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Curious Minds - Alumni Profiles

Alumni Profiles

WCATY alum Sugar Todd may not have won an Olympic medal at Sochi. But she totally won America’s heart when, after finishing 29th out of 34 skaters in the women’s 500 meter race Tuesday, she tweeted out a message that went viral:

THAT WAS THE MOST FUN I EVER HAD. I love the Olympics. I love speedskating.

And suddenly, the world fell in love with Todd.

“Sugar Todd is the Games’ Sweetest Olympian,” reads the headline on a blog post by Sam Laird. In his piece, published at the social media news site Mashable, Laird speculated that Todd “must be the greatest, most mature, most well-adjusted, smartest, best sport in the history of sport.”

Todd’s tweet following her performance in the 1,000 meters yesterday was also upbeat:

32nd place at the Olympics. @YOLO.

Since arriving in Sochi, Todd, 23, has charmed her fans with her tweets, which included:

Opening Ceremony is what all my dreams are made of. Feeling honored and humbled to be a part of the Olympic movement.

Bonnie Blair has tweeted me twice this week and I’m pretty sure that’s the best thing of all.

In the medal plaza watching athletes I’ve never even met from other countries receive their Olympic medals and I’m crying my eyes out.

So there are macarons at the Olympics and now I’m never leaving. 

Read more: WCATY's Olympian Sugar Todd Takes to Twitter, Charms Fans


Rikki Rathore, who is working toward a career in public health and anesthesiology, credits WCATY with teaching her “how to learn.” As a current student at Northwestern University studying biological sciences, chemistry, and science in human culture, Rathore has used what she learned at STEP and ALP summer programs, and specifically her DNA science course, to push her undergrad research forward.


Through her research, Rathore is starting to understand what it means to work toward “expertise” in her field. “I think there are a lot of indications of whether an individual is an expert in the field of biology,” she says. “Part of it comes from just having a background in what I'm looking at. For example, if I'm reading a paper about apoptosis, [it helps if] I know something about what cells look like and how they function. Then, when I'm reading, if I see keywords like "programmed cell death" or "caspase cascade," I know that I'm reading something that was written by someone who knows what they're talking about.”


Read more: WCATY Alum Rikki Rathore Works Toward Expertise in Biology


I first met Sugar Todd when she enrolled in the “Invention of Freedom for All” WCATY online class I was teaching way back in 2002. I remember her as a sensitive, thoughtful seventh grader who told me at our first face-to-face meeting that her goal was to become the best speed skater she could be. Later in class, she shared her dream of someday participating in the Olympics.


What a joy it has been over the years to receive notices from other former students and teachers about Sugar's amazing progress toward achieving that dream, which will culminate with her participation as a member of the US Olympic Speed skating team in Sochi.


Over the 2002-2003 school years, Sugar went on to take three of my other online classes, all integrating history, science, and philosophy. I got to know her really well, and have to say she was perhaps the most outstanding student I’ve ever had—and I’ve worked with a lot of outstanding students. Intellectually, Sugar was sharp as a whip, insightful, and a deep thinker. She grasped new material quickly, and was a great writer. One thing I’ll never forget is the time she debated both sides of the same issue—I think it was cloning—equally well. 

Read more: "WCATY Kid" Sugar Todd to Skate in Sochi Olympics


WCATY’s most famous alum just might be Oz (rhymes with “shows”) Pearlman, a world-class magician and mentalist, and a premiere ultramarathoner. 

Pearlman was lauded in a Sports Illustrated article last summer for his “mental toughness,” a trait that helped him nail sixth-place in a field of 100 runners competing in the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon through Death Valley in July. 

According to Pearlman, using his mind to help overcome the physical challenges of long-distance running is not unlike the way he uses his intellect to perform feats of magic and mentalism, which he describes as “magic for the mind.” A prolific entertainer, Pearlman appears at more than 250 events a year; he has performed for President Bill Clinton, the New York Yankees, and on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Some describe him as the “next David Copperfield.” 

Read more: Oz Pearlman Excels at Magic, Marathons