Stanbridge graduate and founder of DiverseAbilities at St. Mary's College
William Lane is a Class of 2012 Stanbridge graduate. He attended St. Mary's College in Moraga on a full scholarship where he pursued his love of history. But as you'll read, William's drive and determination wasn't limited to the classroom. In addition to completing his senior thesis a year ahead of schedule, William also sought out an in-depth internship as a research assistant, and founded a campus organization specifically for students with learning differences.
Below is an interview with William from 2016. In it, William talks about how he became hooked on history while at Stanbridge, gives advice to current students on finding support networks, and details how his initial idea of an internship "just making coffee" led him to a Civil War discovery.
in·i·ti·a·tive (iˈniSH(ē)ədiv/) 1. the power or opportunity to act or take charge before others do. 2. the ability to assess and initiate things independently.
Chances are, if you look up the word “initiative” in the dictionary, you’ll see a photo of William Lane. That’s because William, a Stanbridge Academy alumnus, completely embodies the word. From writing his senior thesis during his junior year to founding a club for students with disabilities, William has surpassed expectations.
After graduating from Stanbridge in 2012, William enrolled at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, CA and declared a major in history. “I was drawn to history thanks to a couple of really good documentaries and teachers at Stanbridge,” said William. “[Former Stanbridge teacher] John Montgomery is a major reason I love history.”
As part of his degree requirements, William was required to write a thesis. While some may have been daunted by the prospect, William completed his paper a whole year early. “It came about almost by accident. We register for classes on an electronic system and on that system the class wasn’t listed as senior thesis but as a research seminar,” said William. “Even after I found out it was a thesis class I decided to take it anyway. The professor listed for the class was an Asian history professor, and I knew it was a topic I liked.”
William’s paper is titled From enemy alien to model minority: the post internment rehabilitation of Japanese American, 1944-1974. “The question was: after internment, how did Japanese Americans go from being ‘the enemy’ to being ‘a minority’ in only a couple of decades?” said William. “Teenagers who had been interned were now being lauded as exemplars of the American dream. How did that happen?” William is currently in the process of submitting the paper to undergraduate journals in the hope of being published.
During his time at St. Mary’s, William has also delved deep into other American eras: he spent two summers interning with Professor Carl Guarneri, Ph.D., who is an expert on the Civil War. “I was looking for something to do over the summer, so I went in to see if I could help any professors,” said William, who joked that his pitch was something along the lines of 'I’d be happy to just make coffee; I don’t know how, but I’d be happy to learn.' “It was more than I could have ever hoped for,” said William.
Prof. Guarneri ended up asking William to be his research assistant on a project involving Charles Dana, who worked as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of War from 1863 to 1965 under the Lincoln Administration before going into newspapers. “I looked through some of his war time correspondences, and I did my own private research to confirm one my private suspicions: that he had been fired,” said William. “That’s how we knew it was time to switch from The Chicago Republican to The New York Sun.”
William’s drive also extended beyond the classroom. During his junior year at St. Mary’s (while he was writing his senior thesis), he took it upon himself to found the DiverseAbilities Club. “DiverseAbilities is a club for St. Mary’s students with disabilities and non-disabled students who are in solidarity– known as allies,” said William.
Among the organization's earliest bookings, DiverseAbilities brought Susan Henderson of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) to speak on campus. “This is something we hoped to do for awhile, and it’s finally happening,” said William. “This event means we’re a functional group, that this isn’t a pipe dream.”
In the summer of 2016, William worked even more closely with DREDF during his internship. In addition to digitizing old files, William is most excited about the prospect of doing youth outreach and “advising the law firm how to best reach out and work with youth with disabilities.”
Despite all his success, William is humble and says he never would have achieved so much without his post-Stanbridge support network. “I found that several of the Stanbridge teachers had connections with St. Mary’s and [my family and I] also got in touch with the parents of people on the spectrum who’s children went to St. Mary’s and asked for advice,” said William. “Maureen [Zane] in particular helped prepare me and pave the way for me to go to college.”
William says one of the main things that attracted him to St. Mary’s was its supportive environment. “Make sure you’re going to a school that knows how to work with people with your disabilities,” said William. “When in doubt, ask for help.”
Banner photo courtesy of St. Mary's College