University City Teen Takes Lifelong Learning Approach to Harvard

Elliot Wilson's natural curiosity and variety of interests will travel with him to the Ivy League this fall.

Elliot Wilson believes teaching and learning are one in the same. It’s a philosophy the  graduate is taking with him to the Ivy League this fall.

As the Harvard-bound teen prepares to enter a rigorous academic environment, he looks forward to being surrounded by some of the best professors on any campus and peers who are active learners and share his interests in a variety of disciplines.

“I always like to learn just as much from my fellow students as I do from my teachers,” Wilson said. “That is part of why I tutor, as well because it gives me a better understanding of the material and the learning process.”

Wilson graduated from U. City High School in May. He wracked up major achievements along the way to this next chapter in his life:

  • He was one of three valedictorians;
  • a National Merit finalist, boasting a 34 on the ACT assessment test;
  • a member of the National Honor Society;
  • and a member of the National Junior Classical League, an organization of students who study Latin and Greek.

Wilson excelled in a different arena, too; as goalie on the U. City High School Varsity water polo team.

An early bloomer

Wilson's father Kenneth said that even from a young age his son was interested in a lot of different things. Family car rides featured a frequent game. Beginning a sentence with, “Hey, did you know,”  the young Wilson would share a  fact or concept he had read or heard somewhere. The elder Wilson often wondered where his son came up with this information.

In fact, father may have planted the seeds of curiosity in son. Reading has always been integral in the Wilson household, according to Kenneth Wilson. This paved the way for not only a love for reading but also a wide store of knowledge.

“So now all of (the children) appreciate reading, and reading being the key to opening the gates to everything that (Elliot) could do now and to almost everything else he has been able to do,” the elder Wilson said. “The person he is now is someone that thinks about a lot of different stuff.”

Elliot Wilson's bookshelves as a youngster featured Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events and the Harry Potter series. As he grew up and found his passion for education, Wilson became drawn to W.E.B. Dubois, a writer and founder of the NAACP

In the footsteps of DuBois

Wilson found himself living the DuBois legacy in high school. He tutored his friends and classmates when they needed help with projects and studying for exams. This unofficial tutoring led to a job as a tutor through University of Missouri-St. Louis and Gear Up, a national program that helps prepare students for college.

Tutoring for Gear Up helped Wilson explore his passion for instruction. He is certain he wants to teach in the future, but not sure where to concentrate his efforts, biology or Latin.

“I really can't imagine myself doing anything but teaching,” Wilson said. “I just desire to help people learn and to be with them as they are making discoveries and learn with them. I like that feeling of helping someone understand something more fully.”

The music man

And there’s more to Elliot Wilson. He plays the saxophone and performs experimental music at the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center in South City. Wilson defines “experimental” as employing a tempo that challenges the listener to re-think the instrument and what qualifies as music.

“What I will do is have extended periods of silence in the music and then very quiet saxophone noises that potential build up into very odd and chaotic parts,” Wilson said.

A busy summer

Wilson has  plenty to do before he heads for Harvard. On Wilson’s summer calendar:

Down to earth

Interim U. City High School principal Dayle Burgdorf says Wilson’s grounded personality will serve him well wherever he goes.  So will his ability to talk about anything with anyone.

Burgdorf added that his former student’s hard work is paying big dividends.

“He takes great pride in the work he puts out and it shows in his GPA, and where he is going to college,” Burgdorf said. “It also shows in the adult he has become as a graduate of U. City High School.”

Wilson leaves his alma mater with a great deal of pride and considers his time spent at the high school a “fantastic experience.” 

“I could not tell you who my favorite teacher was because I had like six or seven who were really amazing,” Wilson said.

George Lenard June 26, 2011 at 02:20 PM
Way to go Elliott! Thanks for the article, Patch!
Kim June 27, 2011 at 12:44 AM
Thanks so much for posting this article, Patch. Elliot is outstanding proof that an excellent education is available in UCity schools for those who are willing to work hard and take advantage of all that our district has to offer. I know we will hear great things form Elliot in the future.


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