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Life After VanDamme Academy

The following is an interview with Evan Storms, a VanDamme Academy graduate currently in the process of applying to college. Perhaps my favorite part of the interview was his answer to my request for the interview itself: “Considering what I gained from your school, I would write a doctoral thesis for you if you needed it; but I can settle for the interview.”

When did you attend VanDamme Academy?

I attended VanDamme Academy for two-and-a-half years from 2003 to 2005, from sixth to eighth grade.

Where had you gone to school prior to that, and how did your experience there differ from your time at VDA?

Before VanDamme Academy, I attended a reputedly exceptional public elementary school in Laguna Hills. My education there differed from my experience at VanDamme fundamentally. Where VanDamme offered a logically-structured, ordered curriculum, my elementary education consisted of unconnected lessons seemingly chosen at random; science would cover volcanoes one week, and the anatomy of a frog the next.

Where do you attend high school, and what have been the strengths and weaknesses of your experience there?

I attend Fairmont Preparatory Academy in Anaheim. Academically, the school is, to the best of my knowledge, the strongest in the area. Fairmont offers a wide range of AP and otherwise advanced courses, generally taught by knowledgeable teachers who present their material clearly and logically.

Moreover, the school allows considerable academic freedom; it has, for example, allowed me to create my own independent study philosophy course, and has created two new math classes so that I can continue to advance. The number of intellectually ambitious students at the school, however, is small. And despite the strengths of the higher level courses, the curriculum in general emphasizes memorization over understanding, with the widespread use of multiple-choice testing and the heavy reliance on textbooks.

What have been some of your most important achievements since your time at VanDamme Academy?

Since attending VanDamme Academy, I have excelled in every facet of my academics: I have earned nearly perfect grades, taken and earned fives on eight AP exams, and been recognized as a national merit scholarship finalist.

Where have you applied to college, and why?

Though I applied to many schools, I am only sincerely interested in attending two: Duke and Stanford University. Both schools offer strong general academic programs, so that, whichever course of study I ultimately choose, I will be able to study under a first-class department.

How do you think your experience at VanDamme Academy shaped you?

At VanDamme Academy, I gained the foundations of an independent mind. I learned that ideas have consequences, are important, and are worth pursuing. I learned to think logically, to allow myself no half-formed knowledge or superficial understanding. I learned to appreciate great literature, to analyze facts scientifically, to write with clarity. And I learned that the sublime is possible to the man who thinks.

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