ALUMNI PROFILES

Colin Eck

The following is an excerpt from the speech given by Colin at Remembrance Day 2019.

 

I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would one day stand up here and address another graduating class. I once sat exactly where you are, and this might shock some of you, and honestly, it’s pretty shocking to me, but it was almost twenty years ago.

I, like all of you, on Remembrance Day 2002, was excited to get on with a summer of fun after my time here at Radcliffe.

I attended Radcliffe Creek School in its early years. I thought of myself as a typical middle schooler. I liked playing outside with my friends, swimming at Betterton Beach, sidewalk chalking in the neighborhood, and (like most kids your age) was constantly embarrassed by my parents! Sorry, Mom and dad!

Though I thought of myself as typical, I knew I was somehow different as an individual. Before Radcliffe, I got picked on by classmates for things that I can now think back on and laugh about. I didn’t wear brand name shoes, my mom tried her best to cut my hair, and we had an ugly blue station wagon that didn’t open from the inside (and sometimes from the outside.) My grades were less than stellar, I was having a hard time focusing in class, I wasn’t raising my hand or completing my homework, and my teachers were frustrated. I focused a lot of my energy on trying to fit in, energy that could have otherwise been focused on understanding my schoolwork and trying to stay organized.

My family encouraged me and told me, they told me I was smart. They believed I was capable of learning and succeeding. I had done it before, just not consistently.

It was quickly understood that conventional teaching methods and standard expectations weren’t working for me.  I became increasingly frustrated and unsure of myself.

Though she is no longer the head of school, I would like to personally thank Molly Judge. After attending a few Radcliffe summer programs, she helped me identify my learning difference. She knew that I would flourish in a different educational environment. With her support, and through generous scholarships, Radcliffe Creek School became a reality for me.

At Radcliffe, I found teachers and staff who validated my experiences. Teachers who found a way to teach me the way that I learned. Teachers who were dedicated to helping students master themselves as well as the material. I learned how to structure things in a way that helped me succeed. This was the foundation that helped me to improve my self-esteem. I saw my successes grow in both my school and home life. I was doing great. And like all of you, I was prepared to move on.

After leaving Radcliffe Creek School, I felt empowered to expect success. I quickly realized that my high school experience wasn’t going to be the same as my experiences here. In fact, high school was really difficult for me. My classes were much larger, the curriculum wasn’t focused on individual learning styles, and the daily distractions were different. There were times I felt defeated and was unsure of how to proceed, but by applying the techniques I learned at Radcliffe I was able to break through the obstacles that I encountered. I had the power to stay organized and to achieve.

Radcliffe’s unique approach to education, and it's dedicated and caring staff, opened my eyes to a world of possibilities and changed my life completely. While I did not go on to college, I found myself learning through a range of interesting life experiences.

I took advantage of opportunities to work in several National Parks, travel the country, and gain valuable life and work experience.

Through these experiences, which were my first away from home, I was able to meet a variety of people from all over the world, not just the Eastern Shore. I realized as I met more and more people from varied backgrounds, that everyone is different in some way. There are probably as many ways of learning as there are people trying to learn.

This realization helped shape me into the person I am today.

Currently, I am the Food and Beverage Director for Rise Up Coffee, where I have now worked for seven years. My job duties are demanding. I oversee daily operations and a staff of over a hundred people in nice extremely busy locations. I am able to do my job well, in part, by having an understanding and appreciation of people’s differences and tailoring my interactions with both customers and coworkers based on their personal learning styles.

In my life, I have had setbacks and failures, but I always know that success is possible. I know that everyone faces challenges sometimes, but it is how we face those challenges that really matter.

It is an interesting thing how the passing of time gives you perspective. As you move on in your lives, you will realize tow things more and more:

    1st: Your parents look smarter to you the older you get.
    2nd: The time spent here at Radcliffe is of immeasurable value, It is                     truly
 a gift.

Take this gift you have been given and use it to be the best person you can be. Measure your successes in life by the effect you are able to have on others and on the world around you remember that- yes, you are different- but everyone is, and different isn’t bad.

