Galen Oey-Langen ‘19
When I first came to Little River as an anxious, socially maladjusted 5th grader, I never imagined the profound impact it would have on the course of my life. A few paragraphs could never hold all I’d like to say about this school. While Little River does have “school” in the name, “community” is far more apt. The transition from public school to Little River is a bit rocky, due to their vastly different expectations of students, but it is well worth it.
I’ve always gotten high grades, but I haven’t always been a good student. Little River gave me the scaffolding and feedback I needed to become a truly strong and self-motivated learner. Not only that, but I also became a teacher: the mixed-age, mixed-skill-level classrooms make mentoring other students just a regular part of the school day. The level of freedom and control we have over our own curriculum makes developing time-management and self-pacing skills a must. A happy side effect is this makes the transition to college EASY! No exaggeration, a Little River education gives you the exact life & interpersonal skills that everyone else struggles to obtain their freshman year.
More important than the academics was the social development I experienced at Little River. Little River is a safe space to make mistakes but is always pushing you forward towards growth. The extremely stable environment was just what I needed to come out of my shell, learn how to make real friends, and generally become a healthy and resilient individual. The confidence to organize, delegate, lead and follow through comes naturally after years of practice and is invaluable no matter what one pursues after graduation.
Today I’m a nursing sophomore at University of Massachusetts Amherst - a fairly eventful major these days! I also work in a nursing home as a CNA. I am often complimented by my coworkers, overseeing nurses and residents alike for my proactive work ethic, easy demeanor, and ability to work well with anybody - skills I developed at Little River. And this December when COVID came to our facility ravaging staff and residents alike, these skills became essential in saving lives and easing a gentle death for those beyond help. Though there were speed bumps and rough patches, as with anything, I spent five happy years in the Olders (six counting senior year at TCS) and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Clara Maine ‘19
I left Little River to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Artificial Intelligence at Radboud University in the Netherlands. I only spent three years in the Older’s room, and only two years full-time. When I look back, I feel that the many small, seemingly insignificant things I was given the space to discover now make up a large part of my personality and identity.
Rereading my writing from those years, many of the free-choice assignments gave me the chance to work on projects which allowed me to express myself. As I’ve gotten older, I tend to forget what I was thinking about during those years—I am grateful that my writing remains and that I was given so much trust and freedom to choose its content. I never felt an unjust power dynamic with my teachers. I knew they wanted the best for me, and even though we sometimes disagreed on best practices, Steve’s door was always open, and I felt that my feedback and suggestions were truly listened to.
The small environment made class participation a normal experience, and when I took those skills to an elective English class at St. Lawrence University, I was surprised at how disengaged and quiet the older students were. Even though I may not have known as much as they did simply because of my age, my time at Little River taught me to claim my voice in a conversation and placed value on my ideas no matter my age or experience level.
Little River’s history classes were the first time I felt inspired to take ownership of educating myself on the past. After an extensive research project on Amelia Earhart, I started reading biographies and nonfiction books; an interest I would not have discovered otherwise, and which continues long after I was required to read them for a grade.
The most valuable gift my unconventional schooling gave me was the group of people I met. Even two years after officially graduating, I am still learning from the friends and mentors the school brought me together with, and have never met a more unique group of people within the same four walls since.
The most important lessons Little River taught me were not present in a book or lecture, but had to be taught by example: to care deeply for your community, to take responsibility for your future, and to be unafraid of the unknown and untested
AJ Walter '20
I came to Little River because I am dyslexic and the public school was not teaching me well, especially taking into account my disability. Little River exceeded expectations, helping me through everyday problems with learning. They gave me the tools, the attention, and most importantly, the time to help me learn and to become the functional college student that I am today.
Little River has prepared me for college by focusing on individual help with papers and projects. I’m currently attending Saint Lawrence University on a pre-med track. I was inspired by our science teacher to look for the scientific questions of everyday life and to exceed expectations on tests. College has you write a lot of papers for every class that you are in. Little River prepares you for writing long, complex papers. Being dyslexic I had a hard time writing and editing my papers but the teachers were able to help me step by step, especially with one-on-one help with editing papers.
Community is very important to me and I learned how to effectively lead community meetings by attending Little River. I have learned how to conduct group discussions, communicate, and how to properly deal with confrontations between fellow students. I did not realize how strong my skills were until I got into college. I have used these skills almost every single day I have been in college. I’m applying for jobs within my college community and the fact that I’ve learned these communication skills has prepared me for every type of job that requires leadership and teamwork.
I am grateful for Little River every single day because they have properly prepared me for a college experience in both academics and social abilities.
Ana Williams-Bergen '19
Although I haven’t been a student there in nearly three years, my Little River experience is something I carry with me every day. Having attended Little River since kindergarten, I no doubt have a nostalgic soft spot for its brightly colored walls. However, my fondness for Little River is based as much on the tangible ways in which it prepared me for academic success as it is on the supportive community it provided. Currently, I am in my second year at Queen’s University, studying Global Development and Political Science. My interest in global social justice was born at Little River, which inspired and encouraged critical engagement with current events and the world around us both in and outside the classroom. An internship with North Country Public Radio, which I completed as part of my graduation requirements, led me to discover an interest in journalism and equipped me with the skills to pursue work in radio. I currently work for the campus station at Queen’s University and am returning to NCPR this summer to serve as the Assistant Coordinator for the North Country at Work Project.
When I take stock of my time at Little River, the practical and academic skills I learned have nothing on the value of the Little River community. The level of support and encouragement from teachers and peers alike is truly indescribable, and the school’s tight-knit nature bonds you with the community for life. Nearly three years on, old classmates from Little River are still some of my dearest friends, despite the fact that we’re now spread over multiple countries and hundreds of miles.
While home on break last winter, I was able to visit Little River while in session for the first time since my graduation, and it truly felt like coming home. When you choose to attend Little River, you join a second family full of love and laughter that will equip you with the skills to succeed in life, both academically and socially. If you’re looking for a school with caring teachers, engaging academics, and a vibrant community, then congratulations, you found it!