Uncharted Territory: Student Spotlight Serafina Nieves ‘17

One day during her NOLS Alaska course, the only thing Serafina Nieves ‘17 saw ahead were “no trails, just little rocks that slid easily. They were covered in a field of snow.” The instructor was trying his best to be reassuring. He suggested that if someone slides, they should dig their elbows into the snow. Serafina was not ready for a challenge this intense. She said, “I was already at my limit. It had been raining and snowing, then there was some hail.”

As the last person in the line, Serafina was ready to traverse the tricky path. However, her step landed on a patch of ice, sending her down the mountain. Eventually, her momentum slowed when Serafina found herself stuck in a cluster of rocks. Serafina shared that this was “the most terrifying experience in her life. But, it’s also one of the best memories from that trip. I never thought I would’ve gone to Alaska, I never thought I would be on a mountain in the middle of a storm crossing a snow field. I’ve never felt that urgency.”

Serafina, a self-proclaimed “bossy” child, enjoyed teaching other people things and spent a majority of her free time making nature documentaries while misnaming animals. Originally from the San Fernando Valley suburbs, Serafina’s most recent move was to Camarillo, an agricultural town 45 minutes away from Ojai. She lived close to family and friends, something that made for many fun memories and adventures.

When coming to Thacher, something that remained very constant for Serafina was her passion for cello. Starting in the fifth grade, her cello studies have been essential in her life. Serafina shared that she particularly loves playing the cello because it is something she can do and “not get bored and not lose a sense of determination.” It’s one thing that she can focus on for long periods of time and still feel satisfied.

During her junior year, Serafina decided to partake in SYA Spain. Although some parts of her year abroad were difficult in terms of emotional well-being, Serafina reflected that the experiences were unforgettable and very different from Thacher in terms of viewpoints. Serafina shared, “I’m definitely glad I went. We talk about the Thacher bubble but it doesn’t seem that real and tangible until you’re actually out of it for a decent period of time.” She continued on to say that the people she attended school with at SYA held a vast array of different viewpoints, shattering the construct that most people feel the same way towards large topics. Coming out of SYA, Serafina feels that she is much more socially and politically aware than she was before.

Looking back, Serafina says she would tell her freshman self to “look to herself as a source of happiness rather than other people.” She describes this as something that “takes a lot of effort. It is really hard to know how to make yourself happy”.

She appreciates Thacher’s emphasis on being well-rounded and not solely focusing on academics. On that note, she wishes that the structure of the school was more organic, opposed to creating a task force or committee for each pending change.

In the near future, Serafina is looking forward to having a great time in college. As the first in her immediate family to attend college, this is unexplored territory that she is hopeful will be an amazing experience.