Home Port – (Volume 4: Summer 2015)

A Gold Star Tradition and Rite of Passage West seniors celebrate the completion of their Extended Essays.

A Gold Star Tradition and Rite of Passage
West seniors celebrate the completion of their Extended Essays

Welcome aboard the 2015 summer voyage of Sturgis Soundings Magazine.      On board, we are watching our crews change as the tides turn. The Class of 2015 recently completed their four-year voyage and signed out. Meanwhile, the Class of 2019 is gearing up to sign the Sturgis ship’s log and come aboard at summer’s end. Arthur Pontes describes summer as “a bit of a space, an interregnum between what has ended and what will begin in the fall.” Summer provides time for reflection, a chance to look backward and forward.

Four seniors reflected on their time at Sturgis in their speeches at 2015 graduation ceremonies.  I noticed recurring themes of the importance of taking risks, being challenged, accepting and learning from failure. I found their reflections particularly interesting after attending a presentation last spring by Jessica Lahey on “The Gift of Failure: Fostering Intrinsic Motivation and Resilience in Kids.” Her article “Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail” went viral in 2013 and became the genesis for her latest book, “The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed.”

In the following excerpts from their graduations speeches, Sara Booth, Monique Crowley, Victoria Jackson and Dan Souza describe their experiences of taking risks and being challenged at Sturgis.

Sara Booth: “The decision to come to Sturgis, and leave nearly all of my friends behind, was my first real move as an IB risk taker. Looking back, I realize it was the most significant and meaningful decision I have made thus far. We are the select few who made a choice, who took a risk, who challenged ourselves to be better students, to work harder, to study harder, to be better people…

I will not wish for you an easy road, one filled only with successes where all your dreams come true. To do that, would deprive you of the truest sense of validation and the pride that comes from hard work, struggles, frustration and fears. I want you to fail and face disappointments, and you will. It is only by doing so that you will realize your inner strength, the power of determination, and that achievement and success come only with setting the bar high and pushing past your own limitations. We will come to realize that sometimes we all need a little help. I implore you to remember that and ask for it.”

Monique Crowley: “Life is going to take you through ups and downs that will test your persistence and resolve. Remember that the challenges define us as much as the successes.”

Tori Jackson: “It is the idea of “IB for All” that, with hard work and determination, we are all capable of succeeding.”

Dan Souza: “You have been defined by the challenges you faced throughout high school…. But Sturgis has shown you how to work through the moments of uncertainty, where you weren’t quite sure you could make it to the end. We have repeatedly challenged ourselves to the point where we felt uncomfortable. But it was because our teachers and peers were counting on us to push back, to become stronger, to answer this question for ourselves, “Is what I’m doing really worth it?” I know that many of you will answer this question with a hardy “yes” and that you will continue to say “yes” throughout your lives… Sturgis taught me what passion is. Passion is not characterized by what you are naturally good at, not by the feeling of being able to do something with ease, but it is more so characterized by the willingness to persevere and to strive for success despite the fact that something is hard. Passion is when you know you probably won’t be able to do something, and the odds of success are nearly a million to one, but you try anyways…. All of these people got to where they were because they were willing to work through their setbacks, and remained loyal to goals. It has been a pleasure to watch all of you transform, and to find something that you are willing to challenge yourselves for.”

Sturgis Trustee Mary Agostinelli spoke about the importance of taking risks and experiencing failure in her graduation address as well: “So why do I celebrate your failures on a day like this? Because through these experiences you have learned that tenacity and effort can sometimes change the outcomes in your life. A famous story tells that Edison failed to refine the light bulb after many, many attempts. He is quoted as answering questions related to this failure by saying ‘I have not failed. I have just found 9,999 ways that it didn’t work.’”

One of the most rewarding aspects of working at Sturgis is having a chance to witness the transformational quality of “IB for All” as students learn how to collaborate, grow, meet challenges and become more willing to take risks. The most challenging assignment of the IB Diploma Programme is the Extended Essay, a 4000 word paper on an independent research project. The task is daunting: see 2015 Sturgis Extended Essays for a description of the assignment and examples of student research. When students turn in their essays at Sturgis to be graded externally by IB examiners, they receive a gold star. Last spring, I was invited to photograph West seniors who had completed the Extended Essay (see photo above). Their joy and sense of accomplishment were obvious. Some of their papers may not receive the highest grades but all of them earned a sense of achievement by giving the challenging assignment a go and as Dan Souza puts it, “try anyways.” Their accomplishment symbolized the spirit and philosophy of “IB for All” and made me feel proud of the work we do at Sturgis.

As Sturgis Soundings Magazine sails into summer, we have assembled an interesting cargo of articles, essays, news and photographs for the voyage. Be sure to check out High Expectations for All Students at Sturgis by Paul Marble, 2015 Extended Essays, Graduation 2015The Path of Christine McDowell and John Tecklenburg from Villanova to Sturgis, and Graduate wins Fulbright Scholarship to Research Farming in Brazil. Thanks to our many contributors for their generosity. Like all ventures at Sturgis, Soundings is a collaborative effort. We invite you to participate. Send us your news and suggestions for future issues.

Bon Voyage!

Marion Weeks


Happy Sailing!

Happy Sailing

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