Homeward Bound: Davyn Horton Reflects on Life with Laurel Springs School After Coffeehouse Performance
Davyn Horton performed his original song, “Home,” at the 2021-2022 Laurel Springs School Winter Virtual Coffeehouse event.[/caption]
This has been my home for so long // I wish that I had more time // But for now I’ll have to leave it and walk away // But not before I send one last goodbye. — Lyrics from “Home” written by Laurel Springs School 12th grader and student ambassador Davyn Horton at our January 2022 Winter Coffeehouse.
Davyn, 18, a Laurel Springs pupil for five years, sang homage to the community he has been a part of. He joined 21 fellow performers, putting himself out there on the virtual stage. It’s not an easy thing for Davyn to do. Not at the Virtual Coffeehouse event, and not for all the years leading up to it.
As graduation nears, Davyn shares insight into his experiences since joining Laurel Springs: at first intimidating, perhaps at times overwhelming, always fulfilling, and now bittersweet as the dusk of his time as a student approaches.
Leaving brick-and-mortar behind
Davyn hasn’t set foot in a school building for a decade. Formerly a resident of Indiana and now living in Texas, he has been in some form of online schooling since his elementary years. His two younger siblings also spent time in virtual school, though more short-lived than their eldest brother. While they have since moved on to other school settings, Davyn says the benefits of an online environment are plentiful for his goals and learning.
Being an autistic person (as Davyn prefers to be referred to), Horton explains, having the ability to control where and when he learns allows him much more latitude than the traditional learning environments he was in before Laurel Springs. It was a long time ago, he says, so he doesn’t remember all of the hurdles he faced. He does know, however, that they existed, and the impacts were so profound that he and his parents recognized that change was paramount.
When asked if he were up for sharing some of his experiences with online schooling as an autistic student, Davyn agreed, noting that he recognizes the positive impact his experience may have on others.
“There may be someone out there who wants to hear a story like this,” Davyn says. “And that’s all they need to just switch on whatever’s inside of them and say, ‘if Davyn can do this, I can do it.’”
Before Laurel Springs, Davyn struggled with social skills. He switched to online schooling provided as an extension of the public school system in Indiana, and social opportunities went from plentiful to minimal. It was a big change, Davyn recalls, and it took time to get used to it. When the family moved to Texas and was told that he had to spend a year in the brick-and-mortar public school building before joining its virtual classes. It was then that his family found Laurel Springs School, and Davyn made the decision to consciously put forth the effort to thrive academically and socially.
Limitless social and academic learning
“Admittedly, it was probably a big risk for me,” Davyn says, remembering when he first decided that social growth in an online environment was a priority. “Not having that much of a track record in doing good socially and making those choices for myself. So I was definitely taking a big risk. But it was one of those situations where the big risk ended up turning into a very big reward.”
Davyn admits, it took a bit of time to feel comfortable enough to give social opportunities a go. Once he did, he flourished. Davyn became a part of the Student Ambassadors team and helped launch the Student Government’s Autism Awareness Project last April—something he feels is one of his biggest accomplishments to date. Laurel Springs, he says, didn’t have any projects, groups, or programs related to the autistic community.
“Being autistic myself, I saw the opportunity to say, ‘Let’s start doing this. Here’s how I want to do it.’ And the rest is history,” he says.
The Awareness Project will commence again this year, Davyn says. However, it will now be known as the Acceptance Project. He is happy to see conversations happening that are so significant to him. For autistic students to thrive at online schools, he explains, there must be opportunities for them to explore leadership, peer connections, and new subjects while still being able to “be who I want to be.” He also credits the educators, staff, students, and families within the Laurel Springs community who encourage and make space for that to be possible.
“Teachers and parents have to work a little harder to make sure their kids have more social opportunities,” Davyn says. “I can understand how the faculty and especially the Laurel Springs senior leadership have to work a little harder to really nail that, which I can appreciate and respect.”
In the last five years, Davyn says he has found a second home at Laurel Springs. He’s explored new subjects, found lasting friendships, challenged himself, and overcome challenges from one day to the next. Davyn says he is so happy he could sing—which is exactly what he did at this year’s Coffeehouse Performance.
Davyn Horton shares it feels good to be home
Davyn, a lover of musicals and screen soundtracks, is newer to songwriting than he is to music. He’s enjoyed singing covers of his favorite artists and tracks in the past (Olivia Rodrigo and the Hamilton score are at the top of his list), but during the pandemic he was looking for something to occupy his time.
He began to explore songwriting and, in turn, himself. What he found was that covers (like the one he performed at a previous Coffeehouse event) are easy. Taking away the layer of protection added by singing someone else’s words is not. Davyn was ready to put that emotional vulnerability out there for the world to see at the most recent Coffeehouse with “Home,” the original song he wrote detailing the emotions of graduating and leaving the Laurel Springs community.
“I see it as a lot more emotionally personal than admittedly anything else I’ve ever done,” Davyn says. “So it was really very nerve-racking.”
Davyn explains that he has always struggled with being nervous about what people think.
“I always think about what the public perception is going to be,” he says. “How is it going to be perceived? Is it going to give the feel that I want it to? I just never know how it’s going to go at the end of the day, and then to see that the positivity comes when you do stuff like that definitely is reassuring in the long run.”
And the positivity did come when Davyn shared “Home.” He received praise after praise from students and Laurel Springs faculty for the performance, something that came as an unexpected but delightful surprise. In a world where hobbies and talents are increasingly put under pressure to become competitive or monetized, Davyn protects his singing and songwriting as “just about creating something enjoyable for myself and others.”
“Singing is my own little bubble and escape from everything that is going on in the world around me, the things that are happening both here and on the other side of the globe,” he says. “I really have needed that escape.”
Currently, songwriting and music are not Davyn’s primary objectives for post-Laurel Springs life, but he knows they’ll always be a part of him. He plans to pursue a journalism major in college (where he is going—he says he has an idea but prefers not to share until the decision is official). He is also working on two novels, one science-fiction and one with a coming-of-age theme and musical element.
And while Davyn will soon leave Laurel Springs behind, the world stretches far and wide in front of him. He is amazed by the community of people he’s spent five years with, he says, and it “will be bittersweet to graduate and see friends for the first and last time, especially with how much heart and soul I’ve put into everything.”
That’s another product of the last five years, the opportunities to connect with people. … That’s something that I cherish, for sure.”
We cherish you too, Davyn!
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