Archive for Alumni

Fairhaven Alumnus Book Release!

Rare Bird Books has just released Echo of the Boom by Maxwell Neely-Cohen, Fairhaven School class of 2004. A fascinating novel that explores contemporary youth culture amidst a looming apocalypse, Max’s book is an intellectual tour-de-force and a page-turner.  Based in Washington, D.C., “Echo” explores what makes Millenials tick as they text away, and Max’s lifelong interest in military theory certainly informs his characters and the narrative arc of his novel. echo2 Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Max’s first public reading took place in the Chesapeake Room here at Fairhaven School in celebration of our first fifteen years last November, and the four hurtling narratives hooked the audience members then! Support the arts, and support our wonderful alumnus Max; see what happens to Efram, Chloe, and the rest of his video-gaming, deejaying, philosophical characters by buying this unique, entertaining book. We will let you know when the “Echo of the Boom” book tour lands in DC.

Congratulations, Max. Now where in the world did you get the idea for the school-wide Capture the Flag game?

Mark McCaig

April, 2014

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Fairhaven School Alumni Parents Podcast!

At our recent Alumni Parent Panel, the panelists reflected not only on their children’s process, but on their own process. I left that evening’s discussion with a sense that choosing a Sudbury school education for your children requires a willingness on the part of parents to let go, to trust, to listen.  As alumna parent Pat Everret reveals:

“It did make me more aware. It forced me to be more accepting of what my daughter was the way she was… I wasn’t as bent on thinking my way was right, which, I’m guilty of. And I just had to step back and realize, step back and listen… you have to step back and say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, it’s time for me to listen more.’ And I had to do a lot of that growing, I’m still trying to do it. But, you know, you’ve got to give them a lot more… I had to give them a lot more faith than I was inclined to at the beginning. I’m still working on it..”

Choosing Fairhaven School also requires faith and trust in your child, as alumni parent Robin Rice advises current parents:

“I would say, trust your child… I don’t want to sound overly fantastical, but I really believe that every child has a genius in them. And they know how to find it if they’re allowed to find it. And they will tell you what it is… they will tell you what they want and they will tell you what they need. And if you listen they’ll find their way… The more I tried to make my agenda the agenda the less it worked, and the more it worked to listen and follow and trust. And it is hard to trust sometimes, it is hard to trust what you see. But I believe in it.”

I was struck by the ease with which these three alumni parents spoke about their personal process and was pleased to hear how relevant these lessons still are in their unfolding relationships with their now-grown children. From this talk, and a myriad of other interactions with parents, it feels undeniable that parents themselves will grow in one way or another as a result of their child’s education at Fairhaven School. I make this statement with the utmost respect for countless parents who have thrown themselves whole-heartedly into this rewarding and difficult path.  As a staff member, I cannot help but be inspired by their willingness.

Becka Miller
Staff, Fairhaven School

Listen to the Alumni Parents podcast here.


Alumni Parent Panel

Follow the above link to the podcast featuring alumni parents (left to right) Pat Everett (Allison Everett, class of 2007), Robin Rice (Richard Morris, class of 2007), and Bill Woodbridge (Zoe Woodbridge, class of 2009 and Eli Woodbridge, class of 2011) .


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2012 Alumni Panel

On October 26th, Fairhaven School hosted its second alumni panel. Ben Umstead (’01), Geoffrey Craighead (’01), and Brett Smith (’04) spoke of their experiences at Fairhaven School and their time after school.

Here is what Geoffrey posted on his Facebook:

“This is an alumni panel which I participated in for Fairhaven, the Sudbury school that I attended.

Being a student at a Sudbury Model school was one of the most formative aspects of my youth and one that I’m a very strong proponent of for many people.

If you have school-aged children and want them to be in an educational environment which places a premium on their own creativity, responsibility, independence and self-worth, I strongly encourage you to investigate the Sudbury Model.

My specific alma mater is Fairhaven School in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

By design, every student’s experience will differ radically from any other’s; nonetheless, if you ever have any questions or concerns or want to sate any other kind of curiosity about the model, in general, or Fairhaven, in particular, I’m always more than happy to talk about the experience I had and my transition from the Sudbury model back into a traditional educational model in college.

I loved Fairhaven while I was there and love it still today and am always looking for an opportunity to inspire in my friends the same sort of appreciation for the truly exceptional and unique social and educational asset that the school is. If you’re even the least bit curious, investigate it in depth!”

