Talking With Stuyvesant’s “Fancy Dropout”

A profile of junior Theadora Williams who will be graduating this spring.

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This coming June, the Stuyvesant Class of 2020 will throw their college-decorated caps into the air outside Carnegie Hall. After the four-year journey through Stuyvesant, the moment will have finally come when all 850 students can officially declare themselves Stuyvesant graduates. This year, though, they will be joined by one solitary junior—Theadora Williams, who will be graduating early, having completed the New York State graduation requirements after only three years.

Williams chose to graduate early because of her potent antipathy toward high school, which she sees as an absurd bureaucratic system. “Over the summer I realized … ‘I can just graduate early.’ So I decided, screw this, and I looked at it and I only needed like three classes to graduate. I’ll just take those,” Williams recalled. “I cannot stand high school.”

However, there are some aspects of Stuyvesant that Williams does appreciate. She describes herself as a workaholic in a few classes, most notably English, history, and computer science. “I actually like doing lots of work. I’m probably to an unhealthy level a workaholic, but that’s only for classes I like,” she explained. In fact, having taken Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science during her sophomore year, she is spending this year filling her schedule with upper-level computing classes usually reserved for seniors and is currently enrolled in Artificial Intelligence and System Level Programming—two high-level, post-AP classes—and plans to take Computer Graphics next semester.

But Williams’ disinterest in many required classes and her dislike of the school system outweigh these benefits. “The problem is, there’s quite a lot of classes which I don’t [like], which the school requires,” she said. Furthermore, Williams “cannot stand the mindless bureaucracy,” referred to administrative figures as “a few stuffy people in suits,” and gave an overall impression of deep disillusionment with the high school system.

Williams did admit that there are some notable drawbacks to graduating a year early. “Well, if you graduate early, your sophomore grades tend to take the role your junior year grades would normally take. They’re the ones that colleges look at,” she explained. “I am somewhat doubly [EXPLETIVE] now because I have to look really good now as a junior and do college, as opposed to the seniors who did it last year and can just slack off now.” She has also dropped her Advanced Regents diploma, which would not have been necessary had she passed one more semester of Spanish. She did not want to pursue the Stuyvesant diploma: she noted, “Last year I decided to drop the Stuyvesant diploma after I realized it was worthless.”

Williams has made her plan and intends to hold to it, but it has not been easy. Perhaps predictably, given the widely-known experiences of students who attempt to drop the Stuyvesant Diploma, the administration has either ignored or stonewalled her. While her college counselor, Elizabeth Hughes, has provided some help, she relayed that the school has refused to put her on senior mailing lists, cutting her off from the information that has otherwise been deemed important or necessary for soon-to-be graduates. Members of the administration, however, took a slightly different view of the situation, saying that Williams has not approached them about mailing lists since September of this year and that they are unsure what crucial information she believes herself missing. Williams said that she is missing senior-specific notifications, such as updates about senior photos and senior dues.

“Well, I’m still trying to figure it out right now because no one in the school is telling me anything,” she said about the process of graduating early. “I have to do it alone.”

As for next year, Williams hopes to travel or study computer science before continuing on to college. “I do wish to travel [to] Europe, and Asia. Maybe South America. I can stow away,” she said. Another alternative is continuing to work at Yabla, which she described as “a local electronic language learning app. Kind of like Memrise, but we don’t get paid as much.” Williams acknowledged the risks of taking this step, explaining that “you have to be willing to accept the consequences” of graduating early, adding with both humor and resignation that she is not sure what exactly those consequences were.

At the same time, she discussed her future light-heartedly, even saying that she “had given some joking thought to joining the YPG,” using an acronym for the Kurdish independence army. The contrast between these carefree, off-the-cuff answers and her more serious plans, such as applying to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for software development, paints a picture of Williams as a unique character with an interesting future ahead of her, whatever it may hold.