Learning to Do, Doing to Learn
By Barry Engelhardt
“It’s where I grew up, so Vandalia defines my whole life. I’ve spent my whole life here, so it’s pretty important to me.”
Vandalia junior Dexter Culpepper prefers to learn with his hands. He confidently admits that he wouldn’t classify himself as an academic or educational learner. Self-aware, he likes and excels when allowed to learn through physical activity. Self-described as social and active, he’d prefer to have personal conversations over playing on his phone and learn by experience instead of sitting at a desk. He enjoys using his hands to measure progress as he sees a project shift from start through completion.
Dexter shares that he’s always preferred to learn by doing. He started playing piano early and continues to grow his musical abilities. Dexter laughs and shares that he encouraged his mom to enroll him in piano lessons when he was eight years old and was excited to begin. A very musical person, he plays the trombone and tuba in band class and a drum kit at home.
While Dexter has explored many sports, soccer has always been a constant for him. Though he’s participated in baseball, wrestling, and long-distance running for the Vandals track team, he currently only plans to continue with soccer.
Dexter was born and raised in Vandalia, the second oldest of eight siblings. He is close in age with his older brother, a senior. With five younger sisters and seven siblings running around the house, it’s no wonder that Dexter prefers to stay busy.
As a family of ten, he admits it’s hard to travel. Still, he considers Colorado his favorite destination. Dexter, shaking his head, says that big cities are ‘too much.’ He’d choose places like Yellowstone National Park or the Redwood Forest instead.
While Dexter hopes to travel in the future and is open to moving, he considers Vandalia home. “Whenever I think of Vandalia, I think of everything. It’s where I live and where I go to school. It’s where all my friends and family are. It’s where I grew up, so Vandalia defines my whole life. I’ve spent my whole life here, so it’s pretty important to me.”
He concludes, “I like the small town. I know a lot of people. It’s very easy to go outside and do your own thing. It’s not too crowded and not a ghost town; it’s perfectly in the middle.”
One of Dexter’s favorite courses is Building Trades. A perfect course for someone who loves working with his hands, Dexter is helpingbuild a house as part of the course curriculum. Always pragmatic and humble, Dexter shares that he’s “enjoying the course so far,” adding that his older brother, a senior, is also enrolled in the same course.
But while Dexter’s words are humble, the experience’s impact is not. “I want to find something that piques what I like and can do for years. One of the things I’m looking into is to go into a union or some sort of trade school. I don’t know what type yet, but that piques my interest,” continues Dexter.
Dexter’s experiences as a student have been rich and diverse, from music to academics to trades. While working with his hands has proven an invaluable theme throughout his life, the clarity to realize what one enjoys and how one prefers to learn is a priceless gift. Dexter’s self-awareness and clarity will take him far, regardless of whether he chooses to stay in the city that’s ‘perfectly in the middle.’