks, I learned to deal with some of the nicest to some of the most unpleasant people in Edgewater. I am grateful for my communication skills. To further my experience, in July of 2009, I took a five week EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) course through the University of Maryland. The class required me to take five ride alongs on the ambulance and really buckle down and get serious. Unfortunately, I didn’t pass the final written test. This summer I will. Some of the people I encountered during my training were drunk, on drugs, and I witnessed one suicide. Treatments of patients must remain confidential so I will not elaborate. How it affected me is another story. I learned how desensitizing something like a suicide can be. I did not have nightmares or unwanted memories, it was just terrible.

I’m comfortable speaking in public, communicating, traveling and enjoy working. I have had an array of jobs ranging from cooking at Smoke and Spice, a BBQ pit, to working as a dockhand at South River Marina. In my current job, I do everything from working in the office to being outside with the mechanics, so I don’t make a lot of money. I do not have this job for money; I have this job for experience. I may join the military, not for the stereotypical reason, but for the stability of having a job, going to work everyday, and having a purpose in this world. It’s a lot to think about. My current plan after leaving this utopia of a school is to work for six months to a year at the marina, but no longer than a year, because believe me you cannot live on what I make.

In my intent to graduate, I spoke about balance in life and how it must be maintained. This is what’s most important to me in being an effective adult. If you work too much you’ll lose your friends. If you play, party, or just straight up goof off too much, you’ll lose the stability of a job that most people need for a happy life. Being an effective adult means being true to oneself. Being devoted, funny, responsible, honest, mature, and dependable is who I am. My life, so far, has required many choices. I want to live fully, take chances, change when necessary and remain flexible Whether walking my dog, spending money, managing time, being a friend or doing laundry, it all matters. Right now, I still make mistakes and do things that aren’t productive, but I’m learning all the time, and that I know for sure. My name is Zachary Taylor Bennett. I am seventeen years old, and this is my last walk home.

Zachary Taylor Bennett

Fairhaven School Class of 2010

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