Please click the link for a preview of the alumni panel with access to all five parts of the panel footage.

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Greetings From an Alumna in Japan

(We received this post and photo from alumna Alice Yoe after the school invited her to join the upcoming alumni panel.)

Photograph by alumna Alice Yoe taken in her neighborhood.

Were it possible, I would love to drop in and be on the panel, but that might be a little bit tricky, considering that I’m a little… in Japan. I’m living in Fuji, Shizuoka–3 guesses what the view from my front door is–and teaching at an English conversation school while I study for my Japanese Language Proficiency Test! I’ve been here for about 7 months now (why else would I ever miss Flag Day?), and while I’m considering finding a new job and moving to Kobe or Osaka for largely-girlfriend-related reasons at the end of my current contract in Spring, I plan to stick around for a little while yet.

It’s great to hear from you. I remember when I was at Fairhaven, my parents were happy that I’d found somewhere so healthy for me, but my father in particular was worried about my future, had trouble understanding why it was so much better for me than a conventional school, and so on… An alumni panel sounds like a great way to help families with those concerns! I’d be more than happy to get up a little early on Saturday if we wanted to set something up with Skype and a projector or something, but an in-the-flesh appearance is sadly out of the question at the moment.

I think back on Fairhaven with the greatest of fondness; the freedom, the empowerment, and the loving community I found there still amaze me to this day. Without them–without everyone–I don’t know how I would ever have grown into myself the way I did in those years. Please send my love to everybody.!

Be well,
Alice Yoe

(Class of 2007)

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In Memoriam

On Friday, September 21st,  Fairhaven School lost a cherished member of its community. Tim Craighead, 24, was a student at Fairhaven from 2000-2004. When I heard the news on Sunday I immediately knew that I wanted to return to the school grounds with those I call my “Fairhaven family”.  Many others felt the same, so on Wednesday we gathered together for a bonfire in Tim’s memory. As we gathered around the fire we began to reminisce about the times we spent with Tim and of the kindness and compassion we received from him. Sometimes we sat in silence, and that was okay. It was so powerful to simply be in each other’s presence, back at the school where we had grown up together . It honestly felt like a family coming back home.

When talking about Fairhaven School, we often focus on how the philosophy works or how students learn about things such as personal responsibility or assertiveness from our self-directed curriculum, but we don’t talk as much about the things that mean the most to a lot of us.  To many of us, Fairhaven is more than a place where we can shape our minds. It is a place where we can shape our hearts.  We are not defined by the grades we earn, but by the bonds we create, and these bonds last a lifetime.

I was incredibly touched by what was said of Tim. Two other alumni, Ben Umstead and Kat Steigerwald, put some of their words in writing.

-Richard Morris (Fairhaven School Class of 2007)


One Gesture, Many Moments: In Memory of Tim Craighead

Tim Craighead was a philosopher.  He was a student of human behavior and a comedian of the utmost subtlety and finesse. Tim was a bass player (he was my sister Erin’s first bandmate). He was a gamer, a creator, and a voracious reader. He was a sharp, astute conversationalist. Sometimes he didn’t even need words to practice this art. After all, Tim was a philosopher, and aren’t the greatest lessons one can learn from such a soul the often wordless, often repeated ones? These are the lessons that can come in the form of a kind smile, a supportive gesture, or a quiet, caring gaze. Tim gave many a class on the art and discourse of caring; of just showing up, being present; of being a friend, without reservation, without judgment. One never had to hide one’s true self in the presence of such a teacher.

In the years following his time at Fairhaven School, Tim discovered a new passion — acting. When I heard about this, inklings of a collaboration between us began to form in my mind. He seemed to posses just the right kind of vulnerability, intelligence and nuanced naturalism that would be needed to help bring my sensitive artist alter-ego to the silver screen.  Earlier this year when he came down for Erin’s final show in Maryland,
I mentioned this to him. He smiled and nodded. He was taking a break from acting but had always wanted to do something on film as opposed to the stage, especially since many of his roles had been kind of garish and goofy in nature. He smiled again. In that moment I was reminded how Tim was a true ally on the front lines of the soul, that self, the world, the noise, that fear. He was a kindred spirit. That which I saw in him I saw in myself. I smiled and nodded, hoping to continue our conversation at a later date.

