Alumni Spotlight: Thomas Nelson (CLWS ’17)

Thomas Nelson graduated from Darcie Steeves’ eighth grade class in the spring of 2017, and this spring, he and his classmates will graduate from high school! Thomas chose to discuss his experience with Waldorf education for a senior assembly at Blake—finally explaining “the hippy school” that friends and teachers jokingly mused over. 

We were lucky enough to view a recording of this speech, and listen to Thomas explain what Waldorf education meant to him, and about his experience adjusting to a more traditional classroom setting. We recently asked Thomas a few questions about his speech, and his time at CLWS, and are happy to share his responses with you here.

What was the response from your friends and teachers when you told them you wanted to do your senior speech on Waldorf education?

When I told people that I would be giving a speech about Waldorf and how it has affected me, nearly everyone I told thought that it was a great idea. I think that everyone who knows me knows the role that Waldorf has played in my life and were very excited for me to share. 

How did your presentation change their understanding of your elementary and middle school years at “the hippy school”?

I think a lot of people really didn’t know what Waldorf was, they just heard “the hippy school” and made assumptions. I think it was great for people to start to see what Waldorf has taught me and how big of a role it has played in my life. My overall purpose was to use my experience to allow people to better understand what Waldorf education is, and [judging] from the people I have talked to, their understanding grew immensely.

We’ve all experienced shifts in learning and presenting over the past year, and senior year of high school is a huge moment to be learning and connecting from home. What was your experience like, giving this speech for an online audience? 

It was certainly different than I expected, when you are on Zoom you really can’t see anyone’s reaction or emotions to the speech. I really just felt like I was making a recording of myself talking instead of giving a speech for the whole upper school. Because I was online and couldn’t see the people listening it definitely made the experience less nerve-racking, but it would have been great to share it in person. 

What are your plans for the coming year, post high school graduation? 

I’m going to Kenyon College in Ohio, I will be playing lacrosse there. 

What was your favorite Waldorf school tradition? 

Definitely the Pentathlon, it was a great experience to try new athletic events and see how training over the year leads to a large amount of progression. It was also just awesome to be together with other schools and form new friendships with them. 

According to Thomas, the greatest thing that Waldorf taught him was a love and appreciation for the outdoors, and he believes that other schools and their students could benefit from more time spent in nature. “I think that more outdoor group activities, like camping trips and day trips to many of our state’s local resources, would be a great way to start to get the Blake community more engaged with our city and state, and to really begin to appreciate what we have,” says Thomas.

To watch his full speech, please click here.

Please join us in congratulating Thomas Nelson, and the rest of the CLWS Class of 2017, on their high school graduation! We are so excited to see what is in store for these bright young people. 

Alumni, we want to hear from you!

If you’re interested in being interviewed for our alumni series on the CLWS blog or would like to nominate someone, please reach out to fellow alum, Eva Mulloy (—I’m excited to talk with you!

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