When the Friends campus closed nearly five weeks ago due to the global COVID-19 outbreak, the shift was monumental for everyone. Faculty, staff, students, and families all needed to learn to adjust–within days—to innovative methods of teaching and learning, as well as to new ways of keeping our community connections strong. Safe to say, as we head into this Spring Break week, that our blue fire burns brighter than ever these days—and we couldn't be more grateful to everyone who's made this possible.
Faculty and staff quickly came together to begin planning a distance learning program that kept Quaker values at the center, with a gradual roll-out of increasingly interactive video lessons and synchronous online gatherings and class time. Our educational technology and integration staff built out both our Lower and Middle School Distance Learning Portals with access to class material, schedules, and distance learning tips for parents and students. Fortifying our online community-building, both Jennifer and Clarke have offered weekly support meetings for parents and we have also implemented advisory Meetings for Worship and meditation sessions to try to protect time to come together and reflect as we would at 250 Valencia. This week, our wonderful ED/A3 staff are offering a virtual Spring Break camp, with offerings ranging from origami to fitness classes for all of our Friends—you can check out the full schedule on the Portals.
The school closure and shelter-in-place order in San Francisco also meant that our beloved annual fundraiser, the Blue Party, needed to be re-imagined, and we took the celebration digital with an online auction, virtual cocktail party toolkit, and the establishment of our SFFS Emergency Relief Fund. In anticipation of far greater financial need among our families in the coming school year, we hoped that our community would come through—and did they ever. We far surpassed our goal for the event and the emergency fund, and the strength of this community in our efforts to support one another has been truly inspiring. Though the next couple of years may be financially challenging, we are so grateful to have Friends like you who continue to lift the community up, time and time again.
We continue to miss our colleagues, students, and community greatly; we miss our building and the communal silence of all-school Meetings for Worship. We miss the all-day laughter and shouts from the Front Yard, and we miss the buzz and excitement of our classrooms and assemblies. But we know we will be together again; and in the meantime, we remain undoubtedly connected in spirit.
To see some "Friendly Faces" or check out some of the cool ways our school has embraced distance learning, please check out our Facebook and Instagram accounts. And to learn more about our school's communications and response to COVID, as well as resources for families and ideas on how you can help—and take care of yourself—please check out our COVID-19 webpage, as well as our Wellness & Values page, both located on our SFFS website. Be well, Friends!
“I love this country. I consider myself American even though America doesn’t consider me that.” This is one of the many powerful quotes from a subject in the immigration documentary, Waking Dream.
The Spanish Committee of the San Francisco Friends School Parents Association hosted our first event on the evening of Friday, January 31, in the Black Box Theater at Friends. Waking Dream follows multiple college and graduate students around the nation fighting for their education in the midst of uncertainty under the DACA program. The majority of young adults in DACA were brought to the USA at a young age, and their futures currently hang in the balance—with the current political climate, DACA’s existence will be decided by the Supreme Court in the coming months. If these students are returned to their countries of origin, they will not be returning home, but to the places of their birth.
In showing this film, the PA Committee's purpose was to bring awareness to a topic so dear to the heart of many immigrants; something that we don’t talk much about is the fact that a change in DACA status would affect many members of the SFFS community.
At the end of the screening, we held a panel discussion. The guests on the panel were DACA students; parents of DACA students; and Theo Rigby P'27, the creator of the documentary and also a parent here at Friends. Some questions that were lifted up by the audience were:
- How can the community of parents at Friends support these families?
- Can we share this video with students at Friends and talk about this topic with them?
- How can we make space for more of these conversations at Friends?
This was a really powerful evening. The Spanish PA hopes to host more events like these, and we hope to see more of our community join us as we continue this important conversation and begin others.
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!
I have been speaking to many parents, colleagues, and often Mike, about how challenging—and sometimes exhausting—it has been in the last few years to be in the field of education. It’s noisy out there, and every parent is wondering and worried about how the tone and the onslaught of media and global events are impacting our children—and how these factors should inform their education. I’m grateful in those moments to be part of a community that insists on infusing the practice of deep reflection, heart, and reason into decision-making on behalf of our children. It’s a blessing to work at Friends for this, among many other wonderful reasons.
