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Lessons in humility, monastic life among those CRMS seniors learn

Special to the Post Independent

When Sami Boyle left her home in Carbondale in March for a three-week apprenticeship with Food for the Hungry in the Dominican Republic, she expected to share her knowledge and experience, gained from living in a wealthy, developed country. But instead, as she told her fellow students and teachers at Colorado Rocky Mountain School after her return, she quickly found herself in the role of student.

“I am learning what it means to be humble, humble in the sense that I am an ignorant American girl,” she says. “There I was, thinking how I could help those people. They were the ones helping me in more ways than I could have ever helped them.”

Boyle will attend the University of California at Santa Cruz next fall.

Like 44 other CRMS seniors this spring, Boyle had a chance to learn about herself, as well as the world far beyond her usual classrooms, as part of a unique senior project that each student at the independent college-preparatory school must design and complete in order to graduate.

Senior Ben Taylor spent his senior project experiencing the monastic life at a Zen Buddhist monastery at Murphys, Calif. His typical day there started at 5:45 a.m., with alternating periods of 30 minutes of sitting meditation and two hours of working meditation, in which he completed basic chores like gardening or working in the kitchen. The entire day, including meals, was spent in silence, except for 10- to 20-minute guidance sessions. During those times only, he was allowed to ask the monks questions. “I’d definitely like to go back sometime,” he says. “It was definitely worthwhile.”

Taylor, from Carbondale, will attend St. John’s College in Santa Fe next fall.

Lissa Pabst, of Old Snowmass, spent her senior project in an academic setting, at the Wisconsin Primate Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

While there, she read 500 pages of primate research.

But the best part, she says, was the hands-on work. Her assignment, training marmoset monkeys to use their nesting boxes, entailed wearing surgical scrubs to prevent passing disease between humans and monkeys and required enormous patience. First, she needed to gain the trust of her nine-member marmoset family by sitting quietly among them and observing for days. She knew she’d made a breakthrough when the hamster-sized babies crawled up her scrubs to sit in her pocket.

She learned to draw blood from the tiny animals – large adult males barely reach a pound – and to determine whether the females were pregnant. While she was there, one mother gave birth to twins. Another, a member of the marmoset family she observed, is pregnant and due next month. “They’re naming a baby after me,” she says.

Pabst will soon return to Madison – not for primate research, but to study at Edgewood College, where she plans to study pediatrics, with primate studies as a fallback.

Three other CRMS students studied marine ecology and underwater photography in the British Virgin Islands for their senior project. Ashley Garton, of Gypsum, Sarah Bernstein, of Carbondale, and Mich Cotton, of Silt, helped run a 73-foot boat, under the guidance of the captain (Garton’s father). They cleaned the boat, set up dive gear, made repeated dives and studied a wide array of marine life, including parrot, butterfly, porcupine and angel fish, and coral, sponges and rays – and even a moray eel. Garton says a sobering moment during their project came while visiting a rocky island of tidal pools called The Baths. As they learned, slave ships used to stop there to bathe their passengers before taking them on for sale at market.

CRMS students embarked on senior projects both near and far. Becky Anderson and Megan Chadwick of Glenwood Springs worked at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Australia, for instance. Evan Meyer of Carbondale worked on the 10th Mountain Division hut system near Aspen. Rifle’s Michael Clancy learned about running a small lodge in the wilds of Alaska.

Carbondale’s Carl Cloyed studied photography with two accomplished photographers in Santa Fe, while Zoe Kimberly of Carbondale was the latest in a series of CRMS seniors to work with noted human rights lawyer Millard Farmer in Atlanta.

Other students improved their Spanish-language skills through Latin American travel and study, cared for racehorses in Kentucky, worked on a cultural documentary in Hawaii and photographed harp seals in Canada. They shadowed doctors in public hospitals in Guatemala and in Arizona’s Navajo country. They apprenticed with architects and artists, graphic designers and technology companies, lobbyists and ceramists; immersed themselves in the alternative community of Scotland’s Findhorn and in cultural studies in Japan; worked for a candidate in the California state Senate race; and helped set up the U.S. Open kayak slalom course at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in North Carolina.

Lauren DeWind, a Basalt resident who studied Spanish and taught English in Mexico’s San Miguel de Allende, spoke for many of her classmates when she said, “It was a great opportunity to be there. I grew a lot.”


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