Emily Orr's Thesis

Associated School: 

The last eleven years.

For the last decade and one year, I’ve been watching students grow up, and have been surrounded by people who have watched me develop over the years.  It’s something I’m so used to. From the day I sat down for my enrollment interview, something felt instantly normal and right. There is something incredibly exciting about the fact that this is what the last eleven years behind me has lead up to.  I initially thought before I sat down to write this that I should probably have a solid idea of what I want out of life first, but I’ve come to realize I can’t precisely know just yet. I need room to explore more before I can pinpoint anything, and I am excited to go out into the world and see what it has to offer me, and what I can make out of it.  I’ve come to the point where I’m ready to explain through words who I’ve become, and who I want to be. What I do know is what I’m passionate about now, and that I’ve attained the skills I need to pursue those passions.  The ability to practice with motivation, to do things on my own, to know my limits while pushing to exceed them, and advocating for my needs or others needs.  Curiosity, problem solving, adaptability, independance, strength, understanding and acceptance of imperfection; These are just some of the skills I have worked to develop and will hold forever.  

The beginning.

Learning to adapt, to socialize, and to problem solve.

I came to Sudbury fresh out of Kindergarten, and had to adapt to differences like choosing when I could play outside or when I could eat lunch. Simple concepts like these were my first taste of freedom in an institution. I instantly familiarized myself with my surroundings: finding a group of like minded individuals, memorizing all of the pathways in the woods, and encountering laws by breaking them.  Growing up being surrounded by people voicing their opinions, I was constantly and gradually learning how much my thoughts matter.  My foundation started mainly with playing in the woods with friends, and figuring out how to resolve social conflicts we had by ourselves or through JC.  One thing that was a huge difference in environment I had to get used to was the age mixing. I showed up and there were older kids literally everywhere. One of them popped their head into my enrollment interview.  I can definitely see now how daunting that can seem to a six year old coming from Kindergarten, but like everything else, I adapted. I remember some of them would talk to my friends and me, help us out with things, and it didn’t feel as though they were more important than us.  They soon just became people to me.

Along with collecting and trading littlest pet shops, I remember that everyday I would get lost with my friends in imagination games where we would think on the spot and confront problems while having the best time.  It seemed like time was sped up and I was able to flourish in my own world. I never wanted to leave when my Dad would pick me up, just like when at a friends house. Being young at Sudbury felt like an ongoing playdate with your best friend.


Overcoming obstacles, imperfection, and pursuing passions.

There have most definitely been times when I’ve questioned my education.  There’ve been times where I thought I haven’t been pushed hard enough in terms of learning.  Hitting the wall is something a lot of Sudbury students experience. Around this time period of pre/early teens, I would question everything I was doing, and everything I wasn’t learning.  I wondered if it was wrong to not have classes to complain to people about having to take, and not having to stress over grades and exams. I thought that not having those things other kids had must mean no one is pushing me to learn, therefor how will I be educated. Then I realized that fear was a good thing, and it was exactly what I needed.  I needed to question what I was doing, debate leaving, and hit the wall. Those moments of doubt pushed me to reflect, and build self awareness. As I explored new interests and tried new things, I worked towards goals at my own pace, asked for help, and grew to trust that I was doing what I needed to do. Around this same time period of pre/early teens, I wanted classes and assignments, and worked with my friends and myself to make them happen.  I remember the first class I collectively set up was a Spanish class with a student parent, and the list went on from there. I started participating in setting up classes, and had a strong desire to get a taste of as much as I could. I started Acting at the age of twelve, and surly fell in love with it as it became one of my biggest passions. When I was fourteen I wanted to take a biology class which I ended up studying for two years, which led me to want to take the biology regents test to see if I could meet the equivalent standards of a public high school student, and I did.  Not because I thought I had to, but because I was curious. Some classes I would stick with, and others I would attend for a day and decide it wasn’t for me. I took on positions in the community such as School Meeting Chair, JC Clerk and participated in different cooperatives. Having the ability to decide for myself what my priorities were from a young age allowed me to to find what I’m truly passionate about.

As I was growing and despite everything new I was trying, I still had occasional doubts.  In the 2017-2018 school year and up until early this year, I thought that I should wait another year to graduate.  I spent a lot of time going over the pros and cons of staying another year. One of the main points of this internal debate with myself was: Do I represent my idea of the perfect sudbury graduate? Someone who is ready to enter adulthood with self assurance and confidence, and who knows exactly how to voice their opinions with no insecurity.  I’ve struggled with the fact that I’m not fully that person. A part of me was putting pressure on myself to be that person; a person who has no self doubt, but that was unrealistic. What is the definition of perfect?  Can any person or concept ever reach the point of being “as good as it can possibly be”?  And the final question: Am I my own idea of the perfect Sudbury graduate? My answer is no, because there is no such thing.  Instead of embracing who I am right now, I thought I needed to reach the extent of my personal growth before I could make a true statement on why I’m ready to leave.  After a long period of questions and doubts, I concluded that I’ve reached the point of awareness in myself that I need to take the next step. I finally trust that I know what I want right now, I can reflect on all the parts of me that I’ve built from the start to the present, and see myself a year from now in a new environment.  My confidence has been growing with me through every step of the way, and it will continue to in every direction I go. Right now I’m happy with all the skills I have to grow and function independently in the world, and I believe in who I am today. Because today I am independent, strong, and imperfect.

