☰ Alumni Spotlight: Leela Marie Hidier

Alumni Spotlight: Leela Marie Hidier

Posted on: March 18th 2024

Alumni Spotlight: Leela Marie Hidier

Name: Leela Marie Hidier 

Attended Norfolk House: 2009 - 2016

At 19, Leela Marie is already an award-winning published author who was recently honoured at the White House for her climate social justice advocacy. We spoke with Leela to hear about her time at Norfolk House School, how it contributed to the person she is today, and to find out about her journey post Norfolk House.

What are some of your earliest memories at Norfolk House?

I will never forget how welcomed I felt when the wonderful teachers greeted me at the front gate each morning; the joy that came walking through the Muswell Avenue building, seeing my peers and teachers; the curiosity as we dived into new subjects and discovered new worlds in our classrooms. Something I remember fondly about Norfolk House was just how passionate teachers were about the subject they were teaching and, because of that, how excited students were to learn. The classrooms were always brimming with creativity and curiosity. 

From a very young age, Norfolk House made me feel nurtured, supported and inspired.

What were some of your fondest memories?

There was always something new and exciting to do every day at Norfolk House School whether within the four walls, e.g painting pop art portraits, dressing up as book characters for World Book Day, indulging in delicious foods from around the globe on International Evening; or beyond.

Some of my fondest memories were the longer trips we embarked on in the older years. They were such epic adventures to go on at that age, whether that be abseiling at PGL, camping for the very first time in the Bushcraft woods, or travelling to France and immersing ourselves in the language and culture of the country.  

My Year 6 was a transformative year that I treasured. It was the year when I cracked open from my shell: starring as Violet Beauregarde in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and being a part of the Student Council. And to complete my Norfolk House experience, I received the Headteacher Award; I remember this honour being a wonderfully emotional way to say goodbye to such a wonderful school and begin the next chapter in my story. 

How would you describe Norfolk House and your experience as a pupil?

I always felt that Norfolk House was not just a house, but a home. I truly treasured that tight-knit community, the relationships I fostered with my peers and teachers, and the memories I made that allowed me to grow into the person I am today. At NH I always felt seen and heard. I was a part of a very special community. Though it was a small school, It also made me feel a part of something much bigger in many ways, too. 

How did you feel Norfolk House prepared you for your future? 

In Year Four, I had the amazing Mrs. Bolton as my teacher. When I had fractured my right arm, I arrived at school the next day and told her what had happened. I can still see the moment she saw me there with my arm in a cast, the way she smiled and to my surprise said: “Well, I guess you're going to have to learn to write with your left hand!”. And so I did! It took me much longer to write or draw in art class but it taught me perseverance and determination and, most importantly, how to turn obstacles into opportunities for learning, growth, and discovery. Something I continue to do through my work and advocacy. 

What has your journey been since leaving Norfolk House?

In 2017, my family moved to the US and we settled in beautiful, brilliant, beloved Maine. 

During the pandemic, I began to journal—taking note of all the silver linings during these difficult times. I also spent more time outdoors, which deepened my love for the natural world and also sparked an interest in climate activism. I bridged together both of these elements when I applied for the Young Emerging Authors fellowship. I was over the moon to be accepted to this rigorous year-long program where I wrote, revised, and eventually published my award-winning debut novel Changes in the Weather. This story is told through the perspective of four teenagers displaced by climate change, coming of age in a world and time of uncertainty. By turning statistics to stories I hope my novel evokes empathy and the urge to act upon these climate justice issues and all their interconnected social justice issues, too.  

After Changes in the Weather came out, I was invited to guest speak/read/teach at climate conferences, community centers, high school classrooms, libraries across Maine, and even the state capitol. And this year, my activism work took me all the way to the White House where I was one of 15 girls across the nation honoured by the First Lady and the White House Gender Policy Council for the first ever ‘Girls Leading Change’ celebration at the White House. It was truly inspiring and incredibly surreal to be there and to be recognised on that national level for the work and the change I'm leading. You can follow us on Instagram: @girlschangingtheworld23.

What are your future plans? 

I'm currently on a gap year working for local literary, environmental, and educational nonprofits. I am working with organisations who are doing such incredible work from publishing youth writers to ending child hunger, to building belonging through immigrant/first-generation books.

I am also in the process of drafting my next novel and a children's book, too. I want to continue to use my art as a form of activism to be a part of the solution. And I want to use education as a way to pay it forward and to help others find their voices in these overwhelming and crucial conversations. I hope to become an educator one day because of all the inspiring teachers and mentors I've had from Norfolk House all the way up until now. I hope I can someday be that teacher to someone—one who makes such a positive difference in a student’s life.

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