These reflections about each of our DRC-Canton members are written by Maria.
Meet Tyler! He is one of those kids who will curl into your heartstrings to stay forever. I have known Tyler since he barely turned five in 2017. And I will always feel a special attachment because he shares a birthday with my Dad, who has been gone for nine years. The other reasons extend the bounds of this short introduction, but here goes.
Tyler is a natural musician. His first destination every day after he gets to the Center is the music room and the electronic keyboard (after stopping in the kitchen for a snack on the way through). With no formal music instruction, he sits and plays - sometimes they are songs he has heard before, and other times he simply extemporizes something
absolutely over the top amazing.
An innate storyteller - Tyler adores being outside, making houses for worms and bugs and creating life stories for them. He "talks" his imaginary play. He also loves getting lost in the process of creating worlds in both Minecraft and Roblox.
Naturally curious, Tyler exemplifies our philosophy that #learningisnatural. When he wants to learn about something, his questions become insistent until he fully understands. I can't imagine DRC-Canton without his relentless inquisitions, imaginary genius, and deep dives into the musical world. He makes our crew complete.
Meet Carly! She is the DM for our D+D Club, even though she had never really played before. This fact alone explains exactly who Carly is. When she does not know how to do something (that she really wants to do), she will figure it out. She is a natural problem solver and will conquer any challenge she encounters. The best way to describe her - is to help you imagine a whirlwind. She is a kid who defines the words dynamic and driven. Carly is interested, engaged, knowledgeable (mostly about animals), and personifies intrinsic motivation.
Carly joined us in September of 2020 as a Distance Learner. (Fun fact: that program was designed specifically - after her family requested it.) She soon took on a leadership role for our virtual sessions despite only meeting everyone once (in-person) on the first day.
The instigator for Animal Geek Club, which met two times each week, Carly became the facilitator by default. This year, she also mostly ran Shark & Ocean Critters and Extinct Animal Club, which she created to follow up Animal Geek Club. Carly came prepared with slide shows and (over the top) details for every single session. I am delighted that Carly knows herself so well and has found a place where she can follow all her passions and interests, and I have the opportunity to watch her blossom into her full power.
Meet Avery! He has been a member of DRC since January 2017. Based on this Spotlight I wrote about him back then, I can say the underlying essence of Avery, now 16, remains the same - with noticeable differences in his levels of maturity, as would be expected.
I've known Avery since last January when he blew me away with his immense cache of accumulated knowledge. He comprehends concepts in the scientific, metaphysical, and philosophical worlds (including the pertinent vocabulary) that most adults struggle to understand - on a profound level. He is one of those kids with so many interests that he often has trouble deciding what to focus on - on any given day.
Music is Avery's one-consuming passion. Avery is a natural musician. He loves picking up the electric guitar and jamming random riffs from heavy metal classics and alternative and experimental rock; he has even created a couple of songs.
Fast forward to the end of another academic year, and I am happy to say Avery is still a musician. Although, he no longer plays the electric guitar. Avery composes everything on a synth and has recorded music. Avery has also taught himself to code computer languages and uses that knowledge, along with the music he has recorded, to create a video game.
Avery is the perfect example of someone who understands that he is fully in charge of his education. I look forward to helping him decide where all of his natural talent and ambitions will lead him next.
Meet Vin. Whenever I think of him, a string of directly opposing adjectives automatically pops into my head: irreverent yet respectful, sardonic but sincere, sarcastic but straightforward, not to mention:hilarious, super, super, super smart, creative, animal (cat) lover, curious, knowledgeable about LGBTQ+ issues, wise (far beyond his tender years), colorful, and very, very real.
I first met Vin (in person) four months after he joined DRC. I think those first weeks were rough for him - he was brand new to this thing called self-directed learning, and everything was completely virtual at that point. He did not know any of the other kids and probably felt like he was floundering in a sea of the unfamiliar.
