At the Mackintosh Littleton auction on April 8, Mack alum Dr. Alfie Meister shared her story of how a full scholarship to Mackintosh changed her life. Dr. Meister attended Mackintosh from 1978-1985, when our founder Eve Mackintosh was Head of School. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as Dr. Meister shared her story, and attendees were moved to give over $40,000 to support scholarships at Mackintosh Littleton for the 2017-18 school year. (For information on these scholarships and how to apply, click here.)
We wanted to share Dr. Meister’s story with our blog readers and community members who could not be present at the auction. Here are her remarks:
“Thank you for the chance to share my story and my immense gratitude for Mackintosh Academy. I have always told people I could never have achieved what I have in my life without the existence and generosity of Mackintosh Academy.
The way Eva Mackintosh told the story, she opened the front door to Mackintosh one day (back when it was on Emerson Street in 1978) to find a great tall man with a tiny little girl, inquiring about admission. I am so thankful that he did. My life was never the same again. I attended Mackintosh from kindergarten through Intermediate, six years, entirely on scholarship. My father was a single father, trained as a small airplane mechanic but often unemployed. He struggled with alcoholism and likely depression. My life outside of Mackintosh was a struggle.
When I started kindergarten, we were actually living in a tent in a campground outside of Denver. Over the years, we rented rooms in various places, sometimes resorting to living in a friend’s basement or living room, or, at times, a van. The one time we had a place of our own, an apartment off of Colfax and Humboldt, it was so horrible that it has been forever since referred to as “the roach house.” He would have to shake out my sleeping bag every night before bed to get rid of the cockroaches and we never opened the closed door to the kitchen.
For transportation, we had a myriad of clunkers over the years. One had to be parked at the top of the hill every night so my dad could push it to a rolling jump start to get it going. One would vapor lock if he stopped once it got going, so I would wait by the door at school and try to jump in at a slow roll. There were also many periods of using the bus or hitchhiking. I vividly recall being called into Eva’s office once when some other parent saw us hitchhiking to school, being advised how dangerous it was to hitchhike.
My meals were purchased at either 7-11 or Taco Bueno. In the worst of times, my dad made me go beg the neighbors for a dollar to buy a burrito for dinner.
But through it all, I had Mackintosh. I received scholarship support every year I was there. My dad also did various types of work for the school over the years…painting, etc. One year I remember he cleaned the school every night. I would sleep on Eva’s couch while he worked. I can still vividly feel the textured pattern of that gold and cream couch on my cheek. My dad told me recently that he would eat kids’ leftover lunches from the trash to save money.
I was so lucky. While my life was one of insecurity and struggle, I spent my days with the most amazing teachers in an environment that fostered such a love of learning that I never needed an external source of motivation for the rest of my life. When I left Mackintosh, I knew who I was and I never doubted that I could achieve any dream I pursued.
I attended public school for middle school and high school. I went on to achieve a full ride scholarship to the University of California at Davis as a Regent’s Scholar. During college, I devoted myself to projects of service. I worked for three years at the Cross-Cultural Center on campus. I mentored a teen mom through the Sister/Friend Project (we are still friends to this day). Best of all, along with a small and dedicated group of students, I started a student run medical clinic in the impoverished Oak Park community of Sacramento, going strong 20 years later. Everything I did was focused on giving back the gifts I had received in my life. While in college in California, I read an article in People magazine about Rocky Mountain Youth Pediatrics, a non-profit clinic here in Colorado that did exactly what I dreamed of doing with my future.
In college, I decided that I wanted to use medicine as my tool for working towards social justice. I attended med school at UC Irvine (Eva even flew out for my graduation) and then pursued a pediatric residency at Children’s Hospital Oakland. I chose to study in Oakland because of the history of the community and the residency’s program focus on providing healthcare to the underserved.
During residency, I returned to Denver for a month to do a rotation with the clinic I had read about so long ago in college. I knew during that month, Rocky Mountain Youth is where I was meant to be. I have now been a pediatrician at RMY for 14 years! Every day I have the privilege of taking great care of kiddos just like I was, poor and struggling. While my main job is to offer them health care, I also prioritize literacy with my involvement in the fabulous Reach Out and Read program. I started programs where we celebrate kids on the honor roll and kids going to college. I only wish I could offer them an education like the one I had. I know how life changing it would be for them.
Next month, I will be presented with the Medical Center of Aurora’s physician humanitarian award for my career of service. All of this has been possible only because of Mackintosh Academy, and the scholarships that gave me the opportunity to obtain an amazing education, along with the desire to repay that gift every day.