Living Life with Passion

Tim Breen

Written for our Alumnae/i Magazine, Echoes, this article by Head of School Tim Breen explores dreams and ambitions, and how the WMS experience can help students to realize them.
By Timothy Breen, Head of School
The following article was written by Tim for our Alumnae/i Magazine, Echoes (Winter 2013 Edition).

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”  
-Howard Thurman

This issue of Echoes is filled with stories of people following their passions, combining their work lives with their inner lives. Our students, alumnae/i and teachers provide truly inspiring stories as we read of their experiences. Whether it’s Elliot Murphy ’14
exploring his world through photography, Dan Shugar ’81 following his dreams of alternative energy, Ellen Waterston ’64 living through her writing and helping others find their voice, Caroline Cheng ’81 expressing her love of ceramics and cultural history through her art and teaching, Peter Doucette ’98 following his passion for the mountains around the globe, Abigail Hiltz ’13 exploring her love of marine biology, Technology Director Ben Moss sharing his excitement for the stars, or dance teacher Kathy Kohatsu sharing her love of dance with the next generation. Each of these lives speaks to the power and beauty of following a passion.

Back here on The White Mountain School campus, we help students find and follow their passions.

I begin with a story. A couple of years ago I was talking with a parent whose daughters were students at a day school outside of Boston. She was generally happy with their experiences, but made one comment that struck me. She noted that her daughters were so busy that they didn’t have time to think about what they were interested in. In other words, they were spending all of their time following instructions from others—jumping through hoops set by others. Here at WMS, we do have a number of hoops set 

by the school. But we also make time and space for students to explore their own interests —to build their own “hoops” to jump through. It was in this spirit that, last spring, the faculty adopted a new graduation requirement. Beginning with the class of 2015, all students must complete an independent project to be eligible for graduation. This requirement is our way of saying that passion matters, and that we believe each and every student has a spark that we want to help kindle, a fire we want to help focus. We call this the LASR project. LASR stands for Leadership, Arts, Service and Research. These are the general categories that students can pursue for their projects. The independent project is important for three reasons. First, it is good for your heart and soul to explore something you love. Second, it is good for college admission. These projects help colleges understand our students’ talents and capabilities. Finally, the skills you develop in projects like these (research and communication, time management, handling ambiguity) are the skills needed for success in college and life.

We know that our students will bring many different passions with them to WMS. And it would be unusual for students to settle on a “life passion” at this age. However, we also know that if students do not experience the excitement of pursuing something they love, they may settle into lives that have little direction or purpose. We are here to give them a sense of possibility for their lives.

“One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested.”
-E.M. Forester

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