Letting His Life Speak: William Henderson ’22 Shares 5 Ways SSFS Has Made a Difference
William Henderson ’22 isn’t one to shy away from a challenge. TORCH Clerk (Sandy Spring Friends School’s version of student body president—he also served on the Middle and Lower School’s equivalents), four-year varsity soccer player and senior captain, Admission Ambassador, and repeat conference delegate while at SSFS, his sights were set on an Ivy or Ivy-League-caliber school. Thanks to the personal attention and support of the College Counseling Department—which, he says, is “really good at matching students to the schools that fit them”—the William & Mary (W&M) sophomore is soaking up all that college life has to offer, including pursuing his involvement in student government.
A passionate alum, he’s all too happy to break down how his SSFS experience is helping him reach potential he didn’t even realize he had.
I felt supported in—and ready for—my transition to college.
William credits the College Counseling Department with expertly guiding him through the process of college admission. “When I was trying to make an informed decision, they focused me on the question, ‘Where will I thrive and make an impact?’ They always kept me as the highest priority.” But the support didn’t stop there.
“Chris [Miller P ’28, Director of College Counseling] and Candice [Ashton, Associate Director of College Counseling], who I got to know well through my work in Student Government, the Black Student Affinity Group, and the Quaker Youth Leadership Conference, not only connected me with people who had recently been through the college application experience, but people who attended the school I chose, like Olivia Murray ’17. Lauren Mossman [P ’35, Director of Advancement], who also went to W&M, was really helpful and spent a lot of time talking with me about the school. Candice and Chris also had speakers come in to talk to us about the college transition, specifically—including what to anticipate from the freshman experience and how the things we learned at SSFS would substantially serve us in college—so I knew exactly what to expect.”
I learned to be independent and a self-advocate.
While SSFS fosters collaboration, there were plenty of times, says William, when he had to work things out on his own. That lesson—the value of self-reliance and independence—has served him well in college.
“Being able to choose my own schedule at SSFS, for example, prepared me for the many choices I would face in college. The way we interact with our teachers and peers at SSFS was really helpful, too—that experience has made my interactions with my W&M professors much more collaborative and supportive rather than hierarchical. Calling teachers by their first name [the Quaker-inspired practice at SSFS] gave me the ability to feel like I was forming a connection on a personal level more quickly and naturally, and it made me more comfortable asking for assistance. I wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to professors as freely as I do if it weren’t for my time at SSFS.
I also learned how to advocate for myself. At SSFS, teachers and students have a mutual understanding of expectations. As a result, here at W&M, I can speak up at times when I need an extension or understanding about a hiccup I may be facing that day or week. In college, you’re your own best advocate. Even the trips and study abroad opportunities at SSFS helped me to feel comfortable just being away from home.”
I feel comfortable taking risks and
exploring multiple disciplines.
A likely Psychology/Sociology (globalization emphasis) double major, William doesn’t hesitate to explore other W&M classes that spark his interest, like kinesiology, ethnomusicology, Africana studies, economics, and political theory.
“Because SSFS really encourages going outside of your comfort zone—I took weaving, acting, and engineering—I was exposed to so many different things in high school and learned how to draw interdisciplinary connections. So, I feel comfortable going outside of my main disciplines at W&M. Also, I felt prepared academically and emotionally, understanding that not knowing something isn’t the end of the world.”
SSFS fostered my focus on making people
feel accepted & included.
Enrolling in SSFS in the fifth grade—not a typical entry year—might have been a difficult adjustment for any student. But William still remembers feeling accepted and included, from his very first day on campus. He cites his 5th Grade homeroom teacher, now Middle School Humanities Department Head Kiki Vargas P ’21, ’24, as helping to ensure a smooth transition; he frequently grabs lunch with her when he’s back in town. The support he felt at SSFS led him to seek out a similarly warm college environment in W&M, an “inviting, embracing community,” he says.
“If you had told me at the start of fifth grade that I would quickly become so invested in the SSFS community, I wouldn’t have believed you. Right from my first year, SSFS was an open, exciting, vibrant community. I did things I didn’t expect to do, like serve as TORCH Clerk. It seemed so grand, but I feel like I handled it with grace and composure, even during the pandemic, which wasn’t easy. All these experiences led me to want to make others feel just as accepted and included. I want to be an advocate for others and supportive of those around me.”
I’m not afraid to seek out leadership roles.
Little did William know that his role as TORCH Clerk would be a training ground, of sorts, for future leadership roles at W&M, fueling his readiness and desire to take them on
“I’m on the Student Assembly, which is W&M’s version of Student Government, so I can be a voice for others. We have a similar focus to SSFS when it comes to belonging. Our motto is: Who comes here, belongs here. I’m the leader of my residence hall, as well as an executive board member of the Black Student Organization on campus. Last year, I was appointed to a highly selective role as a President's Aide, serving as one of a small group of student advisors and consultants to President [Dr. Katherine A.] Rowe and keeping her attuned to the emerging needs and diverse experiences and perspectives of students during the academic year. Although my term as President's Aide has ended, I still interact with President Rowe on a close level as she appointed me to be the sole student advisor to The Collective—W&M’s Diversity and Inclusion advisory board (made up of executive vice presidents, deans, and senior administrators). President Rowe also appointed me to serve as the sole undergraduate student advisor to the Campus Comprehensive Plan.
I also help with the Offices of Admission and University Advancement, all while keeping a crazy academic schedule. But there’s encouragement at W&M to focus on depth over breadth and not spread ourselves too thin. I’m proud that I have solidified myself as a campus leader. I’m definitely fully invested in my various roles; I bring passion, dedication, and—like SSFS, which finds unique ways to showcase the interconnectedness of the SPICES [Quaker values of Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality/Equity, and Stewardship], experiential learning, and traditional learning—a little quirkiness to everything I do.”