This is the true story of our friend Lucy, a mostly unschooled teen.
From the time she was very young, Lucy has been heavily involved in the arts. She studied violin, sang in the Metropolitan Opera Children’s Chorus and took part in many amateur theater productions.
Then at the age of 15 she decided she wanted to audition for the LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts here in NYC. (That’s the “Fame” high school, for those of you familiar with the original film & subsequent TV series.) The thing is, LaGuardia normally only auditions for acceptance into 9th grade, and Lucy was going into 10th. Kids who’ve been taught they need to always follow the rules might have been discouraged and given up, but Lucy was undaunted, got herself the audition and was accepted.
When I spoke to her about it later, she told me that the toughest part was getting up early, but what really frustrated her was all the wasted time at school. “And then they expected us to go home and do 3 hours of homework. I just refused. I told them that’s what we should be doing during the day.” Instead, she told me, they spent lots of time on meaningless busywork, or on talking about what the homework would be. She did say she met some nice people with whom she is still friends, and enjoyed the arts part of the day.
Then, just a few weeks shy of completing her 10th grade year, Lucy took matters into her own hands once again and dropped out. She’d gotten herself an apprenticeship at the New Victory Theater on 42nd St, and school was going to conflict with it. The decision was clear.
Self directed learners go after what they want. In this case, Lucy went after a spot at Laguardia even though officially she was too old to audition. But you know what? Sometimes things we go after wind up not fulfilling our goals and needs, and this is what makes Lucy a hero in my eyes. Once she realized that the performing arts school was not giving her what she wanted, she found an apprenticeship that would. She was not embarrassed or afraid to admit that things at Laguardia had not worked out. She did not stick with it and stay miserable out of some weird sense of loyalty based on her own original desire to go there. She assessed the situation and found a better path.
Lucy is still working at the New Victory Theater, and recently when Michael Ellsberg spoke to NYCHEA, she told him about her experience. He encouraged her to find ways to add value to the work she does beyond what is expected of her.
Knowing Lucy, I have no doubt she will do just that.