Tim was a son to Carolyn and James, and a brother to Geoff. Tim was a friend to Erin, Gabriel, Zach, Kat, Walter, Michael, Max, Richard, Caity, Gabi, Brianna, Andrew, Joe, Brett, Jared, Heidi, Melissa, Anderson Shannon, John, his fellow co-creators at the Fells Point Corner Theatre, and, of course, many, many others.

In sharing with you the many wonderful things that Tim was, I have yet to tell you one thing. This is perhaps the most important thing.
It was because he chose to share his brilliant gifts with others across life’s journey that Tim still IS…for that which we see in ourselves we see in Tim.

-Ben Umstead (Class of 2001)


Loving Memories

At Fairhaven School students are given the freedom to spend their days as they see fit. When I remember Tim, my wonderful friend and partner in crime, what comes immediately to mind are all the ways we used that time, wiling away our teenage years in the old building, in cars, on couches and online. One of my favorite memories is the day we decided it would be incredibly funny to have a contest to see who could stand at the sign-in sheet –without talking– the longest. We spent upwards of four hours trying to make each other laugh or somehow get the other person to cave in and leave their post. I’m not sure I’ve ever had so much fun not talking to someone! Looking back, I have no clue which of us won the contest, because we were really in it together.

Tim was someone who I never felt I had to compete with, or filter myself around, or explain myself to. We could be silly or serious, pontificate for hours about some wild idea one day or hang out without needing to say much at all the next. It’s impossible not to love someone who you feel that safe around, and Tim Craighead holds a lot of real estate in my heart. I would not be who I am today without his quiet, precious presence in my formative years. I love him dearly, and he is dearly missed.

-Kat Steigerwald (Class of 2004)

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Alumni Panel

On Friday, March 23rd, Fairhaven School hosted a panel featuring three alumni- Pallas Bane (class of 2008), Thor Jensen (class of 2005), and Erin Gregory ( who chose not to graduate and left in 2005.) The 2011-2012 school year is beginning to feel like “The Year of the Alumni,” as we have enrolled a record number of returning students and we have begun to focus more directly on alumni as our most valuable marketing asset. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Who do these students become? Finally, our illustrious alumni have chartered an Alumni Association, so look for more alumni presence going forward!

We videotaped the March 23rd presentation and will soon be posting it online.

For now, here is a brief interview with Thor Jensen reflecting on his time at Fairhaven School.

Parents, students and visitors were universally pleased and reassured by the panelists, as they embody so many of the qualities a Fairhaven School educations engenders. Like many of our graduates, Thor, Pallas, and Erin have become articulate, ethical, successful, and interesting people!

Stay tuned for the alumni panel in its entirety.

Mark McCaig

Fairhaven School

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Fairhaven School Alumna Releases EP

Sometimes the news we hear from alumni is just lovely. This just in, from the email Inbox: Fairhaven School alumna Erin Umstead, class of 2005, has just released her first EP of music, “The Norway EP.”

Please support her work, just another example of the interesting, creative lives our alumni continue to manifest. (Kudos also to Erin’s website designer Ben Umstead, current Fairhaven substitute staff and member of the class of 2001.)

Here is the announcement from Erin herself, with links:

I wanted to give the community information on my debut EP! It contains four original songs and is called “The Norway EP”. You can stream it for free or download it for $1 (or more) here:

Some other sites for people to stay up to date with me on are:

Facebook “fan” page:



I will also be playing the open mic at New Deal Cafe in Greenbelt tomorrow, January 5th at 7pm. Info here:

Thanks for the support!


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What’s My Label Now?: Third 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 third 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.)

Aryeh Y. Grossman

What’s my label now?

These are my life stories as best I can remember; each of them is part of what has helped to create who I am and hopefully has prepared me to become an effective adult.  Becoming an adult happens regardless of effectiveness; but becoming an effective comes from being someone who positively evolves from their experiences along the way.


When I was young I was labeled with learning and physical disabilities.  At age four my parents were told that I would never amount to anything.  I would never be capable of properly communicating, writing, biking, and learning.  I was put in a learning disabled class.  These years were filled with frustration due to people not knowing how to deal with me.  It took me longer to learn how to read.  In 4th grade I entered a special program called GTLD, gifted and talented learning disabled.  It was a very small group of people about 5 to a class I had great teachers.  I started gaining more of the confidences I needed.  By 5th grade I was learning at grade level just a little slower.  My teacher encouraged me to pursue my interests.  When I was interested in African art she gave me several college level books about it.  Being labeled has never been allowed to stop me.  I, according to this doctor, should have never been able to write this much.


