Kat Schaeffer (Steigerwald)

I joined Fairhaven School halfway through my freshman year of high school. I’d been an A-student most of my life, but was depressed and started failing my honors classes that year. My lack of engagement (and obvious misery) raised alarm bells for my parents, who made the difficult decision to allow me to leave traditional public school. I am eternally grateful that they were willing to take that risk. It took a year or so to decompress once I started at Fairhaven. That meant watching a lot of movies and spending unstructured time with my new friends. Within 6 months I’d stopped taking my anti-depressants. I believe this had a lot to do with being “seen”, being part of a community, having autonomy over the way I spent my time, and the ability to influence the rules and priorities of the school itself through the democratic process.

Dressing up on Halloween, 2002

By my junior and senior years, I was School Meeting Chair and held other elected positions to assist with various school functions. I was helping; I was making a difference. One thing that always stands out to me about Sudbury schools is the healthy relationships they create between children and adults. The Fairhaven staff were our allies and supporters, not separate, different, or more important than us. They spoke to us as equals and patiently allowed us to navigate our own paths – both in our personal and educational lives. After community college, I moved out of state to finish my degree at Prescott College, where I graduated with honors and a B.A. in Psychology. I’m now a senior Human Resources Manager for a local business in Austin, TX and often see the impact of my time at Fairhaven in my daily work. There is no doubt in my mind that I am the engaged and empowered person I am today because of my time at FHS. It will always hold a very special place in my heart.