This interview originally appeared in 2007 in “VII Questions for Alumni,” a column in the Alumni Newsletter that gives us a peek at life after, but not without, C&C. Our interviewees were Alyssa and Samantha Gold, sisters and recent grads.
When you think of C&C, what is the first thing that pops into your mind?
Alyssa: The first thing that comes to mind when I think about C&C is this one day in the 7s when our teacher, Elise, told us a little bit about different landmarks in New York and then asked us to vote on which one we wanted to study. I remember, even when I was seven, understanding how lucky I was to get to have a say in my curriculum. I think this is what pops into my head from all 12 years of C&C memories because it embodied everything I liked about my C&C experience; I truly felt like I had a voice in my school that adults would hear.
Sam: Blocks and paint; how Gino’s hamster seemed to die within the first month of school and another would mysteriously appear within a few hours; Lucy telling me that that white spot should’ve—could’ve—had to be painted in before I could start on the next project; seeing Alyssa out in the hall; walking back to class in the 13s and inevitably finding John in the hallway; sewing all hours of the night to finish the costumes for the play, any play—a lot of memories but the first thing is always “blocks and paint,” although we all know that painting the blocks is not allowed.
What was your favorite job at C&C?
Alyssa: My favorite job was the Store. As an 8, I was very excited to have my first real C&C job, however I often felt while working at the Golden Pigeon P.O. that I was destined for greater things, a bigger job, one with more stock, longer hours and more revenue. When the 9s came and Millennium Mart opened, I finally felt like I was living the job dream. I also loved going around with my traveling store box. I felt so important going into the big kids' classes to fulfill their school supply needs.
Sam: Hmm, I have three. Sign-making because I always loved art and drawing, so to do was a lot of fun. The handwriting book that we had to do, though a pain, did help me learn to write legibly—to some degree. I also had a ton of fun doing the Newspaper, and I’ll never forget when Ann told us that if you charged people 35 cents it was harder to make change and they’d most likely just give you the dollar. Working with the 4s –it was great to see the little kids just starting their time at C&C while my Group was finishing ours. I can’t even think about how my 4s are now getting 4s of their own.
How did your experience at C&C prepare you for high school?
Alyssa: I realized the moment I got to high school that it was a different world; the world where grades ruled all and turning in my best work wouldn't get me as good a grade as turning in the work my teachers wanted to see. Academically I was well prepared for this, because although there was more homework and these terrible forms of assessments called midterms and finals, I had come from 12 years of learning because I cared, not because I had to. I entered high school truly passionate about learning. Many of my fellow freshmen entered ninth grade sick of the often uninspiring world that is school outside of C&C while I went in excited to explore a new style of education. The fresh start that C&C gave me was invaluable.
Sam: My experience prepared me for high school by teaching me everything that high school couldn’t. To have your first learning experience in a setting without grades or any of the usual stress that goes with school was something really special. C&C taught me how to learn and how to take what I learn and apply it outside of the classroom. That being said, the test prep didn’t really hurt.
What does it mean to you to be a lifelong learner?
Alyssa: I think people are the greatest textbook you could ever have the opportunity to learn from and everywhere you go there will be people you will interact with. To me, being a lifelong learner means being open to what other people have to share with you and what you can learn from them about the world and even about yourself.
Sam: I think being a lifelong learner means not being afraid to try something new. I know people who, as early as college, feel like they’ve found their ‘thing’ and have no interest in pushing themselves to try something else. I think people should always push themselves to try new things. I’ll always remember when my parents started taking piano lessons. I remember thinking how cool it was that my mom and dad were willing to try something new. Of course, I’m still a little scarred by the fact that we didn’t have a piano that had headphones on it.
Describe something that you recently “learned by doing.”
Alyssa: At the end of last year in history we were studying Truman and his decision to drop the atomic bomb. Instead of just sitting and reading about it, we put Truman on trial and I was one of his defense attorneys. It was the first time since leaving C&C that I was actually passionate about something I was doing in class—precisely because I was learning about Truman by having to find the holes in the prosecution’s case against him. It was great because I remember more from that week than from most of the rest of the year (and Truman was acquitted).
Sam: Honestly, I think everything is learned by doing. But as far as specifics go, I recently started taking martial arts where you have to learn by doing, no matter how many times you fall. Another example is music. Anyone who has ever tried to play an instrument knows that the only way to make music is to lock the door (or preferably a sound-proof room) and do it over and over again. It’s annoying and tedious and we all wish we could be prodigies, but in the end, it is rewarding when learning by doing turns into something you can do well.
How does C&C touch your everyday life?
Alyssa: At least once a day I realize what a jaded 11th grader I've become and in those moments, I take comfort in the memory of C&C. I think back to the days where I could get lost in the book we were reading in class because I didn't have to stress about the test we will no doubt be having on each chapter. I remember enjoying what we were learning about in history and scheming up ways to bring it to life (one of my favorites was our recreation of the Trojan War on a beach in Montauk). I know that the C&C style of learning will be waiting for me when I'm done with high school.
Sam: C&C touches my everyday life by making me curious. I find that even if I’m afraid to try new things, I know that trying even with the risk of failing will be better than not trying at all. I also started SCUBA diving while I was at C&C. Today I’m a SCUBA instructor and every time I go diving I think back to running into science class and telling everyone that I just started diving and Gino asking me what my SAC rate was.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Alyssa: This is something I’ve actually given a lot of thought to since every day another college adviser asks me about what I want to do with the rest of my life; however, the more I think about it the less certain I am. My only condition for where I am in 10 years is that I am doing something I love, with people I love, in a place I love.
Sam: On a boat, somewhere in the Caribbean watching the sunset (and wearing sun block, mom).