2019 Hunger Banquet


Now in its 10th year, Verde Valley School’s Oxfam Hunger Banquet is a provocative, informative and entertaining evening that brings to life the inequalities in our world and challenges us to evaluate how our decisions affect others around the globe.

Upon arrival at VVS, you will draw a ticket that will randomly assign you to the high, middle or low income tier in the percentages occurring in today’s world. Your tier will determine whether you dine amongst the wealthy with a lavish 4 course meal or as a pauper with a frugal meal of beans and rice, or somewhere in between. This is a metaphor for real life, where some of us are born into relative prosperity while others are born into abject poverty through no fault of their own.

As you eat, you’ll be entertained by moving vignettes created and performed by VVS theater students about hunger, poverty and the inequitable distribution of resources. These heartfelt performances are followed by fun, interactive breakout sessions that come up with solutions on how you can make that much needed difference in the world, in your local community, or within your own household.

Another highlight of the evening are the raffle prizes. Local businesses generously support this event with thousands of dollars worth of donations! You don’t have to be present to win, so be sure to click on the “Register or buy Raffle Tickets Now!” link below to pre-purchase.

Come along to participate or observe, but know that you will go away changed! We look forward to having you join us on this very special occasion.

To register/buy raffle tickets for the 2019 Hunger Banquet click here! 

To view all of the amazing raffle prizes scroll below!

2019 Hunger Banquet  Raffle Prizes

$2400 – 3 night Airbnb Sedona house for 10 people – Elle Williams

$250 – Yoga Hike for 2 – Vita Pura Yoga and Hiking

$200 – Golf for 2 – Sedona Golf Resort

$200 – Golf for 2 – Sedona Golf Resort

$200 – Golf for 2 – Oak Creek Country Club

$200 – Golf for 2 – Oak Creek Country Club

$175 – New patient evaluation, adjustment and therapy – Red Rock Chiropractic

$175 – IPL Photo Facial – The Spa of Sedona (Anita Marcus)

$175 – 5 hours of Handyman services – Amber Shatkus

$175- 5 hours of Handyman services – Amber Shatkus

$175 – New patient evaluation and adjustment – Red Rock Chiropractic

$150 – Horse Painting/Horse Therapy Session – Y0Unicorn Way

$150 – 1 hour Taro Reading and Palmistry with Marla McNeill

$125 – Full Set Eyelash Extensions – Sedona Lash Bar

$110 – Full day, full-suspension Bike Rental for two – Sedona Trail Zen

$110 – New Patient evaluation and adjustment – Oak Creek Chiropractic

$110 – New Patient evaluation and adjustment – Oak Creek Chiropractic

$110 – New Patient evaluation and adjustment – Oak Creek Chiropractic

$100 – Corner Table Restaurant

$90 – Haircut – The Spa of Sedona (Darla Bren)

$90 – Dog Grooming – Classy Critters

$90 – 1 hour in home massage – Isabella Gannon

$90 – 1 hour in home massage – Isabella Gannon

$90 – 1 hour in home massage – Isabella Gannon

$90 – 45 minute Psychic Reading by Chaya – Chaya Mueller Bronstein

$90 – 45 minute massage by Chaya – Chaya Mueller Bronstein, LMT

$85 – 60 minute acupuncture session – Village Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine

$75 – Mystical Bazaar

$75 – ShadowRock Tap + Table

$75 – 60 min custom massage – The Spa of Sedona

$70 – Alignment – Big O Tires

$60 – 30 min Reiki energy session – Light of Sedona

$59 – Deluxe Manicure and Pedicure – CK Nails

$50 – Clark’s

$50 – Home Depot

$50 – Oregano’s

$50 – Hideaway House Restaurant

$50 – Harkins Theater

$50 – Feathers and Fur

$48 – Stained Glass art piece – Barbie Townsend

$40 – Ionic Foot Detox Bath – The Spa of Sedona

$40 – Oil change – Sedona Oil and Lube

$40 – Red Chopstick

$37 – Oil Change – Big O Tires

$30 – Baskin Robbins

$25 – Coffee Pot Restaurant

$25 – Moon Dog Pizza

$25 – Local Juicery

$20 – Lee Ann’s Nails

$20 – Synergy Lounge and Kitchen


Guatemala: Where it all began…

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.