When I was twelve, I came to Fairhaven.  Within my first few weeks of attending school I discovered the school’s freedom and trust.  For me I discovered it using a knife.  When I first came to school we were allowed to carry knives.  I had had a knife since I was four.  My Abba (Dad) gave me my first, an old Camillus Cub Scout knife that had been his as a kid.  I almost instantly got certified and started dabbling in whittling, which led to my first write up.  Leo, a former staff person, wrote me up for not cleaning up wood shavings.  A couple of months later pocket knives were banned.  When I was told about this I was outraged.  I had been completely safe and because of other people’s actions I had my right to carry a knife taken away.  After discussing this with Mark, I decided to bring a motion to school meeting to informally discuss my problem.  That meeting ended with no progress on the knife issue.

This series of events might seem inconsequential to some people, but it taught me a lot.  First, I was forced to deal with the consequences of my action in the school’s Judicial Committee (JC), one of the most important tools of the school for teaching about responsibility.  Second, I went to School Meeting and spoke for the first time.  Third, I was confronted with the loss of my rights.  To me, there is nothing more important than maintaining our rights.  As a result of this belief, I have clerked JC several times, chaired School Meeting for a year, serving as Assembly President this year, and have become a more conscious individual.  For me, taking these experiences, learning from them, and using the lessons to grow and make change demonstrates how I am becoming more effective.

I used to know what I wanted to do.  I was going to own a business.  I was always toying with different ideas from the presumption that people would always need grave stones and coffins to coming close to buying a vending machine.  Around the end of my first year at Fairhaven, I started selling ice pops with a friend.  We were making pretty good money but the partnership fell apart.  One day he took the money home with him and lost the list of people who had IOU’s.  None of the people came clean and we lost money.  He wasn’t being careful with money or labeling the products which left me doing most of the work.  This resulted in me throwing a bag with 50 pennies in his face and effectively ending our business partnership.  I took over the business.

The next year the only other student who had a business graduated, leaving a void.  Several other students stepped up, including my friend who took over the soda part of the business with another partner.  I never intended to take over selling sodas from him, but he and his partner didn’t do a great job.  They didn’t keep well stocked, shop around for good prices, or manage their business well.  I had been keeping a case of sodas around for myself and people started asking to buy them because they couldn’t purchase from the actual business.  I started casually selling my sodas on the side when people inquired.  To insure that I didn’t steal any of his business I charged $1.50, twice his rate.  I genuinely didn’t want his business to fail because he was still my friend.  It did fail, though. The business fell right in to my lap.  I found a cheaper source and sold my sodas at fifty cents.  I had the strongest business in the school and I was on top.

We all learn from mistakes.  I had never really been involved in theatre at Fairhaven, but I agreed to be Sir Toby Belch in an unabridged version of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.  I didn’t read the script before accepting my role and neither did the director who gave me the part.  I had never done a play before and over one hundred lines had to be memorized.  I worked hard because I had agreed to do the play.  When I agree to do something, I do it.  Several other students ended up quitting, most of them older them me.  On the night of the performance, I was told that I was going to have to wear makeup I freaked out, resulting in me being slapped by two very stressed out directors.  We managed to pull it off and it taught me that I could do what I set my mind to.

When I was twelve I took on my first major responsibility.  I started volunteering as a shadow for a 4 year old that had Familial Dysautonomia at Adat Shalom Religious School.  He was unable to speak, unable to feel pain and had a tube in his stomach for feeding.  My primary job was to keep this child emotionally and physically safe.   I was there to watch him and advocate for him.  If he got hurt, I had to be there so that people would know what happened, because he could not process the pain for himself.  I bonded with him at once.  I knew him I could communicate with him; he was very perceptive.  I could talk to him and he would answer with hand signals for yes and no.  This has affected how I look at other people who some might ignore or dislike just because of behavioral and physical inparement.