Fast forward to today, with nearly a full year of "in-person" under his belt, Vin is a leading voice at DRC-Canton - others look up to him. He has the admirable inclination to live totally in the moment. Vin moves fluidly from one thing to the next; as a result, projects (mostly clothing designs for Digby the DRC cat) go unfinished, and his environment tends to be messy and chaotic. We always find small (or
large) pieces of evidence of his presence long after he leaves - DRC.
Besides facilitating the Digby TikTok account and going on long walks to find bargains at the thrift store, Vin can be found putting together puzzles, playing on the floor with the plastic animals, making colorful frosting for the cakes and cookies we bake, in the art room buried in the creative process, or participating in lengthy conversations about
There is absolutely nothing fake about Vin - ever. He is honestly, genuinely, unapologetically himself - always. I appreciate him beyond measure, and it is clear the entire Canton Crew agrees.
Meet Elijah (who will be a newly minted nine-year-old in two weeks). He is one of those kids who exudes intelligence, creativity, and curiosity from his very pores. In September, when I first met Eli, he told me (with a touch of attitude that I have come to learn and love as the pure essence of Eli) that he didn't like to read. I foolishly thought he meant he couldn't - yet. Oh boy, was I wrong! He not only reads - very well, he now advocates for our weekly library excursions after being introduced to the joys of graphic novels by one of the teens (his best friend at the Center).
Eli is also a math whiz with little or no formal math instruction; he adds and subtracts (fairly complex problems) in his head. We learned this about him after witnessing his prowess as the banker in Monopoly. He also showed the other kids how to play Farkle (with possibly his own
rules). Regardless - he clearly understands the abstract constructs of multiplication and division.
At DRC, Eli can usually either be found in the Seedlings Room, creating imaginary lands and characters with intricate story lines with the Lincoln Logs and a huge box of plastic animals (and one of he many stuffies he brings every day) or in the art room doing the same, only with cardboard boxes, scraps of paper, recycled materials, and hot glue.
Elijah is another DRC kid who is unabashedly himself - his confidence in his own abilities (and frustration with imperfection, whether his own or others) indicates his leadership potential. It is with absolute joy that
I anticipate the next few years of helping him finesse the rough edges that sometimes extend the bounds of politeness - to discover where his natural talents will bring him.
Meet Kathryn. Katie could best be described in one word, enigma, only because she is so many things that are hard to bring out in a three-paragraph introduction.
She has been at DRC since September 2017 and, along with her two siblings, has been with us the longest. Katie is the middle child and comes with many of the traits of that particular birth order. She is the peacekeeper not only within her family unit, but also at the Center. Katie is quietly independent and self-sufficient; she takes care of
herself and others with little fuss or drama. She is shy and unwilling to put herself in the limelight even when she should be celebrated.
Above all else, Katie is an artist with innovative energy that
transcends what you would simply call talent. She spends most of her time at DRC in the art room with her older sibling, drawing, painting, and creating whatever she dreams up - or playing Minecraft and Roblox.
I look forward to spending the next few years with Katie as she enters her high school career. I know she will soon discover her inner confidence lurking just beneath the surface of that modest exterior - it is just waiting for the right moment to pop and shine. And when it does - watch out, world!
These reflections about each of our DRC-East members are written by Lead Staff, Angie.
My Piper is a hell of a fighter and a fierce advocate for youth living with type I diabetes. Like Samie, she never lets the pump on her side slow her down, and instead uses her own experiences to help advocate for and educate others. She has a heart of gold and an unconditional love for animals of all kinds. Piper enjoys painting, cooking, skating, crochet, knitting, and is my favorite class clown.
Piper's favorite thing about East: "Having a safe space with the people I know and love to learn and hang out in, especially Ashlyn and Evangeline."
Jordan is a bit of an introvert who loves to read, downhill ski, ice skate and rollerblade. He also happens to be an incredibly gifted musician. Jordan is one of those people who can sit down at the piano (or with his electric guitar) first thing in the morning, pick a random song, find a tutorial, and by lunchtime have you singing along. The very first song he learned to play when we settled into our new home at East, much to my delight and his, was Highway to Hell.. The kid and I have the same sense of humor... What can I say?
