RCS Alumna Clarke

Kathy Clarke, ’08 RCS Alumna

“Rainbow caters to success.”

She also knows what she wants to do with her life: be a writer. And she’s pursuing her dream with gusto.
She’s already doing two internships related to her passion – one in publishing, and the other helping with the publicity for a Macalester professor publishing a book of poetry.
Before she arrived at Macalester, Kathy attended the prestigious Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania, where her writing talent earned her the coveted “class orator” title.
This honor led to one of her proudest accomplishments so far: sharing the podium with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who delivered the commencement speech.
“I actually walked away from graduation with six awards, and so I was pretty proud of myself,” Kathy recalls. “But then Madeleine Albright came up to me after graduation and said, ‘You must be a rock star!’ I might get that as a tattoo—‘You must be a rock star!—Madeleine Albright.’ That’s something I never want to forget.”
Kathy’s talent at writing emerged at an early age: even before she could read she had shown a passion for the written word.
“My parents joked and said that I was going to write the Great American Novel before I could read,” she says: “I would scribble on pieces of paper and put them together and then read them to people as if they were words.”
As it happens, one of Kathy’s favorite memories of her time at Rainbow also involves writing.
While she was in the Omega program, her teacher Susan Waddell would sit with Kathy at lunch and let her student write on her computer.
She wasn’t the only teacher who did this, Kathy says: William Harwood would also just let Kathy go and write on his computer. She regards this time as vital to her development. “I experimented with a lot of just writing fiction.”
But Rainbow gave Kathy more than free time: the individualized attention she received helped a motivated student become a self-motivated student.
“I remember one assignment where Susan had us describe a beautiful place and she gave us a list of adjectives we couldn’t use—but then she gave me an extra list of adjectives, and that was really fun.”
Kathy received this sort of personalized challenge again and again. Her teachers, she says, “paid individual attention to me, which made me pay individual attention to me and not just go through the motions of school.”
Rainbow also gave Kathy the freedom to develop—at her own pace—a work ethic and a sense of purpose. “We got a lot of free time. And that really helped me learn to motivate myself.”
More than anything else, though, Kathy now appreciates the difference Rainbow’s emphasis on self-discovery has made in her academic career.
To start with, learning to trust herself allowed her to choose Mercersburg over the other options (some closer to home) that presented themselves. “You need to know yourself first before you make big decisions like that, and then when you do you will make the right one.”
And even at a prestigious private school, knowing herself gave her an edge. “Coming out of Rainbow, I was so much more advanced than even my high school classmates at knowing who I was and knowing what I wanted and what I needed. It was a kind of learning and a kind of growth that caters to success in a way that traditional curriculum doesn’t.”
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