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A LOVE LETTER FOR YOU

Jeff and Laura Sandefer received the following letter from an Acton parent and we wanted to share it with all of you. 

January 20, 2022

Jeff and I received this note yesterday from an Acton mom just as we were heading out to attend her son’s college scholarship signing ceremony. She offered to share it with you in hopes it will encourage you for the long, hard and beautiful journey of being an Acton parent.

My Love Letter – to Acton! 

As Holden ended his junior year and was free to speak to college rowing coaches, or rather they were now free to contact him, so began the flurry of activity that ushered in our college prep as parents.

We had wondered about this for some time, would he find the right combination of education and sport?  Not many universities offer men’s rowing as a competitive sport, it was both a blessing and curse as it narrowed down his choices, but also stymied his options at the same time.

Rowing is such a part of who Holden is.  In fact, I’m not even certain how to frame one without the other.  From the age of 13 he’s been grinding year round.  There’s no off season, no quick rewards, there’s no championship ring or prep rally.  There is however, physical pain, blistered and torn hands.  There is entire seasons, maybe even years, of disappointing finishes and no medals.  There’s missed camping trips and lock-ins, there is a lack of camaraderie of shared sport amongst classmates, regrets sent to parties and connections not made.  Yet the pros of this high performance sport must somehow have a payout that keeps him on this path, but that is something for Holden to speak to.

As summer Olympic development training ended, and connections were made and zoom calls were scheduled with coaches dotting the East coast, Holden was alive.  Truth be told, I’m not sure he thought he had the skill set needed for rowing at the next level.  His eyes were bright, his voice exuberant. Coaches were scheduling 20 introductory calls that were going well over into 60 and 90 minute calls. Holden, the athlete, with his podium finishes and erg times and noted improvement is what was getting him the calls, but Holden, the Acton Eagle, the hero sharing his journey, the vulnerability, his learning to be and to do was making them take note.

“I’ve never had a call go this quickly or enjoyable”

“Most kids your age aren’t this engaging”

“I can’t believe the depth of questions you had for me”

“I’ve never had an athlete do more thorough research on the team or me as a coach”

“Holden, if you don’t feel like this school or program is the right fit for you, I would be honored to put in a good word elsewhere for you based solely on this conversation”

After Holden’s official visit to Hobart and William Smith Colleges, there was no doubt he had found his home. The coaches called out his most valuable trait.  “Holden, you are teachable and that is the most desirable thing we could ask for in an athlete” The Dean of Entrepreneurial Studies was shocked that Holden had read some of his papers, he took the entirety of his afternoon off just to give Holden a more in depth tour. Holden was excited
about the school, the 9:1 student professor ratio, the apprenticeship programs they offer, the classes he participated in felt like “Acton in college form,” he said.

Some of the most elite rowing programs in the nation asked Holden to apply. With each offer, we looked at him and said, keep your options open.  When Harvard and then Oxford sent requests, we looked at him again, and he was flattered but unfazed and we knew that he had already found his next great adventure and it was happening in upstate New York.

Holden was going to be Holden no matter where he went to school, he had the
trajectory of a well balanced student, but when he found Acton Academy there
was a magical combination of him as a learner with the power to chart his
own course.  He has held that power and control over his life and we have
rarely stepped in.  He has stumbled along his journey, he has succumbed to
self pity and he has fallen, but he alone has recovered and plowed forward.
With that is so much growth and power and self awareness and yet so much
empathy for those who weren’t capable of charting the same path.  I think he
wrote it best in one of his essays, “Acton has given me the world.”

It’s clear that the principles and compass of Acton has elevated Holden as a self driven athlete and student, but it’s also given us as parents a greater understanding of our roles on this journey.  It’s given us the insight to see failures as growth, it’s given us the permission to sit back rather than step in, it’s given us the confidence to trust the journey and to trust our children.  It’s given us endless debates about “what is a hero” and discussion topics that pepper our daily lives.  It’s given us family mottos and chants, and rules to live by.  In short, it’s changed who we are and how we go about being, and it will continue to impact generations (let that sit a minute) you have impacted GENERATIONS of our family, of countless families, because you bravely and tirelessly worked to make Acton Academy what it is.  Thank you isn’t a grand enough term, but I’m not sure there is one more fitting.

-Melissa

Original Blog Post by Laura