Anais Ozer '17 attended Manhattan Country School from the 5-6s through the 8th grade. She graduated from Fieldston High School last June and decided to take a gap year. She has enjoyed several experiences this past summer and fall and her current path has been highly influenced by her time at the MCS Farm. Here are excerpts from our recent conversion.
What is your favorite memory of MCS?
I miss the Farm a lot. I have not been there since graduation. When I think about the Farm, I think about hiking and exploring with John [McDaniel]. We spent so much time at the lean-to, building forts, being with nature. It was my escape. Being at the Farm let me enjoy being outdoors despite living in New York City. It opened that up for me.
What led to your decision to take a gap year?
I worked a lot in high school and also, because of Covid, I needed a break. I didn't want to be stressed out and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do when I was applying to colleges. I decided to take a step back and figure out what I wanted to do.
How have you spent your gap year so far?
This past summer, I volunteered at the Jamestown Community Farm, a small community farm in Rhode Island that donates all of its food to food pantries. I continued on an agricultural path. I went to Bordeaux during grape harvest - cutting the grapes in September and October and then I shadowed the vineyard workers, checking vines and soil and going into tanks to see what they were doing with the grapes. This "ecolage" period is when all of the berries and juice are in the tanks and you see when you can separate the skins from the juice. I lived with a family in St. Emilion in the Bordeaux region, watching the kids, teaching them English and exploring.
After that, I went to Paris and lived with a family for three weeks to learn French. I knew I wanted to do something with food outreach or access, so I looked for volunteer opportunities in that area. I went to Brussels for three weeks helping with community outreach and providing food for the homeless and refugees.
What has been the most meaningful part of your gap year to date?
My work at the Jamestown Community Farm was the most meaningful. This small farm is run only by volunteers. I was an intern. There were four of us working on the farm. We were trying to find new ways to control the weeds. We would weed everything, lay down cardboard and mulch. It was very tedious but great to look back and see what we accomplished. It was great to go to all of the food pantries. Everyone was excited when we brought the food and wanted to see how many pounds of produce we could bring!
How has your MCS experience and education impacted you?
It's pretty obvious that MCS is the place that introduced me to agriculture, the Farm, systems, and the environment. Being on farms has been a constant in my life now, beginning at MCS. That has encouraged me to take this gap year and helped me figure out what I want to do for college and with my future. I look back on the farm and that was the best part of my middle and high school years.
From your perspective today, what do you think is the most valuable about MCS’ mission and program?
The Farm is very important. It teaches you a whole new way of learning. I had never been someone who found it really easy to learn things that I can take outside of the classroom. At the farm, everything you learn can be applied to the real world.
What are your plans for this spring and next year?
This spring, I'm considering taking more French lessons in France and "WWOOFing" [participating in Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms
]. It would be so interesting to see agriculture in different regions and countries and learn how they farm.
I was just admitted to Cornell's School of Agricultural and Life Sciences - the Class of 2026. This would not have happened if I didn't take a gap year. I plan to study nutritional sciences and food systems and minor in policy analysis and management in the fall.