Building Community & Building Self: Lucy Selby on “Getting Right into It” in her Freshman Year

By Rachael Jennings

Lucy Selby is a ninth grade day student from Peterborough, New Hampshire. Lucy describes herself in these terms: “I am friend-and-family oriented and I know what I want to do and I know how to get there, so I can be really confident about what I’m passionate about.”

And Lucy has many passions—from academic realms to sociology to athletics to relationship building.

“I am most passionate about being involved with my family—I have two little brothers who are a big part of my life,” she describes. 

Academically, even as a ninth grader, Lucy has found ways to pursue independent study topics that matter to her—as a scholar and as a human.

“I am passionate about being an activist about Women’s Rights, specifically in studying and understanding sexual assault and rape and communities of consent,” Lucy says. “My parents have been very supportive of this. I read really graphic essays and materials, and having access to educating myself has been really powerful for my learning. I definitely see myself working in a job that has something to do with this.”

She is also passionate about something that, for many adolescents, takes work and time to recognize: she is passionate about recognizing and honoring what makes her happiest.
“I am passionate about trying to make myself happy and trying to know what’s best for me,” she says. “I think it is so important not to be ashamed of being happy or of liking yourself. These are really good things.”

Lucy’s passions led her to Dublin School, where she has had opportunities to develop and deepen passions as much as explore new ones.

Previously, she had attended Mountain Shadows. In fact, Lucy was a student there since first grade! A number of Mountain Shadows students had gone to Dublin before Lucy, and she had looked up to and admired some, so it had always been on her radar.

“Last year, in eighth grade, I was considering [three schools]. I switched back and forth between all three options, but I ended up choosing Dublin because it has some things I loved about Mountain Shadows that were familiar and that would make me comfortable here,” she explains.

“I loved that Dublin was a whole community and that you do things with the whole school,” she says. “At Mountain Shadows, our rule was that you don’t have to be friends, but you have to be friendly. And when I started looking at Dublin, I saw that. Everyone looks out for each other. That kindness wasn’t something I wanted to give up.”

Part of what makes Dublin a kind community, in Lucy’s view, is the network of supportive adults who would both challenge and support her.

When she thinks of a positive challenge, she thinks of, for one, Mr. Weis’ math class.
“I used to really hate math,” she says. “The way that it was taught, my learning style, I just didn’t understand it for eight years. I thought that was the way it was.”

But that changed. “Then I came here and had Mr. Weis as a teacher. At first, the style was really confusing. But within a month, I was really working with it and my grades got a lot better and I was able to go home and, finally, not dread doing my math homework,” Lucy says.

“There are so many teachers and advisory groups, and you can always talk to an adult,” she adds. “You can have really positive relationships.”

Along with going to a school that would help nurture positive relationships, Lucy wanted to work on feeling comfortable. That version of herself that knows that practicing your passions, finding your happiness, and not apologizing or avoiding the positive ways that we get to know our selves and our potential—that version of Lucy was not always as confident as it is now.

“I wanted to feel comfortable and to be comfortable being who I am, since that was something I struggled a lot in previous years,” she says. “I wanted to be open to trying new things. I wanted to be able to go and sit with a new group of people and feel good about that. I wanted to be able to ‘get right into it.’”

With all of these aspirations came the challenge: building herself into Dublin’s community, and, simultaneously, building the community into its constant yet ever-growing form.
“Now that I’ve been here for a while, that part—being comfortable with everyone and ‘getting right into it’—was harder than I thought. I am naturally a shy person, so I knew that this took me a while at my last school. By eighth grade, I was no longer known as ‘the quiet girl.’ I thought that would stick with me and translate, but it is harder than that because, even though it’s a welcoming place, it is a new environment. So, I am working with getting to know more people and get comfortable with more people.”

From getting to know classmates, especially those who share similar schedules like her friend Maddy, with whom she walks to class, to getting to know friends on the soccer field, Lucy has made progress in terms of getting to know new people.
Another forum has been the Social Awareness Alliance.

“I joined the S.A.A. as soon as that started, and that has been really fun,” she says. “Everything that we discuss in that club is something I am really interested in. Being able to be with a group of people who are passionate about human rights is a really fulfilling experience. Knowing that you can go to any of those people outside of the club and that they are there for you is really reassuring. It definitely cultivates an environment for growth and learning.”

Her passions, too, have led her into independent coursework.
“I did an independent study at my last school, and mine was on intersectional feminism,” she explains. “I had been learning about it beforehand, and then I had a lot of space to really get involved and focus on this. It took off from there. I had been interested since fifth grade. This year, for the second trimester, I wanted to do another independent study. I felt the need to.”

Her independent study on Rape Culture has been informative and engaging thus far. 
“I have been really glad to work with Ms. Rabb and that she was so excited to work with me. During the project, I have been reading a ton of articles, but I also read Missoula; A Room of One’s Own; Ruined, the play; Half the Sky, which I loved because it addressed what I can do to help and had a specific action plan. It was nice to read about people who are so involved and to see how I can do that. I want to do that in my future. Reading articles has been really good. Using the internet in that productive way has been a big help.”
Her work has culminated in opportunities to share, as well.

Ms. Jennings’ AP English Language and Composition Class, who will read Missoula this spring, will get to hear from Lucy during her upcoming guest discussion, where she will guide the class in a series of close readings and relevant questions. She will also present at this winter’s Sexuality Education Fair.

Overall, Lucy’s year has included both collaborations and communal pursuits and independent intellectual ventures. To both, she has enjoyed being present, has enjoyed “showing up,” has enjoyed the meaningful work she has been pursuing.

“I am really happy with all of my teachers and all of my classmates,” says Lucy. “I used to have classes that I didn’t really want to go to, you know. I don’t have that anymore. I feel like I am in a place where I am enjoying it, I am doing well, I can do my own work, too, and I can go to any of my teachers if I need help.”

It’s the best of both worlds for a community-oriented independent thinker; Dublin has nurtured Lucy’s journey by both allowing her the flexibility to pursue passions and projects and the network to know that she has allies, supporters, and advocates in every corner of her intellectual adventure.