Dream Run 2019 – New date March 2nd

Join us for the third annual Dream Run, 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.

Continue Reading…

Verde Valley School Farm to Table

2018 Farm to Table Feast

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.

Tickets, at $150 each, are limited to 75 guests this year and are available for purchase online by clicking HERE or calling Kris Fritz at 928-284-2272 ext 10 or emailing kfritz@vvsaz.org.

We hope you can join us for this nutritious and delicious celebration of all that exemplifies the very best in supporting and eating LOCAL!

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.

Diné Duo Sihasin Debut New Album at VVS



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.”

More information at:


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 Dream Run start

A Dream of a Day for a Run!

The second annual VVS Dream Run 5K Fun Run on March 3rd was held under perfect running conditions: a bright, sunny and crisp morning that accentuated the gorgeous scenery and made for comfortable running.

Check out all the photos on our Galleries Page …

Runners were greeted upon their early morning arrival on campus to a warm fire crackling in the big fieldstone fireplace outside Brady Hall, Holly’s delicious Trail Run Cookies and Morning Glory Muffins, and cheery registration volunteers from the Sedona Rotary Club as well as VVS students. And to top it all off, runners all received a free t-shirt sporting the iconic Dream Run logo with their registration fee. Serious trail runners, families with children, and friends with dogs set off at 9:00am from Brady Hall and ran the 5K trail across Coconino National Forest land towards Oak Creek. VVS students and faculty were posted along the trail to make sure no one got lost and to pass out drinking water and encouragement.

First male across the finish line was Peter Baxter, who was also last year’s winner. Fastest female was 14 year old Ari Bradford from Cottonwood, and we’re happy to share that Ari will be a VVS freshman next year!
First VVS girl was Emmy Smith and boy, Mike Amadei. The group prize went to “faculty brats” Vella, Josie, Po, Juni S., Lucy, chaperoned by Meg Haesloop and Bill Carter. Prizes included the popular VVS branded clothing, water bottles and caps. The faculty brats were treated to an ice cream party at Walter’s in the Village of Oak Creek.

Dream Run organizer Leigh Carter, VVS Social Sciences Chair and Tribal Coordinator shared that a race highlight for her was Jerry Curmow, a 75 year old Rotary volunteer, who decided to register for the run a minute before it started. “He ran the course in a button down shirt, long work pants, and walking shoes”, said Leigh. Talk about life goals! Afterwards, he said, “I mean, it was only a few miles, so why not?” Jerry won the prize for oldest runner and 5-year old Vella Guelinas won for youngest.

This year’s Dream Run raised $4,290 and while the number of registrants decreased from last year, the number of sponsors grew. A big thanks to these generous sponsors!:

Sedona Golf Resort
Tourist Home All Day Cafe’
SUBY Construction
Northern Arizona Trail Runners Association
Yavapai-Apache Nation
Together We Can
Randy Crewse – Tewa Holiday Project
Jeremy and Bridget Broomfield
Sylvia Thompson
Pit Crew Rescue
The Carters

Dream Run 5K Fun Run is a fundraiser with 100% of proceeds going toward tuition fees for Native American students at Verde Valley School. For more information on how you can sponsor or participate in next year’s Dream Run, contact Leigh Carter, VVS Social Sciences Chair & Tribal Coordinator, at lcarter@vvsaz.org.

Check out all the photos on our Galleries Page …

2018 Dream Run

Join us for the second annual Dream Run on Saturday, March 3, 2018, a non-competitive, 5K fun run open to runners of all levels, families and friends who simply wish walk and admire the iconic Cathedral Rock views, and pets on a leash are also welcome.

The 2018 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.

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”.

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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

Front Cover News

Verde Valley School and the Sedona Arts Center are collaborating for the second year in a row on a unique model of artist-in-residence program – the Sedona Summer Colony – that brings together artists of all genres and experience levels to the energetic red rock landscape of Northern Arizona. Part cultural program, part economic development project, the residency provides the gift of time and place to artists and cultural managers, as well as strengthening Sedona’s position on the international arts map as a place you must check out!  Read the full article in Sedona Monthly here…