With the arrival of Fall and its harvest offerings, Verde Valley School is preparing to celebrate its fourth annual Farm to Table Feast on Saturday, October 20 between 3:00-7:00 pm. The menu features foods sourced from the organic Verde Valley School Farm as well as local Arizona farmers, vintners, and brewers, and each year local chefs are invited to design, prepare and present the meal, including VVS’s very own Chef Michael Briggs. The VVS Farm to Table Feast is truly a locavore event and is especially significant this year as all proceeds will provide Weekend Meal Packs to food insecure children in the Verde Valley.
We are thrilled to share that the 2018 Farm to Table Feast will be prepared by Sedona’s very own celebrity, Chef Lisa Dahl. Here’s what Chef Lisa has to say about the occasion:
“By having the opportunity to be a voice in the community, one inherits a social conscience. Even in our somewhat affluent Verde Valley area, many kids go home to their families on the weekends, hungry. As a Chef, this hits home and is painful to hear. Although the Verde Valley means “green valley,” many of these children don’t have the pleasure of receiving the proper nutrition from meals served at home. This Farm to Table Feast event means so much more than just putting on a Chef coat and cooking. When I found out it supports the “Backpacks for Kids” program, which provides food for kids over the weekend in a backpack, I was all in.
Being invited as the featured Chef has brought me so much joy because it allows me to do one of the things I love most – crafting a menu featuring local ingredients. The cherry on top is that some ingredients will come straight from the Verde Valley School Farm; it doesn’t get more local than that!
To all 75 attendees that purchase a ticket for this unforgettable experience, please know that I will cook every meal with love and passion. Your taste buds will be filled with delight, and your hearts will dance with satisfaction.
Fueled by the inspiration of my recent travels to Provence and through the collaboration with the Verde Valley School and their farm manager, Michael Spielman, we will be bringing you a plant-based dining and drinking extravaganza that you will all remember for years to come.”
The Farm to Table Feast is held on the VVS campus with its stunning views of Sedona’s red rocks, at a time of day when the setting sun casts its magical colors on the magnificent high desert landscape. As is the tradition, the evening starts with a tour of the school’s scenic “beyond organic” farm with Farm Manager Mike Spielman and his earth-loving team. Here you can wander around the gardens enjoying tasty small bites prepared by Chef Michael Briggs, refreshing beverages and entertainment by VVS music students. Guests will then proceed up to the Chapel patio for appetizers and then on to dinner at the Head of School’s house for dinner, both prepared by Chef Lisa Dahl.
We hope you can join us for this nutritious and delicious celebration of all that exemplifies the very best in supporting and eating LOCAL!
Hamilton Warren, the founder of Verde Valley School once said, “If my labor will serve you, I will not withhold it.” The quote aligns with several of the VVS guiding principles, including service to others, the value of physical labor, the value of world citizenship, and environmental stewardship – all important components of the experiential education at VVS.
One of the VVS programs that most actively embraces these guiding principles is Field Trips, held each November. Many schools offer field trips, but none do it in the inimitable VVS style. From the school’s beginnings in 1948, getting students out of their usual surroundings and engaged in a culture different than their own has been the guiding force behind our Field Trips.
This year, as part of our VVS Global Goals program which is already thriving in Malawi, we are introducing an international Field Trip to Guatemala. This seems most fitting as VVS Founders, Hamilton and Barbara Warren, first met in that country where Barbara’s parents owned a coffee plantation. Our students will be working there alongside an organization called Fotokids which was started by Nancy McGirr, a former Reuters news service photographer who covered the wars in Central America during the turbulent eighties. In 1991, she founded Fotokids, giving cameras to six children who lived in Guatemala City’s garbage dump.
Originally called Out of the Dump, Fotokids has served hundreds of at-risk children affected by poverty and violence by giving them a chance of a better life, using photography, graphic design, media technology and vocational training experience as tools for self-expression, creativity, leadership, and future employment.