Jordan's favorite thing about East: "My favorite thing about East is having a safe space with access to all kind of instruments and time to work on learning to play where I'm comfortable with all of you."
Josiah is fairly new to our little family at East. He's full of an infectious energy and aspires to be a weapons designer. If any of you have a connection with the military or NASA you all should reach out now and ask them to start recruiting this child!!! He will spend hours drawing and building models of drone missles, space stations, and assault rifles while giving you factually accurate information on why his design is better than the current model in use. With his quirky sense of humor and quick wit, he is very quickly becoming a favorite of our Bigs and Littles alike.
Josiah's favorite thing about East: "Good people, good community. I don't care how fancy we are or not. I just care that I can be ME!!!!"
At her young age and with such huge personalities constantly surrounding her, it's probably no surprise that Jasmine is still figuring out who she is to some extent. Reese has given her a passion for cooking that makes me turn around very slowly in the kitchen for fear of bumping into while her eagerly waits to help cook whatever is for lunch that day. She shares a talent in downhill skiing and ice skating with Jordan, and an undeniable love for animals with Piper. Cora has given her the gift of strength and determination to overcome any obstacle life puts in her path, and I'm fairly certain that the effectiveness to melting your heart with her shy but sweet giggle has been learned from Myka. No matter what she decides to do or become in this lifetime, you can be sure that she will do it surrounded by love and support and with the fierce determination that it takes to succeed.
Jasmine's favorite thing about East: "I love coming here to learn to cook new things with you and being together with my friends and family where we can learn new things."
Each and every one of my East Peeps are special, but Adam and Tyler are literally my miracle guys. Both are passionate supporters and previous recipients of the Make A Wish Foundation, and live each moment in life with a joy and gratitude that most of us will spend our whole lives searching for.
Adam has a smile that lights up the room and will flash it at you as he beats your butt in any card game you want to play. He loves to play badminton, baseball, soccer and will fish for days if you'll take him!
Tyler is an avid history buff and will sit and read anything from ancient roman times to the not so distant past of his hometown. He loves military documentaries and Gary Paulson books.
Adam's favorite thing about East: "I love it here because we can learn at our own pace and we all respect each other, so no one tolerates any kind of bullying."
Tyler's favorite thing about East: "FREEDOM!!!!!! The freedom to choose what we learn, how we learn and and how long we can spend learning it."
She's likely to hate this analogy, but Evangeline is a bit like an oyster. You are going to have to work your tailfeathers off to get her to open up, but when she does the intricacy and depth of her layers and the pure beauty of her essence will surprise and delight you beyond anything you expect. She has an extensive collection of healing crystals and an in depth knowledge about traditional Native medicine that she is constantly expanding. Evangeline will spend hours painting, dancing, crafting or reading, but her true passion is traveling to anywhere and everywhere that you'll take her, by plane, train or automobile!
Evangeline's favorite thing about East: "My favorite things about East are that it doesn't matter who's there or what's going on, I always feel like I can be myself and do what I want, when I want. I'm able to learn about what I'm interested in and I get to meet some really cool new people. East has always been a safe space for me and my friends to hang out and learn about the stuff that we all enjoy learning about. It's just really cool and a fun place to go"
Colton and Paisley are one of our youngest sibling duos. They are amazingly mature for their ages and often times teach me something new on a regular basis. (You should google the zoomies. I promise it's worth it LOL) They have a passion and love for learning that turns every second into a teachable moment in some way or other.
With that sweet smile and elfin laugh Paisley will remind you a bit of Tinkerbell, but make no mistake about it, she's as tough as nails and proves it by playing hockey with the older boys!
Colton loves to build things with anything from popsicle sticks to magnatiles and passionately reads anything he can get his hands on, especially if it pertains to Greek Mythology.
Paisley's favorite thing about East: "Having time to spend with my friends playing together while we learn with no clocks!!!"
Colton's favorite thing about East: "All the kids that i get to interact with here and the fact that everyone respects each others differences."
