Dear Friends of The Hudson School,
It is impossible for me to place a value on my education at the Hudson School because I have come to appreciate it as priceless. Despite this obvious cliché, it is completely and utterly the truth. Success in America is often predicated on having the right opportunities. Opportunities can be created by luck, socioeconomic status, connections, education and the generosity of others. Not being particularly well-connected or wealthy, luck, education, hard work and the generosity of others played an essential role in the successes that I have obtained.
In retrospect, it would have been difficult to foresee how my time spent in a series of multi-purpose rooms attached to the Hoboken Public Library would have such a profound effect on my life. When I think of the opportunities that I have had, most of them are either directly or indirectly related to my time spent at the Hudson School, particularly, the care and attention given to me by Sue Newman. I count myself lucky to have been educated by her.
My mother was initially hesitant to enroll me at the Hudson School. As a typical inner city Catholic kid, I was moved to a parochial school for my elementary education. For many children the structured environment and standard course of education is perfectly adequate. My strength (and perhaps my weakness) of being truly interested and hungry for new challenges left me well out of any standard program. After teachers complained to my parents of my endless daydreaming and napping, I was placed in special education classes. After four long years, the principal of the school recognized the true issue and pointed my parents back to the Hudson School.
My traditional Latino parents were hesitant to send me to a school where the students dressed in jeans and T-shirts and addressed the teachers by first name. The class size was small and some students worked independently. However, Mrs. Newman, who I had known from my years in nursery school and kindergarten, stressed the importance of small class size and individualized education. Furthermore, it became increasingly clear that continuing on at my parochial school would only reward me with poor grades and excellent standardized test scores. The final crucial element in their choice for me was the extensive financial aid that would make it possible for me to attend the Hudson School.
To make up for the small size of the school and the lack of a gym, the then gentrifying city of Hoboken, New Jersey was our schoolyard. Instead of art rooms and a gymnasium we had the opportunity to study with artists in their studios and to roll around the mats in a circus school staffed by defectors from a Russian circus. The Hudson School taught me to view education not as a confined box but rather as a vast landscape: philosophy, calculus, Latin, Spanish, painting, macramé and theater were all available to me.
More important than the education I gained while at the Hudson School, were the skills I learned to continue learning a spectrum of disciplines later in life. The Hudson School also taught me that it was good to be smart and that being a little different was actually a great thing. I learned that it was my duty to speak out against wrongs in the world through non-violent protest and civil disobedience. I also learned that it was wrong to laugh at other people’s ideas and beliefs. The Hudson School taught me that education can come in many different forms and through many different opportunities. This type of thinking and the education I received while at the Hudson School gave me the confidence to seek out opportunities and succeed in ways I never would have dreamed of as a Puerto Rican kid from Jersey City: travelling the subways of Manhattan as an early teen to go to attend Regis High School; flying off to Stanford University; working in a primate center in Germany; Yale Medical School; a Howard Hughes fellowship at the NIH in Washington, D.C.; a neurosurgery residency at the University of Washington in Seattle, a year as a visiting resident physician in a London and a post-graduate fellowship at the University of Chicago.
As a neurosurgeon at Washington University in St. Louis, I have been blessed with two of the greatest learning experiences life can provide: caring for patients and teaching some of the brightest people I have ever met how to care for patients.
Now I have the responsibility of educating my own children. My education at the Hudson School left me with a great burden. Every parent hopes that their children’s lives are at least as good as theirs. My wife and I spent a long time picking out the right school for our children and found a lovely independent school in St. Louis. A half lifetime later, it would appear that the non-traditional education I received at the Hudson School has in some ways become the norm for independent schools. Such an education is costly, however, and I am grateful that I am able to afford the cost of such an education for my children. Had it not been for Sue Newman’s and the Hudson School’s commitment to provide financial support to gifted and talented children, I never would have received the education that I treasure and the opportunities that have come with it.
We all have many responsibilities and there are so many valid and worthy causes for our contributions. I am pledging to support The Hudson School not only because of the direct benefits I have enjoyed but because I believe, in my heart, that reaching a child during these important developmental years is key in the ability and desire for every person to learn throughout their life. Please help the HudsonSchool continue its mission of educating young minds for life. I know their methods work, I live by what I learned every day.
Paul Santiago, M.D.