Rachel Smith is a junior at Olney Friends School. She hails from the small town of Lodi, New York, which is near Ithaca. She has been walking Olney’s hallowed halls for two and half years now, though her sister Mishka (a graduate of the Class of 2015) made the journey here first. Rachel and her sister discovered Olney through the Ohio Yearly Friends Meeting, which Rachel had attended.
“When I visited, there wasn’t anyone at the school itself, just Quakers,” she states. “Even so, I really loved it. I felt it was a special place, and I wanted to be here.” Rachel is known on campus for being a hardworking and kind-hearted individual. She is an office work leader, which means that she helps direct and grade the cleaning that students do around the school. Rachel feels she can best impact the community through leading by example.
Before attending Olney, Rachel was homeschooled for her entire educational career. She describes the experience as quiet and pleasant, but admits Olney offers a considerable change.
“Back home, it was just my family on the dairy farm. I mostly saw other people when, once a week, we went into town to Primitive Pursuits, which is a camp to teach kids about living in the wilderness.” Rachel feels that she has learned a lot from being at Olney. “I really like the teachers and I feel that I can always go to them for help. They are always trying their best to be available for us.”
Growing up on a dairy farm fostered a special connection for Rachel with animals, making it no surprise that one of her favorite places on campus is the Kirk Barn, home of the school’s goats.
“It’s so cozy there,” she says. “It’s always warm, and so peaceful. I like watching and learning the individual goats’ personalities and seeing them become more comfortable with me. When I get there, some are scared of me, but if I’m patient, they’ll start to come up to me. One of our goats, Peaches, was so scared of everyone last year. A couple weeks ago, I was feeding them, and I went to play with them, and Peaches came right up to me and let me pet her and play with her! That would have never happened last year. It’s so rewarding seeing them develop.”
Seeing progress and hard work result in something incredible is a mutual feeling that can be seen across campus, from working with the goats to academics to the annual Gymnastics Exhibition, one of Rachel’s favorite Olney traditions. “Gym-Ex” is Olney’s public celebration of our physical skills in a multitude of exercises: tumbling, dancing, skits, jumping rope, and balancing.
“It knits our community together,” Rachel says. “A lot of alumni come back. Everyone finds some part of it that they especially enjoy. The class skits also bring together the groups and showcase what is special about them.”
Rachel’s message to someone who may be looking at Olney is that the community here is something unique and special. “It’s a really great place,” she says with a smile, “and if you go through a rough spot, which happens to all of us, you really have a community to support you and we help each other find our way to a positive space.”