Spring Hopi Work Weekend

Each year, Verde Valley School students and faculty get the opportunity to work on traditional farms on the Hopi Indian Reservation. The trips, organized by anthropology teacher Leigh Carter, occur during the fall harvest or spring planting seasons.

The most recent Hopi Work Weekend was a spring planting at a very remote farm at the head of a canyon near the abandoned village of Awotovi. This farm is blessed with natural spring water, which has been used by Native peoples for thousands of years, and was developed into a holding tank by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

Students enjoyed the hard work of moving a stone bread oven, collecting spring water, clearing and leveling soil for terraced gardens, and soaking and planting bean fields. They camped and worked in very windy conditions. They learned that they had participated in a “Naya”, the Hopi concept of reciprocity in which someone hosts a big project and then feeds all who participate in the work. The VVS labor consisted of 9 students and 3 faculty, who all reaped the reward of traditional Hopi meals alongside modern, vegetarian, organic cooking.

Lucky for them, host Dorothy Dinet is not only a traditional farmer, but happens to be a modern food caterer! Dorothy is also a story-teller and family matriarch in the Butterfly Clan and the all-female VVS crew was inspired by her life and work.

Dorothy remembers a time many decades ago when she hosted VVS students studying under Cliff Perkins, who served as US History and English teacher; Dean of Students; Director of Summer Camps, and Field Trip Leader.  He and the Class of 1966 built the endearing Thoreau Hut on the school grounds, a legacy that remains today as a place where students can reconnect with peace and solitude. Cliff’s wife, Marguerite (Maggie) Perkins has just celebrated her 95th birthday. She was the English and Theatre teacher at VVS between 1955-1989.

Check out more photos of the weekend….



VVS Health Director Volunteers in Haiti

Recently our Director of Health Services, Mattie Guelinas, (pictured above, third from right) traveled to Haiti over the winter break to volunteer her time  for the people in a country that has been repeatedly decimated by environmental catastrophe and political havoc for centuries, but more recently by the 2010 earthquake and hurricane Mathew in 2016. Here’s her story:

Continue Reading…

Holiday Season Community Service

Caroline Diehl
Director of Global Goals & Equestrian Programs

The December Food Neighbors Project Collection for the Village of Oak Creek was held at Webers Supermarket on Saturday, 12/9. VVS students Sara, Jamie, Camille and Valys volunteered with Caroline. It was a fabulous collection which greatly helped to restock the shelves of the VVS Pantry and will provide the food for our Weekend Meal Packs for hungry kids at Big Park and Desert Star. Eleven faculty also provided a green bag of food again this month as part of our new-this-year “VVS Neighborhood”.

Continue Reading…

A Remarkable Sense of Place Surrounds us….

This year marks Verde Valley School’s 70th year anniversary!

This morning, early, I saw two VVS students returning from the stable. They had checked on and fed the horses that some twenty-eight students ride each day here. Theirs was clearly a labor of love. The sun was rising, just breaking over Seven Warriors. Shafts of light were beaming through some cloud cover. The students went on to breakfast in the dining hall sitting with others from Germany, Rwanda, Colorado and New Jersey. Soon it was time for their first class and, abruptly, they stood up, bussed their plates, found their backpacks and bounded off. Another day?

Hardly. Midst the frenzy and excitement that the start of a new year brings to VVS, I considered those moments — unsung and largely unnoticed — as key ingredients of the experience our students have here. The stable and barn sit on a bluff overlooking not only the Seven Warriors but Cathedral Rock, too, with the VVS farm nestled between them. These iconic red rock formations are familiar territory for students, faculty and staff. We hike and bike and climb on them throughout the year. In the farm, tall corn stalks sway in the breeze. Students will harvest them soon. A remarkable “sense of place” surrounds us.

