One in Two Thousand: Jenny Roach ’18

Jenny Roach ’18 styles herself as somewhat of an enigma. From her love of Buffalo, N.Y., to her dreams of working in environmental education, Roach certainly breaks the mold. This week, the Record sat down with her to learn more about her life.

Okay. I hear you’re from Buffalo, N.Y.?

I am. I think Buffalo’s the best place in the whole world. Everyone should go there. People throw so much shade at Buffalo for no reason.  It’s the best place ever. I have a lot of Buffalo pride, but so does everyone from Buffalo. 

You worked there last summer, right?

I was in Buffalo last summer. I worked for Teach for America  (TFA) with Carmen Saab [’19]. We had ourselves a time. Yeah – it was great. Except for the fact that she thinks Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is better than Tim Hortons – I just really can’t. That’s disgusting. I love the Bills. I love Tim Hortons. 

What were you doing for Teach for America? 

We did a lot of staff work stuff. It was so much. I mean, it was great. It was the best summer, but a lot of printing things, running around places, doing organizational stuff for them. It was really cool. We know how the organization functions and how it can be very helpful in a place like Buffalo where there’s a ton of poverty.

Would you do TFA after you  graduate? 

I’m definitely thinking about it. I think after I graduate I want to teach abroad. That’s kind of my plan for right now, and then to come back. I think I want to be a teacher when I’m older … I don’t know. I’m a crazy person, so I actually have a 40-year plan. 

Okay, talk us through it.

Let me talk you through it. Little known fact – I’m crazy, not in the way people probably think. You called me an enigma. It’s true. Okay. Life plan. Graduate from Williams, hopefully. Go abroad and teach for a year or two, come back, possibly do Teach for America or some kind of teaching program. Okay, and this is where it starts to get a little wild. No one steal this idea, okay? I’m trademarking it. Then I go to teach at a science school or to Germany and study the Kinderwoods Program, which is basically where you send children out to the woods to learn in school. It’s not that unsupervised. It sounds really unsupervised – it’s not. I want to study that, and then my big idea is to figure out a way to integrate the Kinderwoods idea and outdoor education into urban environments – how you give low-income students access to environmental education, stuff like that. Yeah. I’m going to do that probably forever.

Can you talk about your study abroad experience?

Yeah, Chile was the best time ever. Let me talk about why I went. I think that was kind of surprising for a lot of people. 

That you were going to Chile and not Europe? 

Yeah. I took Spanish in high school. I had already been to Spain, so I knew that my parents wouldn’t be totally sold on that idea of me going back to Spain even though it’s obviously a vast country, and I had not seen remotely all of it. My dad was especially resistant to me going abroad, even to going to Chile because his thought process is basically, you go to the best college in the country, and you’re getting, theoretically, one of the best educations in the world, so why would you miss a semester of that? Part of me going abroad was I had to somehow prove that it was worth missing a semester of Williams, which I think it was. It was awesome. It was very social justice-y, so basically now I’m a communist. I don’t think communism really works in the real world, but on paper, I’m like, “communism.” I had to look up if people were going to be like, “Oh, this dumb girl thinks that communism is like, the plan.” But I do think it is! Okay, anyways. I don’t want to give you a whole history of Chile, but basically there’s dictatorship. The U.S. sponsored the dictatorship. Thousands of people died. It was horrible. The U.S. … ugh, okay. Anyway, that was really cool. We spent one week with an indigenous group in the north of Chile and two weeks in the south with a different indigenous group, so we got to see how those marginalized communities are affected by the way Chile functions. The big project that we do at the end is an independent study. My independent study changed a lot. I wanted to study environmental education in Chile, but there is none so you can’t really study that. Instead, I studied groups like Green Peace and how they function. The Chilean government’s pretty dysfunctional. Basically, my thesis was that even though the government is really dysfunctional, temporarily at least, that benefits the organizations. That was cool. Now I’m pretty fluent in Spanish. I’m hoping to go to Guatemala this summer. A friend of my sister’s is from Guatemala, and she did this program with this group called Safe Passage that does community outreach stuff and educational outreach for people in Guatemala City in this really impoverished area, so I applied for a fellowship. TBD whether I’ll get it. 

How’s lacrosse season?

Lacrosse season is great. I just love everyone on the team so much. I feel like I’m in a unique position because obviously everyone on our team gets along. I’m really lucky in that three of my best friends are on the lacrosse team, so I get to hang out with them all the time. Kate [Pattison ’18] and I actually are with each other for like 24 hours a day. 

How do you feel about our time left and everything?

I don’t know. Part of me feels like we still have so much time left. The fact that we still have half of this semester and a whole year next year – I’m like, that’s a lot of time. Also, it’s a little bit alarming that we’ve already gone through more than half of our college careers. I feel like the thing that makes me saddest is the idea of not being able to see all of my friends every day, slash whenever I want to. [However,] I always think that whenever you start to feel comfortable somewhere, you need to leave. Which is also part of the reason that I wanted to go abroad and also part of the reason I didn’t want to go Europe because I felt like even though I know that going abroad in general is very scary, I kind of wanted to avoid the safety net of being able to see my friends on the weekends and not being completely immersed in a culture. I was really, really, really scared before I went to Chile because I didn’t know anyone on the program, and I was like, “Oh, god. Are they all going to be weird?” But then I was kind of excited because I was like, “I’m kind of weird, so maybe this will be fine.” I like to be around people where you don’t have to worry about thinking about who you’re being, or whatever. You can just be yourself. Wow, I sound like such a cliché.

Do you know where you want to teach after college?

I’d like to go back to South America, mostly because I love speaking Spanish even though it’s really hard for me. You know how there are certain people who are so good at languages, and it just comes naturally to them? I am certainly not one of those people.

Do you have secret talents?

Secret? I can juggle. I have a unicycle that I can kind of ride. I had a dream of being in the circus someday. Sort of. Well, I still a little bit do. There was actually a girl in my WOOLF [Williams Outdoor Orientation for Living as First-Years] group who went to circus camp, and I was incredibly jealous, so Anna [Harleen, ’18], if you’re reading this… 

What would you say is a typical Jenny outfit?

Oh, so my aesthetic is Buffalo leisure wear. That is not self-ascribed. My friends gave me that aesthetic title. I always wear this Bills hat a lot. It’s my favorite hat. I also have a pair of bright teal Crocs. Also, I have these pants called Zubaz. They’re like zebra-striped pants, and they’re red, white and blue because those are the Bills colors. Sometimes my friends say I can’t go outside in them, but I do … And lacrosse gear. That’s the majority of things I wear – and sneaks. And the L.L.Bean backpack. Yeah. The L.L.Bean backpack, which I’ve had for like six years. L.L.Bean is probably one of my favorite brands, except for the fact that I have to give a little pushback to whatever Trump supports … grappling with that.