This is the blurriest segment of my life and I have pieced it together as best as I can.
Headaches came out of nowhere, debilitating headaches.  At first doctors couldn’t figure it out.  My family had never been huge on conventional medicine; however, sometimes you’re left with no other choices.  At first they thought it might be me just not wanting to go to school and that it was all psychological.  My parents have always been fierce advocates for me and they wouldn’t accept that answer.  They finally sent me in for a CAT scan and they found an arachnoid-cyst in my brain the size of a cue ball.  As my headaches were getting worse I stopped going to school.  I was bedridden from the pain.  Because the kind of cyst I had didn’t usually need surgery, the doctors just tried to manage the pain including a stay in the hospital.  But they weren’t dealing with the source.  My parents got me in to see one of the world’s most predominant surgeons, Ben Carson.  He agreed with us that the cyst was putting too much pressure on my brain.
I had to have a brain surgery called a fenestration to drain it.  There was a 3 in 10 chance that it wouldn’t succeed and that it would require a second surgery to place a shunt.  We decided to risk it even with the possible complications a shunt can cause.  I had to spend the first 24 hours after surgery in ICU and then several more days in the hospital.  A couple of weeks later, the pain in my head was back and was so intense that I ended up in the ER.  After a CAT scan, I learned that the cyst had grown back and I also had a hematoma from the surgery.  I was in too much pain to be crushed by this.  I spent another week in the hospital.  Hospitals aren’t a place to heal.  You go and you get fixed hopefully, but you still have to recover from simply being there.
I had over 30 staples in my head and had to sleep almost sitting up once I got home.  I went back to what had been but now it was worse, I now had scars from the failed surgery and the pain hadn’t gone.  Doomed to waiting, I sat in my bed taking painkillers and drugs every couple of hours.  My parents didn’t give up.  No one wanted a shunt.  We found a new surgery being done.  Only two doctors in the world would do this very specialized surgery, one in California and the other in South America.  It was a laparoscopic surgery through my eyebrow to remove the cyst completely; however I could not have it done immediately because of the hematoma in my brain that had to be resolved.  It took three months and we even considered doing surgery just to relieve the hematoma, but it went away on its own.
The plane ride was the worst of my life.  Then, we spent the first couple of days in a crappy hotel, going back and forth to the hospital doing pre op tests.  I was at my most depressed state ever.  We were blessed when a couple of family friends came by, but it was still really hard to deal.  I was in pretty horrible pain all the time.  They went out and got me 2 Grateful Dead albums which were a calming force.  The day of surgery came and we went early in the morning hours to the hospital.  I broke down when they wanted to give me an IV.  I was tired of all the poking and prodding.   I refused.   I wasn’t going to put on a hospital gown or submit to the needles.  The doctors, nurses, and orderlies ganged up on me and forced me to have the IV and  the anesthesiologist went ahead and put me under.
The next month was a blurred existence.  I remember the first time I woke up from the surgery vividly.  I still had the respirator in my throat and I was tied down to the bed.  They put me under again.  After I was released from the hospital, we spent the next few weeks at a friend of my mom’s house because I was not yet ready to fly.  A few sketchy details are what I remember not coherent memory: no cable TV, a lot of Everybody Loves Lucy, a fruit basket and I don’t even like fruit, Tommy the rock opera, and my addiction to lollypops began.  I don’t even remember my flight back to Maryland.
Healing was torture.  My headache was only replaced.  The incision site from the first surgery was hurting and it seemed as if almost nothing had changed.  More doctors were the name of the game.  I have no ideas how many different doctors I’ve seen.  After searching for the right pain management specialist for months, we finally found one who could help.  I was put onto a new drug that suppressed the misfiring nerves in my scalp.  It still took more time to find the proper dosage and bring me up to it.


