With summer break around the corner, students talk about how they have spent past summers. Some pursue academic opportunities, others get jobs, and some use the summer to recharge for the upcoming school year. Senior Ryan Thompson, featured in this photo, received a HAND grant to conduct a research trip in Panama. Photo courtesy of Ryan Thompson.
By Kate Hammond and Brooke Hodge
Summer break is a 11-week window that presents a time for Menlo Students to take part in a variety of opportunities during their time away from school. These activities range from staying at home, to working, to interning at nationally renowned organizations. Each opportunity and activity students take part in over the summer holds its own merit whether it be fulfilling a passion, learning a valuable skill, or just resting between school years.
Many students are prompted to advance their education over the summer by a variety of pressures and motivations. Head of School Than Healy believes that college may present a daunting pressure along with societal expectations that causes student to take part in an academic summer. “I think college is the headline, but there is some link between college and you,” Healy said, “I don’t know if it is a direct link, like you feel like colleges are pressuring you, but my hunch is there is something else, like there is a narrative in society that says you should do this.”
Freshman Ben Siminoff thinks that there is a healthy pressure to get ahead over the summer which motivates students. “I think it comes from people who just want to compete to be the best in their class and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. If somebody wants to push themselves, they should be allowed to push themselves,” Siminoff said.
Siminoff spent last summer working on business plans at Aquabyte, an automated fish farming company where hopes to continue working this summer along with other educational mentorships and internships. “Over the summer, you should enjoy the warm weather and do something other than school that uses your brain, but has some interesting caveat,” Siminoff said. “That’s why I like my internships [...] I don’t come back to school with cobwebs on any analytical part of my brain.”
Besides academic opportunities, other activities such as getting a job over the summer allows one to gain real-world experience while making money. “Getting a job is a great thing, actually better, get a service job; work in a restaurant, see what it’s like to interact with customers. You will never treat another wait staff the same way again and you will also develop a tremendous amount of empathy along the way,” Healy said.
Sophomore Kendall Boesch spent her summer working part time at Pizza My Heart and agrees with Healy’s perspective on getting a summer job. “It is interesting to experience a perspective you’re not necessarily used to. Working at Pizza My Heart has given me a new respect for people working in the restaurant business,” Boesch said. “I do believe a summer job is very beneficial. One of the most rewarding feelings in the world is being able to buy your mom or dad a gift with your own money that you worked for. Having your own income is so incredibly liberating.”
Senior Ashley Dreyer spent her summer doing volleyball camps, but also took time to be with her friends over the break. Dreyer expressed that the environment we go to school in present a certain expectation to get ahead. “Students feel the need to get internships or jobs in order to get into college,” Dreyer said. Dreyer thinks the summer should be a break from work. “It’s important to take some time off,” Dreyer said. Sophomore Alyssa Sahami agrees, “summer is a time to hang out with your friends and unwind after a stressful year,” Sahami said.
Senior Ryan Thompson has spent the last two summers exploring his interests through a Hand Foundation funded project in Panama and Costa Rica and a Menlo Abroad trip to Guatemala. Thompson sees summer as an opportunity to discover and pursue one’s interests. “It is a great time for students to explore their interests and get out there and make an impact,” Thompson said.
Some students pursue unique interests over the summer, such as freshman Sareena Sandhu, who has her pilot’s license and went to a flying convention in Wisconsin. Sandhu spent most of her summer travelling and spending time with her family and friends, but is looking to get a job this summer because of parental pressures. “My mom really wants me to get a job this summer, so I am looking for a job,” Sandhu said.
The philosophy of if you can, you should in many ways directs Menlo students’ perspectives on summer and throughout the other parts of the year. “I do think that there is an element of if you can, you should, and that isn’t just about internships; it is actually about everything,” Healy said.
Healy believes that occasionally because Menlo students have the potential to take part in so many different pursuits, they feel as though they have an obligation to do it all. “I feel like there are a lot of kids doing things because they think they should. Here, the if you can is infinite. There is no barrier to doing everything that you could possibly want to do,” Healy said.