Today, 27 years later, Fotokids has taught over a thousand children living in at-risk areas in Guatemala, Honduras, and California’s agricultural central valley. Creating a scholarship program early on for students from primary school through university and working with staff to design a 3-year vocational program for girls, Fotokids has helped graduates find employment in a disastrous job market. More information can be found at www.fotokidsoriginal.org.
We are thrilled to have Nancy McGirr at Verde Valley School as a part of our Global Goals Speaker Program on Friday, August 31 at 6:30 pm in Brady Hall. A warm welcome is extended to the greater Sedona community to attend.
Nancy McGirr has produced over 46 exhibits in 14 countries and has given interviews on BBC, Australian TV, ABC, Japanese and Dutch TV. She has given workshops and presentations in Algeria, Spain, Australia, Brazil, and at Harvard University, Boston Museum School, Konica in Tokyo, Photographers Gallery in London, PHotoEspaña in Madrid and was a TEDx speaker. She was the recipient of the prestigious Lucie Humanitarian Award in 2011.
Nancy has lived in Guatemala for the past twenty-nine years and has turned over the Executive Director position to Evelyn Mansilla who grew up in the dump. She now supports the project with fundraising, social media and producing the many exhibitions.
When I was a child, my father was a big Jackie Gleason fan. For those who may not know, Gleason was a New York comedian with a long-running TV show during the mid-50s to the mid-60s. His style was unabashedly brash and visual. He was a funny man and his bawdy, physical comedy had my family in hysterics from the get-go. While there are many “favorite parts,” the best part of each show for me (at four years old) was when he would conclude his opening remarks with the words, “And away we go!” as he danced off stage to the delight of people all over America.
Each August as faculty and staff return to campus, those words become a mantra, looping in my head, “And away we go!”, “And away we go!”, “And away we go!” Thank goodness the students are coming back!
There is something so special about an educational community preparing for the arrival of its students. VVS folks are particularly enthusiastic, and we get more excited as we count down the days for the kids to return. Most feel that way because the beginning of classes marks the end of a series of meetings and due diligence which seem daunting and never-ending. Teachers are born to teach. Boarding school staff are here to serve students. The rest, while important, does not bring joy like the shouts and laughter of students on the VVS quad.
VVS is a busy place for students and staff. With the requirements of the International Baccalaureate, Field Trips, Decembermester, and Project Period, VVS must get a healthy start in the third week of August in order to complete our ambitious school schedule. In fact, staff and faculty meetings began on August 8th in preparation for the arrival of students on August 20th.
Looking further ahead, we are beginning new work on our branding and messaging so that we can communicate all the strengths that make a VVS education exceptional and to maintain strong enrollment. It seems we are at a crossroads as a country in many ways and this is being reflected in international applications for college and university that are down almost 20% over two years ago. Independent schools generally go the same way higher education goes, therefore we must be well prepared to find new areas for enrollment of quality students. In fact, a colleague at a California boarding school called to ask me if our international applications are down. His school had seen a 50% decrease in international student applications over last year. We are being strategic about this and while we have seen a very slight decline in international applicants, we remain a multi-national school with 50% of our student body from overseas.
On campus, a number of capital changes approved at the June Board meeting are already underway, beginning with upgrades to our dorms. This summer due to the fantastic work of our maintenance crew, Christensen Dorm went through major renovations with new paint and flooring, and furniture upgrades. New laundry appliances are being installed in several dorms. And, plans are underway for upgrades to the Perkins common room, and the Sears boiler room. The Chapel is being fitted with new roofing, wiring, and a second egress door to bring us up to fire code. We are currently in the permitting stage to build four new staff residences on the northwest side of campus. All of these changes and improvements are the result of the generosity of parents and alumni. Thank you one and all!
We are also most grateful for two very generous gifts from our community this summer. A major gift from a parent enabled us to purchase a new truck to pull our horse trailer to the many off-site events our equestrian team participates in annually. We are also so thankful for the transformation that alumnus Chuck Burrus ’62 made to the flooring in Brady Hall. Chuck, who owns a janitorial company in Phoenix, put many hours into stripping and resealing the beautiful old wooden parquetry flooring throughout Brady Hall so that it now exudes a warm, inviting glow!
