Friends’ Central senior Spencer Thorne was recently awarded a full scholarship to Ithaca College as part of the Park Scholar Program. Spencer, who has been an FCS student since fifth grade, is an impressive videographer, athlete, and stellar student. He’s also an active and engaged member of the School community, using his well-known and considerable filmmaking skills to showcase student activities and as part of his community service. This spring, Spencer’s Senior Project will involve creating promotional videos for the FCS Admissions department.
The Park Scholar Program, as described on its website, is a “dynamic learning community that develops future communications leaders who engage critically, act globally, and perform ethically.” The program only awards 10-15 students with this prestigious opportunity each year and intentionally seeks students “who are passionate about the field of communications and community service and who thrive on academic and personal challenge.”
At Ithaca College, Spencer intends to pursue film studies and looks forward to swimming at the collegiate level. He recently signed to swim with the NCAA Division III Ithaca College Bombers.
We caught up with Spencer after hearing the great news to learn more about his time at FCS and his plans for the future.
You are on the swim team at FCS; how has that experience been?
ST: On the swim team, I’ve always been a prominent team member because of the skills I have as a swimmer. As I got older, a lot of the younger students looked up to me because I was winning races. This year has been such a treat. [He smiles widely.] As a senior, all the nervous freshmen are looking up to me. I go out of my way to help them, and I have a strong connection with the underclassmen. This takes away the nerves for them, and I do it because that’s what upperclassmen did for me.
Are there classes and teachers at FCS that have had a particular impact on you?
ST: The histories have been really good for me. I love history and seeing how it influences the present. Also, Emily Harnett ‘09 (English), Katie Dickerson (English), and Linda Quinlan (Math). These are all teachers who I feel took the time to know me on a personal level and not just as a teacher and a student, which at Friends’ Central happens. I’m sure there’s way more, but those three had the most positive impact on me.
You’ve made a lot of videos capturing student life on campus this year; how did those opportunities come about?
ST: It comes up whenever, during a conversation, I integrate myself or people will approach me. During community block, I overheard Ms. Snowden talking about the Black Students Forum, and she said, “I need a video of a fashion show taking us through the decades.” [Excitedly he continues.] As soon as I heard that, I said, “I want to do it. Let me do it.” I didn’t want it to just be another virtual COVID assembly. I knew that I could bring a cinematic quality to it.
You have your own company, Piploe Entertainment. Tell us a bit about that!
ST: Piploe Entertainment is almost a year old. It’s an entertainment brand that specializes in film, music, stories, and art. I hope to take it to college and grow it with each transition in my life. I think going to college will help with that, since I’m going for movie production and to be an entrepreneur. I want it to be a collaborative space where people with all of these random ideas come in and it goes through Piploe and then it gets released to the world.
What type of community service have you participated in at FCS?
ST: I did videography for Families Forward, the homeless shelter, for the Lower School Day of Service on MLK, Jr. Day. 2018 was the first one I experienced. My mom was helping with the event. She asked me to use photos from Families Forward to create a video, so I whipped something up and everyone loved it. The next year, I did the same thing, but I added a little bit of stop motion. Then, in 2020, I went into Families Forward, filmed an interview with the CEO, the staff talking, the hallways and pictures, and also integrated still photos. So each year was a progression in artistry. And I remember with the third one it really hit people because it was so powerful.
Do you plan to get involved with community service as a Park Scholar?
ST: I’m planning to work with Habitat for Humanity. With my experience with Families Forward, I’ve already been in that area in terms of artistry for that service. One of the current Park Scholars mentioned that we will be building houses as well. Learning how to do that would be pretty cool; it’s another form of art.
Any other plans for your time at Ithaca?
ST: I’m willing to go in and take every opportunity, and I think it’s going to be hard to stop me. I think I’m going to need to pull back some because everything will be there in front of me. Going in with what I want is good, but also going in and not knowing is good because I can fill those gaps in. Just through the application process, I found out I wanted to do the Bachelor of Science because it gives me more room to do a Business Minor. After learning that pivotal decision through the virtual application process, I can’t imagine what’s going to go down once I’m there.
What are you most proud of about your time at FCS?
ST: My proudest moment is more internal, but it has shown in external ways. COVID was a transitionary period for me. I was more introverted and reserved. I kind of still am, but I’m getting out of that place. My proudest moment at FCS was maturing to realize that I can be great. [He laughs.] I know that sounds really cheesy, but being introverted was the reason that at the beginning of high school I felt like I didn’t contribute to the community in a meaningful way. I’m proud now that I’m able to release senior class videos, BSF videos, baseball videos, and be a leader for freshmen who are nervous. The fact that I made it to this point – that’s what I’m proud of. I think that’s more valuable than a material file.
Any advice for FCS students coming after you?
ST: I’d say be your own person and don’t fall prey to outside forces that are trying to tell you what you should be, how you should think. [He pauses.] I say also with that, definitely have an open mind, because not all the outside forces are bad and they don’t mean it to be bad. So take in everything, but go off your moral compass and what you believe, and let that skew you in the right direction.
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