Friday, July 25, 2014

A graduate’s love letter to Da Vinci

By Malerie Beck

Dear Da Vinci,

It’s been three years since we first met.

Three years, filled to the brim with laughter, hardships and important advice.

My days with you started out long, but grew shorter and shorter as time went on, until one day I blinked, and realized that our high school years were through. And here I am now, writing this letter, not as a goodbye, but as a thank-you.

Thank you Da Vinci, for teaching me that we all have more in common with one another than we may think. Thank you for showing me how to find the good in people.

We’ve gotten to do so many projects together. Some even managed to have an impact on my life’s perspective.

The C-SPAN documentary project, where we made a documentary about poverty in our community, was one of those. The interview with a homeless person that we conducted was powerful. Because of it, I have found that my perception of the homeless has changed from being one of confusion, disgust and fear, to being one of sympathy, curiosity and even respect.

Your project-based learning has that sort of impact on a person — it forces them to get inside an issue, event or person, and see it from both sides.

When I first began high school, I didn’t know anyone, yet you welcomed me with open arms and made me feel like I belonged. You have taught me a lot these past few years, Da Vinci. Although I hadn’t realized it at first, many of the things I do now are a reflection of you — calling “nose goes,” when I don’t want to be the one that has to type notes for the group, listening to the song “Let It Go” every Friday, because someone claimed it to officially be “Frozen Friday,” or saying “Happy Birthday” to Eli on every day except for his actual birthday.

Southwest Airlines, known for its sense of humor, was quoted saying: “A fun atmosphere builds a strong sense of community.” I believe this to be true, and it’s all thanks to you, along with Mr. (Scott) Bell and Mr. (Tyler) Millsap, that the balance between work and humor was a natural part of my day.

You have also shown me that my opinion does matter as much as everyone else’s. You’ve shown me that putting yourself out there and giving your input are key ingredients to working well with a group. It is important to let your voice be heard, and to listen to others as well, since everyone in the world knows something that you don’t. I know that this skill will be a valuable one in college, especially during the many class discussions in which I will be participating.

As you’ve probably noticed, too, Da Vinci, the community we’ve been surrounded with is one-of-a-kind. Getting a chance to work with nearly everyone in our grade gives us the opportunity to learn people’s strengths, and then allows you to help that person to flourish.

I’ll always remember having to write that play about the stock market as a junior. We had no idea what was going on, yet we somehow managed to pull it off. That’s one of the most vital things you have taught me: to push forward even when you’re unsure of the outcome, because things will always work out in the end. I even ended up learning quite a bit about script writing, as well as the stock market.

Being adaptable is another key trait that I absorbed from you, especially from the veterans history project. Even though our group already was assigned a war veteran, there was some mix-up with the veterans, and our group ended up getting assigned to do three interviews, instead of just one.

Going with the flow was actually quite stressful that time, but I’m glad we did. Acclimating to the situation ended up working just fine. I have gained the vital skill of adaptability, so I know that I’ll be ready for whatever the future holds. I may even be ready to run for president, since I now know how to create a political party, thanks to Hail to the Chief.

When I first met you, I had no idea you would be so important to me. So many times in my life, I have been asked: What does Da Vinci mean to you? When this question is prompted, a million thoughts and images instantly flash through my mind. I have to pause, as I think of the people you have introduced me to, the projects we have done, and the infinite number of times when I’ve wished that our days together would never end.

But then I realize that the person wants an answer, and that their curiosity won’t last forever, as nothing really does. So I speak from the heart when I say simply, “Da Vinci means the world to me.”

1/83rd of the Class of 2014

P.S.: I love you.

— Malerie Beck is the winner of this year’s Da Vinci essay contest and will be attending St. Mary’s in the fall.

Special to The Enterprise


Discussion | 12 comments

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  • anonJune 24, 2014 - 5:50 pm

    Pushing forward when you don't know the outcome is generally TERRIBLE advice... like, the type of advice that gets people around you killed in a lot of industries

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  • anonJune 24, 2014 - 6:00 pm

    I'd want to tell this kid, go to college, meet people from other areas of the united states and then reflect on your experience at Da Vinci, this person hasn't had the cane of reality burned from underneath them yet... and,, I'd hate for something I wrote in highschool or anything written prior to turning 25 to become some identifying characteristic that the public at large would then associate to my identity as a person; I think there's a clear picture that around 25 is when our brains begin to enter a state that we collectively identify as allowing us all to easier be an "adult". 18 is still the period of the Ego right, the ego is how we find our true identity, according to the case study philosophy of Freudian psych, right? Just saying because, she hasn't really lived long enough to justify her conclusions has she? Isn't she going to be making this some self full-fulling prophesy? Or is this how we're suppose to raise children now?

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  • Alexis BartonJuly 01, 2014 - 8:07 pm

    Da Vinci, just like high school for every individual, is an experience that shapes and affects you as a person. I felt that Ms Beck was very eloquent in describing how Da Vinci has shaped her - she explained characteristics and skills that she gained through her time at Da Vinci. Things such as adaptability, critical thinking, a sense of humor, determination, and an ability to express oneself are traits that will only serve Ms Beck, and other Da Vinci students and graduates, well in all of our futures.

