News posts from supporters, board members, alumni families.
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much progress has been made over the decades, there is still much work to be done, and people are often shocked at outdated laws that still exist even within our own country and state.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!
(Para español, mire más abajo)
As many of us seek light and hope in these challenging times, let us remember that our school is founded on Quaker values of integrity, community, and equality. SFFS and its community are committed to openness and respect for every member of our community regardless of race, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, and, just as important — place of national origin. In the spirit of these values and beliefs, our Head of School, Mike Hanas, recently signed a letter to President Trump, along with other Friends Council on Education (FCE) leaders. This letter expressed support for DACA and affirmed our support and commitment to Dreamers, as well as all those affected by the events that have been unfolding.
Although times like these may feel sad and dark, we must keep our light brightly shining by staying informed of all options and supporting those who need it the most. Below, please find some useful upcoming events, information, and resources:
- SFFS will host another Immigration and DACA Know Your Rights workshop.
Please keep on reading Circle Back for a date and time.
- Alameda County Immigration Legal & Education Partnership (ACILEP) Community Forum
When: Saturday, September 9, 2017 @ 10 am - 1 PM
Where: St. Elizabeth’s High School
1530 34th Avenue, Oakland, CA
- San Francisco Board of Supervisors Introduce Resolution in Defense of DACA
When: Tuesday Sept. 12th 2pm
Where: 1 Dr Carlton B Goodlett Pl. #250
San Francisco, CA 94102
The links below provide information we hope you or someone you know might find helpful:
- NPR Answers Basic DACA Questions
- Immigrant Legal Resource Center - What is DACA?
- NEA's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Resources
On behalf of SFFS’s Equity & Inclusion Parent Association and Steering Committees, we sincerely hope that these times of uncertainty will unite us and deepen our knowledge and appreciation of each other’s gifts and uniqueness as we foster a sense of belonging. May we continue building our awareness of each other’s distinct strengths and embracing our responsibility as we work towards positive outcomes.
Please feel free to contact us with any feedback, ideas, information, or questions.
With hope and peace,
Un mensaje acerca de DACA de parte del Comite de Equidad e Inclusión
A medida que muchos de nosotros buscamos la luz y esperanza en estos tiempos retantes, recordemos que nuestra escuela está fundada en los valores cuáqueros de integridad, comunidad, e igualdad. SFFS y su comunidad está comprometida a respetar y escuchar a cada miembro de nuestra comunidad, independiente de su raza, creencia, religión, sexo, orientación sexual, identidad de género o expresión de género, y con mayor importancia - su lugar de origen nacional. En el espíritu de estos valores y creencias, nuestro Director de Escuela, Mike Hanas, recientemente firmó una carta para el Presidente Trump expresando su apoyo a DACA (hacer clic aquí para el enlace), afirmando nuestro apoyo y compromiso a los Dreamers y a todos aquellos que han sido afectados por los eventos que hemos estado viviendo.
Aunque en épocas como estas nos podemos sentir tristes y perdidos, debemos mantener nuestra luz brillando con resplandor, manteniendonos informados de todas las opiniones y apoyando a aquellos que lo más necesiten. A continuación, encuentre eventos, información, y recursos que esperamos les sean útiles:
- SFFS patrocinará otro taller de Conozca sus derechos de inmigración y de DACA.
Por favor siga leyendo Circle Back para la fecha y hora.
- Alameda County Immigration Legal & Education Partnership (ACILEP) Community Forum
Cuando: sábado, 9 de septiembre 9, 2017 @ 10AM - 1PM
Dónde: St. Elizabeth’s High School
1530 34th Avenue, Oakland, CA
- San Francisco Board of Supervisors Introduce Resolution in Defense of DACA
Cuándo: martes, 12 de septiembre @ 2PM
Dónde: 1 Dr Carlton B Goodlett Pl. #250
San Francisco, CA 94102
Los siguientes enlaces proveen información en inglés que esperamos sean útiles:
- NPR contesta preguntas básicas acerca de DACA
- Immigrant Legal Resource Center - ¿Qué es DACA?
