From the Wilds of Yosemite National Park

I am writing this letter from a cabin in Yosemite Valley, where my windows overlook – in one direction – an oak grove with four giant Sequoias shedding dark orange and brown leaves on the gravestone of Galen Clark, and in the other, impatient rainclouds haloing the tallest waterfall in the continental united states.

I am so lucky to have lived the adventures I have over the past six and a half years – And I can honestly say that I have Waynflete to thank for every one of them. My eight years with Waynflete taught me the value of community, and of asking questions. It taught me how to write, but also how to experience emotion and understand the nuances of the written word. It taught me the scientific method and the theory of tragedy of the commons; but it also planted in me the understanding of systems and the connectivity of science and ecology to the vast array of pressing problems our world is facing. It taught me about complimentary colors and photo composition, but also how to create an image or a graphic design that can move people to tears, or even to action. It taught me to dance freely, to stand up for what I believe, and to pursue my dreams and give them space to grow. Continue reading “From the Wilds of Yosemite National Park”

Checking in From Spain

Hi Geoff!

How are you? I hope this school year has had a great start! I’m sure you are probably very busy but I’m writing to thank you for making Waynflete what it is.

Waynflete has prepared me extremely well for college. I think the sense of independence and responsibility we receive at Waynflete is something that we make use of in college. We learn to take responsibility for our actions and to organize ourselves. It helps us mature and prepares us for everything that can be thrown in our direction. The diversity at Waynflete, in terms of people, classes, activities, guest speakers…opens our mind so incredibly much. I have never appreciated what a gift that was until I put it to use in this new environment.

The relationship with our advisors also has helped me so much in creating a similar relationship with many professors and my advisor here, making college just a bit easier and manageable. Comparing myself to other students, I see myself better equipped to handle all the difficulties that come with college and I can’t stop thinking about Waynflete and how grateful I am to have been there for my last years of high school.

Thank you so much! I hope to hear from you soon and please write if you find yourself in Spain!

Eleanor “Nellie” Semmes ’12 Writes Home

I’m thrilled to be writing home to Waynflete as a first-year medical student! I moved to Durham this past summer to start a joint MD-PhD program at Duke University School of Medicine. I know I never would have made it here without the formative 15 years I had at Waynflete. I was reminded of this last year when Wanyflete surfaced as the main subject of an application essay I wrote for Duke.

The application process for medical school has a grueling reputation for a reason. It was about 18 months from the time I first started studying for the MCAT to when I actually figured out where I would be going to school. At times, the process can be incredibly dehumanizing. It’s easy to feel reduced to a set of numbers and letters encompassed by your GPA, transcript and standardized test scores. Yet, many of the questions schools ask of you and that you’re forced to ask yourself during this journey can be eye-opening. One of the most revealing essays I was asked to write was in response to the following statement:

“Describe the community in which you were nurtured or spent the majority of your early development … what core values did you receive there and how will these translate into the contributions that you hope to make to your community as a medical student and to your career in medicine?”

I was initially dumbfounded. In my mind, it was far too broad an essay prompt with far too little guidance. Did they want me to describe the neighborhood I grew up in? Was I supposed to talk about my family? It seemed impossibly vague.

However, I quickly realized beyond a doubt that I wanted to talk about the Waynflete community and how it shaped me. It’s an awkward and unfamiliar exercise to have to put into writing a description of your values and your most meaningful experiences. (Naturally, the only other time I had to do something similar was in Michele Lettiere’s sophomore English class at Waynflete while working on a year-long autobiography project).

While reflecting for this essay on the many core values I gained at Waynflete, I decided to focus on the three most impactful. These are intellectual curiosity, global stewardship and social justice.

Although I’d never put pen to paper before to describe my time at Waynflete, it was natural and gratifying to be able to succinctly summarize the values I gained there. I was reminded while writing this essay that courses at Waynflete choose to broadcast passion rather cram standardized content, which has been formative throughout my academic career.

