Meg Dinwiddie Burk ’91 has looked at Culver Academies from nearly every angle.
She is a Summer Schools & Camps graduate, a CGA graduate, summer staffer, the mother of a CMA cadet, and serves as a volunteer. This fall, she will add mother of a CGA student to that list.
To say she believes in Culver would be an understatement. “It really did change the trajectory of my life,” she said. “For me, that’s why I constantly want to give back to Culver.”
While her father was also a summer camper, Burk said she had never visited campus until she arrived for her first year of Upper Camp. She described herself as “a good kid, but I was lost academically.” That first summer “I was truly transformed.”
She embraced the Core Values and the leadership system quickly. Her friends talked about the importance of doing well in school. She learned how to work with people, set goals, and she developed a sense of self.
“I don’t know how they teach the Core Values in just six weeks, but it does stay with you,” she said. “I remember thinking ‘I’m so thankful to be here.’”
“Learning how to succeed on my own” helped her when she arrived back home. My parents said, ‘Wow, you’re a different kid.’ I had developed a self-confidence and belief in myself that I had never really experienced before.”
The lessons she learned were reinforced her second summer. Her friends felt more like brothers and sisters now, and Burk knew Culver was where she wanted to finish her high school career.
“I told myself I have to come here,” Burk said, and she did for her junior and senior years. The combination of academics, athletics, and extracurricular activities kept her busy and happy. Her only regret was that she didn’t get the opportunity to experience the Culver Girls Academy’s leadership system, and compare it to the military system she experienced during camp.
She really enjoyed the military aspect from the summer. “You give someone a task and it was an opportunity to rise to the occasion. That is what really helped me. I thought these people really believe in me, I better do a good job.”
The kids from such different walks of life stand up for each other because they’ve developed this family.
But she missed out on a leadership spot being a new junior. “The prefect leadership system wasn’t as developed at the time I was here,” she said. “There are more opportunities now. I’m just blown away. It’s such a well-oiled machine. I’m so impressed by the women here at school now.”
Much of her leadership skills came from the classroom during this time. Burk can still name every instructor she had. And she thanks instructor Harry Frick every time she sees him. When the memorial service for Col. Dave Baker was conducted in the fall, students came from all over the country to pay their respects. “Where else would that happen?” she asked.
By the time she arrived at college, “doing your work is so ingrained in you, you’re not thinking about it.” And she developed a “fearlessness” that comes from taking risks, making mistakes, and learning from those. “Culver is a great place to fail” because of its environment, she explained, and still you also understand “that not everyone gets a trophy here.”
Now as a parent, she is seeing the same transformation in her children as they go through Woodcraft Camp and, now for her son, Nathaniel ’21. “They were the happiest when they were at Woodcraft Camp – and now, my son, on campus. The kids from such different walks of life stand up for each other because they’ve developed this family.
“And, just the kindness that is sometimes lacking in this world, I feel like that these kids are refreshing here,” she said. “That’s the kind of environment that’s so important for me: where kindness is preached, good citizenship, honor, telling the truth. Just the Culver Core Values. It is important for my kids to experience that.”
The Culver Core Values stay with her every day. “It’s something that Culver graduates carry with you,” she explained, “And when someone is struggling or sick, I love how the Culver community rallies – whether you were best friends or not – everyone just comes out in full force.”
And she remembers something Greg Farrall ’88 told her. “He said, ‘There are some kids who need Culver and Culver needs some kids.’ That really resonated with me.”
Because Culver certainly has those kids who would thrive regardless of where they went to school. But then there are those students who thrive because they went to Culver.
And that blend, Burk believes, is what made Culver so important to her while she was camper and student. And it is what continues to make it just as important for her son and daughter today.