"My voice always mattered, no matter what age I was."

Last summer in August, I sat down to share a cup of coffee with Olivia Meyer-Jennette, GMS Class of 2009, as she was preparing to enter her sophomore year at Tufts University in Medford, MA, just outside of Boston.

Olivia is the older of two sisters who were both "lifers" at GMS. Olivia first enrolled in the Primary program at age 4 and her younger sister, Augusta, now a junior at the Middle College at Greensboro College, enrolled as a Toddler.

When asked what she values most about being a Montessori alumni, Olivia quickly responded, "I love that at GMS, people really love to learn. I really love learning! And the teachers also support learning non-academic things in a school setting, like learning how to be a good person and how to treat your friends. I specifically remember learning how to say 'It hurts my feeling when you say...'" This is a simple, yet powerful phrase that we coach even our youngest students to use in the conflict resolutions that are facilitated at the classroom peace table.

Olivia went on to say "I felt the teachers always treated me like an equal. They never treated me like I was small. My voice always mattered, no matter what age I was. And most importantly they encouraged me to listen to myself."

After Olivia graduated from GMS in 2009, she transitioned to Grimsley High School and directly into the International Baccalaureate program for which she says she was "vastly over-prepared." On the one hand, she said "it was a lot of work" but at the same time she commented that she managed the workload "because (she) chose to find enjoyment and relevance in it."

In the process of deciding where to go to college, Olivia was confident in one thing... she was looking for a place that would promote individual thought. She explored schools far and wide, and ultimately settled on Tufts. Through her first year of study at Tufts, she decided to pursue a major that would allow her to combine her passion for visual arts, art history and languages (currently she is studying both Spanish and German). She found the perfect match in a program entitled International Literary and Visual Studies, which offered a core structure plus the flexibility to choose a concentration in an era, culture and/or language that matched her interest.  She has also dabbled in some graphic design classes which she says she has liked more than she thought she would. Over the summer, she put that new knowledge to use as she assisted her mother, Jennifer, in developing and managing an on-line garment shop on Etsy called Surya Leela Designs.

In her free time, Olivia loves to read, run, make art and practice yoga. When she is home from college, Olivia spends a lot of time reconnecting with two old friends from GMS, Julie Canziani and Niki Shumaker, whom she says are still her two best friends after all these years. And when she's in Boston, she loves to ride the train and take the Green Line to visit her favorite art museum, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. She has dreams of one day working in an art museum.  In addition, Olivia also volunteers one night each week teaching English as a second language through a program called C.O.R.E.S., which assists Salvadoran and Central American refugees with immigration-related needs.

What an amazing example of a young renaissance woman who has found her voice and is now helping others find theirs!!