JACK PERKINS, SENIOR
First of all, I just want to say how unbelievably grateful I am to have been given the opportunity to take this course. To all my cohorts, instructors and students, thank you. Because of Rivers, because of what we’ve done, I have rediscovered that I enjoy learning, and thus in a way, living. My parents have told me since I was young that I am naturally curious, and it's true. But traditional school stripped that curiosity away from me. I absolutely hated going to regular classes. I hated going into a class and sitting down and listening to a teacher talk for an hour. I hated the fact that you do not even interact with most of the people in your class. Occasionally I had classes that I enjoyed, but it was rare. Worst of all is testing. All you are trained to do is learn the facts, remember them, and then get a good grade on the test. After the test, you forget everything you learned. It's just nonsensical.
Having this Rivers experience has changed me in so many ways. As I mentioned before, I have rediscovered my love of learning. I have always been bored with regular schooling. I have felt this way as early as elementary school and through middle school. High school has been slightly better in terms of how interesting the classes are, but the heavier workload and increased stress surrounding tests made that less noticeable. Seeing it as a complete waste of my time, I was miserable going to my classes throughout high school. I was not learning anything. I was simply going through the motions and learning random, useless facts. Rivers and Revolutions was an awakening from that endless cycle.
Ever since the first day in Rivers, I felt excitement going into school for the first time in my life. The best thing about this program, I’ve come to realize, is how we become exposed first-hand to the wonders of our world. In other words, we get to actually experience our world, instead of just “learning” about it. Instead of listening to a math professor go on and on about a concept that no one really understands (much less cares about), we get to see how mathematical patterns like fractals exist in our world. Instead of listening to a history teacher drone about random facts, we get to go out into our town and learn about Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and other famous influential thinkers from the 19th century who lived in Concord. Henry David Thoreau inspired actually inspired me on an entirely new level, but that’s a discussion for another time. It is for concepts like fractals, and for our walks around Concord that I describe Rivers as an “awakening.” For the first time in my life, I was able to truly experience our beautiful Earth.
Something that I always felt was wrong was the lack of interaction with classmates. Every time I would go to a class I would come in and sit down, and not talk to really any of the other students in the class. I could be in a class with someone for an entire year and never even talk to them once. And if I ever did try to talk to or socialize with someone, I would be called out. Rivers is the opposite of this. You are always being encouraged to step outside your comfort zone and talk to someone new. And that’s not just because the teachers are trying to get you to become more confident talking to new people, its because having a better understanding of who they are will actually enhance everyone’s learning. And because I was able to do this, I now have a very different perception of people. I used to think that other people, excluding my friends and family, were uninteresting. Now I find meaning and empathy in every person’s story.
But that newfound appreciation for other people does not just end there. It extends into a newfound love for the Earth as a whole. From very specific things, like how Henry David Thoreau taught me to “live deliberately,” to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “transparent eyeball,” to our many adventures through Concord, Fruitlands, and Boston, I have deepened my intrinsic love for the planet. And with that love for the planet comes a strong desire to protect it.
There is one thing that Rivers has done for me that is more important than anything else. It has made me a more confident individual. And what caused this to happen, I think, is that in Rivers I simply enjoy being here. Since I enjoy being here, I am more myself. This change that has occurred, and this program itself, is nothing other than amazing.
So once again, C13, thank you.