SVS alumna Emma Tunstall explains why SVS graduates are so special.
Last June, I attended the SVS Moving On Ceremony, which is when the community comes together to celebrate the students who are ending their Sudbury Valley education and continuing on to other endeavors. Many have gone through the process to obtain a diploma, but usually there are a few who have not. Some head for college, while others go on to travel, get jobs, or pursue other things. I graduated from Sudbury Valley in 2013, after spending fourteen years at the school. This year’s ceremony was surreal for me. It’s hard to believe that it has been a year since I was saying goodbye to the community that had been my home for so long. I am now a student at Bryn Mawr College, and after spending a year away, the ceremony was a wonderful — if emotional — opportunity to reﬂect on SVS, and what being an SVS alum means.
The ceremony included speeches by an alum, Debra Sadofsky, a current student, and the students who are moving on. They were heartfelt, unique and poignant, and helped me form many of the thoughts I have about being an SVS graduate. It is often difﬁcult to quantify an SVS education. It goes so far beyond what most people experience. I didn’t come to college with AP credits or a world-class background in biology, but I was more than prepared. I did well in my classes, but more importantly, I am happy. I have ﬁgured out how to thrive in a new environment.
One day last spring I was talking to one of my friends, who remarked that I was “made for college.” That statement has stuck in my mind ever since, because while I have found success in college, it is clear to me that it is only one of many paths I could have chosen. As Debra said in her speech, SVS alumni are special. We are special because being an SVS student means we have faced, risen to, and met many challenges. We have learned how to work with others, to be responsible, resourceful, and conﬁdent. We have had trust placed in us, and responded to that trust by making the most out of the education that we, ourselves, controlled. Perhaps above all, SVS alumni are special because we know who we are. We have a deep and sensitive understanding of self, and an unyielding respect for others. That respect and understanding means that in whatever we do, we do it in a way that is true to ourselves. This is how I know that I was not made for college. I was — as every SVS alum is — made for anything I chose to do.
My education has left me prepared to adapt to and succeed in any environment, and to do so in a way that is uniquely my own. As this year’s graduates (and those who are just moving on) go out into the world, they will do just that. It won’t be easy (it may, in fact, be incredibly difﬁcult) but they will learn, adapt, and grow in a way that only SVS students can — with grit, courage, and a strong sense of self.
Read more about Moving On here.