by Tucker Foehl, Head of School
The rhythm of our lives has changed dramatically since March. The world has become a lot smaller for many of us, and the daily routines we relied upon have been largely upended. But this isn’t all bad; the slower pace and narrower scope that has been imposed upon us by the pandemic has inspired many of us to reflect about the people and places that are truly important to us.
One of our shelter-in-place silver linings is that many of our alumni have found their way home to SA, so to speak, even if they are on the other side of the country. The time for introspection afforded by stay-at-home orders has given our alumni time and space to think about what Sonoma Academy means to them, and many have discovered a new energy to re-engage with the SA community. They’re leveraging the technology that has become a ubiquitous part of our lives to reconnect with old friends and teachers, broaden their networks, and get involved with the life of our school.
For the last few weeks, the calendar has been packed with alumni events, with more on the horizon. This past Wednesday, master storyteller and beloved Humanities teacher Brandon Spars teamed up with Chris Fitzsimmons ‘09 to host an alumni edition of Coyote Tales. The evening kicked off with a story they told together: a hilarious tale of their trip to China involving a thwarted quest to witness the "long tea pour" that went very awry. (Think of a phalanx of rickshaws, a questionable establishment running a very questionable business that had very little to do with tea, but would be happy to provide your "tea fantasy," provided they are properly paid... ). Nine more tales followed, told by ten alumni all over the country. Some were hilarious, some heartwarming, and a few, heart-wrenching, but all were riveting. Three alumni judges and our very own Athletic Director Chris Ziemer had a tough choice to make. Ultimately, they declared Grace Harryman ‘11 the winner, with the team of Sarah Tatum ‘12 and Julia Burns ‘12, and Jemal Williams ‘11 coming in second. It was an incredible evening, infused with the magic that occurs whenever we get to come together with our community.
Last Thursday, Emily Doyle ‘11 and Columbia Shafer ‘11 teamed up to organize a non-partisan Get Out the Vote volunteering party for alumni. Using the Vote Forward platform, a group of alumni contacted registered voters and assisted them with making a voting plan. Many of our alumni have been doing some election-related volunteering, and this was a way for them to join forces and enjoy some camaraderie while working on this critical effort.
The Alumni Book Club gained steam back in the spring, and its membership has been growing since then. Under the leadership of Librarian Michele Martin, this group has been reading some fascinating and timely works together. From Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing to Tommy Orange’s There, There, each novel has provided opportunities for rich conversation and connections to current events. This sort of event would have been a challenge to organize at any other time; now, with the power of Zoom, our readers can meet from wherever they happen to be.
Perhaps the most exciting new alumni event on the horizon is one that the whole school community can (and should!) enjoy. Thanksgiving weekend will see the first-ever SA5K, a fun run (or walk)/friendly competition that all our alumni, families, current students, and staffulty can participate in from anywhere (read more details in the article below).
As a newcomer to SA, it’s exciting and inspiring for me to have these opportunities to meet and interact with our ambitious, enthusiastic, and brilliant alumni. They often express gratitude to the school and their teachers for setting them on their paths, and many maintain close, lasting friendships with their classmates. They show us what is possible for our current students’ futures, and they are living, breathing manifestations of our school’s mission at work: creative, ethical leaders in a dynamic world.