Class of '02
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 two things more and more:
1) Your parents look smarter to you the older you get.
2) 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.
Above all, remember that - yes, you are different - but everyone is, and different isn’t bad.