Despite all this activity on the campus over summer, the third annual Sedona Summer Colony provided a home to fifty artists who came from around the USA and abroad to spend quiet contemplative time in the red rock high desert of Sedona and reconnect with their creativity. The classrooms, art studios, and Brady Hall resonated with the energy of artists working with watercolors, textiles, ceramics, pastels, oils, pencils, jewelry, sculpture, assemblage, movement, dance, and photography. Founded in 2016, the Colony is a partnership between VVS and the Sedona Arts Center that supports creative people of all kinds, nurtures and advances their ideas, and expands our own creative community here in Sedona.
This year is a big one for VVS starting with a new school organizational chart that will be introduced by our new Assistant Head of School and Dean of Students, John Kelley, and I. In the new format, John will oversee much of the day-to-day operations, while I will now have the opportunity to be the external Head of School for Advancement. In this new model, I will be able to focus more time on branding, communications, and of course, fundraising. We are all excited by the new structure.
On a closing note, I look forward to seeing you throughout the year as you visit campus with your student, or as Donita and I hit the road with our Advancement Team. I am so grateful for the support so many of you have given to VVS over the past three years that I have been here. Please help us prepare “World Ready” students by staying involved and participating. VVS has always been blessed with the alumni and parents who contribute to the life of this jewel of a school. We are firm believers that the world needs VVS now more than ever. Please join us in ensuring that is always the case.
“And Away We Go!”
NATIVE AMERICAN BROTHER AND SISTER PUNK/WORLD/POP BASS AND DRUM DUO, SIHASIN, RETURN WITH FIRST ALBUM IN 6 YEARS ~ FIGHT LIKE A WOMAN ~ DEBUT AT VERDE VALLEY SCHOOL MAY 26
Verde Valley School is thrilled to announce that Sihasin’s new album, Fight Like A Woman, will have its debut on the campus, Saturday, May 26th at 7:00 pm in a concert also featuring the Jones Benally Family Dancers. Admission is by donation.
Multi-award winning musicians, Jeneda and Clayson Benally from the Dine’ (Navajo) Nation in Northern Arizona create a politically-charged explosive organic sound out of bass and drums, inspiring their listeners with a hard punk backbone, softened by folk, world and thumping by pop. Jeneda is a Verde Valley School alumna, Class of 1992.
As brother and sister, they grew up protesting the environmental degradation and inhumane acts of cultural genocide against their traditional way of life. As teenagers, the siblings were the backbone of the award-winning punk band Blackfire for over twenty years, who performed with legendary rockers like Joey Ramone and Maynard James Keenan. In 2012, they formed Sihasin, the Navajo word for “hope”, releasing their Ed Stasium-produced debut album, Never Surrender, in 2012 to critical acclaim and numerous awards on the American Indian Music scene, and received the honor of being called the “#1 Freedom Fighting Band to Get You Through the Trump Years” by “The Huffington Post” in Dec 2016. They also collaborated on the song “Sister Moon and Brother Sun” for the 2017 Grammy-nominated album by roots children’s duo The Okee Dokee Brothers. Following the inclusion of their punk rock version of the Christmas classic, “Winter Wonderland”, last holiday season in an ad campaign for Hyundai’s annual Holidays Sales Event, in which Jeneda said, “We are excited to further open the doors for Native American artists.”, Sihasin are happy to announce the release of their self-released sophomore album, Fight Like A Woman, on May 25. “I hope that the vulnerability of these songs is relatable and the listener can feel empowered in knowing that ‘hey, you are not alone’”, she says.
“The process that we took in the creation of Fight Like a Woman was completely different than any other recording project that we’ve done thus far”, Clayson says. “It was very organic, most of the melodies and themes where from dreams. I’d wake up and try to hold onto the melodies, usually only a sliver of the song, and I’d share it with Jeneda later on in the day. To my surprise, she would have the complimenting and completing element. It was like the universe was gifting us these songs.”