We do have stats and facts: that VVS is ranked #15 out of the top 50 boarding schools in the USA by Best Schools; that our International Baccalaureate curriculum “…aims to develop students who have excellent breadth and depth of knowledge — students who flourish physically, intellectually, emotionally and ethically.”; that the VVS IB Diploma Program has an 86% pass rate and that 81% of all subjects taken result in scores of 4-7; that we have graduates matriculating into premier colleges and universities in this country and abroad, often with substantial merit-based financial awards.

But VVS offers so much more. Our IB+Dirt model allows students to learn, discover, give, and grow inside and out of the classroom; already we are busy preparing for Field Trips in November. These transformative outdoor adventures take students out of their usual surroundings, engaging them in a culture different from their own. And all Field Trips include a community service aspect to them. Our guiding principles attract students, faculty and staff from around the globe. Be assured that these principles, along with IB+Dirt, leave students indelibly touched and influenced by the experiences of global citizenship, physical labor, environmental stewardship, service to others and academic excellence.

Soon VVS Admissions will be in China, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Germany, Vietnam and India. We’ll also be in Arizona, California, Utah, Colorado and Nevada sharing our unique story with others. And seeing those young students walking quietly back from working in the stable, so early in the morning, reminded me of that story all over again.

VVS Global Goals Malawi

Malawi: The Warm Heart of Africa

Over the summer of 2017, eight VVS students and two teachers set off for the distant continent of Africa to participate in the true meaning of service and global citizenship in the living classroom of Malawi. Here the group spent the month of June working at a grassroots level supporting communities that are empowering their own youth to create change. The annual visit to Malawi is part of the VVS Global Goals Program.

In Namalo Village the students painted the Chief’s house and the pit latrines at the feeding center that were built by last year’s VVS students.

Over $10,000 of cloth baby diapers, transported in the student’s luggage, were eagerly received by the Open Arms Infant Homes in Mangochi.

The group also delivered thousands of dollars of science equipment, 2 sets of soccer uniforms, and 150 Days for Girls Menstrual Kits to the Hillside Secondary School where VVS sponsors 25 girls.

At the Pemphero Secondary School our group was greeted with songs and smiles from local students who include 17 girls sponsored by VVS.

During a visit to Msinje Village, our group helped construct a new feeding center.

Having spent many long hours sorting reading glasses back at VVS, our students were rewarded with the joy of distributing over 3,000 pairs of glasses, and 40 pairs of specialty glasses for pre-identified, severely low vision children.

Participants: Alex Tehfi, William Schwindenhammer, Alexia Lino, Hanna Hartwig, Nam Ha, Kat Guillot, Kate Brovina, Xander Kraus-McLean, and teachers Caroline Diehl and Natalie Rockwell.

Click here to see the 2017 Malawi Photo Gallery

Quotes from our VVS Students

The Malawi program is one of the greatest opportunities a school could offer to its students. This trip has taught me so much about compassion, kindness, gratefulness, and respect like no other experience has before. Serving others submerged in the unfamiliar has shaped the way I perceive different cultures and has shown me how important volunteering is to our world. I believe that anyone who is willing to work hard and live outside their comfort zone for 3 short weeks will never regret it!  William Schwindenhammer, Class of 2018

The people of Malawi have a Mungoli happiness. They are constantly in rhythm with themselves and the people around them. They know how to create their own sunshine, they know how to find the gold from the stone, and they repay the gratitude with grace and gratitude. The people of Malawi are not happy just because it seems like a good end result or for anyone else, they are happy because the happiness comes from them as a choice within themselves. They make the most out of everyday and THAT is why Malawi is the warm heart of Africa.
Kat Guillot, Class of 2017