For me it was all about my return to school.  I had missed so much, yet I was not behind.  One of my first steps when I returned was reestablishing my business.  On one of my first days back at school I learned that another student had been selling sodas in my absence.  He had been charging twice what I was and selling off brand lower quality soda.  He had a total monopoly on the school and his prices reflected that.  I let him sell the rest of his stock and went back to selling name brand for sodas for 50¢ each.  I started seeing my business as more of a reflection on how I treat other human beings.  At the beginning of the school year I came in the first day.  I was fully stocked with 50 dollars worth of product.  People perceived me differently.  I was brain surgery kid.  I was in the shop hanging with Leo when a new staff member barged in.  He said,”Hey I heard the brain surgery kid came today.  Where is he?”  This was a big personal realization of how people saw me.  I ended up missing the next two days of school because I was still was recovering.  When I came back, my entire inventory had been stolen.  I wrote it up.  I ended up missing the next couple of weeks as well.  Lisa Lyons came by to visit and she informed me that JC had caught the people who had done it and I would be compensated.   This was the first time JC had done anything about thefts for me.  I had problems sporadically over the years.  I believe they only did this because they felt they had to watch out for brain surgery kid.  This was something that would just take time for people to get used to.
It took time acclimating back to school.  One of the places I got involved with was School Meeting.  I started attending when I did manage to make it to school.  I got to understand the school more thoroughly by attending.  So few people attended it was usually five or so students including the chair and secretary.  The only thing that got people to come was the controversial issues.  I found it frustrating how few people attended school meeting.  I enjoyed being at school meeting.  I was there and ready to be one of the few voices conscious enough to makes sure they know what was going on.
There were two major events that took place that represented my transformation from sickness to health.  The first was when my meds had finally kicked in and I was capable of attending school regularly.  My Imma (Mom) had wanted to throw away some of my get well cards and this seemed wrong to me.  I didn’t want to just throw away good intentions but I also didn’t want to hold on to the energy of me being sick.  So I decided to burn them.  I got permission from school meeting to have a small bonfire at school and burn the cards.  It felt like the right place to do it to end the sickness at the place it had kept me from.  I gathered up all of the cards.  It must have numbered over five hundred cards and lots of unneeded paper work.  The day of the burning we brought 3 boxes filled with just paper.  My Imma came in and we went to the back of the old building and said a prayer that had been written for me.  I can’t remember what it said anymore.  It was the first thing we lit.
As soon as the bonfire was over and the cards and medical records were turned to ashes, I knew that a segment of my life had ended.  We drove to Target and I bought $70 dollars in get well, sympathy, and thank you cards to send to others..  Even though I had burned the ones sent to me, I wanted to find a way to pass on the positive energy by being able to support others.
My family and I held a celebration of life party.  At first my parents thought of it as me getting my life back, but I stood firm.  It was not just my life we were getting back, my whole family had lost a lot during my time sick.  I decided it was not my party it was our whole family’s party and we were going to celebrate all of our lives.


After this my life changed.  I started going to school with regularity.  I got elected to school meeting chair and finally overcame one of my original outrages.  I brought a motion to school meeting to allow students to carry pocket knives.  I had to create comprehensive rules pertaining to the certifying and use of knives at school and extensively research law pertaining to this.  It took six weeks of going to school meeting to get all the new procedures passed.  After 5 years of no knives some students are allowed to carry knives again.  I became a certifier for pocket knives, so that I could over see the rules that I had put in place and teach proper usage.
The school’s rules have always been a strong interest to me because I always loved the philosophy of personal responsibility in the school.  I had always been pretty well versed in the rules and JC procedure but never allowed myself to clerk due to my poor hand writing at the time.  I joined a writing class, mostly for grammar but each class opened with small writing exercises in long hand.  After a few months I was proficient enough to take on the writing part of being a clerk.  I have now been an alternate clerk a handful of times and clerked twice.
My business, one of the few constants throughout my career in Fairhaven, started to take on a different shape.  One of the main reasons I held on to it so long was to keep student business at school from becoming a monopoly.  I was not in it strictly for the profit anymore.  I find the challenge of it fun.  I started having to lock things up to prevent theft from happening.  Before, people had just grabbed the stuff and looked for me to pay.  They started interrupting everything I was doing so I could unlock it for them.  So I started hiring someone to sell for me part of time.
I also had to start making choices about deeper human morality.  I learned about the slave trade used in chocolate.  Thirty seven percent of the world’s supply of cocoa comes out of the Ivory Coast where approximately ten thousand child slaves are used and another two hundred thousand or so child workers.  This outraged me so much that I quit the sale of chocolate.  However this one little act is not nearly enough.  I struggled with what the next step was.  At first I started by going after the people who were buying it and selling it.  I tried to educate them but usually got angry when they responded that they didn’t care and I called them out by personally letting them know that they were no better than the slave traders themselves for choosing to do nothing.  This put people off as I should have expected but I was blinded by the passion.
I changed tactics, I started bringing up just the facts whenever I could and simply say I would not support the sales based on facts.  This is when things started to change.  People became more conscious.  Without me having a direct hand in it a motion came to school meeting to forbid the sale of slave chocolate at school.  There was a lengthy conversation in school meeting about the issue.  Even thou the motion had failed it was a success to me because people were talking about it.  Since then two different fundraisers at school have used fair trade chocolate in there events because of what I have said.

