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CTD Alums Discuss Applying What They’ve Learned for University Success

By Ross Middleton


For the class of 2021, this has been a senior year like no other. Many high school students have spent most of their final year of school learning remotely, maintaining social connections online, and preparing for college amid great change and uncertainty. As these students ready themselves to return to the classroom, begin college life, and think about possible careers three university students share what they learned at CTD and how it has helped them grow, persevere, and succeed, particularly in times of disruption and transition.  
David Howarth participated in CivicWeek in 2013 and 2014, where he learned about politics, human rights, and urban affairs in the context of service learning. “I found that my CivicWeek participation helped clarify my academic and professional passions, ultimately compelling me to investigate social justice education as a graduate student,” says Howarth, who is now a master’s student at the University of Toronto. His CivicWeek experiences—including visiting a women’s shelter and learning about food insecurity and bilingual youth literacy—gave him foundational knowledge about social change, which prepared him for specialized study at the university level. “CivicWeek exemplified for me the importance of being open to new ideas and experiences, which aided with my transition to university,” Howarth says. This type of intellectual curiosity has helped him use his interest in art history to assess gaps in cross-cultural understanding, and he seeks to develop an “arts-based service-learning approach” to address issues of colonialism and representation in arts education. This ability to create positive change is the result of being able to embrace unexpected change, a skill Howarth cultivated at CTD. “The exposure to various fields and community work environments provided me with a better sense of and proficiency in adaptability and emergency preparedness, which I have found useful in many situations, including the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

 Another former CTD participant, Imani Bah, echoes  Howarth’s comments on the value of learning and growing through novel experiences. “CTD exposed me to new information and challenges, which helped make me more adaptable and more confident that I could rise above difficult situations,” says the current Northwestern University student, who applied what she learned to the rigors of the pandemic. “These skills and qualities helped me believe in myself as I worked through the mentally challenging aspects of quarantine,” Bah adds, reflecting on her capacity for resilience in the past year. For students facing the unknowns of beginning a university experience in 2021, she emphasizes the importance of curiosity and openness to change. “Skills such as adaptability and taking initiative will definitely help with the transition of becoming a more independent learner and someone who is fully in charge of their education,” says Bah, who plans to spend her first year after graduation as a researcher or scribe before entering medical school. 

University of Minnesota first-year student Nathan Deep also drew on his program  experiences to  make the most of new learning environments. Deep participated in CTD’s online program while a student at Wisconsin’s Antigo High School, and he credits this experience with helping him succeed in an environment of distanced learning. “The several online courses that I took through CTD have proven to be extremely beneficial to me as my classes this year transitioned to virtual settings, as I had already formed the necessary skills to work through a remote learning environment,” Deep says. In addition to studying online, Deep had to be creative to continue his extracurricular interests from home. He used technology to connect with friends as they watched movies and played basketball together while apart, and he found ways to continue his work as a volunteer tutor online. As he prepares for research and progress on degrees in neuroscience and history, Deep explains that the skills he has honed not only gave him pre-pandemic fluency in online learning, but also personal skills that will help him in college and beyond. “The organizational and communication abilities I developed through my several CTD classes helped me navigate through the online college experience and be successful.” 

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