The MICDS Difference Lies in the Intangible

At the MICDS Open House on Saturday, October 19, Arjun Ramakrishnan ’20 spoke to prospective families about his experience at our School. Here are his remarks.

Hello, everyone! My name is Arjun Ramakrishnan, and I am a senior who came to MICDS in 7th grade from Andrews Academy. Today, I want to share my story with you all and explain a few reasons why MICDS has been the fit for me.

When I entered MICDS as a stubby 7th grader from a graduating class of 15 in my old school, I was excited. At that age, I would say I was extremely driven and even set on what I wanted to do here in MICDS – math, science, robotics – that’s it. I entered thinking, that is what school is: a vehicle for me to study and go to college.

However, throughout Middle School, this assertion was challenged as I became engrossed within the choral program here and my affinity for the Classics at our School was surprisingly found. In addition to these other academic interests that were brewing, this school’s then Math Chair, Mrs. Amy Scheer, issued math placement tests to all incoming and existing MICDS students to figure out where they were best suited. Although I didn’t answer all the problems right on said test, she told me in person the following week that my thought process on some of the problems was intriguing and she would try to move me up in math. Now, I say this not to laud my 7th grade self, but to highlight something which I thought was so profound at the time: people here care. In this large, 100-acre campus with sprawling buildings and state-of-the-art glass and stainless steel structures which may seem as every bit grand as impersonal, this was super revealing to me. The fact that someone who’s never met me or 130 others who took that test would sit through and not only grade but pay attention to the individual thought processes of everyone’s work was mind-blowing. Now I could sit here all day pouring out anecdote after anecdote about teachers who have gone out of their way to make me a more intellectual thinker and just a better person, but I only have five to seven minutes.

High school is where I feel like I have blossomed at this institution because I have begun to understand the values of the Mission Statement and all of the core values within its shadow. While these ten lines of text are situated in every classroom and plastered all over this institution, its values pervade beyond – throughout the greater St. Louis area, into each of our homes and as we graduate, to the rest of the world. I believe there are essentially three main tenets on this statement: “embracing ALL… people with compassion,” which is the idea that no matter what age, race, gender, socioeconomic class or anything else that for decades, centuries, eras has kept people apart from one another, if we embrace the altruist ideal of a mass collaboration for a greater good and that a rising tide lifts all boats, our society is better off. The next ideal is “academic rigor,” because while this place is so much more than a prep school and has advanced my interdisciplinary love for education, it is a prep school with the goal of academically preparing you to not only survive college but thrive in whatever setting you find yourself.

The last sentiment, in my opinion, is the most important, and that is this idea of living “lives of purpose and service.” It is often the most-quoted phrase on the statement and for good reason.

In the summer before my junior year, I had just finished AP BC Calculus, the highest math class most students take here, yet I felt like something was missing. As I had taken these courses over the years, I had become more enthralled with these concepts and what they mean to me, but not to my greater community. After talking with a myriad of MICDS faculty from the History, English, Math and Science departments, doing a ton of research on my own, and reaching out to the Upper School Head and the Community Service Chair, I founded StemUpStl, a non-profit organization with the mission to help mitigate the vast education disparity in St. Louis through personal, individual STEM tutoring free of charge.

This effort was the true amalgamation of many disciplines such as math and science with the more intangible qualities MICDS preaches in compassion, leadership and ingenuity. Over the course of less than one and a half years, we’ve empowered over 50 students, mainly from here, to serve over 160 students in need, with three partnerships spanning a diverse array of people. The symbiosis between MICDS and its students regarding this one document is profound. Students buy into the philosophy, building its ethos and then get rewarded in the end by being outstanding citizens to the immediate and greater communities. This not only works to build an incredible community in the present but really in perpetuity because while students, buildings and faculty have come and gone over these last 150 years, these values remain.

I want to close by briefly addressing the elephant in the room, the reason most of you all are here: how does MICDS differentiate from other schools? While I cannot authentically speak on behalf of another school, I can assure you that there are innumerable schools with excellent curriculums, ACT scores, college lists, etc., meaning that however you define tangible success, you can achieve it truly anywhere. That said, where I believe MICDS separates itself is not only through the tangible opportunities that this campus offers academically with immersive programs, incredible faculty and physical resources to support whatever endeavor your passions lead you towards. I mean look around…it’s stunning. But really the MICDS difference lies in the intangible – what you can’t necessarily see. And while that may be a tough sell, I truly believe this school creates minds, or further, dispositions, which prepare you not only to thrive in college and beyond but to change the lives of those around you for the better, thereby changing the world.