Senior Spotlight: Ember P. ‘23
February 24, 2023
Congratulations to Ember P. ‘23, who will be enrolling at Wesleyan University in the fall! In this Senior Spotlight, we discuss Ember’s passion for telling queer, and especially trans, stories through film, what she wrote about for her IB extended essay, and what she’s most looking forward to about the college experience.
When did you come to Léman?
In Kindergarten – so this is my 13th year.
What extracurricular activities are you involved with? What do you enjoy most about them?
In terms of extracurriculars connected directly to Léman, I’ve mainly participated in the theater productions. I was on the crew of the mainstage production of “Pippin” in my Freshman year, I was part of the cast for “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” in my Sophomore year, was a part of the cast for “Chicago” in my Junior year, and am back on the crew for “The Prom” this year. I’ve also been acting in the One Act Play festivals since I was in 6th grade. In terms of activities outside of Léman, I was a member of the Scouts BSA from 6th grade until I aged out this year, and have also been participating in the Brooklyn Youth Music Project (BYMP) Orchestra since freshman year as well.
What do you love most about the theater experience at Léman?
It’s hard for me to point to something I find the most enjoyable about theater at Léman. I love acting, so that’s my core reason for doing it. But obviously it’s also a great community experience. And a lot of the teachers involved are people that I’m pretty close with, so that’s also a big factor in why I’ve kept doing it year after year. I think my fondest memory is probably the Main Stage production of “Chicago” from last year. It was a slightly insane and hectic experience, what with entering the cast as a minor character and ending up at the last minute one of the principal roles. It was my first time being a cast member in a production of that caliber and intensity, and while it was really difficult, I had a great time.
What would you say is the biggest lesson you will take with you from your time at Léman?
Léman is a place full of incredibly privileged people. Some of them are aware of that, and some are not. If there’s something I’ll take with me, it’s that I should always be checking my own privilege. People don’t want to be around those who don’t.
As a current IB candidate, can you tell us what you’re writing your extended essay on?
My extended essay is on the existence of the Nuclear Deterrent and its effects on the way people (particularly Americans) perceive wars. The short version of my thesis is essentially that because Americans perceive nuclear weapons as a kind of “ultimate evil”, they are more willing to excuse and even enthusiastically support traditional wars, even though said wars have been incredibly destructive for millions of people. Or: “Why Americans hate the Bomb but love the Bullet.”
Working on the extended essay was definitely a bit of a bumpy road. You’re supposed to start working on a question and an outline towards the end of your junior year, but I was so busy finishing other assignments that I didn’t have time to even really think about my extended essay. Ultimately, I ended up not really starting until September of this year. So the biggest challenge was knuckling down and doing it.
The second biggest challenge was that my thesis runs counter to the general opinion on nuclear weapons and war, both historically and contemporarily. The nuclear deterrent is generally considered to be the underlying cause of “peace” (because we haven’t had any world wars since 1945 and I guess that counts as peace). So because I wasn’t really finding any research that directly agreed with me, the trick was to use the copious amounts of people disagreeing with me as a kind of proof that this was the general opinion and that said opinion was misguided. However, this actually made the whole experience a shade more enjoyable, because it wasn’t just rote copy pasting and quoting of random sources.
Congratulations on your acceptance to Wesleyan! What drew you to that college and what do you hope to study?
I was drawn to Wesleyan mainly by the community I felt there. This was because all the colleges I was looking at were very similar academically as selective liberal arts schools. I was going to get a good education no matter where I went, so I ended up really liking Wesleyan because I felt that I’d find more there than just academics.
There are a couple things I’m interested in studying at Wesleyan. The first is Film. I’ve been making movies and TV episodes since middle school, and up until recently I’d considered it more of a hobby than a passion. But following a lot of introspection, I realized it’s one of the types of hard work that I genuinely love to do. When it comes to film, I’m happy and excited to stay up all night editing or to head out into a snowstorm to get some shots. Film has also become a means of self expression for me. The film that I submitted along with my best friend Josh Weisman for the 2022 Léman Film Festival was about my personal experiences as a trans woman, and it’s easily my best work. It actually ended up winning the awards for Best Editing and Best Picture, which I’m quite proud of. I’m looking forward to going to Wesleyan to both get better at the technical elements of the craft, as well as tell more queer stories.
The other subject I’m interested in studying is Psychology. I’ve always been interested in how people’s minds work – why they think what they think, do what they do, etc. While my emotional reasons for doing it are perhaps not as compelling as filmmaking, I do find it incredibly interesting, and am planning on taking some classes on the topic.
What are you looking forward to the most about your college experience?
What I'm looking forward to most is meeting people, and specifically queer people. When I first visited Wesleyan's campus for a tour over a year ago, one of the first things I noticed was just how many of the students giving tours were queer. It immediately made me feel so much safer and more at home in a place I'd never even been before. Purely by statistics, there isn't really a very large queer, and especially transgender, community at Léman and sometimes that's felt slightly lonely. At Wesleyan, I feel like I'm going to be constantly surrounded by people who are like me, and that's a really good feeling.
Tell us more about your college application experience? What was it like working with the College Office?
The College Office was really great. My counselor was Ms. Ongna, who did a really good job, and was very good about dealing with the fact that I was constantly asking questions and scheduling meetings for things that probably could have been emails. She’s definitely one of the reasons I was able to get into my first choice school.
What advice would you give to younger Léman students, especially those who are about to embark on their own college application process?
Please actually work with your college counselor. They’re trying to help you, but they can’t if you don't do any of your essays or questionnaires on time.
What will you miss most about Léman?
The teachers, probably. I’m very thankful to all of them for my experience here. They’ve been very supportive.
Congratulations again, Ember! We can’t wait to see what you accomplish at Wesleyan and beyond!