The Perfect Place to Make Mistakes
Saul Blain was a first-year sophomore, still adjusting to life on Williston’s campus after three years at nearby Eaglebrook, when he witnessed something that gave him a deep appreciation for his new school. He watched as a recruited athlete, a post-graduate who had just finished lacrosse practice, raced off the field to get to the theater for a show. “Twenty minutes later, you see him, a total jock, in tights, dancing on the stage with a bunch of other theater kids. And everyone goes to the show and supports him,” he recalls. “That was really interesting to me. I felt, ‘This is a place I’m really happy to be.’”
Over his three years at Williston, made possible through the Herbert and Connie Futter Academic Merit Scholarship and other financial aid, the South Hadley, Massachusetts, native discovered that being in a supportive community helped build his own confidence to try new things—such as photography, a skill he developed both through classes and an independent project. And that openness to exploration continues to shape his life.
After Williston, Saul took a gap year to study and work at a microbrewery in Israel, and then spent three months living in Spain with friends of his parents (his mother is an occupational therapist, his father runs educational programs at an area hospital). More recently, he applied and was selected for a summer internship under the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, which had him working with nanotechnology at Columbia University, in New York, getting a firsthand look at the world of materials science in the process. This fall, he’ll return to Northeastern University, where he is a sophomore studying computer and electrical engineering, and looking forward to starting his co-op work outside the classroom.
“Williston gave me the perfect environment to try all sorts of things and come away even stronger,” he says. “Having an environment where you feel comfortable making a mistake was definitely very helpful for me.”
Another Williston benefit, now clearer to Saul in retrospect, was the experience of living in a diverse cultural environment. “When I got to college,” he says, “I really understood what a unique high school experience it was.” His time at Williston prepared him for new situations and for working with people from different backgrounds, he explains, skills he has now come to appreciate more fully. “As amazing as my time was at Williston, I felt that leaving made it more special, because when you leave—that’s when you realize that it’s not like everywhere else.”