Sam Barrocas ’08
To understand what my high school education meant to me, it is important to ask yourself a question. What does success mean to you? Even as a child, I was able to grasp the idea of measurable success I saw in the world around me: the type of cars my friends’ parents drove, how many family vacations people took, what schools my peers were applying to, and so on.
To some people success is monetary, to others it is recognition of hard work by the people around you. To other people still it is accolades or affirmation of deeds accomplished.
Through these various perceptions of what success can mean, I can start off by saying what it wasn’t for me. It wasn’t the pursuit of higher education. By the time I turned 19 I had spent too many years in front of a whiteboard to even finish the one semester of college that I had enrolled in. It didn’t end up being the pursuit of money either. For many, many years I worked 2 to 3 jobs, 70 hours a week sometimes, always keeping my affairs in order but never any closer to being a young self-made business person or entrepreneur. I can say with confidence that it wasn’t for notoriety or recognition of deeds by the people around me. I have always (and still do) march to the beat of my own drum, set my own goals and don’t give much credence to other peoples’ judgment of me.
Success for me is the intangible culmination of my strengths, the multiple aspects of my character, how I treat the other people in my life and my constant desire to engage in the world around me and learn from it. At Vermont Commons School, my deficits and struggles were supported and accepted just as my strengths were. I learned from Mark Cline Lucy’s Global Studies class to always examine and question all sides of history, to try and understand the way things have come to be through the eyes of people different than you and to do so with integrity through a variety of sources. I learned through hands on experiences, like Peter Goff’s Animal Behavior course, that in order to understand and preserve our environment, we must impartially examine the interaction and relationship of species outside of ourselves. I am a firm believer that if we don’t take proper steps to preserve and protect the last wild places life on this earth, we very well might lose them all forever. That step begins with education; an education that through VCS always gave me a sense of my place in our environment at large.
At Vermont Commons I was part of a community. I came to school every day excited to see my peers or to discuss with my teachers some article I had read the night before. I graduated from VCS in June of 2008, ready to head out and interact with the world at large.
Over the past year or so I have traveled in Alaska, working as a back-country guide in Denali, understanding our relationship to the ecosystems we interact with, learning the true value of self-exploration through time alone in the wilderness. I then spent 5 months traveling in the middle-east through Israel and the West Bank in Palestine. In cities that date back to the beginning of recorded history I experienced foreign customs and traditions, attended protests and witnessed conflict. While sitting in the shade of someone’s small house and being offered tea and food, I strived to come to a greater understanding of that ever-present conflict, not just between Jews and Muslims, but between those who have so much and those who have nothing.
I drove a motorbike from the crowded streets of Ho Chi Minh City, 2000 kilometers to the misty mountains of Sapa near China, witnessing what the footprint of massive urban development looks like in South East Asia, the scope of the pollution but also the wonderful amalgamation of food and smells and colors. In a part of the world were our country was involved with so much conflict and suffering, to be so well received and to meet Vietnamese people every day who opened their homes and hearts to me is a feeling I will never forget.
I have always wanted to travel and to meet new people, to share and engage in their customs, try their food, hear their stories and try my best to see through their eyes what the human experience is to them. I try to treat every person I meet with compassion, kindness and acceptance. I feel as though I have accomplished so much in my life when I can be a part of these experiences. This is what makes me feel successful.
We are all so very different, viewing and measuring the world around us in different ways, through different eyes. I would say to current, past and prospective students of the Vermont Commons School- work hard and appreciate the people who support you. Love yourself and also embrace the struggles of those around you with understanding and never, ever let anyone define what success means to you.
You take yourself with you wherever you go, so go out and embrace what it means to be a citizen of the world.
Ahava, Salaam, Peace and Love.