Stories from  Alum

What happens after LightHouse?


LightHouse Graduate, 2018

Ellie started at LightHouse at age 15 and attended LightHouse for two years. During her second year at LightHouse she attended Greenfield Community College through dual enrollment. She graduated LightHouse ahead of schedule, one year early. That fall she continued at GCC and also continued working with her LightHouse advisor, Epi Arias, on reading and writing projects and college applications. She chose Sarah Lawrence College in New York and began there in 2019. She is majoring in Economics and is planning to graduate in 2023.

From Ellie:

LightHouse taught me how to be self-directed, how to center on a goal and figure out how to get there. I learned how to ask for help and guidance from mentors, and how to genuinely create relationships with people who have great insight.

The mentor relationship was so valuable, and I wish all schools did this. It was one of my favorite parts about LightHouse.

When you’re a teenager, you’re skittish, you don’t know how to talk to adults. You wonder, Am I going to get in trouble? You think, This person is only here to make sure I’m doing this thing at the right time in the right way…

LightHouse throws that out the window. You realize that there’s so much wisdom to glean from the people around you.

You learn how to talk to authority figures, and you also come to see that all these different people are people, and they all have unique experiences. Carlos, Epi, Catherine… they each have diverse, unique lives and I can talk to each of them and they’ll give me different, unique, valuable advice. This wasn’t intuitive for me when I started, and now it is.

I was always a pretty quiet kid, and LightHouse helped me open up and feel comfortable talking. It was a non-judgmental environment, and I quickly felt comfortable sharing ideas and taking chances in a way that I never really had up until then.

When you’re in a small class, everyone sitting around one table, you realize that it’s not about being right or wrong. You can share and take risks. I met and made friends with people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. The community is so unique, and everyone knows everyone. I got to know so many great people, and I’m still in touch with a bunch of them.

Favorite LightHouse Classes

  • Independent Study with Epi that introduced me to Bell Hooks, Bukowski, also reading dense grammar books
  • Film class, partnership with community program in Holyoke. Group would walk into Holyoke center and learn about video storytelling. Worked with a couple of other students on a project about incarceration in Holyoke, told stories about a specific person who was incarcerated. Encouraged to think big.
  • Took a class with a professor from Hampshire about race in New England, and ended up being a lot of group discussions with everyone talking about the content through the lens of their own experiences. I also audited a class at Hampshire with that same professor (Tammy Owens). LH staff/students leaned into issues like racism and I was inspired to do that, too.

Do you have any words of advice for LH graduates this year?

Lean into all of the unique and funky parts of LightHouse. When I went on to college, at first, I tried to put that aside and follow the norms. Bring LightHouse into all of the other spaces you’re in, wherever you’re going.

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“So ask yourself: What would I do if I weren’t afraid?
And then go do it.”

-Sheryl Sandberg