Kohl is an Old Soul who is so full of compassion and love that he almost seems to gentle for this world. He is one of those brave and courageous Spirits who never lets foolish social expectations like gender norms hinder his ability to follow his passion and dreams. When he isn't busy with his lawn care business, you can often find him sitting by the fire, listening to some killer old school tunes, creating another fabulous boondoggle design for us to sell at the Party in the Park on May 21st!
Kohl's favorite thing about East: "My favorite thing about East and everyone there is that they accept and adapt to who you are and we use our unique skills to work together to complete projects and accomplish our goals. There is a special bond that forms when you achieve things you didn't think you could with people who love and support you. We really are just like a family here "
If you ask her, Kowanihahra will tell you that she wants to be an MMA fighter or a professional boxer, like her Mom. She has no clue at her young age that she is an incredibly gifted story teller and writer (like her Dad) who in all reality could become a very successful director, producer, writer or investigative journalist. She will spend hours, researching a topic and then write elaborate, yet accurate versions, with her own unique twist through both her words and drawings.
Kowanihara's favorite thing about East: "My friends are here and I love coming and sharing my stories with you, Angie!"
Talia is one of our Littles, and despite her sweet smile, she has a personality that seems much too big to fit inside her little body. She loves to dance, has aspirations of being a Veterinarian, and can often times be found in the middle of a walking meditation in the woods somewhere. She brings an amazing innocent energy to our East family and is a favorite of many of the students, both Little and Big alike.
Talia's favorite thing about DRC East: "I love coming here to play with all of my friends, especially you and Kowanihara!"
Cora has the fierce Spirit of a warrior and the gentle heart of a Healer. She loves skating, skiing, softball and has a passion for learning the art of traditional Native medicine. Like most strong women, if you have what it takes to get through her exterior wall of defense (I suggest packing a lunch, wearing work boots and bringing a sledge hammer) she will surprise you over and over again with the amazing beauty of her inner essence.
Cora's favorite thing about DRC East: "It's my safe space to hang out with my friends, especially Ashlyn and Evangeline."
I never completely understood the commonly used phrase "Still waters run deep" until I met Reese. He's almost always incredibly calm, sometimes a little quiet, and is one of the most sensitive Spirits that I've met. He's intelligent, extremely inquisitive, and passionate about his heritage and social justice issues. Reese loves to fish (sometimes in the fish tank in the living room, or so I've been told) and can often be found in the kitchen sharing his talent for cooking with one of the younger kids with patience that belies his years, when he's not 4 wheeling, gaming, skiing, or playing his guitar.
Reese's favorite thing about DRC East: "My favorite thing about East is being in the kitchen, learning to cook new things, and having my friends and family around to share it with."
Each and every day that Jayden comes to the Unschool, the routine is exactly the same. He rushes to the door ahead of his siblings, rips it open, stomps in with his mean muggin' face on, and tells me to "SQUARE UP". I (while still after all of these months struggling not to giggle) do my very best to replicate his mean mug and square up back at him. At this point, Jayden's face transforms from his mean mug into a brilliant smile that radiates from his toes to the tip of his nose, and he comes barreling at a dead run to hug me and tell me good morning. He is a compassionate young man with an encyclopedic knowledge of anything dinosaurs and Pokemon who loves to play soccer with his brother.
Jayden's favorite thing about East: "Everyone here likes me for me! This is where I play with my friends, and I learn new things"
Samie is sunshine mixed with a little (or some days A LOT) of hurricane. Like most old Soul empaths, she overthinks, over feels, wears her huge emotions on her sleeve, and the world be damned! The insulin pump on her side is just another accessory and doesn't slow her down a bit while she outfishes her brother (even if she won't hold it for a pic), paints beautiful canvases, or struts her stuff in photography, gymnastics and dance. If you want to really get to know her, I can promise you that she will make you WORK for it, and I mean really work for it! I can also promise you that if you earn her trust, she will grab ahold of your hand, turn every minute of the day into an amazing adventure, and never let go.
Samie's favorite thing about East: "I can learn about anything that I'm interested in and I can learn it in my own way, at my own pace."