4th Grade Lead Teacher Amabelle, upon her return from a Quaker education workshop a few years ago, reminded us that the SPICES (the six testimonies we’ve adopted in Friends schools) are among the core Quaker values—but they are not finite, not things that we check off a grocery list. One of the testimonies we reflect on is the continuous revelation of Truth. Kindness is another. We can also lift up personal testimonies that might guide us for particular reasons at particular times. They can become helpful, reflective guideposts for our lives and learning, both in our school and the outside world. With these two thoughts in mind—the times we live in and the idea that the testimonies are more than 6 finite terms known as the SPICES—I invite you all to muster a new personal testimony for yourself this year. As for me, I offer you two that I’ve been mulling over: the testimonies of CHILDHOOD and COURAGE.
CHILDHOOD: I have deep faith in the process of childhood. It’s messy and weird and full of as many joys as mistakes. It’s uncomfortable, too—much of the time. In fact, learning is supposed to be a little uncomfortable; that’s how change happens in the brain. And it works if you have faith and allow the time and space to let it happen. Adults sometimes show wavering faith in our children’s ability to dig themselves out of challenges—we aim to protect them and to right the wrongs we see. Instead of letting them experience things on their own terms, to muddle through and give them time to reflect and make sense of the world, we rush to rescue them with our solutions, solutions that are based on our own experiences, knowledge, and adult minds. My favorite poet Emily Dickinson expressed it more beautifully: Experience is the Angled Road, Preferred against the Mind. We often say here that it is better to be a curious parent, rather than a “fixer.” When your child is struggling through any social or academic experience, listen more, be genuinely curious, deliver them a sense of agency, and aim to give a little less advice. Through this kind of support, children sense we believe in them and their ability to get through. That’s how autonomy works: by having faith in the messy process of childhood and experience.
Sometimes, of course, we must step in—when they are crossing the carpool bike lane, for example. Good idea. Other times, we do not and should not. We ought not tell them what to think or how to act on their convictions. When we do, we make them fearful of what they wonder, think, or believe; they will always on the look-out for what is expected or acceptable. The development of an educated voice comes from within and requires mistakes and reflection on experiences. This takes time—a lot of time—to light up. Adults can’t steamroll this, no matter the urgency we feel. Have faith in the process of childhood—it is much bigger than any one of your answers. It’s why we sing “This Little Light of Mine” every year, over and over. And why you all hold back tears every time your children sing it. Don’t let anyone snuff it out.
COURAGE: This one really has me going. Some days, it can take an awful lot of armor to get up in the morning. Complex ideas are relegated to sound bites and they go viral—it’s easy when someone else has already done the thinking for you! Educating our children to grapple with complex ideas requires that they become accustomed to sifting through lots of experiences and opinions—and confident enough to challenge commonly-held beliefs. At Friends, we aim to deepen their commitment and habit of being curious and to remain open to new ideas. Being truly engaged, vocal, and innovative requires not just creativity, but courage. We want our students to know how to push beyond the bubble and ask what more is out there. It requires courage to make our way down roads less traveled, even more to allow our children to, but it’s up to us to help them become confident enough to do so.
One wise Quaker educator once reminded me that “for the privilege of attending our Friends School, we hope our children will go out and do some good in the world.” What or how they might do that may be as unique and diverse as each of our children and families are. All of us here at Friends are committed to providing our children with robust, joyful, and even provocative experiences. As they cultivate curiosity and open their perspectives, hearts, and minds to possibility—and even to doubt—we have armed them with self-knowledge and the courage of their convictions, and we’ve aimed them in the right direction to bring reason and heart to their educational experiences and the world beyond.
To be a private school that serves a public purpose is a principled aspiration shared by the vast majority of independent schools. At SFFS our established commitments to Horizons, adjustable tuition, service learning, and the Friends Community Scholars exemplify that principle in practice and contribute to our role as a school community not only in but of our neighborhood, the Mission. – Mike Hanas, Head of San Francisco Friends School
SFFS enrolled its first Friends Community Scholars in 2013, after the Board and administration determined that instituting this program was essential to continuing our community’s commitment to diversity. Established for “high-achieving, economically disadvantaged middle school students from neighborhoods surrounding the school,” the Friends Community Scholars program (or FCS) is funded through the $2 million raised to begin the program during the Building Friends capital campaign, and underwrites all that goes into a well-rounded Friends experience, lasting the duration of middle school. Beyond tuition, SFFS covers the costs of everything from laptops to field trips to tutoring to hot lunches to extracurricular activities to music lessons to athletic gear and uniforms. Supporting the breadth of our scholars’ experience promotes the ideology of inclusivity that FCS was founded on and encourages students to get involved in numerous facets of life here. Former trustee Shannon Cogen reflects: “SFFS’s founders conceived of a program like FCS from the beginning. It advanced the mission in so many ways: providing diverse voices and perspectives that are so essential to education, deepening our ties to our neighborhood, and addressing, even in a relatively small way, educational inequities.”