A Sudbury Lifer.

Curiosity, understanding, and independence.

Something I’m excited to continue to do outside of Sudbury is experiencing different fields of work and study, while continuing to feed into the pursuits that I know and love.  In my future, I want to act in films, and be apart of the art of storytelling. That’s been one of my dreams for a long time, and I’ve gotten to discover and explore that dream through the plays I’ve been in at Sudbury and being a huge movie enthusiast.  Videography and film in general is an art that helps people through storytelling, compassion, and being able to relate to a story. It’s an art form I hope to be apart of. I love it with all of my heart, and I think I realized just how much meaning and happiness it gives me in my role in Sudbury’s production of Rabbit Hole.  During that rehearsal process, I learned how to connect with a character more than I knew possible.  One of the exercises we did for character development was writing a collection of past journal entries as your character during significantly important time periods of their life, and I really surprised myself with just how close I got myself to the role.  I played a mother named Becca who was grieving the loss of her child, and I was nervous going into such a serious role. I really wanted to tell her story in a way that did it justice and left an impression on the audience, so I tried really hard and dug deep to find personal connections I had with her character and I did.  That show was the eye opening experience that showed me how powerful theater and performance is, and that show will always mean so much more than a production to me. It was therapeutic in a way. I’ve gotten the opportunity to learn extremely valuable skills and be in a handful of other shows that I now have under my belt, and this year I’ve co-written a show with one of my closest friends that we’re directing ourselves.  

In the spring semester of 2018, I took an art history course at Bard college through the high school bridge program. I was working probably the hardest I’ve ever worked to prove myself in a classroom full of actual college students, and very rarely shared with anyone the fact that I was a sixteen year old bridge student.  Throughout that course, I communicated with my two professors all the time, approaching them with a little too many questions in person and over email. I asked for help with the work I was doing from people around me at school and at home, and I definitely met my standards of succeeding in a college environment. I knew my ability to go beyond my own expectations and be truly absorbed in whatever I was focusing on. I was challenged academically, and on a class field trip to New York City where I got lost in the Met for a couple hours.  Though I was scared, had no idea how big the Met actually was, and called my parents a number of times, I knew how to be independant and on my own. I asked people for directions, roamed the exhibits, and did research on the paper I was writing. I was exercising the independence I’ve grown up with, which I’m going to need in the world ahead. After spending time with myself, I found a classmate I recognized, roamed central park, and had the best time.

Having grown up with the fundamentals of trust and self responsibility, I have a clear understanding of people’s choices.  From having witnessed and lived it, I understand that education comes in many different forms for every single individual. There should be more trust in people’s choices for education, and I think that believing that you have to follow a certain plan and structure to be successful in life is unrealistic and restrictive in a way, especially in this day and age in society.  Life is emphatically unpredictable, and things will be thrown at you along the way, so it’s hard to know the right answer for heading towards the future.  Being at Sudbury, I’ve gotten to see everywhere how different everyone's learning experiences are. I’ve noticed how nobody learns in the same ways, or pursues all the same interests.  Knowing that I could ask every student what they do in a day and what their interests are and get completely different answers, I’m very aware that there is a different path and way of going about learning for everyone and they’re all equally important and should be seen as such.

Along with everything else that came natural to me through growing up at Sudbury, I learned to be a role model.  I’ve grown up alongside older students my whole life at sudbury, and that’s allowed me to understand how important it is to be a strong and kind figure for younger students.  A huge part of being a Sudbury student is being open and respectful of everyone around you no matter the age. You can learn valuable things from people who are older than you, or something just as valuable from someone ten years younger, and I’ve gained that awareness naturally.

The end.

Self identity, and the world ahead.

Yes, acting has stuck with me for years and will continue to, but there are so many other fields of study I’m curious to pursue.  Next year I’m planning on taking core classes full time at Dutchess community college, while also taking up their drama courses. My main focus next year will be to get a foundation in a college environment, discover new interests, attain credits and solidify what I want my major to be if I stick with my plan to transfer to a four year.  At this time in my life I’m starting to get new ideas that I want to grab onto as much as I can. Ideas of what I want to do that’s new, the possibilities for the future, and what I can work towards.

The outside world is filled with obstacles on concentration and creativity, and that’s something I’ve already practiced from the start to the finish in my education.  It’s human nature to want to expand whether that’s through curiosity, exploration, or working towards a goal in mind, and there isn’t a right or a wrong way to do it. I’ve had to push myself creatively because of the fact that I was thrown into my education with simple tools to build and shape my own knowledge, and I have taught myself not only how to learn, but how to be curious.  I know that my specific experience in the department of learning will be a part of me in whatever I choose to do outside of my school, and so will everyone and everything that’s inspired me to explore. I am in no way done developing as a person in this world, and in no way will I ever be finished learning. In who I am and whoever I become, the last eleven years will always be in my roots.  I know that my skills in independence, self-awareness, acceptance, and problem solving will help me continue to grow. I’ve accepted myself, and I’m happy with being perfectly imperfect.

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