I am Stuart Proud. I am a voice for the voiceless, a passionate photographer, and a dedicated coxswain.
What are some of your favorite classes/activities and why?
There are countless courses that I have attended that have had a profound impact on me. A couple of them that I especially love are Leadership Through the Lens, AP U.S. History, and AP Literature. First, I was able to further develop my affinity for social activism photography by exploring topics that interested me in Leadership Through the Lens. Through this photography course, I have learned how to convey emotions and prevalent social issues through a photograph, and this ability is powerful in this age. Secondly, I enjoyed taking AP U.S. History because history has always been my favorite subject, and I was able to learn numerous events that shocked and fascinated me. I especially liked learning about the female leaders in America’s history like suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the author Harriet Beecher Stowe of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Also, I loved analyzing the political cartoons and DBQs. Third, AP Literature has also been a favorite class of mine because of the discussions after each book we read. In the past month, my class deeply analyzed Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and I particularly enjoyed studying the topics of power, identity, time and space, and storytelling in specific passages from the book. Additionally, I have been able to learn literary theories that fascinate me. My class recently noted how Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw contains the psychoanalytic criticism, feminist and queer theory, and the Marxist criticism. Besides my favorite classes, some activities that I like doing are being a peer leader to the freshmen, being the co-head of clubs such as Diversity and Mock Trial, and dancing in my free time. Specifically, I have learned how to handle numerous social situations in the Peer Leadership class, and love spending time with my freshmen in peer group.
Having come to Stuart from public school, how has Stuart been a good fit for you? Where have you noticed the most difference between your experiences?
What prompted me to transfer to Stuart was that I was bullied at my previous school and didn't feel supported. My decision to come to Stuart is one of the smartest and best decisions I have ever made. The intimate, open-minded, nurturing environment here has significantly contributed to my self-growth. In particular, I have always felt a sense of belonging with my grade and with other grades, which I never felt at my previous school where there was a cut-throat mentality and unkind students. In addition, the small class sizes are one of my favorite experiences at Stuart because I am able to develop a closer bond with my teachers. At my old school, I was always anxious to participate in class because of the huge class sizes and never felt comfortable enough with my teachers to receive help. At Stuart, however, I feel comfortable when I participate in my classes and can easily reach out to my teachers if I need any help. Furthermore, Stuart offers countless opportunities for their students that my previous high school never provided. For example, Stuart offers courses that have helped to foster my growth as a leader. Most notably, the array of leadership courses such as Leadership and Personal Development as well as theology courses that employ critical thinking like Ethical Issues are courses that have helped me.
You recently had photography featured by Bokeh Focus. Please talk more about that class, what drew you to it, and how you came up with the idea for your project.
In November, one of my photography projects, which I created during the Leadership Through the Lens course, was exhibited on Bokeh Focus’s website. This achievement is all in thanks to my decision to take my first photography class at Stuart. In Photography 1, I was able to learn how much I love making a statement just by wielding a camera and producing images that convey multiple meanings. I was able to pursue my passion for photography even more by taking the Leadership Through the Lens class, in which I created several projects that tackled issues prevalent in our society. One of my projects addressed the emotional, physical, and mental effects that sexual harassment survivors endure. For my project that was featured, “Cupidity of the Gen Z’s,” I was inspired when I watched Sunmi’s “Noir” music video that talked about the detrimental effects of social media in lowering one’s self-esteem. Her message sparked the topic for one of my photos,“Thirst for Love,” which addresses how Gen Z’s use social media for self-validation. Eventually, I decided to make a four-photo project that exposed four major issues that my generation faces: mental health, the impacts of social media, sexual harassment, and the emphasis on only earning high grades in order to feel validated. This experience of creating my project and having it published has expanded my view on the world and spurred me to talk more about issues that Gen Z’s face. I believe this topic needs to be addressed more in order for adults and communities to understand the countless issues we face in such a demanding society. In addition, this feat encourages me to continue creating photographs that can address, advocate, and ameliorate social justice issues in our society. (Examples of Sunny's work is at the bottom of the interview)
You are also an accomplished rower. How did you get involved in the sport, what do you enjoy about it?
After a family friend of mine, who was a coxswain, recommended me to try rowing, I attended my first rowing summer camp at PNRA/Mercer in the summer going into eighth grade. I started out as a rower and completed my novice season, but my short height made it difficult for me to continue rowing. Instead, I switched to be a coxswain, which I steer my crew and make commands during the race, in my freshman year. Ever since then, I have been a coxswain for my team PNRA/Mercer. Although being a coxswain comes with numerous responsibilities because I am the only one in charge of my crew, I love being out on the water to use my voice to motivate the girls in my boat. When I confidently sit in my seat, I always feel endowed with a purpose–to have learned the best way, through my cadence and tone, to guide my rowers. In addition, my favorite moment in the years of me being a coxswain has to be when my boat became Henley Gold champions in the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta this past summer. In my race, it was so exhilarating to feel the adrenaline that pumped through my veins mixed with the excitement that dominated each of my commands as my crew surged forward towards the finish line.
With everything you are doing, how do you find a balance for it all?
Of course, being a coxswain at an intense rowing program -- with practice six days a week for three hours along with regattas on the weekends -- has forced me to manage my time efficiently. When I get home from practice each day, I first give myself a little break and then start my homework right away, so I have little time to procrastinate because of my rigorous schedule. I use all the free time I have, in which I am not doing my homework, to organize and manage the several clubs that I have leadership positions in. Keeping a planner to jot down my assignments and tasks has been extremely helpful in making sure that I am on track and completing everything. Additionally, I make sure to give myself some mental health and cool down time whenever I need it. For example, I always make sure to give myself time to relax and watch some TV on Sunday nights. In short, using my time management skills, which I have gained from doing an intensive sport for five years, has helped me to find balance.
What are your post-Stuart plans? What do you plan to study in college, and was there a teacher or class that inspired that path?
Ever since I was young, I’ve always aspired to be an attorney. My inclination to use my voice to defend others and my role as a lawyer for the Mock Trial team since sophomore year have both influenced my decision quite a bit. In Mock Trial, more specifically, I love the excitement from directing and cross-examining my witnesses. On January 18, the Mock Trial team competed at the county competition, and we won our first round. It was thrilling to embody my role as an attorney and give one of my best closing statements to the jury during the competition. It wasn’t until last year, when I learned about the civil rights unit in Mrs. Driscoll’s AP U.S. History class, that I realized that I wanted to be a civil rights attorney who defends women who have been sexually harassed and raped. My interest in social justice issues involving women has inspired me to plan to major in political science and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) at Williams College.
Rapid Fire (Just for fun)
- Favorite book: Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
- Favorite food: Häagen-Dazs matcha ice cream
- Favorite activity or sport: Dancing for fun
- Favorite way to wind down: Listening to my favorite songs from BTS
- Favorite quote or phrase: “You do not just wake up and become the butterfly–growth is a process” by Rupi Kaur