It's the reason Sarah had attended three high schools by her sophomore year. Until Laurel, none of the schools felt right.
"I wanted to be challenged academically and socially," she says. "I wanted to feel passionate and motivated every day."
By her second year at Laurel, Sarah had become the leader of the a cappella group, wrote for the online paper, started the Israeli Culture Club, was elected co-president of the community honor council, founded a special needs awareness club and ranked in the top 10 percent of her class.
"People kind of laugh at me, but I think that whole eight-hours-of-sleep thing is just a myth," she says. "It's not the most important thing."
No, Sarah has more pressing things to do — like improving herself and broadening the opportunities available at Laurel.
"Sarah's leadership skills and concern for her classmates on every level make her a force in the senior class," says Elizabeth Harrison, co-director of the Upper School at Laurel. "As the founder of the Israeli Culture Club, she has shared an enormous amount of information with her classmates."
Another gap Sarah found in the student experience involved one of the issues she's most concerned with: the treatment of people with special needs. Because Laurel does not have special education classes, many of Sarah's classmates had never socialized with special needs students and, thus, had stereotyped ideas of what such children are like.
So Sarah, who has worked with the local Friendship Circle and Monarch School (for children with autism) for the past few years, started a special needs awareness club, with programs that students from Laurel and Monarch School could attend.
"It's important for Laurel kids to have the same opportunity to get to know these kids," she says. "It's important for us to be aware of what's going on in the world, outside of our classes."
Sarah hopes to have the exchange program up and running this year.
The senior isn't sure what the future holds, but she knows whatever she chooses to do, it will be motivated by her desire to make the world around her a better place.
"I want to feel that I'm not just a small, tiny person just going to classes so I can get an A so I can go to college and have a career," she says. "I want to feel that I'm working for bigger reasons."
12:00 AM EST
August 18, 2010