In the 30 years that I have served in public and private education, and as a long time consultant for schools and educational non-profits, I have not encountered any school that delivers education in the way that Verde Valley School does. Nor one that lives on a daily basis rooted in and committed to its core guiding principles of not only academic excellence, but also intercultural understanding and world citizenship, environmental stewardship, service to humanity with a willing spirit, and the value of physical labor.
Here at VVS, academic excellence is delivered through an International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum and our students and their parents opt to take this prestigious program, knowing that if offers them greater benefits and options when applying for college. Add to that the accolade of “#15 best boarding school in the US” (Town and Country), and you understand why VVS makes for such an attractive choice of school.
But VVS is more than a boarding school. About 20% of its student population is made up of local day students who flourish in the small class size so conducive to personal learning and development. These students are gifted with unparalleled experiences here at VVS that immerse them in cultural integration, community service and experiential learning that all endow students with capabilities they never knew they had, nor would they have the opportunity to discover, without the magical VVS touch.
Here at VVS, set amidst the inimitable red rocks of Sedona, we call our type of education “IB + Dirt”. This unique curriculum is delivered by a talented and energetic faculty 100% invested in delivering a holistic education that prepares their students for a life beyond college as positive change agents of the world. The proof of this lies in the impressive student testing scores, the highly regarded colleges and universities to which they are accepted, and the work they go on to do that is defined by the VVS guiding principles.
VVS began as a love story between a man from Harvard University and the daughter of an English plantation owner living in Guatemala. Hamilton and Barbara Warren took a visionary leap when founding the school in 1948. Post World War II brought a world that was disjointed, with millions of people displaced. In our neighborhood, Native Americans were being sequestered to reservations. The Warrens very intentionally created an international school in the beauty and safety of Sedona to provide a place where students, from all parts of the world, would find acceptance and an opportunity to experience a world-class education. They established the guiding principles that to this day anchor the lives of VVS students and faculty. We live by them each day.
While these principles remain unchanged, how we go about educating our students has appropriately changed over the past six decades to meet the needs of students in an ever-shifting educational climate. The reason we exist today as a school is guided by our history and tradition as a multinational institution of principle, excellence and heart. Our community is comprised of 120 students from 18 countries and 14 states. Students from Afghanistan, Turkey, Syria, Israel, Rwanda, and many other countries, learn world citizenship and cultural understanding through an intentional program. Peace is possible. Verde Valley demonstrates that each day.
While there was no formal language to describe what the Warrens meant by “environmental stewardship”, VVS was one of the first schools to include it in its mission. We take that responsibility seriously with each student involved regularly in our sustainability program work jobs: caring for the land, planting and harvesting in our organic farm, and overseeing our recycling and composting systems (100% of our table scraps and ware are composted). Students leave VVS and return to their communities knowing how to create positive change for our climate and our planet.
Among the goals of the 2016-2021 Strategic Plan is the protection of the school’s land so beautifully and iconically nestled beneath Cathedral Rock, and a commitment not to sell any of the property’s 30 acres. This protection includes our two acre VVS Farm that is increasingly recognized as an educational model for area organizations including public and charter schools. More importantly it is appreciated and honored as a source of local, seasonal and organic foods that provides nourishment beyond the school’s dining services to local restaurants, farmers market, and under-represented communities in Yavapai County. Backed by this support and recognition, the VVS Farm recently prepared new acreage for an orchard of 57 different fruit trees to compliment the hundred plus seed to harvest plants grown on the land.
Naturally, I am biased about VVS. I hope you will appreciate that to really know us, you have to visit us. And with that spirit in mind, please consider this letter an open invitation to visit Verde Valley School as my personal guest.
Head of School