If there’s one thing that generations of Harley School graduates agree on, it’s that the school instilled a love of learning in students beyond their formative years.
As the Harley School celebrates its centennial, alumni come together with the rest of the Harley community to commemorate the lasting effects the school has had on them throughout their lives. Reflecting the school’s mission of fostering diversity and shaping well-rounded individuals, four alumni with different backgrounds and journeys continue to value their educational experiences at Harley.
Some students leave school and go on to get a degree that leads to a straightforward career path. For Erika Jung, 2007, this particular narrative resonates. Jung, a clinical psychologist who recently obtained her Ph.D. from Northwestern University, is about to set out on her post-doctoral residence at Kaiser Permanente in Redwood City, California.
“I was what they called a ‘lifer’ at the Harley School, meaning I attended from kindergarten all the way through to 12th grade,” says Jung. “The amount of support I received and the nurturing yet challenging environment was an ideal place to learn and grow.”
After graduating from Harley, Jung attended Brown University for her undergraduate degree in literary arts and cognitive, linguistic and psychological studies. Although Jung had a strong inkling that graduate school was in her future, she took some time off to teach in Spain. Jung credits Harley for her growing love for the Spanish language.
“I took Spanish from fifth grade through 12th grade and it’s amazing how many opportunities I’ve had from having the option to pursue this at Harley,” says Jung.
But it’s more than the classes that Harley has to offer that make it such a unique learning experience. Ellen Frankenstein, a graduate in the Harley class of 1980 and owner of nonprofit organization Art Change Inc., reflects on her time at Harley and recalls the way the school taught her how to be critical thinker and to see projects and experiences through to the finish line.
“Going to a small school where the classes were small and the teachers are accessible was a really amazing experience,” she says. “There were more opportunities to do project-based learning, and I’m still in touch with some of my teachers to this day.”
Randy States, civil engineer and 1973 graduate from Harley, concurs on the importance of the individual attention that Harley is able to provide students. After struggling in a public school, States transferred to Harley, where the individual projects and the ability to go his own way helped him see that he could succeed in areas he did not imagine he would.
Jung also appreciated the small class size, and notes that the school’s core values have remained with her throughout her life.
“I think about Harley’s emphasis on volunteerism, social justice and protecting the environment,” she says. “Those values definitely shaped my choice of career. I wanted to pursue a career where I could help people. Even just on a day-to-day basis, the values have influenced me to do things like recycling or take public transportation instead of driving.”
If there’s one thing that’s inevitable in the world it’s change. And for alumni like Frankenstein, States and James Greenebaum, 2007, Harley helped them navigate their evolving careers.
States obtained his undergraduate degree from RIT in photography after graduating from Harley. But for the past 20 years, he has been working as a civil engineer.
“Harley prepared me for being receptive to learning something new,” he says. “A phrase I’ve used is ‘serendipitous opportunism.’ You can make plans and God laughs. Something I learned at Harley was how you adapt to what you’ve got at hand and make something of it instead of just getting by.”
Frankenstein has had a winding career path as well. After Harley she went to Vassar College and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, then went on to the University of California and received her master’s degree in film and anthropology because she wanted to be a documentary filmmaker. And Frankenstein has had her fair share of success as a filmmaker.
“I’ve had a very rich life, very project-based, like Harley,” she says. “I’ve worked with migrant farm workers, I’ve worked with kids in villages, I’ve had a film show at Sundance (Film Festival) and I’ve had films air on PBS.”
Now, she lives in Alaska with her husband, a salmon fisherman, and she runs her own nonprofit company that focuses on the intersection of art and social justice. Thanks to Harley, she learned the importance of continuous critical thinking and that it is acceptable to want to learn and to be heavily involved in the learning process, “which sometimes I fear our society doesn’t like.”
Greenebaum is also familiar with career plans veering off track. Following his graduation from Harley, Greenebaum went on to The Ohio State University for his undergraduate degree. Right before he had planned to take his medical college admissions test, Greenebaum realized that he didn’t have eight more rigorous years of school in him, and that he wanted to have an impact sooner than later.
Instead of taking the MCAT, Greenebaum joined the Peace Corps and went to the Dominican Republic to work with HIV patients and help with women’s and youth groups. Working with HIV patients in the Peace Corps sparked an interest that translated to his return to the United States. After participating in the AIDS Life Cycle fundraiser, a seven-day bike ride down the coast of California, it led Greenebaum to his current job as a senior cyclist representative at the company.
Going from one of the smallest schools in the country to one of largest is a daunting adventure, but Greenebaum doesn’t view Harley’s small size as a hindrance.
“I would say that Harley prepared me to ask questions and to explore,” says Greenebaum. “When I got to this giant university I was able to say, ‘OK, I know there’s a lot going on, but I’m confident in myself so I’m ready to learn about you.’”
From planning to go to medical school to working for AIDS Life Cycle, Greenebaum, like Jung, Frankenstein and States, has embraced change with open arms, in part due to Harley’s holistic education experience.
“I think every school requires students to take all these different courses, but even hanging out during free periods and playing euchre with the head of the custodial staff was an educational experience,” says Greenebaum. “While it was a privilege to get to go to Harley, everyone is there for the same reason and everyone from different backgrounds and all walks of life gets to learn from each other.”
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