 

Aaron Bramble

The following speech was given by Aaron at our December 2017 Alumni Gathering.

When Mrs. McClary first asked me to speak tonight, I spent a long time trying to write a nice, objective speech highlighting the merits and of Mrs. Judge and Radcliffe, and I failed miserably. I found the only way I would be able to make this work would be to speak anecdotally. So I hope that in telling my own story, I will be able to properly honor Mrs. Judge and the school.

 

When I was very young, I struggled with dyslexia. I was attending Kent School at the time, but I came to Radcliffe for tutelage to help with my reading and writing. Thanks to teachers like Mrs. McClary and Mrs. Holmes, and the creative learning styles encouraged by Mrs. Judge and her staff, I was able to overcome the negative effects of my dyslexia, and today reading and writing are not chores, but in fact, activities I do for pleasure. Those who believe that dyslexia actually positively impacts imagination and creativity might consider that for me it is now a gift, one that enhanced my life and that I use daily.

 

In fifth grade I was struggling with math at Kent School. There was no help to be had there, no flexibility or creative teaching. This led me to enroll at Radcliffe full time. Thanks to teachers that approached their students with patience and understanding, I passed math, and now I’ve gone so far as to pass integral calculus, which is pretty cool I think, and it’s because of the foundation provided by Radcliffe.

 

I went to high school at Gunston, a very reading and writing intensive school with an exhaustive curriculum. I often say that Gunston over-prepared me for college, but it was Radcliffe that prepared me for Gunston. It is because of Radcliffe that I was able to excel in an environment in which I likely would have failed otherwise. I hate to think of the opportunities I might have missed had it not been for Radcliffe, and of the opportunities other students may be missing because they do not have a school like Radcliffe and teachers who care enough to put extraordinary effort into their charges. Were you to ask around this room, I’m sure my fellow alumni would all have a story tell similar to my own.

 

And ultimately, we all have Mrs. Judge to thank. Her vision provided us with a safe, caring environment in which to learn and grow. She brought together a staff comprised of genuinely caring teachers who nurtured us and gave us the building blocks necessary to realize our potential, and who most importantly approached us with kindness and patience even when we could not do the same for ourselves.  The legacy she has built has helped so many students in some of the most important years of their development, and it will continue to do so. And so it is with much gratitude and praise that I ask you to join me in giving Mrs. Judge a big round of applause.

 

Chris Hickman

I started at RCS when I was very young. The specific reason I came was that I was having a difficult time reading and had a few behavioral issues in my previous school because I had ADHD. 

I graduated from Radcliffe in 2008. I’d say my favorite class was either with Mr. Hawridge or Mr. Gilchrest, who always made learning fun and I have lots of good memories from their classes. I also have some good memories doing the school play with Mrs. Bushby, especially one year when I played the Grinch when I was nine or ten years old. In high school and then college, I found a passion for literature, philosophy, and languages. In many ways, Radcliffe laid the groundwork and foundation for my high school and college years by helping me read more fluently. Radcliffe also taught me how to manage myself better at that time, even though I still spent a considerable amount of time washing windows with the janitor for the occasional punishment. 

After Radcliffe, I went to Blue Ridge Boarding School in Virginia, where I was class president for three straight years and then president of the student body. I graduated with a 3.6 GPA and received the Headmaster’s Award at graduation. I played golf all four years at Blue Ridge and then went on to play NCAA Division One college golf at East Tennessee State University where I got to travel around the country, even Hawaii, for four straight years. I had mostly European teammates, so it was a good exposure to other cultures. 

I had a successful college golf career, at one point being ranked 76th in the entire Division One and my World Amateur ranking got as low as 136 out of 6,000. I also had success outside of college during the summers, where I hold the record lowest aggregate score at the Eastern Amateur Championship, a big amateur tournament on the east coast. I also won the Delaware Open in 2014 and got mentioned in a New York Times best selling book How Champions Think, by acclaimed sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella, for being able to apply some of his principles and win golf tournaments with them. I graduated from ETSU in 2017 and now I’m currently playing professional golf on minor league tours trying to make it onto the PGA Tour. I’ve been a pro for about a year and have traveled to a lot of nice places to play events, including Canada and Mexico. This is great, because I love to travel. I’ve won three professional events on SwingThought tour and have played well in many other events. 