The duo believes in creating positive change each and every day and Fight Like A Woman, working again with legendary producer Ed Stasium (The Ramones, Talking Heads, Mick Jagger, Living Colour, Soul Asylum), is an incredible personal journey. Clayson says, “Out of the blue Ed called us saying ‘It’s time to get back into the studio’. The state of the political climate, depression of the nation, and the need to work on something from the heart was desperately needed. After hearing the tracks Ed was like ‘we can’t rush this album. We’re going to let the songs speak to us. It deserves all the time it takes’”. He continues, “We are so blessed to have Ed as part of Sihasin.”
Another of Sihasin’s guides and mentors was Jackson Browne, the driving force behind the Verde Valley Music Festival held on the VVS campus back in the 1990s. Browne fell in love with VVS because it was founded to bring together people of different races and cultures. The concerts, which attracted big names like Neil Young, Bruce Cockburn, Keb Mo, The Indigo Girls, and Nancy Griffin, raised money for the VVS Native American Scholarship Fund.
The first single from Fight Like A Woman is the track “Strong Together”. “The song was inspired by the fact that we are a force when we find our commonality rather than our differences. With the movements and hashtag societies, we are changing the isolation of injustice. This song is a call for unity to create healthy and respectful communities”, Jeneda says.
In her words, the title track of the album “aims to occupy every stereotype about being a woman in Western society. It’s about how we are constantly being defined by what the masculine decides who we should be. This song is about finding your own power to be your own definition.”
Another highlight of the new album, the opening song “Child of Fire”, “pays recognition to the fact that we are biologically made of all elements. It is a remembrance that we are children of our Mother Earth. Simply, we cannot live without her so, why then do we destroy her? It also pays homage to our first band Blackfire.”
The track “Shine” Jeneda says, “Is a song of empowerment. I hope that when people listen that they will feel a sense that they are potential and possibility.” “See You” is a love song. “We have always written love songs about justice, equality, and freedom. This is the first time that we’ve recorded a love song of the heart. It’s incredibly personal.”
Originally from Black Mesa on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, Jeneda and Clayson were born into the heart of a political land dispute between a coal mining company and the Navajo and Hopi tribes, separating them by a fence from traditional homeland and family. They grew up protesting the environmental degradation and inhumane acts of cultural genocide, and became known for creating music that reflects hope for equality, healthy and respectful communities, and social and environmental justice. When they formed Blackfire as teens, Clayson told Laurel Morales from “NPR” in 2015, “There was a lot of anger,” Clayson recalls. “Starting the band and performing was a way of channeling that anger and frustration and putting it into something positive, as well.”
Sihasin is a rare band who does more than just perform. They leave their audience with an exhilarating feeling of Get Up, Stand Up, and Do! They have performed at SXSW (playing at and helping organize a Native American showcase), WorldFest, Grassroots, Festival Alfonso Ortiz Tirado, Native American Music Awards, The Woody Guthrie Center, Globalquerque, TanzFest, among many others. They have toured in Europe, Mexico, Canada, and across the US, and the siblings are also known by their internationally acclaimed traditional Dine’ (Navajo) family Dance Troupe “The Jones Benally Family”. The duo also gives presentations and workshops on Native American, environmental, and social justice issues, and are dedicated to bringing that hopeful message to schools all over Indian Country, which have disproportionately low graduation rates with youth at high risk of suicide, where they teach Native American youth how to write their own songs. Jeneda says that she’s helped teens in times of desperation find the right words in a song.
With driving music, transcending labels and rooted in Native, Rock, Punk and World music and vocal harmonies including Dine (Navajo) singing, Clayson says, “The meaning, energy, and intention behind each song speaks to the love and commitment to producing music with a substance.” As Jeneda told KNAU radio, “We want to make music that makes people feel good and that they can do something—that they can create positive change in their community and that’s kind of the spirit behind Sihasin.”
Verde Valley School anthropology teacher Leigh Carter recently traveled to Washington DC to accompany her husband the filmmaker, author, and professor, Bill Carter to a black-tie gala. Mr. Carter was receiving a prestigious award from the Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina for his ongoing work towards peace and ethnic diversity in the Balkans.
