At what age did you start at OC? What programs were you involved in?
I started at OC in third grade, so 8 or 9 years old. I started in the Open Program, way back when...making cornstarch putty and playing travel agent in the store, making stop animation movies starring tiny Tabasco sauces. I also became involved in the Art program, which I loved, and the various Tutorial Programs a few years after that all the way through when I left OC when I was 15*. I was a Teen Intern for the Open Program, was in Susan Shilcock’s Service Learning Program.
What led you to OC?
I was in private school, but wasn't getting the attention that I needed academically. I always felt like I was falling behind, which lead to high amounts of anxiety. A friend of my mom's mentioned OC. OC combined with one-on-one tutoring helped ease the anxiety tremendously and let me explore and learn at my own pace. My family also traveled a lot, so I was able to incorporate that into my education as well—learning about the Galapagos Islands, Iceland and polar bears near the North Pole. To travel to those places and to see those things in real life was better than any textbook I could have read.
What have you been up to since OC?
When I left OC I was about 15. I did a study abroad in Paris, took a few semesters at Harcum Junior College, worked at a baby boutique, tried to start a small business (tried), traveled a bit more, tried writing a peanut butter cookbook (tried), and then went on to full-time college at the University of Vermont. I graduated with my BA in 2013.
After graduating, I did some nannying, first locally, and then I decided to move to Boston for a few years and continued to nanny while I was there. When I moved back to PA, I decided to really focus on my future and to make sure that I found a job that I loved. In the interim, I had started working at the front desk of a local yoga studio in exchange for free classes (having only taken a few classes before). Soon after, one of the instructors recommended I do teacher training. I did, and it was nerve-wracking! During this time, I began thinking that this geographical area really needed a studio closer by. After talking it over with my family, we thought that if we were going to do this, we were going to do it right. So I put everything I had into it: We scouted locations, negotiated leases, got architects, engineers, and finally turned a cement box into our beautiful studio we have today! This past spring, I opened the doors to Jolly Llama Yoga** in Newtown Square. My goal in high-school was to be a business owner/ entrepreneur before I was 20. While that didn't quite work out, being a business owner at 26 is pretty awesome, and even though I sometimes feel stressed, tired, and unsure, I get to be myself and I love every minute of it!
How did OC impact you? What did you find useful?
OC offered an environment that allowed me to be creative and open-minded. I learned how to be independent, how to work with others, and to not be afraid to try. I learned to find what worked and what didn't on my own. My experience at OC was invaluable, and I am so happy my little sister (Emma)has been a part of this amazing community. I am heartbroken she never had the chance to meet Susan. Both Susan [Shilcock] and Peter [Bergson, OC Co-Founders], and all of the Facilitators made me feel special and gave me courage, confidence, and wisdom when I needed it the most.
What would you have changed about OC?
When my sister tells me all about the cool programs she has been involved with, I get a little jealous. OC was really just starting to grow when I left, but I am happy that they have those new programs and resources! Looking back, I do wish I was more involved in the OC community, but I am grateful for how everything turned out (was worried there for a bit), and grateful to OC for inspiring me to have big ideas and to make them happen.
*Editor’s Note: At this point in OC history, we had not yet developed our robust teen program, Shaping Your Life, so it was not uncommon for OC teens to move on from OC at age 15 or 16.
**Editor’s Note: Jolly Llama Studio is less than ten minutes east of Open Connections. The space is absolutely gorgeous, and Danielle has poured her heart and soul into every last detail, and it shows! I strongly encourage families to check it out. Perhaps you can treat yourself to a class while your youth are in programs at OC! For more info, check out their Facebook page, or visit jollyllamayoga. com. You won’t be disappointed!