Senior Spencer Shares Meaningful Advice

Speaking in front of over 200 people can be terrifying, but not for Ana Spencer ‘20. She stood up at Friday’s school meeting to talk about her personal experience. Thanks to the Northwood Speaker Series, organized by Mr. Martinez, Dean of Multicultural Affairs, once a week, students have the opportunity to speak to the school about an important message they wish to share.

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Ana Spencer ’20 was the first speaker in the 2019-20 speaker series (Photo: Facebook/Northwood School).

The entire school gathers in the auditorium twice a week, Monday and Friday, with Friday dedicated to the Speaker Series. For roughly 20 minutes, the speaker takes over the stage. Spencer started off the series this academic year, compassionately sharing her thoughts with the community. “During the first two weeks of my freshman year, Kimmy Ellis ‘17 gave me a bunch of advice, which stuck with me through my years here. It made me feel more comfortable and welcomed, and I wanted to pass it on to others,” she said.

Spencer added, “Ever since my freshman year, Northwood has allowed me to grow into a completely different individual. I credit this to the different activities I tried, the support I got, and the mistakes I made. Northwood is like my second home and family. I thought talking about how our close community positively affected me would be a good way to comfort new students and to encourage them not to be shy.”

Throughout her years at Northwood, Spencer has experienced many ups and downs. When asked about why she had decided to speak, she said, “ The Speaker Series is a really cool way to hear about things, people, and our school that you wouldn’t typically hear. It gives kids and faculty courage, and I think it has helped our community come closer together.”

Olivia Paul ‘21 said, “What I took away from Ana’s speech was that it’s important to know that it’s ok to change, and it’s ok not to feel ok. If something is wrong, you should talk to someone and get help. Her talk made me feel good. It showed that someone else is feeling the same as me and that I am not alone. No one is. I am thankful that I have the opportunity to try new things and to step out of my comfort zone.” Paul continued, “I’m happy knowing how much Ana has grown but also how much support she has had and will continue to have.”

With Friday fast approaching, who will the next speaker be?

The text of Ana Spencer’s full speech is below.

“For those of you who don’t know I’m Ana Spencer and I’m from Point Pleasant, NJ. I came to Northwood in 2016 as a freshman with a bad haircut, braces, and I was really shy. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified to be away from my parents, meet new people, and to just be a freshman in high school. I came to Northwood because I was a ski racer and because my dad is an alum. I quickly saw groups form in the first month- the hockey boys, the hockey girls, and the skiers. I honestly didn’t think there was much else. When I thought about my senior year I was certain I’d significantly improve in skiing, I’d be skiing in college, and that I would know everything about where I was going and what I was doing. Now standing here as a senior, it’s incredible to see how different the path I took was and how Northwood shaped me in a way I never thought. The reason I chose to speak today was because of an encounter I had with a senior my freshman year. For those of you who were here, Kimmy Ellis approached me my second week of school and gave me a whole list of things to do and not to do. Of Course, I broke more than half of them, but I will always be thankful for the advice and attention she gave me. I hope this speech allows you to find reassurance and comfort like Kimmy did for me, but also the courage to take advantage of the unique opportunities that Northwood offers.

Northwood is not just a sports school. I think Northwood is a private school that has successful sports teams but we are so much more. What I think has led me to where I am is the opportunity to try new things. Since I first came to Northwood I’ve gone rock climbing and ice climbing-something I had never tried before. I also tried lacrosse where I liked to be referred to as the team mom from the bench. I brought clementines, Gatorade, and candy to the games. Whenever Weaver would try to put me in I would do everything in my power to stick on the side and support. I also tried Tennis for the first time.  I enrolled in the vocal class and found a passion to sing. I auditioned for the musical. I took painting and drawing. I joined my class council and volunteered. Though some of these things I certainly did not excel in, they all gave me a better understanding of who I am. This year I made the decision not to ski. Although it was tough and a big decision, I know it is what makes me happiest. Since I got to experience so many things I realized other passions and things that truly defined who I am. I’m not encouraging you to quit your sports but I do think trying new things and taking advantage of opportunities at Northwood will lead to a better understanding of yourself.

Northwood means a lot to me. Sometimes I consider it more of my home than my actual home. My best friends are here and I have relationships with faculty and teachers that I never would have gotten at my old school. This is one of the reasons Northwood is so unique I think. We all spend so much time together that you get to know each other on a very personal level. I have gotten support when I struggle in class, when I’m struggling with personal issues, and when things just seem to not be going my way. I know I can count on my advisor Fagan, ask Mellor to talk or go to my teachers for help. I encourage everyone to take advantage of this. A personal example is last year. At the beginning of my junior year, I came to school with a handful of things going on in my personal life. I felt very alone.  I lost interest in school, didn’t want to ski, and was struggling to keep pushing through. I thought if people knew I would be looked at differently. I became extremely anxious and depressed. On the outside it appeared I didn’t really care about anything, I was making poor decisions, and that I wasn’t giving the community all I could offer. This is when my advisor stepped in as well as my English teacher and directed me to a path to become happy again. I got counseling, support, and was given hope. This lead me to tremendous growth. I realized I had to make decisions for myself and that what made me happy would make others happy and make me a better asset to the community.

While your here your going to have success. Your sports team may win a big tournament or championship. You might win a ski race. The musical your in may be a huge success. The robotics team might place higher than it ever has. You might improve in a class that you once struggled in. You might have some fails as well. Whether that be failing a big test, losing an important game, or breaking a major school rule. What is important to remember is that both these things will benefit you in the future. The other day when the senior class met Reno talked about the question, “what is next?”. In both these situations, this can be applied. What are you going to do to maintain that accomplishment? What are you going to do to fix your mistake? What did you learn?

Being at Northwood exposes you to new people. We have students from 26 countries and 19 states. I don’t know about you but this is very different compared to my past school that had 5 times the amount of students but we were all from the same town and came from similar backgrounds and families. Here I learned about different cultures, talked to people outside of my common interests, and introduced myself to people I thought wouldn’t typically be my friend. Although I’m pretty close with the skiers, some of my best friends have been people that I didn’t think I would have much in common with.

I don’t expect everyone to remember everything I said up here but there are a couple important things. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zones- talk to new people and try new activities. There’s going to be good and bad but both of these are a positive thing. We are all one big family and community. Coming to Northwood is something I could never trade for anything. Some of the biggest lessons and best memories I have stemmed from my time here. Knowing in 7 months that I have to say goodbye to this place terrifies me. Which is very opposite from when I listen to my friends at home say, “get me the hell out of here I want to graduate.” I hope all of you, whether you spend 4 years or 1, can experience the connection and love for this place as well.”

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