By Madeleine Lee
Alums Grayson Lusk-Hussong and Eliza Oehmler take time to reflect on their respective gap years upon graduating St. Mary’s. Read about how they have made a difference and enjoyed themselves in the process.
In the last couple of years, a few St. Mary’s students have made the decision to take gap years, a choice to delay college a year after high school. Many people choose to travel during this time and possibly find jobs. Recent graduates Grayson Lusk-Hussong (‘17) and Eliza Oehmler (‘16), are extremely grateful for their gap year experiences.
Grayson Lusk-Hussong (‘17), lacrosse star, committed to play Division I lacrosse at the University of Richmond, but, in April of her senior year, she changed her mind. Grayson says, “I realized that’s not what I wanted to do anymore, and I didn’t want lacrosse to be my whole life. I also didn’t want to go to Richmond because it is so similar to everything I’ve ever known, and I wanted something different.” Because Richmond was the only school that Grayson applied to, it kept her from having the option of enrolling anywhere else, so she explains “I took a gap year out of necessity.” However, she adds, “I had always wanted to take a gap year.”
Grayson is now in Haiti working at St. Vincent’s Centre for Handicapped Children, where she has been since the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. Though challenging at first, after a couple weeks at St. Vincent’s she felt much more comfortable with the new culture, and now she is even able to understand some of French and sign language.
Grayson works in a kindergarten classroom as a teaching assistant, and she also plays after school with the kids who reside at St. Vincent’s. Grayson notes “I pretty much live with them and help them do whatever they need.” Additionally, she performs other tasks including writing a blog to raise awareness about St. Vincent’s and giving American visitors tours of the school.
When asked about her favorite part of working at St. Vincent’s, Grayson replied that “The children here have so many different handicaps, and I love to see how they work together to get through their challenges.”
Now attending Harvard University, Eliza Oehmler (‘16), took a gap year last year because of how Harvard’s waitlist system works. Eliza was assigned to the class of 2021, which meant that she had to wait a year to attend Harvard. To pass the time, she chose to take a gap year. She says, “taking a gap year was something that had never occurred to me, but I took it, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.”
Eliza had a very busy year after she graduated from St. Mary’s. She spent a semester in Brooklyn, interning on the research team at Hillary for America. After that, she interned on the research team for a Democratic National Committee in Washington, D.C. Additionally, she interned for Senator Tim Kaine in Washington D.C. during the 2016 and the 2017 summers. Eliza also managed to make time for fun amongst her busy work schedule, as she had the opportunity to take several non-working trips. She traveled to Barcelona, Hong Kong and around the United States.
When asked what her favorite aspect of her gap year was Eliza was unable to pick just one thing, but she does say, “I Ioved working at Hillary for America because I love New York, and it was the first time I wasn’t in school. I enjoyed meeting new people and working on the team. The whole year was unexpected.”
Taking gap years has shaped the futures of Eliza and Grayson, preparing them for college and helping them find things that they truly enjoy early in life. Mrs. Englehart-Thompson, one of the college counselors at St. Mary’s, says “Not all students are ready for a four year college experience at the same time. If a student wants to explore her interests, work, broaden her understanding of the world and other cultures, or serve other communities, a gap year is a good option. It can provide an opportunity to push out of one’s comfort zone and grow.”