The FCS program was first inspired by Germantown Friends School’s Community Scholars program, and the ways in which the program showed Germantown Friends’ commitment to its surrounding Philadelphia community. As SFFS stated in its initial case for support to launch the program in 2012, “Friends Community Scholars… will add to the diversity of voices and talents at Friends School.” Today, 21 students have matriculated at SFFS through the Friends Community Scholars program (with nine already graduating). Not only have these students made a profound impact at Friends, but their contributions and development has notably continued into their high school careers. Says Kristen Daniel, SFFS director of middle school and high school transition: “From my perspective, the Friends Community Scholars include some of the hardest working students we've had in our middle school. When I hear about them succeeding in high school on a robotics team, on the volleyball court, or as a leader of an affinity group, I hope that Friends had a small part in helping them discover their voice and talent and pursue it with passion and commitment.”
For Friends alumni who went through the program, the tools and relationships they garnered during their time here have proven invaluable: “All my teachers and all the SFFS staff have played big parts in the development of who I am today… I brought my determination, my culture, my grit to learn, and my voice [to my high school]—all of which I learned, and which people helped me realize about myself, at SFFS,” says Gaby Garcia (SFFS ‘18). Fellow FCS and Friends alum Sassy Mosely-Wise (SFFS ‘16) agrees: “A large part of my personality and moral ethics are shaped around the values I learned at Friends School. When there were conflicts or problems within my community, we were taught to solve them keeping these values in mind. These approaches have shaped the way I handle issues today, and I am forever grateful for the ethics lesson in and outside of the classroom.”
Perhaps as important is the sense of belonging that graduates feel during their time at SFFS. “Even though I only spent three years at Friends School, compared to the majority of my grade that spent nine years attending Friends, I felt welcomed into the school. Students and faculty made me feel included,” says Sassy. Gaby echoes this sentiment: “Friends' allowed me to share a piece of who I am, my culture and my soul, with the school. This was, and still is, very meaningful to me, because before I was very timid and Friends gave me the support.. to find my powerful voice. What I love about Friends is that the community is eager to see that powerful voice in its students, and [to watch students grow].”
|• 2013: First class of Friends Community Scholars was enrolled in the SFFS Middle School
• $2M: Initial total of funds raised to create the FCS program
• 21: Number of students who have now matriculated at the SFFS Middle School as Friends Community Scholars
• Nine: Current total of alumni of the Friends Community Scholars program
Last week, we celebrated San Francisco Friends School's second annual Week of Gratitude, our way of saying thank you to this inspiring SFFS community for their support of the 2018–2019 Annual Fund. We've already exceeded our goal, and we couldn't have done it without each of you. One way we expressed thanks was by sharing gratitude reflections from members of our community throughout the week. Below, we've included a few that we posted to our social media accounts; we will share more during the upcoming Presidents' Week Break.
We kicked things off with words of gratitude from an alumnus of Friends' second-ever graduating class:
"I'm most grateful for the friends I made here at SFFS... That was huge for me. Just knowing each other so well, we've been friends for so long—almost a decade—and during a really developmental part of our lives. We grew up together." – Liam, SFFS '13
"I'm grateful for our teachers, who work hard." – Mayte, First Grade
"I'm grateful for our community. I know I have a lot of support here." – Noah, Kindergarten Lead
"I'm grateful that I learned to ask for what I need at Friends. I'm not afraid to ask teachers for help." – Lily, SFFS '15
"At our high school, some people have a hard time with that, but at Friends we were taught that it was okay." – Clementine, SFFS '17
“I’m grateful for the teachers at Friends.” – Nathan, Fourth Grade
“Yes, me, too. They’re so nice. I’m also grateful for all the field trips.” – Xavier, Fourth Grade
“We get to do a lot of different things here, and I like that.” – Jackson, Fourth Grade
"And we're grateful for our friends, too!" – Nathan
"Definitely our friends!" – Jackson
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!
