Summer may be the time for taking it easy—reading, relaxing, reconnecting with friends—but Sumaya ’26 wanted something a little different. (Though she probably would’ve been reading anyway.) Now a first-year student at Commonwealth, she first discovered the school through Dive In, our academic enrichment program for middle-school students. Coming from Roxbury for six weeks each summer and on Saturdays throughout the school year, Sumaya immersed herself in Commonwealth-inspired classes and activities, building new friendships, a sense of independence, and even a healthy appreciation for uncertainty. Keep reading to learn more about her.
Getting to Know You
What is bringing you joy right now?
Reading! I just read Colleen Hoover’s book It Ends with Us and the sequel that just came out. Most of the time, I’m reading books or comics. One of my favorite books is the Percy Jackson series, because I’ve always loved the Greek gods.
What is your favorite book (or a book you’ve re-read)?
Every Last Word, by Tamara Ireland Stone; I read it in eighth grade, and I wrote about it on my Commonwealth application. My friends gave it to me. It’s about a girl who is going through a hard time with her friends and mental health. She ends up finding more about herself and coping with help from a friend and poetry.
What are your favorite comfort foods?
I love to eat everything! I recently started eating sushi. There are so many sushi places near me that I didn't know about before, like Tori Japan. So now I love sushi, especially shrimp tempura rolls.
What was/is your favorite class (at Commonwealth or elsewhere)?
History, probably because [the teacher] Ms. Budding was also my advisor! At the beginning of the semester, I was a little lost, but now it’s my favorite class. We had been reading pieces from the five books of Moses, but the class was less about religion itself. Some texts were almost poetic, and it's really interesting to me how these ancient people have so many rules and beliefs that are still important today.
What never fails to make you laugh?
A show called Animaniacs. When I was little, me and my siblings would watch it whenever we got back from school. Even if I rewatched it twenty times, I think I would still be laughing from beginning to end.
When do you feel most connected to other people?
When I'm having a one-on-one conversation with a person, about something deep and personal. It doesn’t have to be about something we have in common—it’s just about being open to each other.
Pen or pencil?
Coffee or tea?
Fall, winter, spring, or summer?
Spring into summer, when it's prettier, greener outside, and getting warmer. It’s the best.
The Dive In Commonwealth Experience
What led you and your family to Dive In?
My brother had been going to Alexander Twilight Academy, which was founded by Annie Weinberg. She's amazing, and she said, “Oh, you should try to apply for Dive In Commonwealth.” I was hesitant, because I had never been in a summer program that would take up a lot of my time like that before. It did, but I loved it! The first summer was the best. I couldn’t wait for the next day and the next day.
What was your Dive In experience like?
Well, we had math and English, but these weren't typical classes; we would get to know the teachers, and they would actually talk to you in a way that helped you to understand better. In English, I was amazed by Mr. Samblas. He’s so articulate! And he never asked us simple questions for simple answers; he helped us understand texts on a deeper level. On Saturdays [throughout the school year], we read a lot of poetry; I actually know what to look for now in poems.
The Dive In math classes also really helped me at my middle school. I used to be confused in math in school, but then it was like, “Oh, I did this with Mr. Letarte!” and I had a better way to understand and solve problems.
I would still be nervous about homework sometimes, but I really liked all the activities they had us do. The first summer there was a lot more actively exploring the city, and we did some little lessons. The second summer was a lot more academic, but I liked that even more than I expected. The majority of the time we were doing English and math, but we had some other classes like history and theater. Those were awesome. And we did a mural with [local artist] Rocky Cotard. That was really nice, and it was balanced with having social time with our friends.
Life as a Commonwealth Student (and Beyond)
What made Commonwealth the right next step for you?
You know, I was hearing about all these other schools, and they definitely had a lot to offer, but Commonwealth spoke more to me because I know they take academics seriously here, but they also care about you as a person and finding yourself.
I think Dive In was a perfect preview of coming to Commonwealth. If I hadn't come to Dive In, I probably wouldn't have expected so many discussions in school. And I felt like I knew coming in what I was going to be learning here. I felt comfortable.
What has your freshman year been like thus far?
Having an advisor has made everything a lot easier for me. It's really easy to talk to her about what I'm struggling with. She’s teaching me how to manage my own time, and we’re working together on my planner.
How do you spend your time outside of school?
I spend a lot of time with my family—my mom, my siblings, my dad. I always have aunts coming and going in my house, or I'll call cousins and we'll just stay on the phone for hours and hours doing homework together. My family has always been important to me, and I also have friends who are family to me. My neighbor and old classmate are my best friends, they’ve become big parts of my life.
What’s your advice for students considering Dive In and Commonwealth in general?
For students who feel like they're locked in a shell—I encourage you to step out and try something new. There's something about just trying things out or the activity itself that will change you, and you’ll wish you did it sooner.
It's okay to have worries, and it’s good to be okay with uncertainty. I never expected to do Dive In. I didn't know that Commonwealth was a school either. And now that I actually went for it [with Dive In and Commonwealth], and I learned so much about being independent, I’m happy I did.