Currently, I’m preparing for the qualifying tournaments in the fall to get into the PGA Tour and European Tour. They both start in the fall and I’ll be playing near Normandy, France for my European Tour qualifying site, and Charlotte, North Carolina for the PGA Tour qualifier. I’ll be doing both these in September/October. My plans are to get on one of these tours and make a living as a professional golfer. I live on Saint Simons Island, Georgia, where I train and practice. I have a whole team of swing coaches and facilities down there to help improve my game. 

I would tell a family considering Radcliffe that it is great for the individual attention that most children need during adolescence to thrive in the classroom. I’d tell them the small classes are perfect for that and that Radcliffe is an especially good fit for a child with a learning disadvantage, like me. I had trouble learning to read when I first got there, but through lots of individual attention and effort, Radcliffe helped me learn to read. On a side note, right now, I read about a book a month for pleasure, preferably classics, and can read French and Spanish fluently. I’m currently reading Tess of the D’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy. All of this, for me, started at Radcliffe, because I wouldn’t have done well at many other places. I’m very thankful I went to Radcliffe. 

Max Reuhrmund

When did you start at RCS? Was there a specific reason you came, and how many years were you here?

I enrolled in Radcliffe Creek when I was in the second grade after attending Kent School where I was diagnosed with dyslexia. At the time, only 60 students enrolled.

 

What is your favorite memory of Radcliffe Creek? Did you have a favorite class or a favorite teacher?

Picking a favorite teacher is rather hard, I vividly remember Mr. Joiner attending my birthday party and Mrs. Holmes and Mrs. Bushby as my homeroom teachers. But Mrs. Diggs, who was my Orton Gillingham (reading) teacher, being rather exemplary. I was fortunate enough to have this class as a one-on-one experience as I needed the additional help mastering “outlaw words” and reading comprehension.

 

What did you learn about yourself as a student (and a person) while at Radcliffe?

Radcliffe introduced me to the idea that everyone learns differently and there were other ways of learning besides a teacher standing in front of the class lecturing. Most importantly, Radcliffe taught me how to embrace my strengths and weaknesses while building confidence in accomplishing my goals.

 

How did Radcliffe Creek prepare you for the future?

Radcliffe did more than teach me how to read and write, Radcliffe taught me how to challenge myself, to do more than get good grades, to do more than play a prescribed role that was written by others, to do more than succeed, Radcliffe taught me how to flourish. I still to this day use spelling strategies such as letter associated acronyms for words I struggled to spell at RCS. For example: “Because” Betty Eats Cake And Uses Six Eggs.

Where did you go after Radcliffe?

I attended the Blue Ridge School in Charlottesville, Virginia, from there I attended Washington College in Chestertown where I played lacrosse and studied chemistry and environmental studies.   

 

What are you up to now and what are your plans for the future?

After graduating, I was presented with an incredible opportunity to work in the Environmental Chemistry Laboratory within the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Maryland. We have several research projects that look into anthropogenic influences impacting water quality in many watersheds around Maryland.

 

As for the future, in July 2016 I moved to Townsville Australia to attend graduate school at James Cook University, where I will be earning a Master’s of Philosophy in Geoscience. My hope is to return to Maryland and help implement practical environmental policy solutions to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

 

What would you tell a family about Radcliffe if they were considering it for their child?

RCS and the amazing teachers who work there without a doubt set the foundation for me to be where I am today. The individualized planning and care for the students is an intangible asset that any child can take advantage of. Because of their nurturing learning environment, many doors were opened in my life that I may not of had the opportunity to take advantage of.

Julia Hilfiker

When did you start at RCS? Was there a specific reason you came, and how many years were you here?

I started at Radcliffe in 2000, and attended for seven years. 

 

Like many students who attend RCS, I was dissatisfied and uninterested in the education I was receiving in public school. I wasn’t learning, that’s the one time in my life I specifically remember not taking in information at a rate that was even close to my peers. The wall I hit while in class wasn’t something I felt I could surpass, I also didn’t feel inclined to ask questions, because I couldn’t possibly see myself catching up. 