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  • Ann MoylanJune 29, 2014 - 6:09 pm

    I am the parent of a 2013 Da Vinci graduate. I believe my child would have written a very similar essay upon graduating from Da Vinci and would stand by it today. I would like to make two brief comments prompted by the essay and the response from Anon. 1) Learning by doing -- "pushing forward when you don't know the outcomes" -- is indeed one of the best ways for learning to take place. It puts the student in the driver's seat, so to speak. Sure, it is not an appropriate way to learn how to handle dangerous equipment one may come across in some industries, but it is generally an excellent approach for learning many skills, expanding one's knowledge, deepening one's understanding, and enhancing the integration of learning. 2) I believe that one does not have to be 25 to know if an educational environment was a good fit for them. Sure, perspectives may change with time, but for the most part, what is best for us is what was appropriate at that point in our development -- that which allowed us to feel affirmed, to flourish, to want to continue our education. From all indicators, this is exactly what Malerie experienced at Da Vinci. I join Malerie in thanking Da Vinci for providing a place of acceptance and belonging, and a place of growth for many. And thank you, Malerie, for so eloquently putting this sentiment and your beautiful examples into words. Congratulations on your graduation and best to you at St. Mary's!

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  • Katie WynneJuly 01, 2014 - 7:31 pm

    Thank you Malerie for sharing this essay with your community. As a proud member of the DV Class of 2011, your essay brought a smile to my face because I know that our school is still the supportive community it was when I attended. As someone who will complete undergrad next year (from a university across the country where I have been exposed to a multitude of different people from a variety of backgrounds), I still consider the lessons I learned at Da Vinci (all of which Ms. Beck eloquently described) to be vitally important to my endeavors after high school. Best of luck at St. Mary's Malerie! This DV Dino has your back!

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  • Michelle Felmlee-GartnerJuly 01, 2014 - 8:16 pm

    A wonderful essay that perfectly reflects the Da Vinci experience. As a fellow DV alum, and a senior at St Mary's, I applaud your writing. I can't wait to see you in the fall at St. Mary's.

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  • Brandon (BD) RogersJuly 01, 2014 - 8:44 pm

    Undoubtedly one of the best essay's written. The type of character to place words like that means only one certainty; that DV has shaped her character in to a real mature person. One who can speak from her heart and show the true colors that Da Vinci really offers to their students. As a DV alum I couldn't agree more, that because of the atmosphere and real-world connection DV gives its students, I too have become a far better person than I would have if i would have gone to a normal public high school. Thank you DV, and thank you Ms. Beck.

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  • Atlanta Olivia ParrottJuly 01, 2014 - 9:47 pm

    First I would like to thank you for writing such a wonderful letter to one of the greatest loves of my life. As a proud member of the DV class of 2010 I will return to your words should I ever forget exactly how I feel about my high school. Second I want to remind you that if you wrote this letter from a place of pride and contentment with the time you spent at DaVinci then you are obviously doing much better than any rambling naysayers out there who clearly don't understand. One of the best lessons DV ever taught me was that if it feels right to you, run with it. I am proud to know that this school helped raise me and continues to raise such incredible, eloquent, and meaningful individuals such as yourself. Congratulations on graduating, know that you have one of the very best foundations for a fruitful life. And (not to speak for everyone) but we've got your back!

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  • Rachael deVriesJuly 01, 2014 - 10:13 pm

    As a member of the DV class of 2011, it warmed my heart reading this Malerie. Da Vinci has thought me so many things that have helped me succeed and excel during college and as I am beginning to set the foundations for my professional career. The drive and passion and persistence to pursue my eduaction and my goals is something I have gain from my time spent at Da Vinvi and is something thy has contined to allow me to succeed on my path to accomplish my dreams. Without the skills I obtained at Da Vinci I would be no where near as qualified or as prepared for applying to medical school as I am now. Malerie I'm so glad your experience at Da Vinci was a fantastic one, much like many of the other Da Vinci students. Congratulations on graduating and welcome to the DV alumni family. I know that your college experience will be once of great success and enjoyment.

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  • Addie BeckJuly 01, 2014 - 10:32 pm

    I transferred to Da Vinci as a senior (class of 2011), and to this day, now as a senior in college, I can honestly say that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I strongly disagree with the anonymous commenter's belief that a recent high school graduate is too young to reflect on her experiences. High school is most often experienced *by teenagers*; why should they wait until they are "25" to reflect upon it? Everything Malerie outlines in her letter-- learning to work with a variety of people, listening *and* speaking your mind, taking risks-- are valuable skills for any person to learn, regardless of age. The type of learning that Da Vinci encourages applies to college and the "real world" in the most direct way possible, and if Malerie's letter is anything to go by, Da Vinci students are keenly aware of this. I am so proud of my sister. Congratulations, Malerie!

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  • Elizabeth ConantJuly 02, 2014 - 9:27 am

    I graduated from Da Vinci in 2011 and, while I am not yet 25, I have had many experiences in college, the work world, and abroad which have given me some perspective on how Da Vinci has influenced my life and will continue to do so. As I continue to grow farther from my high school self and experiences, I recognize more than ever the positive impact which Da Vinci had on me during very formative years. In immersing myself in a new culture and become fluent in a second language after high school, the ability to persevere despite confusion and misgivings was the single most valuable skill I had. I am grateful to the projects which Malory so eloquently describes for giving me the confidence and adaptability to do so. While working at internships, I am comfortable with presenting the professionalism, work ethic, and competence which I learned from working closely with my peers. These abilities have given me an enormous leg up both in seeking opportunities and succeeding at them. Most important to me, however, has been the community aspect of Da Vinci which is woven throughout the subtext of this essay. Like Malory, I found a community at Da Vinci which was characterized by support and kindness from the people around me. Thanks to Da Vinci, I learned that this sense of community is not only possible to find, but imperative in deciding what I want to be a part of. I have let this lesson guide me in all my choices since graduating and I know that I will continue to do so as I make decisions for the next steps in my life. Thank you to Malory for reminding me of the emotions I felt when I graduated. I’m sure that you will continue to look back to this time in your life with the same profound thankfulness and fondness that I have now.

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  • Elizabeth ConantJuly 02, 2014 - 9:28 am

    *Malerie haha I should know that

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