Ahead of this trip, I wasn’t sure there would be enough student interest. Some faculty had asked me why I would take a group of students up to Harvard who stood very little chance of going there. Honestly, most people stand very little chance of going there. But it was these students that asked me to go visit a college. So, I had asked them where they wanted to go, and Harvard came up a lot. It might be because I’m an alumni, or the general brand recognition, but it was their choice that drove this trip, and I’m all for honoring student voice.
And at 5:45 AM on Tuesday, December 4th, every single student who signed up to go was waiting for that ferry. Impressive!
We rode up, got stuck in traffic just outside the city, talked about the famous gas tanks by the expressway, watched the T ride by us, even stopped at the Burger King on 495...everything a trip to Boston used to be for me growing up on the Cape:)
I got the chance to show off Harvard to my students. The Yard, my old dorm, the statue of John Harvard, Out of Town News! It wasn’t the first time I played tour guide, but it was the best in terms of feeling like I was proud I went there, and I was proud of what I’m doing now with my education.
Professor Timothy McCarthy, who was my professor for a class on the History of Protest Literature in America (“From Tom Paine to Tupac Shakur”) hosted us in the Quincy House common room for a discussion about education, college and life in general. The room was extra Harvard: black and white class pictures, oil painted portraits, oak panelling and ornate carpet designs. Our students sat and listened, and asked great questions, and were part of Harvard for that hour. Looking around at them, I saw a few near snoozing, but I also saw a few looking like they just had the most amazing idea of their lives, sitting up straighter, focused eyes, talking to Professor McCarthy with not at all a sense that they were “alternative school students,” or whatever labels they often wear: they were supposed to be there, right then, and it was awesome
Maddie Youmans, ‘21, was particularly struck with Professor McCarthy’s discussion of how much money really does exist for people to attend college and how students with passion can often find a great education for themselves. She wrote, “This trip was an inspiration! It motivated those of us who didn’t think they could ever afford to go or could even get into college.”
Emily McKinney, ‘21, wrote that “most of the entirety of MVRHS won't get into Harvard either, but it was cool to see what a college looks like and to know a little more about all colleges in general.”
Silas Nelson, ‘19, wrote, “I got to talk to a professor and ask him his thoughts about going to college immediately after high school and I feel happier getting a different view besides our school’s. Tim (Professor McCarthy) felt regretful about going to college immediately, so I'm happy that we talked because in this society people make you feel like college is a must as soon as you graduate, which doesn't always work for everyone. And to hear a Harvard professor agree just made me feel like I had the choice.”
When asked about if it made sense to visit a place like Harvard, Silas added, “Well, it's for the experience of visiting a college. Everyone visits colleges. Some people visit colleges that they never plan to go to or they might not get in to. But they still go so... why shouldn’t we?”
Nate Sawyer, ‘21. Commented “One interesting thing I learned from Professor McCarthy was that he worked on Obama and the Clinton campaigns. I thought that was very cool to know someone who did. I think it made us look good because we actually do care about that stuff even though people don’t think we do.”
Levi Vanderhoop, ‘19, wrote that “The most interesting thing that I learned from Prof. McCarthy was that being yourself is the most important thing you can do. He used the phrase, ‘you are the writer of your own book so make it the best you can the first time.”
Eleanor Hyland, ‘21 wrote that “the most interesting thing I learned from Professor McCarthy was that being in all honors classes and having straight A’s aren’t the only things colleges are looking for. A lot of us are better at work and social skills, and we are not terrible at school, but we needed something different and that’s why we’re in Project Vine, but just because we are in Project Vine doesn't mean we will never get into a good school like Harvard.”
Colby Balboni, ‘19 reflected on the trip, “We were all asked what colleges we would want to visit and Harvard came up the most. Our English teacher went to Harvard so she gave us a tour and then we met and talked to her favorite professor. It was a lot of fun getting to walk around Harvard Square and it was very interesting talking to the professor. It was interesting learning about what he does other than teach also learning about his family history was cool. And even though we probably won’t go to Harvard it was still a really cool experience that we’ll remember and one most people will never have."