 

Reading was specifically difficult. I don’t remember any kind of instruction or introduction to reading. I was aware that everyone was reading, and could read, but I definitely could not. I wasn’t in the sections of class with the successful readers, and eventually was moved from my grade all together for part of the day. During that part of the day I would draw, so it didn’t bother me, but wasn’t beneficial. 

 

What is your favorite memory of Radcliffe Creek? Did you have a favorite class or a favorite teacher?

I remember a great section of Discovery class with Mr. Joiner. We were learning about the heart and we turned the small classroom into a heart, using mostly colored rolls of construction paper. When we were finished we crawled through the heart. As a class we learned about the heart by being blood cells moving through the heart. It was great!

 

There are so many memories…all the plays with Mrs. Bushby! Mrs. Anthony planned an amazing trip to Port Isobel Island to conclude our section on the Chesapeake Bay. Reading class with Mrs. Cohee-Wright was actually my favorite part of the day! Every day I would read through my sound cards, and add a new sound card. We would write words and sounds in shaving cream, whipped cream, jello mix. I found the Orton-Gillingham process very meditative. 

 

What did you learn about yourself as a student (and a person) while at Radcliffe? How did Radcliffe Creek prepare you for the future?

Radcliffe prepared me for my future by teaching me how to successfully intake information. I never thought that I would have books in my apartment that I enjoyed reading, or want to read, but I do. I wouldn’t have made it through college or high school without learning the best ways my brain learns and grows. 

 

As a person, Radcliffe showed me that you have to work very hard, and also be patient for many successes. The Orton-Gillingham approach took a long time to complete, but it was all for the greater good, and it was worth the time it took. 

 

Where did you go after Radcliffe?

After Radcliffe, I attended The Grier School, an all girls boarding school in western Pennsylvania. After Grier, I moved to Washington, DC and went to The Corcoran College of Art & Design, which is now part of The George Washington University. 

 

What are you up to now and what are your plans for the future?

Right now I am living in DC. I just graduated from The Corcoran and am exploring different job options. In the meantime, I have been assisting a local artist and former teacher. I have also started volunteering with a few local city farms. Last summer, I traveled to Ladakh, India, the trip further ignited my interest in sustainable agriculture and local food production. 

 

What would you tell a family about Radcliffe if they are considering it for their child?

Anyone who is considering an alternative to traditional education for their child should keep in mind that there is more to gain from attending a school like RCS than there is to lose. The one on one attention, and specialized teaching methods are rarities in most educational settings, but these things can be necessary for some children to succeed. 

 

Charlie Bueneman

When did you start at Radcliffe Creek? Was there a specific reason you came to RCS? 

I started at RCS in first grade after attending St.’s Peter and Paul. At the age of six or seven, I was diagnosed with Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and ADD. There weren’t many schools in the area that could accommodate me and RCS was one of the few that could.  

 

What is your favorite memory of Radcliffe Creek? Did you have a favorite class or a favorite teacher?

I have many fond memories of RCS and I would be remiss if I were to name just one. I will never forget playing Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean, spending time in Mrs. C-Wright’s Orton-Gillingham class writing my name in marshmallow cream, and winning the first annual Geography Bee at RCS, just to name a few.       

 

How did Radcliffe Creek prepare you for the future?

RCS was fundamental in teaching me how to decode information, whether the information is quantitative or qualitative, and RCS taught me to arrive at a solution in my own way that is tailored to my strengths. What I’ve found is that my approach in finding a solution to a problem is often unique and is often valued by my colleagues.   

 

What did you learn about yourself as a student (and a person) while at Radcliffe?

RCS taught me to view my learning disabilities as a learning difference, not as a disability. It taught me that it was all right that I learned differently than most of my peers and just because it may take me longer to process information does not mean that I am any less of a student than anyone else. 

 

Where did you go after Radcliffe?

After RCS, I attended St. Mary’s High School in Annapolis and then I went on to Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, MA. I went to Hamilton College in Clinton, NY, where I played football and received a bachelor of arts in political science with a concentration in world politics.  

