Perspective from an Alumna (Part 1)

Associated School: 

I can't tell you how many versions of this I've written. Each one desperately trying to fully paint the ways in which Sudbury paved the path for the work I've been doing for the last four years. I wrote about fear and how my time at HVSS allowed me to fearlessly try, succeed, fail, and - most importantly, to learn. I wrote about my fight. I wrote that though I've been blessed with opportunity, things were never handed to me; it was always a battle of finding motivation in myself to carry through. Sudbury students know that well. They know that the education they've chosen is one where internal motivation is essential. I began a passage speaking to the inevitable lesson of responsibility that Sudbury students can't help but find. It was in that lesson that I gained self-respect. I came to understand that my needs and dreams were just as important as those of the people around me. I learned to identify what it was that I, Marina, truly desired and how to politely fight those desires to fruition. However, none of the passages I wrote seemed quite right. Those lessons and qualities are a part of a much bigger picture. To me, what it boils down to is community. With community comes networks and support - a group one learns to trust in and depend on. 

In looking back at the three years I spent at Sudbury, I realized that I received endless support and encouragement from those around me to explore my world. I didn’t grow up in a family that was well to do financially. Yet, my mother was able to provide me with access to incredible alternative health care and classes in dance, gymnastics, sculpture and acting. She is an incredible, intelligent and articulate woman who knows how to fight for what she believes in and use the resources within her community. When I went on my visiting week at Sudbury, I decided pretty early on that I was going to give it a try. But how could we pay for it? Three years ago I read the beautifully written letter my Mother sent to the staff at HVSS. It was my story through her eyes. She reached out and was met. That was my first encounter with how the Sudbury community would be committed to supporting me. 

For the first year and a half, Vanessa picked me up and drove me to school. Why? I had no other way of getting there. I can still remember the smell of her Subaru. New car and small children. Warm heat blowing through the vents on the most frigid of days. I even recall the first warm day of spring. Windows open, Jack Johnson playing through the speakers. My house wasn’t necessarily on the way, and yet, without fail, she brought me to Sudbury every day.

I am not the kind of person who is good at sitting around doing, “nothing,” and when I was younger I was even worse. After enrolling I suddenly had endless amounts of time during the day to…choose what I wanted to do? What a strange concept. How wonderful! How incredible! Okay, so, what do I do? Hmm…. Um, can someone please just tell me what I’m supposed to do? There’s got to be something that someone thinks I ought to be doing. Someone? Please? Anyone?  No? Okay, I guess this means I really have to think for myself. 

That was the gist of my first few weeks at Sudbury. So, I began with what I knew. Dance. I strapped on my flamenco shoes, found an empty room and pounded away for hours and hours. The other kids kindly asked me to please be a bit quieter as the walls were shaking in the next room. I can’t believe no one ever wrote me up for disturbingly noisy activity, but people seemed to respect that that’s what I did, even if they had no idea what it was, except loud. They played computer games and I made a lot of noise. 

Weeks passed. One day, Vanessa said, you know, you could put a mirror up in there if you want…. and, so it began. She had made a suggestion and it was up to me to see it through, and I did. I wasn’t alone though - I was surrounded by people who would help if I asked. 

And, so my time at Sudbury went. I wanted to go on tour in California and Europe with my dance company and so I was supported in setting up a benefit concert and silent auction to raise the money. Help came from all directions. Booking a venue, reaching out to performers, artists and local shops to donate their time and goods. I was never discouraged or told that I was incapable or pulling this together. The Summer 2007 Germany, Sweden, California tour was amazing! 

Classes, trips, complaints, funny times, game time, School Meeting, rough times, JC, Clerkships, frustration, cleaning jobs. There was always someone there to share kind words, hold me accountable, encourage me, reach out to their networks, to tell me a story and shape my experience of what it is to be a member of a community. 

In the last year and a half I've lived in five different zip codes, in three different states. In each place, I have sought a network to weave myself into. Through the communities that I've been able to participate in a number of incredible projects the last couple years.

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Hudson Valley Sudbury School

84 Zena Road
Kingston, NY 12401
Phone: 845-679-1002
Fax: 845-679-3874