Profile of a Graduate: Letter from a Parent

Our High School is opening in Fall 2022 and with that exciting event on the horizon, we are looking forward to graduating our first TVS class in the upcoming years. This blog post continues our series on Profile of a Graduate. 

TVS families are passionate about our learning model and celebrate the joy they see each day. They see their learner master a new skill, passionately go above and beyond on a project, or effectively problem-solve with a fellow traveler. But even amidst the real results on daily basis, it is not uncommon for parents to wonder, “Am I doing the right thing?”

Our self-directed model is unique. It is vastly different from many of our own school experiences.  While that can be exhilarating to see all the positive change and growth in their learners, it can be hard to silence that small voice, “What happens if my child is missing out on something? What happens if they are unprepared for college or life beyond?”

This week, we want to share with you a letter from a parent of an Acton Academy junior who has been on this journey and reflects on what their learner took away from Acton.

[ This letter has been edited to remove the learner’s name for privacy and is reproduced with permission of Acton Main. ]

As (our learner) ended his junior year and was free to speak to college rowing

coaches, or rather they were now free to contact him, so began the flurry of

activity that ushered in our college prep as parents.

We had wondered about this for some time, would he find the right

combination of education and sport?  Not many universities offer men’s

rowing as a competitive sport, it was both a blessing and curse as it

narrowed down his choices, but also stymied his options at the same time.

Rowing is such a part of who (our son) is.  In fact, I’m not even certain how

to frame one without the other.  From the age of 13, he’s been grinding year

round.  There’s no off-season, no quick rewards, there’s no championship

ring or prep rally.  There is, however, physical pain, blistered and torn

hands.  There are entire seasons, maybe even years, of disappointing finishes

and no medals.  There are missed camping trips and lock-ins, there is a lack

of camaraderie of shared sport amongst classmates, regrets sent to parties

, and connections not made.  Yet the pros of this high-performance sport must

somehow have a payout that keeps him on this path, but that is something for

him to speak to.

As summer Olympic development training ended, and connections were made and

zoom calls were scheduled with coaches dotting the East coast, (our learner) was

alive.  Truth be told, I’m not sure he thought he had the skill set needed

for rowing at the next level.  His eyes were bright, his voice exuberant.

Coaches were scheduling 20 introductory calls that were going well over into

60 and 90-minute calls. (Our son), the athlete, with his podium finishes and

erg times and noted improvement is what was getting him the calls, but

(our son), the Acton Eagle, the hero sharing his journey, the vulnerability,

his learning to be and to do was making them take note.

“I’ve never had a call go this quickly or enjoyable”

“Most kids your age aren’t this engaging”

“I can’t believe the depth of questions you had for me”

“I’ve never had an athlete do more thorough research on the team or me as a


“If you don’t feel like this school or program is the right fit for

you, I would be honored to put in a good word elsewhere for you based solely

on this conversation”

After his official visit to Hobart and William Smith Colleges, there

was no doubt he had found his home. The coaches called out his most valuable

trait.  “You are teachable and that is the most desirable thing we

could ask for in an athlete.” The Dean of Entrepreneurial Studies was shocked

that (our learner) had read some of his papers, he took the entirety of his

afternoon off just to give him a more in-depth tour. He was excited

about the school, the 9:1 student-professor ratio, the apprenticeship

programs they offer, the classes he participated in felt like “Acton in

college form,” he said.

Some of the most elite rowing programs in the nation asked him to apply.

With each offer, we looked at him and said, keep your options open.  When

Harvard and then Oxford sent requests, we looked at him again, and he was

flattered but unfazed and we knew that he had already found his next great

adventure and it was happening in upstate New York.

Our son was going to be himself no matter where he went to school, he had the

trajectory of a well-balanced student, but when he found Acton Academy there

was a magical combination of him as a learner with the power to chart his

own course.  He has held that power and control over his life and we have

rarely stepped in.  He has stumbled along his journey, he has succumbed to

self-pity and he has fallen, but he alone has recovered and plowed forward.

With that is so much growth and power and self-awareness and yet so much

empathy for those who weren’t capable of charting the same path.  I think he

wrote it best in one of his essays, “Acton has given me the world.”

It’s clear that the principles and compass of Acton have elevated him as a

self-driven athlete and student, but it’s also given us as parents a greater

understanding of our roles on this journey.  It’s given us the insight to

see failures as growth, it’s given us the permission to sit back rather than

step in, it’s given us the confidence to trust the journey and to trust our

children.  It’s given us endless debates about “what is a hero” and

discussion topics that pepper our daily lives.  It’s given us family mottos

and chants, and rules to live by.  In short, it’s changed who we are and how

we go about being, and it will continue to impact generations (let that sit

a minute) you have impacted GENERATIONS of our family, of countless

families because you bravely and tirelessly worked to make Acton Academy

what it is.  Thank you isn’t a grand enough term, but I’m not sure there is

one more fitting.

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