The View From Here

One Last Convocation

by Janet Durgin, Head of School

This Monday marked my last Convocation at Sonoma Academy-- my 19th! Of course, on such a monumental occasion, everything seems just a bit more beautiful, poignant, and symbolic, but I think many of our community members would agree that this year’s Convocation was particularly lovely. 

From the moving Oration of the Spade by Nina Cauntay ‘20 to the rousing address by alum Maya Pace ‘14 to the unforgettable presentation of an artwork by Sam Lasseter ‘11, this year’s Convocation hit many of the themes that we hold dear at Sonoma Academy. Perseverance and self knowledge. Community and honor. Exploration and whimsy. These are ideas that  inform so much of what we do; it is beyond gratifying to hear them being celebrated by our students and graduates (unprompted, no less!) Each speaker talked about the importance of being a learner, not just a student: a person who is curious and open to the world. That’s what we are all about. 

In my Convocation speech, I talked about a few of the things I myself have learned during my two decades here as I look ahead to my own “graduation” from Sonoma Academy. You can the excerpt below, and I also encourage you to watch the video of the ceremony.

START HERE: Be willing to stretch yourself and heed your own call to adventure.

...when the SA board of trustees offered me the opportunity to be their founding head, I accepted the challenge and our little family drove west. All I remember from my first day on the job was being shown into a little office with a computer in a box on the floor...and going home that night to tell John I was afraid we had made a big mistake. 

The point I want to make to you is that there’s no way I could have planned this all out in advance. Without knowing it, I had been answering my own personal call to adventure for years. As Joseph Campbell says,“If you can see your path laid out in front of you, step by step, you know it's not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That's why it's your path.”

BE BOLD: Go for the big bold inspiring vision and welcome the crazy smart co-conspirators who will magically show up and help you make it a reality.

...it’s important to have an audacious vision. It will keep you from being mesmerized by the siren song of the status quo. And it will give you the strength and resolve to carry on during difficult and rocky times. 

CREATE A SAFE SPACE: And fill it with Yodas who’ll help students explore, experiment, take risks and keep going.

CJ Casiotta, author of Get Weird, says“The perfect parental response which we can echo as teachers and mentors is “I see you. Come forward. Keep going!”

That, in a nutshell, sums up our approach at SA and the results speak for themselves...

KEEP ITERATING!:The world and our lives are constantly changing. 

...Yes, we’ve made our own traditions and woven our own unique DNA, but we are relentlessly future focused and always evolving. Our students are more than equipped with the skills, mindsets, experiences and self-confidence they will need to find their purpose and take on the uncertainties of this age. 

As for John and me, we will be just on the other side of our beloved Taylor Mountain -- less than 3 miles away as the crow flies. We will be cheering you on and listening for triumphant Coyote howls as each of you -- students and staffulty alike -- come to realize you are achieving what Joseph Campbell calls “the privilege of a lifetime -- being who you are!” That is the unique magic and legacy of this amazing school we’ve created together. Thank you.

Sonoma Academy Is...

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.