Plans and Personal philosophy

As I said I used to know what I was going to do.  I would run and own some sort of business.  It was a strong pull for me, but as I have gotten older, it has grown less clear.  The difficulty in running a socially responsible and competitive business at school is overpowering.  For me though, there is no other choice but to be socially conscious in business.  Being socially responsible is so essential to the core of who I am that I am beginning to think that owning a business outside of school would be a challenge that might too difficult to consider taking.  On the other hand if I found a good opportunity, I would absolutely consider it.  I just don’t know where my life will ultimately lead.  In the short term I plan on going to community college for a year and working during the summer as a camp counselor. Then I will spend a year in Israel and taking an ulpan, which is an intensive Hebrew emersion program.  From there I don’t know exactly, but that gives me 2 years to figure things out.
What I do know is to feel decent about myself, I have to stand up against what I know to be wrong and volunteer in the community.  I have gone to a Darfur rally and plan to go to another in the future.  When there was threat of a Koran burning I was trying to figure out how to go down to Florida to protest this most disgusting act and ended up attending a small rally in DC against it.  When I learned of the child slavery in chocolate, I made my household purchase fair trade only and will continue to educate people about these problems for the rest of my life
As for community, I am always ready to do what I can.  I am a ham radio operator, call sign KB3WTF.  I have worked on the course of the Marine Corp Marathon looking for downed runners and radioing for help.  I am also looking at volunteering at equal exchange, a nonprofit that verifies that workers are paid and treated fairly.  In addition this philosophy has lead me to much of what I do in the school, including being Fire safety clerk, elections clerk, Assembly President, and  repeatedly serving as JC clerk.
For me, being an effective adult is being someone who can positively evolve from their experiences.  My experiences in life made me evolve to be the conscious and action oriented person that I am today.  From my earliest days dealing with being labeled and more recent years dealing with brain surgeries, I have gained perseverance and fortitude.  My time in the theater began shaping my work ethics, while my business has sharpened my work ethics and helped hone my action oriented philosophies about human impact from every action.  My time with Eli has altered how I perceive other human beings with physical or mental disability.  Recovering from illness and re-assimilating back in to the community has changed how I look at myself and the world around me.  Being School Meeting Chair, Assembly President, and JC Clerk has shown that I can work with people and oversee a process.  Dealing with theft and my chocolate revelations has taught me to adapt to different situations.  I hope that by showing you my life experiences and my frame of mind, I have demonstrated to you that I am ready to become an effective adult in the larger community.

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Headwork: Second 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 second 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 name is Ginger Engel, I’m sixteen years old, and five of those years have
been spent at Fairhaven School.  It’s been five years of ups and downs, highs and
lows, and too many experiences to tell.  It’s been quite the adventure and
although I’ve enjoyed it, I’m ready to start a new adventure; an adventure
outside of Fairhaven.  But I didn’t become ready overnight.  I’ll start at the

When I was twelve years old I was enrolled at Fairhaven with nothing to
lose, really.  I had no real direction in my life and no idea what to do with myself.
Fairhaven seemed like a good place to figure those things out.  I spent the first
week or so of school mostly just watching people.  The only other person I knew
was my older sister, so I had to make new friends, something I’d never been good
at.  But after spending so much time just watching people I fell in with a group of
people that I still call friends today.  I spent the rest of the year trying to get
better at interacting with people.

My second year started off much like my first, talking to people, hanging
out, and trying to figure things out.   During that year I learned how to crochet (a
type of craft, similar to knitting, which involves a single thread and a hooked
needle).  At the time it was just a hobby that I did in my spare time.  It wasn’t
really a big part of my life.  In the spring, Fairhaven held an arts and crafts fair that
my friend and I registered for.  We sold pillows and stuffed animals, all of which
were hand sewn.  We made a considerable profit and it was a lot of fun. That’s
where it all really started.

The following December I registered for a craft fair at a church with my
mom and sister.  I didn’t sew anything this time but I had gotten good enough at
crocheting to make scarves and hats to sell.  The fair was successful and I really
enjoyed it, but crafting still seemed like a hobby more than anything else.

It wasn’t until almost two years later that I considered being a crafter to
make a living.  Fairhaven held another Spring craft fair, which I was quick to sign
up for.  That’s when I decided to start entering craft fairs on a more regular basis.
That same year in late August I registered for an ongoing fair in Silver Spring called
The Fenton Street Market.  This turned out not to be the best idea, it being back–
to-school time.  In October I registered with The Fenton Street Market again and
got a better turn out, but still not great.

