Monday, July 27, 2009

Thoughts of a Wellsprings Poet Laureate

By Michayla Todd

"A poet laureate is defined as a specially recognized and distinguished person deserving of distinction for poetic merit."

As the 2008-2009 school year came to a finish, Wellsprings students, new and old, teachers, friends and family of the Wellsprings community, all gathered at Armitage State Park for an end of the year, barbecue celebration. With the day of nerf gun wars and water filled piƱatas coming to an end, we all gathered around for one of the many, much loved Wellsprings traditions.

Teachers took turns giving a short speech about each student and assigning a painted rock, inscribed with a nickname that they have agreed fits the unique personality of each individual. I personally, especially around the Wellsprings community, have become notorious for my love of writing. I have developed many fulfilling relationships with some of the wonderful minds at Wellsprings, through our common passion for literature. This hobby of mine landed me with the Wellsprings rock label, of the Poet Laureate.

With my newly found passion for writing growing and expanding throughout my first year at Wellsprings, I have gained the support of all of my beloved friends, the educators of Wellsprings. They have all done more than I could have hoped they would, going the extra mile to support and cultivate my talent and passion. They have truly shown that they genuinely care about the youth of our society, and are making an effort to help in any way they can.

Knowing that I have solid plans to go to college and work towards a future in journalism, a few of the staff arranged for me to have this personal column on our community blog page, to help me gain experience. With this arrangement coming at the end of the school year, I won’t be posting regular pieces until the start of next year in the fall. However, I did feel that I should give a bit of a preview of what to look forward to in the 2009-2010 Wellsprings blog.

My blog posts will mainly be a personal description, from a student’s point of view, of the events and activities that occur at Wellsprings Friends School. I will keep readers updated classes are being offered, upcoming events, and the details of our school field trips. I will interview fellow students and teachers, asking for their personal opinions and input on current life at Wellsprings. Hopefully, both the community and my input will help Wellsprings supporters understand from a student’s point of view what the school is doing for my generation.

I anxiously look forward to sharing the experiences of our community with people looking to help and support our school. Congratulations to all the graduating seniors, class of 2009. As for the rest of Wellsprings Friends, I will see you in the fall.

Thoughts of a Wellsprings Poet LaureateSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Essay by Will Branscomb

The following essay was written by 2009 graduate, Will Branscomb, for a scholarship application:

"From the first day I visited Wellsprings Friends School, I felt very at home there. Instead of walking around with their heads down, ignoring each other, I saw students actually acknowledge and greet each other. They even came up to me, introduced themselves, and offered to show me around the school. There was a real sense of community, which is something I never found at public school. The teachers and students had respect for each other, and actually valued their opinions. While there were some groups of students that hung out with each other more than others, there was none of the clique mentality I was used to. I had finally escaped the automaton production line of public school, and found a group of kind, unique, real people. Instead of trundling down the public school cattle chute to a middle management slaughterhouse, I had stumbled upon a wide open pasture of whatever opportunities I cared to chase.

I had gone to a small alternative elementary school from kindergarten to second grade that had a similar philosophy and values. But in between, while I was in public school, life had become increasingly difficult. In kindergarten I was TAG-identified, but by sixth grade in public school, I had a new diagnosis: Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I always felt confined in school, trapped behind my desk, being forced to write things I already knew over and over again. In my freshman year of high school, there was so much pointless work that I didn't have time to do anything else. At the time, I had no career goals, or any aspirations really, other than to finish my homework.

At Wellsprings, I've been able to research various careers–and finally determine that I want to be a mechanical engineer–all while learning about things that interest me. I started Wellsprings in tenth grade, and within six months, I also started attending classes at Lane Community College. I went from having no credits and no basis for grades in my last term in public school, to a cumulative high school GPA of 3.75, and a college GPA of 4.05.

My self esteem went through a parallel transformation. I went from feeling like “that weird kid who never comes to school,” and from letting all the negative criticism make me even harder on myself, to feeling like an accepted and respected member of the community. I had absolutely no self confidence in public school, but through Wellsprings, I discovered my strengths and learned to believe in my abilities.

Wellsprings has given me an education that few schools can – an education not only in the academic sense, but also in a more down-to-earth way. The people I have become friends with there are some of the most interesting, and unmitigatedly genuine, I have met. No matter their background–whether it be growing up with wealthy parents and aspiring to be a fashion photographer, or growing up not knowing where they'd be able to sleep that night or if their food stamps would last through the week–they would always listen to you, respect your opinion and give you theirs, and they truly cared about each other.

Wellsprings has been like a family away from home, and growing up with them is an experience I will treasure for the rest of my life."

–Will Branscomb (2009)
Essay by Will BranscombSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, July 6, 2009

Graduation Day - Class of 2009

For our twenty-one seniors, graduation day began with a rehearsal at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, June 17th. Students picked out their caps and gowns, choosing from a colorful selection selection on black, green, red, cranberry, light blue, purple, and white. Everyone gathered on stage and the photographer asked people to assemble in two rows by height for their class graduation photo. After some arranging and rearranging, students were in place for the photo (with the photographer balancing on a chair to shoot the photograph).

Next came practice for "the slow walk" down the aisle. The seniors moved in their rows from the stage and walked two-by-two up the aisle to the back of the room and down the hallway from which they would emerge in just eight hours.
Then teacher Eva (standing in for graduation marshall, Ethan Perkins) led the students slowly down the aisle back onto the stage. After one more practice "round," the seniors removed their caps and gowns and placed them in the hallway, ready for when they returned at 6:30 p.m. for the graduation ceremony. Teachers and students mingled after the rehearsal to discuss plans for the evening and "things to say" during the upcoming ceremony.

Here are more photos from the practice session (click on a photo to enlarge):

At 7 p.m., the music of "Pomp and Circumstance" brought the audience of friends and family to their feet as twenty-one seniors began their graduation walk down the aisle. On stage, the students basked in the cheers and applause before taking their seats for the celebration.

Head of School, Dennis Hoerner welcomed everyone and introduced the members of the Wellsprings Friends School Board. Susan Goodyear then played Chopin's Nocturne in G Minor on the piano before Dennis introduced Jon Garlinghouse who delivered the keynote address to the students.

As always, the highlight of our Wellsprings graduation ceremony is the presentation of the graduates by their teachers. Each senior is called to the podium by a teacher who tells a story about their experience with the student and offers words of encouragement for their life "beyond Wellsprings." It is a time of laughter and tears as teachers express their love for each graduate and embrace them with a "send-off" hug.

Next, a "meeting for sharing" in the Friends (Quaker) tradition gave everyone present an opportunity to stand and share their memories, hopes, and wishes for the graduates. Out of the silence, many family members and friends spoke about "their graduate," expressing their love for the young person as well as appreciation for the teachers at the school who have made a difference in the students' lives.

Then, as each student's name was called by Dennis Hoerner, the awarding of diplomas was made by James Fox, Clerk of the Board of Trustees. Cheers came from the audience as each student received their diploma, his words of congratulations, a handshake and an embrace. Once every student had their diploma in hand, the graduates had a time to express their "thank you's" to family members and to teachers. Choking back tears (or letting them flow), several students spoke from their heart about the meaning of "this moment" and about their wishes for their graduating friends, their teachers, and for Wellsprings.

The celebration ended as the graduates of the class of 2009 made their recessional "march" to the driving sounds of "Beat It!" by Michael Jackson.

Here are several photos from the graduation ceremony (click on a photo to enlarge):

May each young person be blessed with all the best that life offers and with learnings that shine the light of their hearts and minds on the world!

Graduation Day - Class of 2009SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend