News posts from supporters, board members, alumni families.
As the 2020–2021 school year comes to a close, we are filled with appreciation for the administrators, faculty, and staff at SFFS who navigated the uncertainties and challenges of this past year with determination, aplomb, grace, generosity, and kindness. The virtual Year-End Celebration and in-person 8th Grade Graduation last week powerfully demonstrated that despite the adversity we experienced, the values and connections that make SFFS unique are enduring—and joyful!
As we transition to summer and anticipate with hope what the new school year will bring for our community, we want to take a moment to share with you the transitions taking place on the San Francisco Board of Trustees. Each year we say goodbye to a number of trustees who have completed their service, and welcome a new cohort of trustees to continue the mission of SFFS. SFFS trustees traditionally serve two three-year terms and are selected according to a wide variety of factors, including professional background, skills and expertise, and volunteer experience both at SFFS and beyond. Additionally, trustees bring diversity across multiple areas, including racial, cultural, socioeconomic, and grades represented for those trustees who are also parents at the school. Trustees demonstrate strong alignment with the school’s values and the Strategic Pathways, and often (but not always) have previously volunteered in support of the school.
This year, we want to extend our deepest gratitude to the following trustees as their terms come to a close:
Shabnam Koirala-Azad has served in many capacities during her tenure as a trustee including SFFS Board co-clerk, co-clerk of the Equity & Inclusion Steering Committee, and co-clerk of the Committee on Trustees. She also served on the Strategic Pathways Committee and Futures Working Group, as well as the Development and Quaker Life committees, among a variety of other special committees and task forces including the 2015 Head of School Search Committee. Shabnam, parent of Alia (SFFS Class of 2020), and Ayan (SFFS Class of 2024), is graciously extending her service by a few months as she serves as co-clerk of our current Head of School Search Committee.
Sam Mogannam has generously given his time and expertise to the Equity & Inclusion Steering Committee during his tenure as a trustee, in addition to participating on several special committees including the Access & Affordability Task Force, the Covid Testing Task Force, and Pauline’s Task Force. Sam is parent to Zoe (SFFS Class of 2017) and Olive (SFFS Class of 2021).
Mark Selcow most recently co-clerked the Development and Audit committees as well as the Strategic Pathways Accountability Group. Mark, parent to Lucy (SFFS Class of 2019), Andrew (SFFS Class of 2021), and Nora (SFFS Class of 2023), also served on the Finance and Investment committees as well as on the Futures Working Group and Friends Forward and Cathy Hunter Fund for the Future endowment campaigns.
Chris Valdez served on numerous board committees and task forces during his tenure as an SFFS trustee. Parent of Jesse (SFFS Class of 2012) and daughter Georgia (SFFS Class of 2014), Chris was a valuable member of the Equity & Inclusion Steering Committee, the Committee on Trustees, and the Finance Committee. Additionally, he served on a number of special task forces including the High School Exploration Task Force and the COVID Testing Task Force.
Shabnam, Sam, Mark, and Chris have provided invaluable leadership and dedication to our community, and they have all helped to shape the future of Friends. We are deeply grateful for their many years of service. As they depart, six new trustees will be stepping in to continue the mission of SFFS. As we approach our 20th year, we’ve learned that it is reasonable to expect some level of attrition among our Trustees, particularly as our city and our school community navigate the pandemic. That consideration informs our decision to bring a larger slate forward this year, and we are honored to welcome the following individuals to the SFFS Board of Trustees:
Lucas Fortier Borden is a San Francisco native and a proud member of the SFFS’s first graduating class. After nine formative years at Friends, he attended the Bay School of San Francisco where he further strengthened his connection to mindfulness and community, becoming an integral part of the school’s admissions program. College on the East Coast brought a change of environment, as did a Junior Year stint in Australia. He graduated from Boston College in 2019, majoring in Economics and minoring in Hispanic Studies. That summer, Lucas returned home to SF where he worked as a bookseller at Green Apple Books, before taking his current position at Square, Inc. in the legal department. For fun, Lucas likes to swim in the bay (no wetsuit required) and create digital art.
Chrysty Esperanza is Foundational Counsel Lead at Square, Inc., where she leads the Litigation, Corporate, Privacy, Intellectual Property, and Trust & Safety teams. At Square, she provides strategic counsel and partnership on a broad spectrum of legal and compliance issues. Prior to Square, Chrysty was Sr. Counsel at Electronic Arts Inc. She previously served as a Deputy Attorney General at the California Department of Justice, and also as an associate at Farella, Braun and Martel LLP. She received her BA in Mass Communications from UCLA, and her JD from UC Hastings College of Law. Chrysty is a Bay Area native, and has been living in San Francisco for over 20 years. She lives in Noe Valley with her husband, Scott, and their three boys, Tayo (class of 2024), Makana (class of 2027), and Koa.
Jennifer Hsieh has spent the last 12 years leading finance teams at various tech start-ups, serving most recently as Head of Finance at CareZone, a digital health company. At CareZone, she led the company through multiple financings and played an integral role in all strategic and operational decisions, culminating in the sale of the company’s technology assets to Walmart. Just prior to making the leap into the start-up world, Jen was with Goldman Sachs in their Technology, Media, Telecom and Leveraged Finance investment banking groups. She started her career at Deutsche Banc Alex Brown in technology investment banking later transitioning to equity research where she covered the internet sector. While Jen was born in New York, she grew up mostly overseas spending 8 years living in Australia and the UK. She received her BA from Wellesley College and her MBA from the Wharton School. She currently lives in Noe Valley with her husband, P.J. Haley, and her two sons, Quinn (SFFS Class of 2028) and Connor.
Elizabeth Longstreth is an administrative leader for The Permanente Medical Group at the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center. She began her public health career helping form the AIDS Research Institute at UCSF, and has worked across the country for organizations ranging from small, rural community health centers to large, urban teaching hospitals. A Bay Area native, Elizabeth earned her BA from Pomona College and her MPH from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. She is also a board member of the San Francisco Public Health Foundation. She lives in San Francisco with her husband Adam and children Birdie (SFFS class of 2025) and Ty (SFFS class of 2028).
Nelly Sapinski is the Executive Director of the Jamestown Community Center, a Mission District based nonprofit serving low income children, youth and their families through programs that include tutoring, before and after school academic enrichment, summer programs, social/emotional support, sports, youth workforce, parent leadership development and organizing, and Afro-Latino arts education and performance. Before becoming Executive Director, Nelly served as both the Deputy Director of Programs and Interim Executive Director. Prior to joining Jamestown, Nelly served as the After School Program Director at Reading Partners, the national literacy non-profit, and managed curriculum, instruction and evaluation for Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County. Nelly holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Northern Illinois University and a Masters of Education from Harvard University. Nelly’s daughter Katherine Sapinski (SFFS class of 2017) recently graduated from high school.
We are deeply appreciative of the leadership, expertise and commitment of trustees on our Board, and look forward to partnering with our new trustees!
A full listing of the SFFS Board of Trustees can be found here.
San Francisco Friends School recently launched a biannual digital magazine, Among Friends, featuring articles that we have been posting to our website, continuing with this piece featuring one of our wonderful alums, Stella Malone, who graduated from Friends in 2017. To read more from the Fall 2019 issue of Among Friends, please click here. And please let us know what you think! Share your feedback, article ideas, and class notes with Director of Communications Alissa Moe at email@example.com. Looking forward to hearing from you!
San Francisco Friends School has many community partnerships that we hold dear, including with The Gubbio Project and St. Francis of Assisi. Often, the organizations we work with are locally-minded, with outreach focused on the Mission and San Francisco. At the Crossroads (or ATC) is one such organization that we at SFFS feel proud and grateful to partner with. ATC works with youth experiencing homelessness, giving them the support they need to access resources, build healthy lives, and achieve their goals. At the outset of the school year, Friends gathers backpacks and back-to-school gift cards for At the Crossroads in our opening year drive. These donations help ATC to support the young people they serve as they prepare for a new school year.
Says Guybe Slangen, the Director of Community Engagement at Friends: "Our partnership with ATC goes back about a decade, when they were our neighbors at 333 Valencia St. It's been a wonderful partnership - they have helped teach us about the issues and challenges these youth face, as well as what we can do to make an impact, be it through candy, backpacks, or greeting those on the streets with a smile and a hello. We look forward to many more years of supporting their efforts and we're grateful for the important work they do."
This week, we are collecting fun-sized candy for ATC to share with their clients in celebration of Halloween—and also of fun. At the Crossroads explains: "Our work is bolstered by the fact that we hand out a variety of snacks, not just the standard fare found at soup kitchens and shelters. Food distributed to the homeless population is usually geared toward things other than fun; the fact that we sprinkle candy and other treats into our mostly healthy options sends the message that we’re trying not just to help these young people survive, but to be happy and have pleasurable things in life. Handing out the candy packs really helps us bring clients into the fold, and build trust with our youth. Only at that point do these kids really let us in, allowing us to help them move forward in life. And don't worry, we hand out toothbrushes and toothpaste as well." If you have candy donations for ATC, please bring them to school and feed them to our famous Candy Monster, located in the lobby near our reception desk. To learn more about our candy drive, please click here.
And if you'd like to learn more about the work that ATC does each and every day with San Francisco youth, please click here. Thank you!
Last week we were thrilled to welcome author, philanthropist, and advocate Chelsea Clinton—herself an alumna of Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC—to San Francisco Friends School to talk about her books She Persisted, She Persisted Around the World, and It's Your World. and the inspiring lessons featured in each. Ms. Clinton makes a point of visiting one school in each city she travels to, and we were honored that she chose to spend time with us at SFFS.
First, Ms. Clinton visited with our Lower School friends to talk about some of the compelling stories of female innovation, strength, and leadership featured in her She Persisted series. She shared the stories of civil rights icon Ruby Bridges, labor union activist Clara Lemlich, and the pioneering early 20th-century journalist Nellie Bly, among others . Before heading into the Learning Commons to meet with our middle-schoolers, she took questions from our eager audience, which ranged from asking why she decided to write She Persisted to who her biggest heroes are to what she liked most about attending Quaker school.
Next, Ms. Clinton met with our Middle School community to share some of the advice and experience featured in It's Your World. This rich discussion focused on how our middle-schoolers, who are becoming increasingly aware of how they can make an impact, can get involved with meaningful activism in their communities. Ms. Clinton encouraged our students to believe that they can achieve great things themselves by finding their passions and going after them. She also emphasized that while much progress has been made over the decades, there is still much work to be done, and people are often shocked at outdated laws that still exist even within our own country and state. Specifically, she highlighted minimum marriage age laws in many states, which are far lower than many of us realize—in some states lower than the minimum age to hire a lawyer, problematic for a teenager who may want to exit an unhealthy marriage entered into when they were far too young. Clinton used this example as an issue she is passionate about and advocates for whenever given a platform and/or opportunity.
Thank you once again to Chelsea Clinton for taking the time to speak at Friends about a variety of important issues, and inspiring our students to be brave, innovate, speak their truth, and get involved!
Photos by Kena Frank.
The opening school drive at San Francisco Friends School is a wonderful tradition we have that starts our school year off right and also makes a positive impact across the city. This year, we once again focused our efforts on our friends and neighbors at At The Crossroads (ATC). ATC is committed to helping homeless youth and young adults at their point of need, and works with them to build healthy and fulfilling lives. Over the course of this year's opening school drive, the SFFS community collected school backpacks, socks, and gift cards. The following are some words of thanks from our friends at At The Crossroads:
"Your contribution is immensely appreciated. These backpacks look amazing and will go a long way towards benefiting our youth. Thanks for literally helping our clients shoulder their burden." – Demaree Miller, Program Manager
"Backpacks represent different things for our clients. Not only are many of our clients full-time students who ask for school supplies almost year-round, but the fun-colored, sturdy bags you have provided them communicate a sense of belonging, style, safety, and care. Thank you all for the kind and thoughtful gifts for our clients!" – Anna Fai, Program Manager
To learn more about the At The Crossroads, please visit atthecrossroads.org. Next up: our candy drive! You can donate Halloween candy for our friends at ATC by "feeding the monster" in our lobby. Why donate candy? ATC explains: "Our work is bolstered by the fact that we hand out a variety of snacks, not just the standard fare found at soup kitchens and shelters. Food distributed to the homeless population is usually geared toward things other than fun; the fact that we sprinkle candy and other treats into our mostly healthy options sends the message that we’re trying not just to help these young people survive, but to be happy and have pleasurable things in life. Handing out the candy packs really helps us bring clients into the fold, and build trust with our youth. Only at that point do these kids really let us in, allowing us help them move forward in life. And don't worry, we hand out toothbrushes and toothpaste, as well." Thank you in advance for your donations!
Earlier this year we chatted with SFFS alum Trinity Lee about her life after Friends and her love of all things STEM. Trinity was recently awarded a prestigious full-ride scholarship through The Posse Foundation to attend Lehigh University!
Trinity graduated from Friends in 2014 and is currently a senior at Convent of the Sacred Heart. At Sacred Heart, she became interested in computer science, including programming languages and the Innobotics Club (innovation and robotics) on campus. Trinity’s interest led her to seek out more opportunities, which led her to the “Missfits”—an all girls, community based, robotics team that was started to help address the gender disparity in the engineering field. The team competes in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition, a six-week intensive where high school students build industrial-sized robots that face off for a championship title.
Though Trinity came from a programming background, once she joined the team, that all changed.
“Surprisingly, once I joined the team, I didn't do any coding at all,” she said. “I actually specialized in the design and mechanical build aspect of the robot….I have so much more experience than when I started, but there is still a world of knowledge out there.”
Part of the Missfits mission is to bring STEM to youth in the community, which for Trinity is just an extension of her life at Friends. She credits the “well-rounded science background [I got] from SFFS and...the culture of inclusivity and integration of the SPICES” as being important aspects of her successful high school transition and career.
Trinity was kind enough to share some advice for our current 8th grade students as they transition to high school:
“Find something you are passionate about and stick with it! Try to go outside of your comfort zone and do things that you never considered doing. I liked the idea of robotics but I didn't know anyone who did it. Sure, I was scared to try it out but in the long run I really benefited from the experience...I have met a whole new group of people and have a great common interest with them. Ultimately, it's scary to leave Friends after a lifetime of friendship. Finding a passion will allow you to transition into your new school and find some great people to be friends with.”
A few years ago, as part of their study on homelessness, our eighth graders read an article in the Chronicle about Dede Tisone. Overwhelmed by the homelessness crisis here in our city,
Dede decided to use her art as a way to raise awareness and inspire positive action. We invited Dede to speak to our eighth graders about her work. It was powerful for them to hear her passion and purpose. From this, we wondered if we would be able to share her artwork with our school community.
This curiosity has turned into reality. Caren Andrews, who along with Jennifer Stuart, curate our second floor community art space, and have coordinated with Dede to display her work for the next several weeks. While installing her artwork in our second floor gallery space, we asked Dede what she feels is important about her work. She said, “It is my intention to have the art viewing audience take a close look at what we avoid looking at on the streets of San Francisco. By elevating what we find uncomfortable, I hope to raise awareness while raising funds for a cause I care deeply about.”
Dede’s work is for sale with all proceeds going to Food Runners, an organization that picks up leftover or extra food from businesses, churches, non-profits, etc. and delivers them to shelters or pantries serving those experiencing homelessness. Additionally, Dede’s art is a teaching tool for our students. This exhibit is an example of how art, social justice, and action intertwine and intersect. Dede’s artwork shines a light on injustice and empowers others to make a difference.
Please take the time to come into school to visit this exhibit in our second floor gallery.
For the past four years Hilary Palanza has led our K-8 dance program. From first graders dancing with our neighbors at the Francis of Assisi Community to seventh graders choreographing their own dance creations, Hilary has taught a broad range of students and styles. She carried on the lovely Friends School tradition of our end-of-the-year buddy dance with Kindergartners and our graduating eighth graders. Hilary has also been one of the few that works with every student in our school! She adopted a program that was still young, and has added her own flare and energy to it, helping it grow and flourish.
We’re deeply grateful for her collaboration in working with multiple teams and teachers, her flexibility with spaces and schedules, and her commitment to bringing out the dancer in all of us.
For the past year she has also been pursuing a Masters in public policy at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, focusing particularly on how to support and advocate for the arts. This passion has evolved into her next project where she’ll be working on her long-held dream to develop and open the first ever interactive dance museum! Hilary shared, “I cannot help but feel overwhelmed with gratitude for the San Francisco Friends School. The opportunity to articulate and grow the dance program and teach such a wide range of abilities and ages continues to help me grow as an artist, teacher, and friend.”
This is a bittersweet good bye. We’re sad to see her leave Friends School after this school year ends, but excited to hear about her big plans. We wish her the best in her next chapter, and have launched a search to fill her dancing shoes.
Dear grandparents and special friends,
It was a delight to see so many of you last week at GrandFriends Day at San Francisco Friends School. I’ve received a number of requests to re-share the story I told to visitors that day; so, in case you were unable to be among the grandparents and special friends who joined us on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, imagine a winding walk from the coffee, tea, and breakfast treats in Room 234 to a packed gym on the third floor of San Francisco Friends School.
In welcoming more than 400 visitors who traveled from as far as NYC, Hawaii, and Curacao, I acknowledged my status as a student of Quaker faith and practice and shared a story from Quaker history that I’d learned earlier this fall.
In 1845, Quakers in Northern Ireland undertook an experiment in utopian community and founded Bessbrook. Their aspirations included no need for police, so there was to be no cursing, no drinking, and no gambling.
Thirty-four years later, in 1879, George Bernard Shaw visited Bessbrook to see how things were going. When a reporter asked Shaw - at the end of his visit - what he thought about a community without cursing or drinking, Shaw apparently said, “Well, from the looks on their faces, it would appear that they could use some of both.” He also reported that he had seen a swan on a Bessbrook pond “looking for a place to drown itself.”
I am convinced that it was not cursing, drinking, or gambling that the Bessbrook community needed; it was a GrandFriends Day.
Whether you watched and listened or shared a story with students in class or at an advisory meeting, or sat alongside kindergartners on the floor, piecing together building blocks, you made stronger our community.
And from my vantage point your smiles would light with brilliance the darkest of night skies, and your presence made love—sometimes invisible and untouchable—seen and felt in the halls of our school.
Thank you again for claiming the time and making the necessary efforts in order to be with us. And most importantly, thank you for sharing your students with us on a daily basis. We are delighted to have them, and you, as part of the San Francisco Friends School community.
Horizons at SFFS Executive Director Abby Rovner has a new colleague in the Horizons office this year. Veronica Oberholzer, an AmeriCorps VISTA whose role is to focus on capacity building, will help Horizons grow as an organization. Below, Veronica and Abby share some of the exciting things happening in their office this fall.
Veronica: How about we start by explaining what Horizons at SFFS is?
Abby: Yes! Horizons is a free six-week summer learning program that’s housed at and fiscally sponsored by SFFS. We receive lots of generous in-kind support from SFFS, but we rely on donations and grants from the community to fund the program. Horizons serves low-income public school students from the Mission District who are referred to the program by their teachers. Because their families don’t have the means to send them to camps, tutoring, and special programs during the summer, students like ours are disproportionately impacted by summer learning loss, which research has shown to be a major contributor to the achievement gap.
Spending six weeks each summer reading, exploring, and learning at Horizons has a significant impact on our students’ skills, confidence and school success: this past summer, instead of losing ground, they gained an average of 3.8 months in literacy and 1.4 months in math! Horizons’ children enter the program the summer after they complete Kindergarten, and they return year after year through 8th grade. In 2018, Horizons will serve 85 K-4th grade students, and each summer we’ll add a class until we have 153 K-8th graders on campus every year.
Veronica: One of the students I worked with advanced from the 3rd to 44th percentile on his literacy test from the beginning to the end of the summer — I was so happy!
Abby: Yes, every summer we see incredible growth in our students, not just academically but also socially and emotionally. As we enter Horizons’ fifth year, we hope our new website conveys the program’s powerful impact on the children and families who participate. You can check the site out here to see tons of beautiful photos and great videos of Horizons’ students and teachers in action!
Veronica: Every so often I enjoy going back to the website and looking at the pictures of our kids, like the one of them performing for their parents at our annual “Back to Program” night — they were so proud! I can’t wait to see them again in November, when we have our first Saturday family event at Slide Ranch. We’ll have five other events throughout the year – family learning activities that are great opportunities for our families to stay connected.
Abby: I love our families! The majority of them live in our neighborhood and working with them has been one of my favorite parts of running this program for the past four years. I consider parents essential partners in the work we do and Horizons’ families involve themselves in the program in a wide variety of ways. At the end of every summer, we ask for feedback from parents and guardians and we use their input to inform the program’s design for the following summer.
Veronica: The results of the survey were so uplifting. Parents really confirmed how much their kids love our program. I definitely saw that this summer, when the kids would run through the front gate with huge smiles each morning.
Abby: Horizons summers are magic and we’re so grateful for the resources, time, and talent that many members of the SFFS community have shared to support the program.
Just one final note, I want to let all of our readers know that I would love for them to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if they have any questions or would like to learn more. They can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and don’t forget to glance at our new website!