On Wednesday, Jan. 4, nine MSR alumni participated in Alumni Day at the Brier Creek Campus. The alumni represented all three of MSR’s high school graduating classes: 2020, 2021, 2022. As part of the day, Middle and Upper School students attended an alumni panel discussion, during which the visiting alumni shared college and life experiences since graduating from MSR.
The group included graduates now attending Coastal Carolina University, Elon University, N.C. State University, Parsons School of Design, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Virginia Tech, and studying a range of disciplines including civil engineering, illustration, business, history, and linguistics. Also participating was a graduate currently pursuing a career in the performing arts.
The panel kicked off with a question from MSR International Baccalaureate (IB) teacher Rose Barnett: "To what extent has the IB programme and The Montessori School of Raleigh helped with your transition and preparation for college and life after high school?" While the alumni panelists each brought unique perspectives and experiences to the table, there was some consensus that their MSR experience prepared them for college and life by helping them to:
- build a strong work ethic;
- develop excellent communication skills;
- establish good time-management skills; and,
- develop the ability to build relationships necessary for group projects.
The panelists also agreed the emphasis at MSR on encouraging students to “use your voice” and advocate for self and others gave them the confidence to reach out to and communicate with their professors. Additionally, after completing a variety of project work while at MSR, the alumni humorously shared the pain they felt listening to their college classmates deliver poorly prepared presentations. All the practice time and constructive criticism they received from their MSR teachers clearly prepared them with the skills and knowledge needed to successfully present a project at the college level.
The conversation also encompassed some of the challenges the alumni have faced following graduation from MSR. At the top of the list was the challenge of meeting and making new friends in college. In true MSR style, the alumni panelists were able to problem solve and offer their student audience some tips to consider: (1) move out of your comfort zone and take advantage of opportunities to meet new people, (2) join clubs and organizations of interest, and (3) understand that all first-year college students are experiencing the same challenges. The panelists agreed that finding your people takes time and encouraged current students to be patient with the process—“it doesn’t happen overnight.”
Further reflection on their college and life experiences after MSR led to a discussion of the value of having a growth mindset, as opposed to a fixed one. Each found that making mistakes and being willing to learn from them have provided opportunities to learn more about themselves and to grow in the process. Examples abounded as the alumni panelists shared their experiences:
- facing academic challenges that led to a change in their major;
- finding that a chosen major was no longer of interest and making the decision to transfer to another university;
- balancing three jobs to pursue a performing arts career, and learning how important it is to be comfortable following your own path;
- learning that instead of hearing “no” as a rejection, one can view it as a re-direction;
- realizing you can have too many choices after joining 15 clubs and organizations during first semester and only being able to dabble in them rather than have a full experience;
- as an only child, finding that sharing a room was a new experience that required learning how to have open communication with a roommate and finding ways to cope with a difficult situation until a resolution was found; and,
- “adulting” and learning to live alone.
Listening to these young adults confidently share their stories with vulnerability, humor, and grace was a powerful experience. As educators, we wonder if we are making a difference in the lives of the students we encounter, and this panel demonstrated that The Montessori School of Raleigh is indeed providing students with the knowledge, resilience, and skills to move into adulthood.
The best part of the afternoon may have been watching the alumni interact with each other and current students and faculty—and witnessing the joy on their faces at being together again.
—Belinda Wilkerson, MSR College Counselor