That December I registered for a fair at the church that I had registered
with years before.  I wasn’t able sell anything I’d made.  But I met the person who
I now think of as my only role model, despite the fact that I don’t know her name
and she’s about 60 years old.  I met her when I was walking around the fair to
look at the other vendors.  She caught my eye because she and her husband were
selling crocheted scarves and gloves.  I walked over and she and I started talking.
She told me about how she loves to crochet and it’s what she does with most of
her time. But it was two words she said to me that still stick with me.  “Keep
crocheting” she said.  I’d never felt that kind of support and inspiration from
anyone else.  I decided to keep that bit of advice and keep crocheting no matter

After the fair in December, it occurred to me that fairs may not be the best
place to try to sell crafts.  So I decided to start selling online.  I’m signed up on
Etsy, a website that hosts crafters.  Right now the specifics are being worked out
(payment methods, shipping costs, etc.) and then I’ll be ready to sell.  I’d like to
eventually have my own website to sell my wares on but I think Etsy is a better
place to start.  I’m taking my time with the online selling though.  When I do
something I want to do it right.  I don’t want to rush into a totally new
environment without knowing what I’m up for first.  Walk before you run, right?

Being at Fairhaven has taught me a lot of things, like time management.
This year I ran for JC clerk for the first time. About three years ago I had been a JC
alternate and I didn’t enjoy it in the least. But I figured that it was 3 years ago and
my opinion of clerking may have changed. So Matteo and I ran for clerk
unopposed and, as you can imagine, got the job. There’s quite a bit of time
management needed to clerk because you have to factor in the time it takes to do
the sentence list, whether  you     need a sub for anyone, getting a runner, finding
missing JC members, and take into account that JC may run anywhere from 20
minutes to 2 hours. I feel I fulfilled my role as a clerk pretty darn well. I’m still not
sure how much I enjoyed the experience though.

Another lesson came up with a write-up that involved a few friends, a
buried time capsule, and a total lack of permission to dig it up.  It didn’t really
occur to us to go to school meeting or ask the grounds clerk or anything like that.
We just started digging.  Although I always feel people should do what they feel is
right, it’s important to go through the right portals to do it.  Then maybe you
won’t end up getting sentenced to three grounds jobs.

There are some things I learned at Fairhaven just from being around other
people. One valuable lesson I learned was to not be afraid to ask questions. When
I was a kid and I didn’t understand something, I wouldn’t ask anyone to explain or
at least not immediately. I was really shy and didn’t want people to think I was an
incompetent fool. So I kept quiet. Which never worked out very well. Because
then I would eventually have to ask someone what to do and I’d feel twice as
foolish because I’d waited so long.  When I got to Fairhaven and started to hang
out with people who seemed so comfortable with themselves all the time, I
realized that it’s better to ask questions now rather than later, even If it does
seem silly.

I also learned how to interact with people who are significantly older or
younger than me.  The first time a student who was older (about five years older)
than me said hello to me, I was so startled and didn’t know how to respond.  I
thought maybe he wanted something from me but I couldn’t think of what he’d
want.  But he just wanted to say hello.  After I got over my strange fear of older
people I actually became friends with that particular student.  On the other end of
the spectrum are younger students, and Fairhaven has plenty of those.  I used to
find small children rather irritating and would try to avoid talking to them.  Then I
remembered what it was like when I was seven years old.  I wasn’t all that
different from the kids I was trying to keep away from.  Now when approached by
kids I try to remember myself at that age and I’m able to have a conversation with
them.  A lot of them are pretty cool in fact.

There are also some valuable (if not simple) lessons I’ve learned outside of
Fairhaven, but with people from Fairhaven.  Like checking the train schedule for
the Metro. That way you don’t miss the last train out of Washington, DC and end
up having to call your dad at 1:00 in the morning to have him pick you and your
friends up.  Or remembering to bring tip money when you go out to a restaurant.
That way you don’t feel like a total jerk when you only have enough money for a
two dollar tip.  I still have a hard time with that sometimes but I’m working on it.

I believe it’s all of the experiences somebody goes through that makes
them an effective adult, an effective person, a person at all.  I haven’t mentioned
all of my Fairhaven experiences since there are too many for me to remember
and some may be lost in the back of my memory.  I’ve mentioned things that I
believe to be most significant.  I believe that these are things that make me the
person that I am, the effective person that I am, and the effective adult that I’m
becoming.  If there’s anything that my sixteen years have taught me, at Fairhaven
or otherwise, it’s to never regret anything.  Realize your mistakes, learn from
them, and know you’re better because of it.

Headwork: n/ mental work or effort : THINKING

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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.


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.


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.


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

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