Mr. Carter began his work there in 1993 as a young humanitarian aid worker in the besieged city of Sarajevo, and went on to develop multiple creative approaches to ending the war. Mr. Carter is best known for his award-winning documentary film Miss Sarajevo and for his activist projects with the band U2.
For Leigh, a highlight of the gala was meeting former U.S. President Bill Clinton who was also an ACBH honoree for his involvement in ending the Bosnian war in 1996. The event was packed with international dignitaries, ambassadors, generals, humanitarians, journalists, and activists. Leigh says, “Of course, I felt extremely proud of my husband’s achievements. It also felt wonderful to tell people that I work at an international school dedicated to peace, diversity, and environmental stewardship. As always, I believe that our school mission is one of great importance to the world and I am proud to be a teacher at Verde Valley School. I will never forget this incredible evening and each magic encounter.”
More about Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina, at www.acbih.org
More about Bill Carter’s books and films at www.billcarter.cc
On a quiet mid-week morning, VVS students walked out of their morning classes as part of the national protest against gun violence and to rally in solidarity with those affected by all incidents of school violence. Students walked quietly and solemnly to the VVS Quad where they sat in silence, and were soon joined by a supportive faculty and staff.
Seventeen minutes of silence were observed, one for each of those who lost their life at the recent Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. In a befitting requiem, the silence was filled with the sounds of birds tweeting, a woodpecker hammering, water tinkling, breezes gently blowing, and tears flowing.
You can watch the video here ….
Senior Raissa Gaju from Rwanda and Sophomore Gus Müller from California facilitated the sit in around the Quad, encouraging students to participate in bringing change to gun laws and assuring them that they had a voice regardless of their age or nationality. In doing so they would be upholding one of the VVS Principals: mindful of the importance of global citizenship and ready to practice its privileges and obligations.
When asked what inspired their action, Gus shared: “I had seen online that all students nationally were going to do a walkout on March 14 but since we aren’t at school on that date, I thought we should do it today. I would like to steer away from the word “walkout” because I believe what we did is more a “reflection”. Walkouts are used more for acts of anger rather than acts of compassion and empathy. And, because of that, the term that best fits what occurred today is reflection. I personally know what it is like to be hurt, not as much physically but mentally. I knew that those killed due to poor gun control have families who are in pain and sorrow. I knew that this community would be 100% willing to contribute to the silence in honor of those people. I also had read a few articles and seen ways to help those affected in the recent Florida shooting. For example sending physical letters to the students in Florida so they can see that people do care and are thinking about them. This inspired me to want to inspire the VVS community to reach out to those in pain. Although it may seem that we can’t do much, we can do the most with the smallest gesture. It reminds me of a quote from Audrey Hepburn, “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m possible.” That quote means so much to me and is directly connected to this small community. What happened today is not just thanks to me: it is thanks to those who came and showed how they truly felt.”
“The people in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda did not have anyone to advocate or listen to them, shared Raissa. There was nothing the outside world could do or did to help them, and millions of people were killed and left homeless, and families destroyed. My parents were victims of this. To think that today in 2018 when this type of violence is still going on, even in a country like America, we here at VVS can do something to stop it from happening as community,… is important to say.”
As the moment of silence came to an end, sharings were invited.
Junior, Rosie Chisolm, while noting the idyllic school environment, asked for assurance that VVS provide and share details for an emergency plan that would direct the community on what to do and where to go in unexpected and dangerous situations.
Head of School, Paul Amadio, responded that indeed the recent acts of school violence have prompted the school to reconsider its existing emergency plan and details would be shared with the community after Spring Break. “We don’t take lightly what you did today and as adults we feel honored and blessed to be with you,” he told the students speaking on behalf of faculty and staff. “I want you to know that we are taking steps so that we can inform, notify and find safe havens for us to go to in the event that something happens. I know it’s stressful to walk out of a class but I’m very proud of you all.”
