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Alumni Reflection

Claire Shirey

I was a member of IDEAL’s first graduating class. I first walked down the yellow brick road at five years old, in 1999. Twenty years later, my memories of IDEAL are still colored with a sense of magic and a feeling of incredible giftedness to have grown up there, with classmates and teachers who became a second family. Everyone in my life has heard stories of classroom walls painted like forests or the ocean floor, lessons tailored to my intelligences (verbal/linguistic and intrapersonal!), and songs about Lewis & Clark, Western Europe and prepositions that still play in my mind today.

My education at IDEAL provided a foundation for me as I went on to boarding school, summer programs at Cornell, University of Virginia and the American University of Paris, and a degree in Psychology from the University of St Andrews in Scotland. During my time at St Andrews, I stood for election at the highest level of student representation and spent a year serving full-time as the university’s vice president for the areas of wellbeing and equality. Now, I am living in Ireland, completing my dissertation research for a master’s degree in applied psychology at Trinity College Dublin, and deciding whether to pursue a doctorate in clinical psychology or start a business of my own.

IDEAL gave me a number of priceless gifts. The gift of confidence and belief in myself. The gift of empathy, and a moral framework of virtues which guide my life. The gift of an education which cultivated my strengths and supported me in building up my weaknesses. The gift of protecting and fostering my childhood innocence and curiosity. The gift of lifelong mentors and friendships with the unbreakable bond of growing up together.

IDEAL made me who I am today, and more importantly, guides my vision for the person I hope to become. For that, I am forever grateful.

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