By Hazel Crowley
Helen Keller once said, “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” Alice Schwechheimer, a senior from Essex, Massachusetts, would surely agree. Not only because Alice shares an affinity with the famous activist, having played her in a single but memorable Landmark performance of The Miracle Worker, for which she learned stage combat (also known as fight choreography), but also because Alice has, simply put, an affinity for adventure itself.
That adventure started at Landmark in second grade. Was she excited? “Of course not. I crossed out the logo on the Landmark application and wrote ‘Not going.’ It was summer and I really didn’t like school.” That opinion has since changed, dramatically—pun intended. When asked to identify a few highlights from her successful tenure here, Alice seemed at a loss: “That’s like a decade of good teachers. It’s hard to remember all the amazing stuff.” What does stand out? Learning to read, learning to write, and, of course, theater. A former student athlete (whose parents are both Landmark physical education teachers), Alice now considers herself a “three-season drama kid.” Even through a disaster, like the time her cast accidently skipped 30 pages of King Henry V, Alice values immensely the sense of community fostered in the Performing Arts Center, better known to students as the “black box theater.” And the faculty agree: “Her bright personality and focused work ethic encourage her castmates. She always has a clever quip to get everyone laughing,” says Liz, one of her performing arts teachers.
Crossing the Pond for Adventure and Change
Yet last fall, Alice craved a change. The answer? A ten-month immersive program in Kongsvinger, Norway, via the American Field Service (AFS). A skier and cold weather enthusiast, Alice chose Norway because she saw it as a “blank slate.” With the phonetic skills and willingness to be flexible acquired at Landmark, she threw herself into learning the language to the great delight of her host family and the appreciation and awe of her new community. Despite the occasional goof (she once said someone had died who was merely lost), Alice emerged a confident conversationalist (able to discuss recipes and politics with her beloved host grandparents), an experienced gourmet (the only one of her peers to try lutefisk—a traditional Nordic dish made from aged, dried cod soaked in lye), and an accomplished performer (her ensemble placed second at the National Youth Theater contest). “At Landmark, I learned to like learning and I learned a lot in Norway,” Alice said.
Most importantly, returning to campus has refreshed Alice. While going abroad made her realize just how much Landmark has helped prepare her for life, coming home has shown her just how much the students and faculty in the community care, both about her and for each other. Alice says that living in a foreign city helped her to emphasize the big picture over the tiny details, and she now sees Landmark with that same perspective: “This is a special place. The smallness is actually good.”
The adventures will only continue: next year at college, at some point another stint abroad, in the future, a possible career in the social sciences. Said head of Landmark’s Elementary• Middle School, Rob Kahn, who bestowed Alice with the Charles Drake Award in 2016: “It has always been clear that nothing was going to stand in her way. Watching her intelligence and personality unfold has been a true thrill.”
It was Helen Keller who also said, “Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye”. Alice certainly will.