By Ralph K. Spencer, D’Evelyn Education Foundation Board of Directors
Lindsey Sustad, one of 64 students in D’Evelyn’s first graduation class, gave this graduation speech in 1998 and it is apropos for the 25th Special Edition of the D'Evelyn Jaguar Tracks. Parents, please take a few minutes of your valuable time to read this speech to your student(s) at the dinner table in the next few days. I believe you are obligated to share Lindsey's epiphany on the secret to D'Evelyn's success with your children so they will know ahead of time that their individual experiences at D'Evelyn will actually be part of a grand plan devised by our amazing founders. I hope her words provide some solace to those students who may be wondering if all the time and effort they put forth into their academics every single day is really worth it. I think you will agree with me that yes, it absolutely IS worth it. Thank you, Lindsey, for sharing your understanding of our incredibly successful school like no one else could.
“Teachers are constantly bombarded with the question, ‘Are we ever going to have to use this in real life?’ Earlier this year I discovered the answer. It was a surprising realization, but when it dawned on me, the entire philosophy of D’Evelyn made sense. In 9th and 10th grade, we took a variety of core classes in which our brains were loaded with basic information of the subjects. During those two years, I learned more facts, stats, and general stuff than I ever thought I would need to know. I sometimes got frustrated and often wondered where in the world I would ever have to know how to do any of this stuff. I mean, come on: An algebraic proof? Cause and effect essays? The periodic table? Little did I know the answer was right around the corner!
In 11th grade, while we were still being bombarded with knowledge, we were actually forced to use it. The periodic table came back to haunt me in Physics. I was also shocked that I had to use what I had learned in math the last two years to do my Physics homework. We had to write papers of significant length, including a few cause and effect essays, in American History and Physics. This also meant we had to use the grammar and language skills we learned in English in 9th grade. While this secret plot between the teachers had been going on all along, it wasn’t evident to me.
It became even clearer this year. Those algebraic proofs have taught me problem-solving skills I often utilize in other areas of my life. We are constantly making connections in Senior English to the books we read in 9th and 10th grade. With a knowledge base of American history from my junior year, my understanding of American government and economic systems has been accelerated this year. We, as students, have done less busy work and more thinking. Senior teachers have done less talking while we have been left to do more discussing. We learn by working and plowing through things on our own, using our acquired knowledge and critical thinking skills as our only tools.
From all of this I have learned that school actually does apply to ‘real life.’ The history I learned helps me to understand the newspaper I read every morning. I see physics and chemistry at work every time I do something so small as to open my refrigerator. But perhaps the scariest thing of all happened as I drove down the road listening to my radio. As I listened to the words of a popular hit song, I saw it directly relating to the book we were currently discussing in English. If that isn’t a real-life application, I don’t know what is.
As a graduate today, I feel confident in taking my first step into this ‘real’ world because of all the skills and knowledge I have acquired from my work at D’Evelyn. I, along with these grads, have acquired an educated awareness of how this world around us works. This educated awareness has given us the confidence and amazing acquired ability to make intelligent arguments in heated debates among adults. We can make connections between literature and psychology or sociology and international relations.
Taking D’Evelyn smarts to the streets is to understand and analyze the world with an educated view. Life is much fuller for one who is educated and aware. So the next time I feel tempted to ask the purpose of learning something, I think I’ll stop, trust the teacher, and look for the opportunity to apply the knowledge to my ‘real life’ world.”
The D'Evelyn Education Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable corporation. The Board of Directors oversees the finances, legal issues and long-term strategic plans of the organization