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The View From Here

A snapshot into life at Sonoma Academy taken from many angles, The View From Here is our bi-monthly blog featuring reflections from the Head of School, and other staffulty members. 

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  • The View From Here: Commencement 2022

    These are today's Commencement remarks. To view ceremony in its entirety, please visit our livestream link. 

    I woke up this morning with a sense of sadness. I must confess — I really do not want you to graduate today. I have felt this way throughout the school year. I felt it signing your diplomas a few weeks ago. I felt it at the Senior Retreat. And I felt it in a particularly painful way last night at your Senior Farewell. While I have no doubt that you are all ready for what’s next — prepared to fully thrive next year and far beyond — I know that I am not alone in saying that we are not ready or wanting to say goodbye. 

    At Convocation this year, I shared a quote from Maya Angelou, that I want to revisit today: 

    “A cynical young person is almost the saddest sight to see, because it means that they have gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing” — Maya Angelou

    Wouldn’t we all love to share this graduating class with her as an antidote to that worry and concern. 

    At that same Convocation ceremony this fall, I plainly asked our seniors to lead us this year, stating to them:
    “You are our guides and this group of seniors has all of the skill and all of the heart to help us find our way as we all return to campus at this important moment. Your resiliency, your spirit, your creativity, your wisdom and, of course, your love for SA will help guide us as we take the first steps forward today and beyond.”

    To many of you, the pressing issue on campus and the mark you wished to leave was the preservation, protection and, ultimately, the transmission of SA’s unique and empowering culture. 

    You had many questions for me and our school:

    How do we see ourselves and how do we maintain the culture of SA? 

    Why don’t students clap when a plate is dropped in the GAC?

    Why are younger students not thanking teachers at the end of class?

    Why do people not understand that we give standing ovations for every senior speech, every moment of reflection, and every performance at our community meeting?

    Ultimately asking, what are the fundamental values of SA and are we living up to them?

    When talking with Jay Suh about our school culture and what defines it, he simply said to me: “You know, it’s just chill.”

    The more joyful and Sonoma County-esque aspects of our culture: Like our beautiful love for Farmers Markets; PS Announcements just to wish people a good day and tell us we‘re all awesome; high tops, crocs, and a very cool shoe game; surfing before and after school; our top soccer player wearing jean shorts to one of his first practices; yes, a microwave is a functional, if slightly heavy, backpack; and, of course, Yerba Matte. This class LOVES Yerba Matte. 

    The more serious aspects of our culture — we are a school where a rising collegiate lacrosse player can play alongside a senior who is trying the sport for the first time; we accept all — with no judgment or disdain — and at SA you can truly be you; we ask and expect students to lead — as directors, activists, and as those entrusted to guide and move our school forward; and, finally, we’re not going to have students call teachers and staff by their last names (in fact, we believe that is an unproductive barrier between adults and students and it would drastically change SA’s culture of inclusivity, the way we communicate as a community, and the simple fact that at SA adults are respected for their actions and not by their title).

    There are three defining characteristics of our culture and our values that you embodied as a class and that you have imparted to us as a school. You taught us of their critical importance in defining SA and they will continue to root and grow, like the tree you are planting to honor your teachers. These are: belonging, agency, and joy.

    Belonging begins when we present our true, authentic selves. And true belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are.

    As Brene Brown reminds us: “True belonging requires us to believe in and belong to ourselves so fully that we can find sacredness both in being a part of something and in standing alone when necessary. But in a culture that’s rife with perfectionism and pleasing, and with the erosion of civility, it’s easy to stay quiet, hide in our ideological bunkers, or fit in rather than show up as our true selves and brave the wilderness of uncertainty and criticism.”

    This class has not been afraid or hesitant in one moment this year to brave that wilderness. 

    You have delivered the first-ever senior speech at SA completely in Spanish.

    You have given powerful moments of reflection about race and class in the college admission process as well as the deeply personal forms of humanity that exist with the world of incarceration and confinement.

    You have reminded us of the importance of Veterans Day and those who have bravely served our country.

    And you have educated us on the cultural importance, and misunderstanding, of the Kardashians.  

    You each exhibit a courageous sense of self, one that has enriched our culture and created a powerful community rooted in belonging.

    Robert Louis Stevenson once said: “Find out where joy resides, and give it a voice far beyond singing. For to miss the joy is to miss all.”

    I believe that joy is one of your greatest superpowers. This class likes to laugh, is often smiling, and has a joyous way — even amidst the challenges of our world, the difficult moments we have experienced as a school, and the stresses of everyday life. It is little wonder why I feel so close to you, as joy is one of the most important tools in my work as Head of School. Because I firmly believe that joy is deeply connected to hope. You have all lived and led with an audacity of hope, and a firm belief that JOY can help us navigate even the most difficult circumstances. Joy makes us resilient; joy makes us resistant; and joy makes us healthy. 

    As you head out today, proud alumni of Sonoma Academy, I want you to remember these three characteristics that you embody both individually and collectively as a whole: belonging, agency, and joy. Bring these everywhere you travel, to everyone you meet, and to every place you inhabit. In turn, we will continue to infuse these values into the cultural fabric of SA, knowing that they were so beautifully woven by you. And in thinking about the power of belonging, agency, and joy, I leave you with the words of Audre Lorde:

    “Tomorrow belongs to those of us who conceive of it as belonging to everyone; who lend the best of ourselves to it, and with joy."

    Congratulations, Class of 2022!

The View From Here Archive

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Santa Rosa, CA 95404 
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Sonoma Academy Is...

...the only private, independent, college preparatory high school in Sonoma County. On our beautiful campus nestled at the base of Taylor Mountain in Southeastern Santa Rosa, our students are able to explore their interests and passions in a rigorous and inspiring environment that develops a lifelong love of learning and prepares them for college and beyond.

Sonoma Academy admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.