Malawi was eye opening in every way imaginable. The pure happiness of everyone we came across was heartwarming and was radiated in such a way that I couldn’t help but smile throughout every encounter with the Malawian people. I could write about countless moments, every day was a new adventure and a new insight, but the aspect of the trip that stuck out the most was how much education meant to the people we came across, specifically girls. When we went to Pemphero school in Mangochi, we were greeted by the sponsored girls via songs, dances, and, typical of Malawi, smiles. They sang about how much education meant to them in a way that I’ve never seen before living in the U.S. It really hit me how much we take for granted, and that things that seem small to us really do matter. Malawi changed my outlook on life and I’m beyond grateful for the experience, everything we did, and who we met along the way. Hanna Hartwig, Class of 2018

She said yes. Then I broke down but this time with tears of joy. It seemed unbelievable [Alexia spent 3 years trying to convince her parents to allow her to go to Malawi]. The process of getting to Malawi was a roller coaster, it broke me down and brought me up to only be brought back down… But when we finally arrived in Malawi, I knew that everything was worth it. The roller coaster led me to the most beautiful place in the world to meet the kindest people in the world. I would ride the roller coaster again in a heartbeat.
Alexia Lino, Class of 2017

Through Malawi I discovered how easy my life is and how privileged I am to have food, water, and an education right in front of me with no form of struggle. After the trip I understood the value of my privileges: this will make me work ten times harder than usual and not have any excuses to my adversities. Volunteering fulfills my life purpose and happiness, therefore I shall go outside and chase the world for the rest of my life.
Alexandre Tehfi, Class of 2018

Fall News from the VVS Farm

Mike Spielman ~ VVS Farm Manager

We planted garlic the other day. It went into one of the first beds we ever dug back in 2013, just to the south of the gate between a fading amaranth and the frozen stems of a Roma Olorode. I remember the three students who helped chop that dirt for the first time: one from California, another from South Korea, and the other from Saudi Arabia. We wondered if life was more like a circle or a spiral. We had no answers. Only wonder.   

December is my favorite time on the farm. Cabbages and greens are tucked beneath their winter sheets. The leaves of the fruit trees have blown into their wells. The Osgood Greenhouse is full of banana plants, mangoes and peppers. Seeds are drying. Squash are cured. The field is laid bare and we can begin to dream about next year’s design.

Walking around the new expansion I remember that this time last year it did not exist. There was no greenhouse either. The fencing for the southern expansion is now more than half done. Last month we ordered 57 fruit trees.  Fifty seven fruit trees!  Eleven pears. Seven peaches. Six plums.  Sixteen apples. Persimmons, nectarines, quince and sixty grape vines too. A lot of holes to dig between now and March!

We are back at the Sedona Farmer’s Market.  Please stop in and say hello if you are local. We are selling heirloom beans, winter squash, dried peppers, and Jerusalem artichokes.  Most of the greens right now are going to the Yavapai Food Council.  If you are a gardener and live far away, drop us a line. We’ll send some seeds.

A thousand thank you’s to all who have supported us this year!  We are honored and blessed and as always, excited to get back to work.

Earth Day Events Planned

It’s only natural that a school with such a deep dedication to the environment would celebrate Earth Day the way we do at VVS.

After regular Friday classes, students and faculty will meet at the garden expansion to work on the new vegetable beds. Following dinner, author Bill Carter will talk to the school about the copper mining industry and his book “Boom Bust Boom,” which is also our summer reading. The evening concludes with our annual recycled fashion show, organized by students Grace Shoup and Lola Olorode.

Visit the VVS gallery at www.vvsaz.org/galleries for photos.

Meditation Workshop

Join VVS for a “Learn to Meditate” program hosted by Shambhala Center of Phoenix, led by Amy Kemp and including a short talk on meditation, sitting practice, and refreshments. The event is free, casual, and open to anyone tonight at 6:30 in Brady Hall.