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    Nova Alumni Story: Megumi Shauna Arai
    Posted on 07/08/2015
    This is the image for the news article titled Nova Alumni Story: Megumi Shauna AraiNova Alumni Stories: Megumi Shauna Arai

    Advisor/Coordinator: Mark Perry

    What was Nova like for you? What were the positive things about Nova?

    It was accepting; it was challenging; it was invigorating; it was flexible; it was loving; it was a catapult.

    What do you mean “a catapult?”

    When I came to Nova I wasn’t planning on finishing high school. I had dropped out, and I didn’t know how I was going to finish high school because I didn’t know how I was going to fit into the normal schooling system. It wasn’t that I wasn’t capable or good at school, but there were a bunch of different things going on, part emotional and home life, but also I knew what I wanted to do and I wasn’t interested in the other things. I was pretty stubborn about that. So Nova gave me the opportunity to still be a teenager, still be a kid, and have a high school experience, but one that I could have more ownership over and more room to explore the things I felt passionate about.

    What resources were important or crucial for you?

    The biggest resources were human connections. I wasn’t especially tied into the student body because I was a transfer student, but I had great educational relationships with my teachers, who really made me think and made me really interested and involved in what I was learning. That sort of guided but self-directed learning really proved to be helpful in college and later in life in general, especially what I do now.

    Where did you end up going to college?

    I went to Bennington College in Vermont. It’s a very small private school for the arts. I went for photography and philosophy.

    It was a good jump from Nova?

    Yes, it was the only school I applied to because it was a bigger version of Nova.

    How did you integrate your love for photography with your studies at Nova?

    I was very involved with photography when I came to the school. Nova gave me a chance to earn credit for my work outside of school, including a program I did in New York. I also spent a lot of self-directed time at The Photographic Center Northwest.

    What are doing currently?

    I shoot editorial for an independent business in Seattle, which is mainly fashion oriented. I also freelance. I shoot music and album covers. I do portraiture and events. I also do more conceptual and art-based work.

    Do you have a website?

    What advice do you have for current Nova students?

    It’s hard to be in high school; it’s hard to be a teenager. But, you’re only a teenager once and it will go by pretty quickly, so try to get the most you can out of life and the resources at Nova. Have fun and find what you like and do that really hardcore.

    What advice do you have for someone considering coming to Nova?

    I think the most important thing about coming to Nova is being self-directed. If you can have any ounce of self-direction or discipline, Nova will catapult you. It will give you the freedom to do some really special things as a high school student. Freedom is awesome, but it takes a lot of responsibility. Come and talk to people and see if you make a connection with students or teachers. Find someone to connect to who help you with your studies.

    What was different about your teachers at Nova?

    Mark Perry was my advisor. He was the first adult I felt like I could say anything to. I could tell him honestly what was going on with me. I could talk about my home life and my studies. He was so compassionate and nonjudgmental. He really believed in me. The other thing is, I still remember taking Barbara’s Senior Lit class. There were guidelines, but there weren’t rules. I had a class where people really took things seriously. We had a level of discussion that was not typical of high school. We read difficult and complex texts, not so much the language, but the subject matter. We read all these books and had open conversations about what they were about. I remember walking out of class and being so excited about what we had talked about and what we were reading that I buzzed all the way home. I walked all the way home buzzing [makes buzzing sound].

    Interview by Benjamin Verdoes, 2014
    Photo courtesy of Megumi Shauna Arai