Last year, then-seventh grade Friends School students Zeke, Simone, Riley, Summer, and Sophia were able to sit down with San Francisco District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee to discuss an issue that was very dear to them, accessible playgrounds for children with disabilities (Riley wrote about it here this past December).
Their efforts paid off. After meeting with our students, Supervisor Yee garnered additional neighborhood support from the Miraloma Park Improvement Club for the playground changes. His office then worked with SF Rec and Park to have the ADA swing installed.
"I was impressed with the students’ presentation. They were well informed, prepared, and shared personal stories about the impact this improvement would have on their families," Supervisor Yee said. "Civic engagement by youth is critical and I am proud of the students at SF Friends School for their advocacy and the measurable impact it has had on our City."
Guybe Slangen, Friends School's Director of Community Engagement, said, "Way to go Zeke, Simone, Riley, Summer, and Sophia! Your voice matters!"
Seated on a dark wooden bench in a dark wooden hall, my foot bounced up and down restlessly. My left hand held my crumpled page of questions, and in my right was a crushed paper cup that had once been filled with water. I kept checking the time on my phone: ‘What class was I missing now? How much work would I have to make up? When would…’ My questions were swept away as the double doors opened and the others sitting near me turned their heads. “Excuse me,” said the figure to me. “Are you ready?” “Yes,” I responded. Then I got up, and followed Mr. Derick Brown, assistant to the mayor of San Francisco, through the doors.
For several years, homelessness has been the focus of the eighth grade’s service work, and it’s opened the eyes of my fellow eighth graders to all of the challenges people experiencing homelessness face. After Mayor Ed Lee died on December 12th, 2017, our grade looked into some of the top mayoral candidates’ plans to end homelessness. They ranged from developing neighborhoods in South San Francisco, to adding 1,500 housing units every year. But even with all this research, no one in the eighth grade had a direct connection to a politician to ask about the city’s plans right now. So, when our Director of High School Transition, Kristen Daniel, heard about the 10 minute chats that the interim mayor Mark Farrell was hosting, she rushed around telling us all to sign up.
Weeks later, when I found out that I was accepted to speak to the mayor, my immediate thought was to tell Kristen or Guybe (the Director of Community Engagement). With my computer in hand, I ran around the third floor to find someone, which is how Guybe ended up with my laptop under his nose just a few moments later. “Look, I got it!” I cried. After congratulations from my teachers and friends, I pulled out a piece of paper and, throughout the next couple days, stacked up questions to ask the mayor with input from my parents and friends.
The morning of April 20th, when Derick Brown called me into the Mayor’s Office, my nervousness, which had been present throughout the week, had vanished and was replaced by determination to learn and enjoy the experience in the palm of my hand.
I was led into a large room with a round table big enough to sit 20, and Mark Farrell stood to shake my hand. After my mother took a photo of us, we sat down at the table. He asked me how old I was, where I went to school, and where I was going to school next year. With my carefully strategized questions, I segued into the discussion of homelessness.
I asked him what he thought the solution to homelessness was. “Housing, definitely,” he said.
“But how will you continue to develop areas and build up while preserving the history of certain neighborhoods, like the Castro?” I asked.
We talked about the beauty of the city, after I asked him how he wanted to preserve what people love about a city like San Francisco. We discussed the growing rent in both San Francisco and Oakland as middle class families have been drifting across the bay.
From there, our conversation drew to South San Francisco and the small towns in Silicon Valley. He told me that if towns like Brisbane were to develop, it would take a large weight off San Francisco’s shoulders because most of the influx in the population are people in the tech industry. If there was a well developed place for them to live, especially a location nearer to Apple, Fitbit or Netflix, there might be a less crowded/expensive city.
“Do you think they will ever agree to develop?” I asked.
“Not unless it’s by force,” he said.
But the city will soon need another place for middle income families and tech workers to live as the numbers continue to rise. From 2010 to 2016, San Francisco’s population grew by almost 60,000, and the housing costs skyrocketed. In the past month, 1,558 homes in San Francisco sold with price tags of $1 million or more.
Yet, small towns like Brisbane believe that developing their towns would change their image and take away what makes them unique, just as building a high rise in the middle of North Beach would take away from what makes our city so amazing.
Our talk was flying by, and I had forgotten about the time and the worry that I would run out of questions to ask. I was building on what he said, drawing more information out, so I was stunned when Derick Brown stopped the conversation.
“Alright,” he said, “it’s time to wrap up.”