People are always in search of answers, in search of clarity. But there's something really special about ambiguity and being able to accept the vagueness and the openness. Because there's so much more possibility, so much more opportunity, if you are able to stay open.
Meena ’23 already knew a lot about Northfield Mount Hermon before she enrolled as a 9th-grader: She’s the second of three sisters to attend the school, where both her parents are faculty members.
But she’s been able to forge her own path here — a path shaped by her love of dance and music, her academic passions, and her concern for the environment. That’s been possible, Meena says, because of NMH’s flexible, supportive approach to education, which allowed her not only to pursue multiple interests but to do so deeply, from accelerating her math study to serving as a campus Ecoleader to taking part in honors jazz combo and honors ballet. “I think it’s awesome, because you don't always get the opportunity in high school to dive specifically into your interests,” she says.
“I play alto saxophone,” Meena continues. “NMH is the first time I got to play in smaller combos, and having that opportunity is really cool. You have to communicate with your band members to create that dynamic within the group. There's also a sense of greater responsibility to play your part in a combo. And I've had so many cool experiences with that here.”
That includes her experiences in NMH’s dance program, where she does choreography as well as performs. “Dance has been probably one of my biggest highlights at NMH, because the community fosters a great sense of creativity,” says Meena, who’s been a member of the senior dance company since 10th grade. “I've built a much greater movement vocabulary but also a sense of how I can make my own movement through improvising.” She’s choreographed group pieces on her own and collaboratively and, this spring, has been working on a solo piece.
“Dance doesn't feel like it's isolated from the rest of my academic experience,” Meena says. “It’s been such a strong place to talk about and process many ideas. We explore a lot of themes through our pieces. In my ballet class, we spend a lot of time on history and looking critically at ballet, like looking at elitism in ballet. It's definitely a space to reflect on social change and create art that is impactful.” Last fall, for example, dance teacher Gretel Schatz created a piece called Stuck that explored the idea of being unable to move forward, whether due to physical restrictions or emotional obstacles or larger boundaries imposed by society. “It turned into a really thought-provoking piece for me,” says Meena, who performed it with the senior dance company at the National High School Dance Festival this spring.
One of Meena’s favorite NMH experiences was her sophomore world literature class, taught by Lou Kinder. “It was really special, because it felt like a turning point for me, from feeling the need to just follow instructions to expanding and exploring in greater depth and asking more questions,” she says. “People are always in search of answers, in search of clarity. But there's something really special about ambiguity and being able to accept the vagueness and the openness. Because there's so much more possibility, so much more opportunity, if you are able to stay open.”
That’s one of the lessons that Meena will carry with her when she starts college, at Mount Holyoke, in the fall. “NMH has taught me to take opportunities and not to limit myself in any way,” she says. “NMH has taught me that I am capable.”
“I've met so many people who are so different from me at NMH,” she continues. “And I've discussed so many current issues in classes and made so many connections between subjects that I wouldn't have made otherwise. In science, you can talk about the arts; in the arts, you can talk about history; in history, you can take it back to science. … Making those connections not only widens my view, but it allows me to be a better problem-solver, because I can understand things from those multiple perspectives. The world is so interconnected. And I want to take that forward in what I learn next.”
At NMH, Meena has been able to pursue multiple interests deeply, from accelerating her math study to serving as a campus Ecoleader to taking part in honors jazz combo and honors ballet.