The Hartsbrook School

Alumna Profile: Elena Nietupski, Class of 2013 (HS)

What Makes Hartsbrook Unique?
Elena Nietupski found her Hartsbrook experience unique and life changing. She graduated from Hartsbrook in 2013 (HS) and most recently from UMASS, Amherst in 2016 with a major in theater. Looking back on her experiences at Hartsbrook, Elena points to the importance of Hartsbrook’s smaller class environment that enables deep class cmmunity bonding combined with a supportive, academic community. She believes these factors help shape students who will become adults capable of embracing life and its challenges. Elena also talks about the impact of shared experiences at Hartsbrook, such as class trips, positive experiences develop students who are willing to be adventurous, and to embrace new ideas and experiences that lead to creative and meaningful career paths.

The Impact of a Hartsbrook Education
Elena came to Hartsbrook in 7th Grade following earlier education in Montessori learning environments. Unlike the self-directed learning style of Montessori schools, Hartsbrook and its Waldorf educational approach encourage students to explore many disciplines. Elena notes that Hartsbrook’s approach is to acknowledge individual strengths while also encouraging each student to use these strengths in other areas. Elena is convinced that if she had gone on to a public high school, she would have concentrated in math, rather than exploring other subjects and career paths.

At Hartsbrook, theater, art, and music are encouraged and are also embedded in the curriculum throughout the K-12 program. Elena notes that incorporating the arts into academic disciplines encourages students to explore and makes a more wholesome student, one who is ready to embrace the world beyond academia. Elena says that Hartsbrook is the reason she has chosen theater (and its related disciplines) as a career path. She also comments that art, theater and music were continually encouraged within the curriculum as a way to keep creative energy alive in your mind. Elena highlights the importance of participating in Hartsbrook’s Exchange Program through which students live in foreign countries, usually in Europe, for three months. Traveling in Europe and living with Waldorf school families for three months provides a unique perspective on the culture and history of these countries in addition to language acquisition. Since many of these student exchanges are reciprocal, often students from a host family are able to visit their Hartsbrook families. Elena points to the lasting impact of these “home away” experiences, particularly her experience living with a host family in Germany while studying there as a 15-year-old.

Life Beyond Hartsbrook
Elena joined the theater program at UMASS Amherst, which is a multi-disciplinary program that prepares students to act but also to direct, to do set design and lighting as well as promotion, production, sound and costume design. Elena feels that participating in this program has enabled her to build upon and broaden the experiences in acting, theater direction and production that she had already gained at Hartsbrook.

Today Elena is branching out on her own set of theater paths. The skills that Elena has acquired at Hartsbrook and UMASS Amherst have prepared her to act in and to develop her own shows and production, a “make your own world” mindset that she credits to Hartsbrook. Elena is currently acting in a UMASS production of “Love and Information” by Carol Churchill. In addition, play-wright and actor, Brian Marsh, has enlisted Elena in taking on the lead role in “Remember Me, Nellie,” a one-woman 2 show about an early journalist, who was a proponent of women’s rights. Elena will be taking this show on the road to various schools in Massachusetts in the coming year, a process which includes in-class demonstrations and discussions based on this play. For her latest venture, Elena has joined Alex Kamb, recently of UMASS Amherst, to write, act in and film a script/drama concept within a 48 hour time span for submission to the 48-Hour Film Festival in New Haven.