 

What are you up to now and what are your plans for the future?

Currently, I live in New York City and work at a natural resources investment bank as a junior analyst for the oil and gas team. My team is responsible for raising high yield debt and for structuring merger and acquisition transactions for junior exploration and production companies. I enjoy what I do and I am considering attending business school sometime in the future.   

 

What would you tell a family about Radcliffe if they are considering it for their child?

Radcliffe offers more than just specialized instruction for children with learning disabilities. It is a tight knit and nurturing environment with teachers who really care about their students. I am so grateful to be an alumnus and I am sure that your child will grow whether they have learning disabilities or not.

 

Brennen Drysdale

Brennen Drysdale began at Radcliffe in 1998 after struggling with reading and grammar, and was soon diagnosed with dyslexia. Today, he is enrolled in his second master’s program at King’s College in London, studying geopolitics with a focus on natural resources.

 

Drysdale’s favorite memory of his time at Radcliffe is the hands-on learning activities, including writing in Tang (and then being able to eat it!)

 

“I don’t think I understood how influential and significant my time at Radcliffe was until the later half of my undergraduate degree,” Drysdale said. “Radcliffe gave me the tools and support I needed to be able to function and succeed in high school and college. It was up to me to figure out a way to see my dyslexia as a strength instead of a weakness, which was only made possible by my time at Radcliffe and the tools and lessons I received there.”

 

After graduating from Radcliffe, Drysdale went on to The Gunston School and then to the University of Rhode Island where he received a bachelor of arts in political science with minors in history and international relations. From there, he received a master’s degree from University of Kent’s Brussels School of International Studies in international conflict and security.

 

“Radcliffe taught me many things, but the most important and the one that has stuck with me throughout my life was that it’s ok to be different. I have the ability to look back now and realize that my unique attribute gives me a competitive advantage in the way I think,” Drysdale said. “An advantage in the sense that I perceive the world, as well as problems, different from individuals who were educated in the standard system of education in the United States. This would not be possible if I had not embraced the idea that being different was positive. As I look back now, if I had the opportunity to get rid of my dyslexia, I wouldn’t because I not only enjoy being different but Ibenefit from it as well.”

 

Stuart '01 and Clark '03 Williams

Stuart, RCS Class of 2001, recently graduated from the New York Maritime College with a bachelor of science in marine transportation and received his United States Coast Guard Merchant Marine Officer License. Stuart was the recipient of the Heron Award while at Radcliffe, an award given to a student for the willingness to take academic risk.

 

Clark, RCS Class of 2003, graduated from St. Vincent College with a bachelor of science in business and works for a division of United Healthcare.

Allison Davis '03

When Radcliffe Creek School Director Molly Judge started the School in 1996 with the help of Joan Merriken (former Kent School Head Mistress and former President of the Radcliffe Creek School Board of Trustees), they had a certain kind of student in mind, including Joan’s granddaughter, Allison Davis.

 

Diagnosed with ADD and dyslexia, Allison was a second grader struggling academically, having trouble concentrating and reading.

 

Now a college graduate living outside of Washington D.C. and working in the photography field, Allison attributes most of her success to her days spent at Radcliffe and the dedication of her teachers.

 

“The opportunity to come to Radcliffe was life-changing,” Allison said. “The way I learned was tactile, hands-on, and not limited by someone telling me how I ‘should’ learn.”

 

At Radcliffe, Allison not only learned how to read and focus, but also how to use her strengths as a student to overcome her weaknesses. She gained a self-confidence she still carries today, saying most days she doesn’t even notice her dyslexia, employing the coping strategies she learned while at Radcliffe.

 

So what does one of Radcliffe’s first graduates think about the School she sees today? “I’m so proud of Radcliffe,” Allison said. “The dedication and love that has gone into this school is amazing. It turned something that was traumatic for me (struggling with learning) into something beautiful. This school was pretty much the best thing that ever happened to me. I would say to any parent considering Radcliffe that you are giving your child a phenomenal chance at life by sending them to Radcliffe.”

 

 

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