Independent Spirit: An Independent School Is Just What I Needed

Summer 2018

By Zach Jennings

Zach Jennings
Graduate, Class of 2017
Hyde School
Bath, Maine

Having attended public school for most of my life and transferred to an independent boarding school, I’ll be the first to admit that neither setting is perfect. In the end, it all boils down to what you value more in your education and life.
As much as I enjoyed the rich public school social life and diversity, as well as the plethora of electives and advanced classes, I struggled immensely and frequently failed to meet basic expectations in class. I was in a game of tug-of-war between two very different cliques, and it tore me and my sense of identity apart in the end. That’s why I transferred to an independent school.
My first week at Hyde was incredibly disorienting and unfamiliar. Frankly, it didn’t even feel like school at first, more like some sort of academic summer camp. We were always doing something, and my boredom was finally subsiding. When not in class, we were practicing sports, rehearsing for performing arts, or having valuable conversations with faculty.
I sat alone for my first meal, as expected. But within minutes, students from a nearby table invited me to sit with them. I was shocked—I’d never seen such an act in all my years of eating in a cafeteria. I awkwardly shuffled over to them and sat down. Before I could even take a single bite of my food, I was bombarded with questions. They were determined to make me feel included, and they certainly succeeded.
Living in a small community can be liberating for someone quiet and introverted like me. Socializing was no longer a struggle, and I felt like I no longer had to worry about picking sides and being the center of petty quarrels between my friends.
Parents also play a huge role in the community, which I didn’t expect considering most don’t live in the area. Having a rather complex family dynamic, I was often the topic of arguments between my mother and father. But after visiting me at Hyde for the first time, they began to really communicate and cooperate with each other. Even my older brother, who had been estranged for many years, seemed much more invested in our well-being. Despite my not being around, my family grew closer together in a way I would have never believed possible.
Hyde, like many other independent schools, has a very like-minded community, which sometimes makes it difficult to challenge long-held ideas and perceptions. But it also means that the employees and students are incredibly passionate about their work, constantly striving to improve themselves and the school. Everyone lifts each other up, and no one is ever left behind. The amount of perseverance and dedication I have seen at Hyde is something that I have yet to find anywhere else.
Hyde is the most unique and empowering school experience I have ever had, and I am proud to be a member of such a wonderful community. This place has taught me many lessons that have proven invaluable—and most of them haven’t even taken place in a classroom. ▪

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Zach Jennings

Zach Jennings is a graduate of Hyde School in Bath, Maine.