Sean O’Rourke

Photo+courtesy+of+Wesley+Works.

Photo courtesy of Wesley Works.

Ari Bowman

Following four years of rigorous coursework and the completion of an AP art portfolio, Sean O’Rourke plans to attend the University of Pittsburgh. After a tough decision over whether he wanted to pursue the arts or science, he decided he will begin his major in digital narrative and interactive design this fall. 

Stinger: How would you describe your high school experience overall? Positive, negative? 

O’Rourke: I would say across the board my high school experience was pretty good. I feel like if 12th grade wasn’t, you know, if the pandemic didn’t hit…it would have been a fantastic year. 9th grade kinda sucked. I was not quite ready for APUSH, and I got like two hours and 30 minutes of sleep every night. 10th grade was a bit better. I was getting more accustomed to stuff. 11th grade was great even though I moved up to all AP classes, it was like one of the best years. I’d say 8th grade still edged it out because I was at Moravian [Academy] and I had known people there for like 8 years, but it was really shaping up; I was making friends, I’d been there three years, I finally learned how to use a locker. We went to Disney. Just in general, I even got horribly sick during 11th grade, and that kinda set me back in some classes, but even though that happened I was doing well. I feel like 12th grade would have been a good year had it not been for the pandemic. I feel like in general [my experience] was positive. 

Stinger: How have you changed since freshman year?

O’Rourke: I definitely learned how to work smarter and not harder. Like for APUSH specifically, that was one of the biggest learning experiences I had. Reading and writing down everything in the chapter just took such a long time, but after a while I learned she only quizzed on basically like titles of books and other things like that, and that cut my note taking time to like, a sixteenth of what it was. There are some more obvious things too, like I got therapy, and got diagnosed with gender dysphoria and transitioned. That’s a little bit of a change. You know, changed my name, all that fun stuff. I also learned more about what it takes to have a job, and how a lot of art jobs require you to know the Adobe suite, which makes me glad that I’m taking digital fine art. If I could do one thing over again, I probably would have tried to take digital fine art 1 in like, 9th or 10th grade, and then digital fine art 2 and 3, because I really could have used all of those classes.

Stinger: What clubs and activities were you involved in?

O’Rourke: I was in the art club for a little while, my big thing was, in 9th grade I was in the drama program and I went into the costume design thing, and that kinda ended up being disappointing, because I did nothing in there. I was tasked with dressing a guy along with someone else, and then the guy ended up being able to dress himself. I was kind of misinformed, I guess, about what the costume design thing would be. I thought it would be making costumes, but the costumes were already made, I was just tasked with dressing people who could already dress themselves, so most of the time I just ended up doing my homework. In the art club, we made pieces for school dances. It was nice because my friend Deo was in there, and I got to spend some time getting to know some people and make art pieces and stuff like that. Recently, I was in Latin club, which is very fun. Of course it’s virtual which kind of sucks, but it’s a nice way to stay connected with Stra and all the other Latin kids and in general it’s just a very relaxed club. For a while, I also took art classes at the Baum School, and in 10th grade, I started karate. I also took some extra college classes at Northampton [Community College] last fall, and I’ve also taken some classes at LCCC, which allowed me to skip math this year. 

Stinger: What were your favorite classes and who were your favorite teachers?

O’Rourke: For my favorite classes, I really liked AP Lang with Mr. Gavin, he was absolutely fantastic. I loved that. It was really nice to have a break from all of the reading in english, and do more writing. It was a really nice change of pace for an english class, also Mr. Gavin is a blast, he would poke fun at people at times in a joking way, and in general he’s just really funny. Really nice, too, especially since I have autism, so I would ask him for advice sometimes on social things and he was really encouraging. The reason I took AP Lang at all was because Mr. Gavin did a presentation in my english class, and I realized he had painted nails, which I thought was really cool. That and hearing him talk about the class made me want to take it. Also, I really like Mrs. Soboleski, I’ve had her for 3D foundations, AP art history, and now digital art 1. In general she’s also a very amicable teacher. She’s super nice and relaxed and easy to talk to, and the class dynamic is really good. She also knows about the art business which I appreciate. I would also definitely say Stra Shimmel. She’s really amicable, social, worried about what the class feeling is like, you know. I really like how she’s up-to-date on the state of education, like new methods vs old methods, she really seemed to have a passion for teaching. I actually had her do my college recommendation letter, alongside Miss Furry who I had for AP World and AP Euro. 

Stinger: Do you have any advice for underclassmen?

O’Rourke: Yes. One thing, I think I said this before, if you have APUSH definitely learn how to file down your notes. Don’t copy down every single thing from the chapter, you will get no sleep and your life will be miserable. Another thing is, I’d recommend taking AP World before AP Euro. That’s what I did and I just thought it was better, because World was a much more general course and Euro was a more specific course. Especially if you have Miss Furry for both, you can learn her way of teaching and get accustomed to it, and then you can step up with Euro, which I think is the harder class. More generally, I’ve found that while mock interviews and things like that for career readiness are sort of helpful, it’s much more helpful to go on job websites like Monster and Indeed and see what specific careers require for you to work in them. It’s very helpful to do early because you might realize that every single job you’re interested in requires specific skills, and you can then learn those over your high school career. Another thing, talk to your counselors. They are there to support and help you. Also, if you don’t get a parking pass for the senior lot and you want to park on Pine Street, you have to be there at 6:30 in the morning to get a parking spot. I usually did my homework in my car for an hour. It’s the only way to get a spot there. 

Stinger: What will you and won’t you miss about EHS?

O’Rourke: Well, let me start with what I absolutely won’t miss. I will not miss having to be at my first class by 7:23 a.m., I won’t miss waking up at like 5:45. Oh my goodness I will absolutely not miss those things. Besides that, I feel like there’s a lot that I will miss. I’ll miss having my friends, but I’ll also miss in general just the teachers that I met there. I’ll probably miss the guidance counselor, like how you can just walk up to them and ask for something. I will also miss the programs and pathways, like with how the art program has so many different options there. In general I’ll probably miss AP classes, it’s really nice to have that GPA boost and that’s not something you really have in college. Other than that, I’ll miss having my friends live so close. At Moravian, it was definitely not like that. And obviously at college, there’s like dorms and stuff, but that’s not the same as living next to your best friend’s house. Like with my friend Deo, I’ve basically become a member of their family. But yeah, I’ll just miss living that close to people so we can all come together easily.