Open Connections

To say OC had a huge impact on me and my journey is an understatement.

, OC Alum


OC Alum

Profile picture is of Benjamin at the lookout of Roy’s Peak outside of Wanaka, NZ. (The summit was another mile up the mountain and only had a visibility of about 50 feet).

[From Alumni Profile Interview in the Spring 2020 OC Magazine]


What led you/your family to OC?

I was initially homeschooled for kindergarten and 1st grade, but there wasn’t a good homeschooling community where we lived at the time. Starting in 2nd grade, I attended public school. In my first year of middle school, 6th grade, I was spending all my time at school or doing homework, and had no free time outside of that which led us the following summer to look into homeschooling for me and my siblings, Stephen and Anna. We had heard about OC from the Bright-Walck family, who had previously attended OC. On our tour it seemed like a great fit, and with its convenient location 5 minutes away from our house, it was an easy choice.


At what age did you start at OC? What programs were you involved in?

I started at OC in 2009, when I was 12. My first year I was in the Ventures program.


What favorite memories of OC would you like to share?

I have so many good memories of my time at OC— too many to count. Of particular note was the Quadcopter project I worked on for several years with Tony and Adam in Shaping Your Life (SYL). Perhaps more chaotic and self-directed than most SYL independent projects, and definitely much longer, we set out to build a quadcopter from scratch—hardware, software, the works. This was a long process of prototyping (with OC’s first 3D printer), iteration, janky electronics tests in the Science Lab, and ever more chaotic flight tests, but it was a massively fun and educational project.


I also have particularly fond memories of planning for the Spaghetti Dinner, or “spaghetti logistics.” This is where I found my love of planning systems and the subsequent collaborative, intense, and exhausting (but ever so rewarding) execution. After my first spaghetti dinner as a major organizer and one of the cooks, we received the lovely compliment from an attendee of “the spaghetti is actually hot this year!”


One of my favorite memories from my last year at OC was the Dinner Theater. After several years of doing lights and sound for the younger theater programs, I advocated for, but never got to do, interesting and complex light setups. The Shaping Your Life Program’s 3 one-act plays provided the perfect opportunity to go all-out.


What have you been up to since leaving/graduating from OC?

Following my graduation from OC in the spring of 2016, I started at Ithaca College studying computer science. Since then, I’ve picked up minors in math and graphic design and worked on a number of research projects with professors. In the spring of 2019, I studied abroad at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. While there, I had an absolutely amazing time traveling around and experiencing a gorgeous country (and took some classes too). I’m currently in my last semester at Ithaca College, and busy with my senior project (a non-euclidean game concept that I’ve been toying with since my OC days) and searching for a game development position or other opportunity for after graduation. In my free time, I continue to put lots of energy into playing and being a league admin for competitive Team Fortress 2 (a fps video game). This past fall, I fell in love with ballroom dance, and attended a competition in early December, with several more in the spring semester.


How did OC impact you? What did you find useful?

To say OC had a huge impact on me and my journey is an understatement. When I started homeschooling and attending OC, my learning flourished. I’ve always been a lifelong learner and driven by my curiosity, so to have the opportunity and time to explore in-depth the areas I’m interested in was amazing. OC offered a good mix of flexibility and structure, facilitating collaborative work and social interactions, while allowing us to bring our own energy and interests to the table. I particularly enjoyed that, in many cases, the Facilitators would be learning material in parallel with you, which fostered a Facilitator/peer-like dynamic.


One of the things I realized early on in college was that, while college is much more structured like traditional schools, in many ways it’s closer to OC and homeschooling at large. With my experience managing my own learning, self-directed work, and collaborative group work, I felt that I had less to adjust to than many who followed a more traditional path. I also think that the relationship youth have with Facilitators (particularly in Shaping Your Life), which is respectful but very friendly, nicely mirrors the relationships I’ve had with a number of professors. I would credit that approachability for getting to work with a professor on his research starting my first semester at Ithaca, and the variety of other great working relationships and opportunities I’ve had with my professors.


What would you have changed about OC?

Overall, there’s not much I would change about my time at OC. I’m super excited about all of the upgrades that OC has been getting around campus. I’m still a little bummed that I graduated a year or two before the Makerspace was installed—I really wanted to get to use the laser cutter—and the new Glowforge and 3D printers are amazing. If I changed one thing, it would probably be for the Makerspace to be installed 4 years earlier!