Meg Haesloop, Director of Academics & College Counseling nudged students to action with a reminder that they can use their wallets and buying power to make purchases from only those companies whose stance on gun laws is aligned with their own.
Sophomore, Izzy Corrieri, boldly pointed out that while students may be young in age just now, they are the future generation and will one day sit on those seats of legislative power currently stalling democracy – and they will be bringing along their values with them to create change.
Shannon Jakes, Assistant Director of Admissions, shared that in addition to looking for government reforms, every day gives us the opportunity to practice non-violent communication and in so doing, lessen the likelihood of estranging people to the point where they act in violence. Gossiping, meanness, untruthfulness, judging, bullying, ostracizing, and not accepting someone for who they are, are all acts of violence in themselves. It lies within our own power to choose against these behaviors.
From its beginning, VVS has been a school devoted to global values, and it remains grounded upon Founder, Hamilton Warren’s statement of 1948:
“The nation, indeed the world, needs a school that will bring together children from many nations, many cultures, all races and religions, not simply to study and tolerate one another, but to learn from and celebrate their differences.”
As Verde Valley School graduates its students, it aspires to sending them out into the world as ethical individuals, possessed of a strong sense of personal and social responsibility, skilled in ways that will enable them to participate effectively in community building and decision making, appreciative of the necessity and value of physical work, open to the discovery and enduring satisfactions of artistic creation, knowledgeable about the depth and range of our shared cultural heritage, generous in spirit, mindful of the importance of world citizenship and ready to practice its privileges and obligations.
With these intentions and values, VVS is providing meaningful solutions to not only gun violence, but also social injustices and discriminations, through each of its students who step out into the world.
You can watch the video here ….
Sean Fagan, Director of Admissions.
Did you know: VVS students outperform their global peers – exceeding the IB pass rate consistently!
With our seniors delivering their senior speeches at community meeting, I realize that graduation is inching closer and they will soon be heading off to college. And it’s an impressive list of colleges!
Recently, we invited a panel of VVS alumni to return to campus and speak to our students about their current college experiences. This annual event is a great opportunity for VVS college-bound students and recent VVS graduates to mix and share important information about college life.
We are continuing our travels across the nation to connect and celebrate with VVS Alumni! Head of School, Paul Amadio, and Alumni Engagement Coordinator, Jenae McCarroll, are co-hosting lively events across the country, with Class Agents and VVS Ambassadors. Check out the upcoming events, save the date, let us know you are coming and if you would like to host an event in your area give us a call. Hope to see you all very soon!
More information always being added…
Boston, MA • Friday, April 27, 2018, 5-8pm. RSVP HERE
Join us at The Harvard Club of Boston for an alumni and community relations focused gathering, hosted by Board Member and alumna Andrea Coville ’76. Please bring your friends, family and anyone who may be interested in Verde Valley School and our mission.
Event Location: The Harvard Club of Boston, 374 Commonwealth Ave, Boston
RSVP HERE or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
New York, NY • Sunday, April 29, 2018, 1-4pm. RSVP HERE
Washington DC • Tuesday, May 1, 2018, 6-9pm. RSVP HERE
We’re headed to the East Coast and we’ll be in DC on May Day! Swing by the Petworth area on your commute home, we’ll be enjoying some yummy food and drinks, sharing stories and talking about recent VVS developments. Welcomed by our youngest host yet – we are excited to join Jill Nguyen ’11 and her husband in their home, and if you know any VVS alumni in the area please reach out and encourage them to come. We want to see all our DC friends!
Event Location: 911 Monroe Street NW, Apt. 3, Washington DC
RSVP HERE or email email@example.com
Sonoma CA• Saturday, May 5, 2018, 11am-2pm. RSVP HERE
Join one of our most beloved alumni events ~ a VVS gathering at Bucklin Vineyards in Sonoma Valley! This year Will Bucklin ’80 and his wife Lizanne will host us for a luncheon on their gorgeous ranch. Along with Head of School Paul Amadio, the VVS Alumni Team and several VVS Board Members – we are flying in two special chefs who will be spinning artisanal pizzas in Will’s wood fire oven. You won’t want to miss this festival annual event! Please let us know you are coming and spread the word!
