Twin sisters Julia and Lauren Williamson are Randolph seniors. They have been at Randolph since the 9th grade, and are now Senior Ambassadors as well as members of the Youth Leadership Council. Lauren is the Head Delegate of Randolph’s Model U.N. and the President of Randolph’s Optimist Club. Julia is Lead Stage Manager for Theatre Randolph, Vice-President of the Optimist Club, and a member of Randolph’s Science Olympiad team. Over the next few months, they will be sharing their experiences from the past three-and-a-half years in a blog series titled "Twin Perspectives."
What brought you here? Why did you consider changing schools after 8th grade?
Lauren: Julia and I both were looking to be challenged in high school, in academics and extracurriculars, and after our visit to Randolph, we were sure we’d found the right place. The courses are difficult, but there’s an abundance of ways to get help from peers and teachers and many clubs and extracurricular offerings include all interests in the school culture. It is a motivating environment, because almost everyone I’ve come across is actively trying to do their best not just academically, but in the arts and athletics as well.
Julia: Honestly, we were just looking for more, in every aspect of the word. We needed a more active community, teachers who were more engaged in our learning, and a curriculum that would challenge us and prepare us for college. To me, Randolph's curriculum is about asking questions, and then researching and learning using your curiosity to guide you. We’re always encouraged to ask questions and dig deeper, as it were, to find out more about what we’re studying.
How have you learned to use your teachers as a support in your learning?
Lauren: Since freshman year, I’ve learned that the first thing to do when I have questions about anything in class is to go ask my teachers. The time and effort they spend answering questions and molding their teaching style to a way I understand the material has been a huge help. The teachers at Randolph really don’t want to penalize students, they want to assist in any way they can. An example of this would be my freshmen Biology class and my sophomore Chemistry class, both taught by the wonderful Mrs. Hillinck. I had questions about lab reports or tests many times a week, and Mrs. Hillinck always stopped what she was doing to answer them.
Julia: I used to be afraid to go to my teachers to tell them that I was having trouble with assignments, but it’s gotten a lot easier to just go to them and say “I need some help.” I’ve never had a teacher who wouldn’t at least try to help me, even if they couldn’t fix my problem. And even when they can’t help, they always offer encouragement. For example, I’ve been struggling with a concept I’m learning in AP Calculus right now, so I met with my teacher (who also happens to be my advisor) and we worked out times to meet and go over math problems. I also had three other math teachers offer to help me just because they were available and they knew I needed help. It never fails to amaze me how willing Randolph teachers are to help students.
What were you looking for in terms of curriculum?
Lauren: I wanted to take AP courses, but I also wanted to do an Independent Study. The Independent Study program at Randolph offers students the chance to learn in-depth and at their own pace about a specific topic that’s not in the Randolph curriculum. It’s very self-structured as well, with only an advisor to oversee the work. My study is in Comparative Religion, and I’ve been fortunate to have an excellent advisor (who is also my homeroom advisor) as well as other faculty members who are eager to assist me.
Julia: I was looking for a lot of AP offerings and Honors classes. Also, our old school didn’t have any chemistry classes, so I was really excited to take chemistry (and I absolutely loved it). I’m also doing an Independent Study in Russian History with one of my favorite teachers, and it’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything, because I get to do self-guided work and study topics that interest me personally, such as the Russian Constructivist style of art.
What has surprised you most about Randolph?
Lauren: I was surprised to find that Randolph is exactly what I needed in high school. It has an incredibly caring environment, and I’ve found so much support from teachers and students alike. The community aspect of Randolph has been welcoming because there’s no chance for a student to “fall through the cracks” as the adage goes. The advisory system brings students from different interests and friend groups together in a way that allows for connections to be made that we wouldn’t have otherwise. There’s also a certain feeling of trust and gratitude here that we didn’t find at our former school. I’m grateful to be here every day because of the independence I have to manage my own schedule and free periods, because of the strong relationships I have with teachers, faculty, and friends, and because of the opportunities I get here that I can’t find anywhere else, opportunities like Interim and Senior Speeches.
Julia: There are so many things I could say here, but I’ll hit the highlights. I feel so at home here. Our community is tight-knit, and it honestly feels like a family. So, I guess it’s no shock that I was most surprised by the trust in our community. The Honor Code is a big deal here, and that means we can leave our belongings unattended without fear of anything being stolen. I once saw a $10 bill lying on the ground, and everyone just walked by and left it on the floor, and that’s when I realized how special the trust in our community is. I’ll also say that we’re surrounded by a lot of love and support in the Upper School, and I always feel encouraged to do my best work. I have a huge support system of teachers, advisors, college counselors, mentors, and friends that makes each day at Randolph a joy.