- Recursos para Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
De parte del grupo de Equidad & Inclusión de la Asociación de Padres y del Comité Directivo de SFFS, esperamos sinceramente que estos tiempos de incertidumbre nos unan y profundicen nuestro conocimiento y apreciación de los dones de cada uno de nosotros mientras fomentamos un sentido de pertenencia. Esperamos que continuemos construyendo nuestra conciencia de las fortalezas particulares de cada uno de nosotros y que aceptemos nuestras responsabilidades a medida que trabajamos juntos hacia un futuro positivo.
Por favor contáctenos con cualquier idea, opinión, informacion, o pregunta.
Con paz y esperanza,
Since moving to San Francisco as a newly out young gay man more than 25 years ago, LGBT Pride weekend has always felt like a major holiday for me—a chance to celebrate with thousands of people that are a core part of my being, which, for many years, I felt too much shame to acknowledge, let alone celebrate.
In my first years of either marching in the parade or watching along the sideline every year on the last Sunday in June, two contingents stirred me most: 1) PFLAG, the group of parents and allies of LGBT people, and 2) elementary schools. The PFLAG group raised goose bumps as I watched throngs of parents march to affirm their LGBT children, an affirmation I’ve been fortunate to have from my own mother. Years before becoming a parent, the elementary schools contingent led me to see both that there were LGBT parents and that these parents were joined by straight parents who were their allies. It also led me to fantasize that I, too, might one day be a parent.
After our son, Gabriel, was born in 2010 (by the way, he was born on Pride Saturday on the eve of that year’s parade) the significance of the day didn’t lessen. When Gabriel was an infant and toddler, my partner, Gabriel, and I joined the contingent of Our Family Coalition, an LGBTQ families group. Last year, as a kindergarten family, we joined a group from the Friends School. The SFFS group was part of the large contingent of Bay Area independent schools.
Our Friends School group was a bit ragtag; we didn’t have matching T-shirts like the huge Apple contingent. But, those things didn’t make a difference to us. We were a group of parents of all orientations, along with kids of all grade levels—and some toddlers, too—and teachers and friends, celebrating our school, our families, and the day. We marched, taking turns carrying the Friends School banner, we blew our whistles and shouted with joy, we waved, we applauded, and were applauded.
The parade is a back-and-forth exchange of love and celebration like no other. Marchers are celebrating themselves as well as the spectators, and spectators are celebrating themselves as well as the marchers. It’s part political rally and part party, giving all a chance to “come out,” walk with pride, and be whoever they are, regardless of orientation.
As I marched, I had images of Harvey Milk and other political activists marching in the 1970s to celebrate gay liberation and to stand up against a statewide political initiative at the time that sought to ban lesbians and gays from being school teachers; and I had memories of myself at an earlier age daydreaming that some day I could be a parent. Our son’s memories of the day may be different from mine: he remembers being able to stand in the middle of the street with his school friends, surrounded by lots of people having one big party.
The reasons for the parade and the reasons people march have changed in some ways over the years. While once a gathering mostly for LGBT people, the parade is now a Bay Area-wide celebration involving everyone who wants to be involved, whether as a marcher or a watcher. And, yet, every year, whether it has been to celebrate coming out or being allowed the right to marry, the need to stand up and speak out remains, and it is especially present in this politically turbulent year. This year’s theme is "Celebrate Diversity: Resist regression, stand up against exclusion, demand equality." It sounds a lot like core values of the Friends School, and speaks to at least a couple of the Quaker testimonies.
Join the San Francisco Friends School in the parade on June 25. For yourself, your family, and your community, and for fun.
John Tighe and his partner, Ngu Phan, are the parents of 1st grader Gabriel Phan Tighe.