Intellectual curiosity is what led me to pursue two interdisciplinary degrees as an undergraduate at Tulane University – a B.S. in Neuroscience and a B.A. in Political Economy. This curiosity further led me to both clinical and basic science research during my time there. I would be remiss not to mention how lucky I was to be introduced to the role of women in science early with rock star mentors in Wendy Curtis and Carol Titterton.

Most importantly, Waynflete taught me that educational endeavors should never be pursed in a vacuum. This is where global stewardship and social justice surface as core values. I remember early as Kindergarten being introduced to other cultures through global focus week. By Upper School, I was lucky to engage with the world historically through Lorry’s Literature of Genocide course, contemporarily through Model United Nations and culturally through Breda’s brilliant Spanish electives.

Academically, Waynflete prepared me better than I could have ever expected for college, but what astounds me most now is how much it also prepared me for dual MD-PhD degrees. Without the core values I gained at Waynflete, I seriously doubt this is a path I would have been successful in or chosen to pursue. By teaching me to be intellectually and morally engaged with the world, I owe Waynflete immeasurable gratitude. I never thought the crazy application cycle for medical school would have led me back to my time there, but I’m so very glad it did.

Margaret Edwards ’15 Writes Home

After completing my freshman year at Carleton College, I was ready to take a break from the classroom and start doing. I wanted to test the tools and skills that I had learned and refined over the years, primarily at Waynflete and then at Carleton. Participating in Parkside Fun, from sophomore year until graduation, sparked and materialized my interest in mentoring and advocating for children.

Following that passion has led me to all of the most transformative experiences of my life. First, it led me to be a lifeguard at a camp in Maine for low-income and foster girls from both urban and rural areas, many of whom had never been in a boat, did not know how to swim, and had never been in such an isolated, rural area. Most recently, it has led me to be a child policy intern at the Support Center for Child Advocates (Child Advocates) in Phildelphia, PA.

At Child Advocates, our mission is “To advocate for victims of child abuse and neglect with the goal of securing safety, justice, well-being and a permanent, nurturing environment for every child.” In all of our casework and community outreach, we promote a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach. Each child committed to our care is given a team, compromising of a volunteer lawyer and a social worker; this helps us ensure the well-being, permanency and access to justice of every child client.

Every day, we work to change the story of our clients. I have had the privilege to work with lawyers and social workers directly on cases, witness court proceedings and see the very ways in which each member of these teams is able to improve the outcome of our clients’ lives. My role at Child Advocates varies tremendously day-to-day. Focusing on policy, I do data analysis on the fatalities and near fatalities of children in foster care and in homes with DHS involvement. In Philadelphia, every time abuse is a suspected cause of a child fatality or near-fatality, a team is required to review the case, write a report and make recommendations, both locally and state wide. In order to ensure that these reports are effective, we track them and do analysis. In the future, this will lead us to try and change the policy around foster care and homes with DHS involvement, in the hopes of entirely eliminating such tragedies.

Whether I am in court, editing a brief, researching for a statement of facts, working with our development team or conducting data analysis, I draw on all of the writing skills that I acquired at Waynflete. I vividly remember receiving my first paper back from Lowell the spring of my senior year and quite literally having more comments from him than words I had written. This is the greatest testament to the teachers at Waynflete and their dedication to never cease pushing students to learn. In many ways, it epitomizes the best of my experience at Waynflete. I will always be grateful for every teacher there who took the time to mark up a paper because, no matter what I am doing, I return to those writing skills that I learned at Waynflete.

Izzy Davis ’16 Writes Home: The Master of Photosynthesis

Following is the text of an email sent from Izzy Davis ’16 to her Advanced Biology science teacher Carol Titterton. The email is included here with Izzy’s permission.

Just sat through a lecture about photosystems and NADPH and ATP and it was the first time the professor had talked about them at all, and everyone was on the verge of tears but I was sitting there with my beautiful advanced bio notes smirking. He drew the scariest diagram I’ve ever seen. I’ll attach pictures because his drawing was actually an abomination. Just thought you should know that you set me up to get the highest grade (102.5!!) in my whole lecture of 80+ people on my exam. I am the master of photosynthesis.
Thank you, Carol
Isabella Davis