Event Location: 8 Old Hill Ranch Road, Glen Ellen, CA 95442-9668
RSVP HERE or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recent Past Events
Boulder: Friday, September 15th, 2016, 4:30-6:30pm.
Informational Open House hosted by alumna and current Board Member, Melissa Shanahan ’83, owner of Educational Pathways, specializing in assisting students and families find safe and supportive educational environments that nurture positive growth and change. Interested consultants, counselors and families came to learn more about the Verde Valley School curriculum and community from Paul Amadio (Head of School) and Jenae McCarroll (Advancement Coordinator)! Held at the Backcountry Pizza and Taphouse in Boulder.
Boulder: Saturday, September 16th, 2017, 3-6pm.
“Brews, Shoes & Food” hosted by VVS alumna and board member, Melissa Shanahan ’83 at her ranch home in the Boulder headlands! Alumni enjoyed a round of horseshoes, an afternoon reconnecting with VVS alumni and hearing about the exciting developments at VVVS from HOS, Paul Amadio. Alumni were also recorded sharing their VVS memories on film as part of our YouTube Storytelling Series!
Los Angeles: Thursday, October 6th, 2017, 6-9pm.
Alumni joined Deryn Warren (founding family /class of ’62) and Head of School, Paul Amadio, for a jovial and informational VVS gathering. They enjoyed a light dinner and string quartet with a short presentation and shared their VVS memories, on film, for our Storytelling Series! This event was open to alumni and their families, prospective students and families and the broader VVS community.
Los Angeles: Friday, October 7th, 2016, 8-11pm.
Hosted by Phil Noyes ’84 and Noah Farrell ’86, this event was held at a nautical themed clubhouse with pizza, drinks, live music, updates on the new VVS Strategic Plan, and the VVS Storytelling Series. Entertainment was provided by alumni who brought along their instruments and sang their favorite songs in a VVS family band style performance!
Oakland: Saturday, October 8th, 2016, 6-9pm.
90’s Reunion hosted by alumna Tiffany Zelaya Grissette ’94, and Wanda Stewart, former VVS Director of Admissions.
Sonoma: Sunday, October 9th, 2016, 12-3 pm.
Our annual North Coast VVS Alumni Gathering was held by alumnus and current Board Member, Will Bucklin ’80, at his home overlooking the Bucklin Vineyard. Will is a current trustee and class of 1980 alumnus. Home-made, artisanal pizza was served for lunch paired with wines from the Bucklin’s family ranch. Paul Amadio gave an update on all things VVS and participants were invited to share memories for our inaugural Alumni Storytelling Series. Located in the heart of Sonoma Valley, this gorgeous venue is located 50 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Santa Fe: Friday, February 24th, 2017 5-8pm.
Dinner and celebration at The Cowgirl BBQ in Santa Fe, NM, hosted by former Head of School Anne Salzmann, alumnus Terry Fernandez ’66 with several special alums and VVS Board Members.
Austin Alumni Gathering: Saturday, February 25th, 2017 6-9pm.
Host by Shanti Heyer ’84 at her home, with Head of School – Paul Amadio, and Coordinator of Alumni Engagement – Jenae McCarroll, this was a celebratory evening reconnecting with VVS alums and hearing about the exciting developments at Verde Valley School.
Austin Benefit and Silent Auction: Sunday, February 26th, 2017 5-9pm.
This VVS benefit and fundraising event was hosted by ScoreMore Shows, Sacha Stone Guttfreund ’07, and Logan Foret ’07 at the NXNW Brewery & Restaurant.
Seattle, WA • Saturday, February 10, 2018. 4-7pm.
A lively and welcoming evening hosted by Tracey Peyton ’88 and David North ’83 atTracey’s house.
Portland, OR • Sunday, February 11th, 2018. 5-8pm
Hosted by Adam Haas ’73 and his wife Marsha, at their home in Portland! The gathering included an opportunity to be a part of a Moth Radio Hour program, sharing influential moments from experiences at Verde Valley School.
