Williams School student is a leader and a mentor
New London — She may have a quiet demeanor, but people who know her say Sydney Swann of New London is the kind of student that leads by example.
Swann, 17, is a recent graduate of The Williams School in New London. She capped off her seven years at the college preparatory day school on the campus of Connecticut College by being named a 2021 Dr. Martin Luther King Scholar, one of just 13 seniors from the region to be awarded a $20,000 scholarship.
That was just one of her many accomplishments. Swann has not only excelled academically, but immersed herself in what she describes as the school’s rich performing arts program.
A dancer since the age of 3, she first started participating in middle school productions and by the time she reached high school started choreographing and directing.
Bo Parish, the director of dance at Williams, described Swann this way: “Elegant, yet tough, Sydney is more than a dance student, she is a dancer who loves the art form and all it has to offer. She jumps right in, with a fearless sense of exploration, a dedication to proper technique, and a deep dive into the meaning behind the movement. Sydney has an open mind and a resolute sense of integrity and steadfastness.”
Swann choreographed and served as the assistant director for Compchorea, a production that involves student-composed music and student-choreographed dance performances.
“It was a chance to learn more about choreography and teaching a whole cast of dancers and what it’s like to be part of a student-choreographed piece,” she said.
Swann also has performed leading roles and ensembles throughout her time at Williams.
Swann is also a mentor. She has been the head school ambassador to new students since her junior year, giving tours and sitting on panels for prospective families coming to Williams.
“I remember when I started at Williams, I was extremely nervous. It’s nerve wracking coming to a new school," she said. "I kind of want to make sure there is someone there to guide them ... with whatever they need help with.”
Whether Swann is directing a performing arts event or sharing her snack break with her middle school mentee, Assistant Head of School for Enrollment and Communications Sharon Gaudreau said Swann “exemplifies a wonderful spirit in the Williams community.”
“From the day Sydney stepped on our campus, she has embraced every opportunity to learn and grow, while at the same time caring about and helping others,” Gaudreau said.
Mark Fader, Williams' head of school, said Swann “embodies Williams’ core values — scholarship, character and community — so well, she has been such a tremendous role model for our middle school students through her leadership in Compchorea and as a student director of the middle school production.”
Swann, the daughter of Melvin and Patricia Duzant-Swann, grew up in New London and attended St. Joseph School before heading to Williams in sixth grade. She credits her parents, “the most encouraging people in my life,” with providing her with a path to success, having always been there to support her in whatever she chose to do.
In the fall she is headed to Boston, where she will study journalism at Emerson College. She has a passion for writing and hopes to make that into a career.
In her free time, Swann volunteers at Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford.
Asked whether the pandemic impacted her high school experience, Swann said Williams maintained in-person classes more than most schools. She was home for much of her sophomore year, however, and doesn’t recall that time as a highlight of high school.
“I learned that getting ready and going somewhere affects my work ethic and productivity,” Swann said. “Personally, I hate distance learning. A lot of people look forward to it because they can stay in the comfort of their room. I found it was a lot more difficult to focus on classes ... and just have that motivation to get work done.”
Like most things, Swann said it was a lesson learned.