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Join us for the third annual Dream Run on Saturday, February 23rd, 2019, a non-competitive, 5K and 10k fun run open to runners of all levels. Those who simply wish to walk and admire the iconic Cathedral Rock views, and pets on a leash, are also welcome.
The 2019 VVS Dream Run will begin and end on the school campus, taking runners through the stunning red rock scenery of Coconino National Forest that surrounds the campus towards the richly diverse Oak Creek riparian zone and back again.
Please fill out the form below to sponsor our Verde Valley School Dream Run event! With just a $250 (or more, if you wish) sponsorship you will be featured on the back of our iconic Dream Run t-shirts and recognition in our marketing! Thank you for your support of our Native American Scholarship Fund.
After completing the Sponsorship Information form please return to this page to complete payment transaction through the PayPal Button below!
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.”