Chicago, IL • Sunday, April 8, 2018. 3-6pm.
Hosted by alumnus and current Board Member, Matt Helm ’88 in his home just outside Chicago. We were very lucky to have several alumni come by and share their stories from across the decades – still grounded in the same traditions and red-dirt-filled-adventures!
Paul Amadio ~ Head of School
Since I was 8 years old, I spent the majority of my fall and winter Sunday afternoons watching professional football on television. Every week was spent with family and friends rooting for your favorite team. In my case, my favorite team was and remains the New England Patriots. If you follow football then you know I have been pretty lucky watching them win 5 Super Bowls in the past fourteen years. I also remember the days when I watched them win one or two games a year. Those are the days I cherish. Why? Because my father was next to me for everyone of those Sunday afternoons. He somehow thought that the referees, players and coaches could hear him when he yelled into the television: “That is a horrible call.” “Why would they pass the ball?,” he would shout. I still laugh out loud thinking about him, and of course today my wife and kids observe me acting the same way. I am all in when I watch football. Football has always been about family, cookouts, and healthy competition.
There is a connection between my football story and the way I am feeling today about VVS and the world around us. This past weekend most National Football League (NFL) players came out in solidarity to protest President Trump’s remarks made at a rally in Alabama, and through his Twitter accounts that NFL owners should, “fire players who knelt during the playing of the national anthem.” He feels it is disrespectful to the country and the flag.
I am not using this time to write you a political statement. I love our country and flag, and am proud that our Constitution’s First Amendment protects our freedom of speech. This past Sunday, the NFL exercised their rights. As each game started and the national anthem was played, many players linked arms on the sidelines, others stood on the sidelines with their hands on their hearts, while some kneeled. I am no expert on these matters, but I don’t believe those players, coaches, and owners were disrespecting our country or the flag. They were voicing their opinion that we all have a responsibility to work together to make a better country – less divisive, less racially charged.
Their unity reminded me of VVS. I have deep respect for the office of the President, but my hope for President Trump and others is that they spend every working moment thinking about what we need to do to solve the world wide problems and challenges we currently face. I recommend leaders focus on peaceful solutions to old problems, and providing safety and relief to Puerto Rico and the millions without power and homes after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Let’s let the football players voice their peaceful opinions.
I started thinking about VVS and what we represent as a model for the world around us. One recommendation I would make is that the President spend one hour on this campus and see first hand what is possible in today’s world. VVS got it right. I have immense respect and appreciation for our parents, staff, and students, for how they live and learn from one another, and for how they represent themselves as good citizens of the world around them. I have been in schools for thirty years now and I have traveled the country and the world, and as anyone who will listen to me knows, I believe VVS is essential to the future world. This small community is a living reminder of Margaret Mead’s quote (which hangs in a frame outside my office door – left by the founders of VVS): “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”
At VVS, there is a variety of perspectives and opinions offered daily. Discussions occur in every dorm, classroom, during work jobs, athletics and riding, or at Community Meeting. The reality is that each voice has a perspective that others appreciate, even when there is disagreement. VVS is a melting pot of what true community is and can be. In this environment there is a diversity of people, backgrounds, viewpoints and relationships that we are fortunate to experience. The fact it includes students from eighteen countries and the U.S., was and remains, part of the very essence of this school.
This community is a reflection of the world today: We bring people from all over the world to live together, to share similarities, accept differences, and appreciate the fact that we solve problems in the classroom to prevent battles on the battlefield. Last week, while walking through the downtown area of Boulder with a little time before our alumni event, I came across this quote from Leonardo Da Vinci. It redirected my feelings of woe towards a reawakening that this school creates the change agents for a better tomorrow. It also made me grateful for all of you who allow us the privilege of educating your children. So, until we meet again face to face, I leave you with the eloquence of Da Vinci and prayers for a peaceful tomorrow. “I love those who smile in trouble, gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection.”