Finishing your masterpiece.
That thread ran through each speech given by four current students at the Roberts Leadership Scholarship Weekend dinner Saturday night. The two Culver Girls Academy seniors and two Culver Military Academy first classmen talked about how they are working on their individual “unfinished masterpiece” – becoming a “better version of myself” – thanks to the scholarship established by George R. Roberts ’62.
Roberts is one of the founding partners of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR). The merit scholarship includes full tuition, room and board, uniforms, and books, a Global Pathways Spring experience, and a summer leadership enrichment experience. The scholarship is available to incoming ninth or 10th grade students who reside in the western United States and is renewable through graduation.
Ellazan Gregg (Longmont, Colorado) told the 2018 scholarship finalists and their parents that the scholarship has allowed her to travel, something that “is very important to me.” In the past year, she said, she has traveled 41,793 miles to locations in New Zealand and Thailand, equating to 90 hours and 43 minutes in planes.
Her GPS trip included visiting Aukland, building a boardwalk over a muddy ditch in the jungle, learning the haka from the Mauri, and sharing a room with 30 other people “who never stopped snoring.”
Her summer Roberts experience took her to Ao Nang, Thailand, for a month with Projects Abroad. When she first got there, Gregg said, she went through “multiple mini-breakdowns” as she was forced to leave her comfort zone while navigating “an unknown city with people I had only known for a few days.”
But as the days went by she felt herself becoming the person she has always wanted to be. She cleaned tanks full of baby turtles, swam with a shark, and was able to walk into unknown situations with confidence.
I am a stronger, better version of myself.
“I am a stronger, better version of myself,” she said. She is more self-assured and believes she is ready for the next step in her life, whether that is traveling or heading on to college. “I owe who I am to the Roberts Scholarship.”
George Cruickshank (Anchorage, Alaska) said as an eighth grader he would never have foreseen the memories he has made at Culver over the past four years. The character-building and leadership skills he has learned have all helped him in “developing the unfinished masterpiece.”
He has been able to carry his passions from home to Culver, he said, and he has been “compelled to do more.” He attended a youth conservation congress in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, to learn about the complex economic and environmental issues tied to climate change. He also attended a diversity training conference in Atlanta. And he has taken risks that he would not have attempted – or even had the opportunity to do so – at home.
Cruickshank added he has learned that the team dynamic lessons he learned from fencing, rowing, sailing, and trap-and-skeet shooting are also applicable off the field as well. “I’m not sure I would be the same person if I had remained at home,” he added.
Kyle Dane (Stateline, Nevada) remembers being so nervous during his Roberts weekend visit that “I didn’t finish my plate of food.” He was a good student, but he was bored. With two cousins who had already attended Culver, he knew it would serve as a catalyst for his continued learning. And, he asked himself “what if” he didn’t take advantage of the opportunity.
Since coming to Culver, he was become more open-minded, extroverted, and confident. He once thought that leadership was simply being one of the “cool people” and others simply followed you. But his Culver experience has taught him that “leaders blossom through a process of development, opportunities, and reflection.”
As a new cadet, he learned discipline, time management, respect, and how important teamwork and brotherhood are. He then learned about himself – what are his strengths and weaknesses. He has found two concepts have changed his perspective on life. The first is developing a growth mindset. The second is “being comfortable with being uncomfortable,” he said. Understanding those two concepts have helped him to grow as a person and a leader.
Most important, I can use my strengths to become a better leader and better person.
Now, Dane added, “I know who I am.” His path is clearer and solidified. He can use his skills to help market himself better. “Most important, I can use my strengths to become a better leader and better person.”
As a 10-year-old growing up on a reservation, Alena Valdez (Denver, Colorado) had one goal: to work at Walmart. Poverty is everywhere on a reservation, she explained, and education wasn’t a priority. Working at Walmart was about the only option out.
But when she moved to Denver, Valdez said, she became aware of the importance of education. And when she came to Culver as a Roberts finalist, she believed it was the environment where she could grow and prosper. “I knew it was the right place for me.”
At Culver, she has taken Mandarin, entrepreneurial studies and learned “authentic skills.” The exposure to new cultures, ideas, events, and resources have “expanded my world. It has allowed me to become my own masterpiece.”
The 11 finalists represent four western states. Five Roberts Leadership Scholarships will be presented this year. They are part of approximately 20 full merit scholarships being awarded this year. Each one is valued at more than $200,000. Close to 200 applicants have applied for the merit scholarship programs. The Batten Scholars finalists will be on campus this weekend. The Duchossois Family Scholars weekend will follow.
Head of Schools Jim Power told the Roberts finalists and their parents that “in so many ways, you have already won. We have great expectations for you. We need more leaders like you.”
He added that he is often asked about what makes Culver special. “The kids and teachers. It’s that simple. It’s all about relationships.”