New College students spend a significant amount of time off campus and out into the world.
Speaking in front of a classroom of students is one thing. Telling jokes in front of an audience of strangers in a comedy club is another thing entirely.
But that’s what 10 New College students did for their January independent study project. Under the guidance of alumnus Ashley Strand ’96, an actor and comedian, the students spent a month creating seven-minute standup comedy routines.
Every day in the Black Box Theater, they honed their writing and performing skills, building to the show at McCurdy’s Comedy Club in Sarasota.
Second-year Haley Jordan would recommend the experience to anyone. “I feel like everybody should do comedy at some point in their life, even if you’re terrible at it, because it takes away this fear of public speaking, this fear of having attention directed toward you,” she said. “It’s also good to do something that really scares you once in a while.”
While many college students headed off to party spots in the Caribbean, some New College students opted for a less glamorous spring break destination: cucumber fields near Apopka in Central Florida.
Their two-day stay with farm workers was the culmination of a tutorial examining immigration, farming, social justice and more.
They stayed for two nights with a family from Mexico, and worked for a half-day in the fields. Cassandra Manz said she learned many things from the visit — the life of migrant workers, the problems immigrants face, the challenges to becoming a citizen — but most of all she learned how fortunate she is.
“Most importantly, the trip taught me about my own privilege: how lucky I am to have been born in the United States to two white American citizens, to never have had to worry about getting a driver’s license or having to drive without one, to not have to think about what kinds of lives my kids will have.”
Last fall, three New College students were among 40 statewide participating in College Leadership Florida. They spent six days studying public policy, leadership, community service and technology, and they met government, business and community leaders.
Once back home, students are required to design and implement a public service project.
The New College students attended thanks to former New College Board of Trustee Chair Bill Johnston and his wife, Betsy, who provided the necessary $2,000 per student. Johnston says the caliber of New College students makes decisions about support easy.
“Frankly, what excites me is your [New College] kids,” he said. They’re smart, interesting and interested. And those are the kind of things that turn me on.”
Student Saif Iqbal said the experience was an education in itself. “It’s changed the way I look at Florida,” he said. “This is one of the best states in America; it’s a very interesting and beautiful place to be. It’s opened my eyes to appreciate it for the place it is.”