Natasha Didytch has collected an assortment of titles over the years. From being a member of multiple academic honors societies at her college to an organizer with local Black Lives Matter protests, Natasha’s portfolio of involvement is diverse. But, when you ask her the quintessential experience that has made her who she is today, her first and only answer is Menlo Park Academy.
“Whenever people ask me how I got to where I was, I feel it is necessary to start at the very beginning with Menlo,” she smiles fondly, “Menlo was 100% the blueprint for who I am today and its impact on my entire life can not go understated.”
Natasha came to Menlo Park Academy in the third grade. While she was quick to call herself a quirky kid, she recalls how there was not a single quirk that could keep any of her Menlo peers from being friends with each other.
“Gifted children can all be weird at times. But at Menlo, I found a safe place, free of any bullying or isolation that I know would have come if I had gone to another school,” she laughs. Continuing, she says, “Menlo encouraged every little passion we wanted to pursue, no matter how bizarre it was. One of my favorite memories still is being a part of the ‘Christian Bale Appreciation Club,’ where we watched a different age-appropriate Christian Bale movie each week.”
However, Christian Bale was not the only passion of Natasha’s that Menlo encouraged. Natasha’s time participating in Mock Trial and Public Speaking and Debate led her to fall in love with politics. Now a junior at Marietta College, Natasha is majoring in political science. She plans to attend either law school or graduate school after graduation. This love of academia, she jokes, is a “side effect” of Menlo, and she attributes it to the teaching staff.
“I was always encouraged to go above and beyond where my ‘pre-Menlo’ teachers would have made me stop,” she says. “I credit Menlo’s teachers for being the reason I’m going down the path I am now. Every teacher made sure I knew how capable I was, and as a result, I go through life ready to try my hand at anything,” she adds.
Menlo’s impact on Natasha has continued to follow her well after her graduation. This past summer, she worked as a campaign intern for Cleveland mayoral candidate Kevin Kelley. Kelley is another member of the Menlo Park Academy community as his children attended school there. Natasha shares how her work with Kelley has only solidified her passion for politics, saying, “The Menlo connection led me to one of the best opportunities of my life. Being able to know Kevin Kelley personally has made me so passionate about the work we do and about helping him advocate for the city of Cleveland.”
These last few months, Natasha has spent upward of 60 hours a week working on the campaign. She has gone door to door all over the city, talking to the people of Cleveland and learning firsthand the issues that different people are facing and how to improve them.
“It was extremely hard work, but without a doubt the most rewarding work I’ve ever done in my life,” she continues, “I even drove back to Cleveland from Marietta the day we learned he had made the ballot just to be able to celebrate with the team.”
While Natasha does not ever see herself losing that love for political science, her palette is so diverse that the opportunities in her future are truly endless. Looking ahead goes hand-in-hand with remembering the past, and Natasha speaks with both pride and emotion about her Menlo roots and where they have gotten her.
“The impact that Menlo has on kids like me is insane,” she emphasizes, “They made me into who I am today without ever trying to change me, and knowing that they are still doing that for kids today makes me feel great about the generation after me.”
As Natasha continues to make her mark on the world, she moves with confidence knowing she will always have the Menlo Park Academy support system in her corner.