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.