If the past couple of years have strained connections and isolated many of us, it is difficult to tell after a conversation with Keagan ‘17 and Kaylie ‘20 Tan. Those who attended Fay with either (or both) of them will remember the bond between these siblings as something really special. The past couple of years have not weakened that connection.
Keagan is now a sophomore at Oberlin College, majoring in sociology with focuses on comparative literature and East Asian studies. Back at Fay, Keagan had shared his interest in film with many friends and teachers, and he has continued to cultivate this interest at Oberlin and in his personal life. “I’m part of a small film production company with some friends who study at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. We made several films during the pandemic, and we plan to produce our first feature-length film by the time we graduate college.” Keagan explains why he chose to focus on sociology, rather than film, as his major in college: “Even though my end goal is still to be in the film industry, I’ve also become interested in trying to understand a little bit about how the complex messes of our modern world inform and affect us.” Keagan can’t say for sure how his study of sociology will change his films, but having always been a student of human nature, he knows that in the end, “great storytelling is informed by other fields.”
Thinking back on his time at Fay, Keagan sees it as a place that helped him understand people and the world better. He says he left Fay with “a more diverse toolkit to engage with multiple perspectives.” He says that more “diversity of thought” helps him “help others.” From Keagan’s perspective, it was the whole Fay experience taken together – “mentoring from teachers, friendships with fellow students, and the curriculum” that helped him grow.
As Keagan reflected on his own personal mission, he spoke about his journey to understand and help his peers understand the force of materialism in the world. For him, the gulf between justice and injustice has less to do with the “have and the have nots” than with each person’s relationship with money. “What drives our choices? What gives us meaning?”
Keagan’s sister Kaylie, class of ‘20, has a sense of mission just as strong. After a summer helping with vaccine clinics in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (the Tan’s home city), Kaylie has returned to Loomis Chaffee School, where she is currently in 11th grade.
Kaylie reflected on her time at Fay by first saying that it never really ended. “My friendships at Fay are lifelong,” she said, “from friends living across the hall at Loomis to friends in countries all over the world.” It is true that one of Kaylie’s best friends, Serena Chang, ‘19, lives right across the hall from her in her dorm, and they still represent a source of strength and safety for each other.
In thinking about her transition to secondary school, Kaylie spoke about the ways in which Fay helped her “manage freedom.” Many of the students who joined her at Loomis had never experienced boarding life and had trouble with the structure of the day and managing their own lives. Kaylie laughed, thinking back on Fay’s technology rules: “I actually take away my own phone for one hour every morning even now. It’s my ‘wellness hour.’”
Kaylie was quick to recognize the importance of Fay in her current life: “Fay is the core of my success,” she reflected. She thinks back on her developing love for photography - an art form she loves - and her confidence as a writer, both skills and interests she traces back to Fay. “The school helped me grow so much,” Kaylie adds, “building my confidence as a student and helping me understand the way identities shift and change as we grow.” Kaylie feels ready to face the world, and she is facing it with her characteristic joy.
In the end, for both Kaylie and Keagan, the relationships they developed at Fay are the true legacies of their time at the school. “Everywhere I go in the world,” said Kaylie, “there is a Fay person I care about.”