Sydney Welch '16

Describe your path since graduating from Portsmouth Abbey School.

The Abbey opened my eyes to the possibility that the world was bigger than what I knew. I had a few experiences abroad at the Abbey that really defined my path since graduating in 2016. When I left the Abbey, I was concerned about not finding my stride like I had on Cory’s Lane. I continued on the Lourdes pilgrimage every year since my first trip in 2015 (except this year due to Covid), and that experience introduced me to people who really gave me the confidence in myself and in my faith to embrace the opportunities that arose in college. My freshman year at Arcadia University I got involved in The Arcadia Public Art Project, which seeks to implement works of public art within the school’s community and that project really shifted things for me. I participated on the team of the Public Art Project for 2 years and painted two murals with renowned muralist David Guinn. Junior year, I went abroad to Spain for four months and Italy for five. During that time abroad, I started to see that the world, again, was bigger than what I knew. I met people with energizing ideas about creativity and unique perspectives that I had never considered. I started embracing all this inspiration and thinking big.

When I returned home for my senior year of college, I was invited to sit on the steering committee of The Arcadia Public Art Project, now collaborating with the mentors I had worked with just 2 years prior. I simultaneously began working on my senior thesis about Leonardo Da Vinci and the Salvator Mundi painting. All of these experiences shifted into and inspired my biggest accomplishment yet, writing a book. The Art of Collaboration focuses on harnessing collaboration to reach creative success. I began writing it this year, and it will be published in December 2020 and is available on Amazon. It also features some Abbey alumni! Aside from working with the book, I am also teaching 12th-grade special education at Mastery Charter Schools in Philadelphia and pursuing a certificate in Special Education through the University of Pennsylvania.

 

How did your experience at Portsmouth Abbey School help you become the person & professional you are today?

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about my formative experiences at the Abbey is AP Art History. Prior to taking that class, I knew virtually nothing about the art world, and I had no idea that class would shape my entire path moving forward. I graduated from Arcadia University in May with a Bachelor’s in Art History and a minor in religion, and the reason I chose to study Art History in college was Mrs. Micheletti. My book was even inspired greatly by Leonardo Da Vinci and the Italian Renaissance workshop. I knew nothing about any of that until Mrs. Micheletti’s class. The way we learned to look at art changed the way I looked at everything. All of a sudden, I found myself questioning the intention behind creativity and inspired by subtle details that often go unnoticed. Just one class and one great teacher can really shift things for students and the Abbey is full of those types of classes and teachers.

Then, of course, I love the annual pilgrimage to Lourdes. Anyone who knows me is probably rolling their eyes… I never stop talking about this. My first year in Lourdes really changed the way I thought about God, the world, and my place within it. I made friends from around the world and started experiencing faith in a way that I never had before. I questioned the role of God a lot prior to my first pilgrimage, but my first year in Lourdes gave me this clarity that I struggle to explain. That clarity plays a role in my faith but also in my day to day life. Lourdes reinforced a lot of the spiritual lessons I learned at the Abbey and that annual pilgrimage keeps me connected to the Abbey in a really special way. Every year, in the south of France, I get to meet some rising sixth form students and share a really profound week of practicing our faith together. Traditions are such a big part of life at the Abbey and something I really appreciate. Things are constantly changing in the world, especially this year, but awaiting these special traditions gives me hope to get through the uncertainty.

 

What is a piece of advice you’d give to current Portsmouth Abbey students?

Something truly unique about the Abbey is that community and those traditions. When I began writing my book, I reached out to some alumni for help, and they supported me immediately. It really energized me to connect with alumni from all different years, and all have stories and experiences in common. As a young emerging professional, I knew exactly where to go to find support in my professional endeavors. There is a network to tap into and a community that has your back. When you graduate, don’t forget that you are still part of that community, if you want to be. I take great pride in being part of the Abbey community and love connecting with friends and alumni, sharing stories and traditions, and of course, collaborating.

Your potential for experiences at the Abbey is limitless. Take advantage of everything that resonates with you. Opportunities will come your way that frighten or intimidate you but lean on the support the Abbey provides, and step into that discomfort. Someone once told me “no growth happens in your comfort zone.” When I think of all the ways the Abbey forced me out of my comfort zone, and then look at how much growth followed, it’s really amazing. I emulate my teaching after the teaching I received at the Abbey. Be grateful to your community and teachers, because you might not know it now, but they are shaping your future!