That's So SA

That's So SA

Connected Community

Human beings learn best within the safety and support of authentic relationships, which is why we pay attention to the whole person.

This creates a warm, accepting school culture of connection that empowers our students to ask questions and try new things. Balancing social emotional development with academic rigor while also giving teens many opportunities to to stretch themselves supports their development of self-awareness and self-knowledge.

Giving students a full, well-rounded view of themselves through experimentation and exploration beyond the classroom—through social and class-building activities, and a robust co-curricular program—is the best way to develop confidence and competency.

Community Meeting

Each Wednesday, our entire school community joins together for the student-run Community Meeting. It’s the temporal center of our week, and it often feels like the emotional heart, as well. The air in the gym almost palpably hums with the power of 400 people in the thrall of a shared experience, feeling similar feelings, reflecting in different ways, creating a powerful bond.

Although each Community Meeting has its own flavor and spirit, there are certain things we can count on each time we gather. We always begin with either a Moment of Reflection or Gratitude—something offered up by anyone in the community who feels so moved. These are then followed by two to three Senior Speeches: a culminating speech (required to graduate) given by every senior. The suggested theme is broad and our students interpret it in any manner they wish. Speeches have taken the form of lists, an original song, a multi-media powerpoint presentation, and much more. 

After these, we are often treated to musical numbers, monologues and scenes, short stories and poems, presentations, and announcements. Every week is different and, except for the required senior speeches, participation is purely voluntary.

At nearly every meeting, we laugh, we cry, we listen, we give standing ovations, and we learn together. Most importantly, we share generously with one another: our thoughts and wisdom, our talent, our laughter and our smiles, our tears. We are all part of the whole.

At-A-Glance

That's So SA Blog

List of 4 news stories.

  • Retreats Build Community

    Sending students on grade-level retreats has been a Sonoma Academy tradition for many years, and after two years of complications and delays (thanks, covid!), we have finally returned to a more familiar retreat routine! For the last three days, all of our students have had the opportunity to come together with their classmates on and off campus to connect, enjoy social time, and get ready for an exciting and fun school year. 

    Retreats offer students a celebration of life beyond the classroom—an opportunity to get to know one another, to laugh, to work cooperatively, and to play. These are invaluable bonding experiences that help create a cohesive and connected class, which​ accelerates the students' ability to thrive in the classroom. While on retreat, students engage in a variety of "outside the classroom" activities together—whether doing a ropes course, hiking, paddling, or just playing and lounging around. 

    One of the silver linings of the disruptions of the last two years is that we had the chance to refine and re-envision long-standing programs like retreats. This year, we are sending our ninth graders to take on a ropes course, followed by bonding time on campus; tenth graders will enjoy a day of picnic fun together in August and then have an overnight experience in the second semester; juniors will kayak and camp at Tomales Bay; and seniors will have a half day picnic today and then a rafting trip to the American River right before graduation in May. 

    Retreats often set the tone for the year, and for the class. They create opportunities to make new friendships and deepen existing ones, to practice taking risks, and to show up in different ways. We see—and the students see in themselves and each other—different strengths and abilities ​that are not always easily ​apparent in the classroom, ​giving​ us all a more well-rounded view of one another. Retreats are also important bonding times for students with teachers, who participate fully in the retreat activities.
     
    Most importantly, retreats are fun, and we think there's no better way to get the school year off to a great start. This year’s retreats were no exception, and we are looking forward to watching the students dig in to a new semester with deeper friendships, stronger confidence, and a can-do spirit. 


  • Día de los Muertos at Sonoma Academy

    Día de los Muertos is a Meso-American holiday that honors the lives of those who are no longer with us. It is celebrated on November 1 and 2, mainly in México, although countries like Bolivia, Perú, Ecuador, Guatemala and Spain celebrate it as well. In Mexico, people clean and decorate the cemeteries with great care and detail, adorning them with flowers, candles, food, and more. On November 1, they go to the cemeteries of their beloved ones with relatives, friends and neighbors. There, they spend the night sitting in vigil, while they share memories, food and music with their family and friends. This celebration intends to bring the community together, both the living and the departed. The celebration acknowledges that our ancestors and loved ones that departed this world still live within us, and they don’t really die as long as they are remembered.

    People in Mexico also build ofrendas at home. Here is the significance of the main objects placed in an ofrenda (shrine):
    • Water - Source of life. The souls of the dead are supposed to relieve their thirst after a long journey back from their short visit to their homes on Earth.
    • Salt - To purify their souls and bodies.
    • Candles - They mean "light," hope, and faith.
    • Cigarettes - Smoking was a very serious ritual and the smoke meant a connection between Earth and Sky.
    • Food and Belongings- All of the dishes of food, fruits, and drinks, as well as personal objects belonging to them, are placed at the ofrenda.
    • Photos - Photos give relevance and intensity to the remembrance of our dead.
    • Marigold Flowers (Cempasuchil)- These flowers are specially chosen to render honor to Death. The soul of our dead will leave happy because flowers will add happiness to their ofrendas.
    This week at Sonoma Academy, we created a few ofrendas to remember our deceased loved ones. Our students and staffulty brought photos of their relatives, friends and pets that had died. In class we shared memories about the ones whose lives we were honoring in the ofrendas, and we ate pan de muerto. Finally, we watched the movie Coco during lunch. ¡Feliz Día de los Muertos!
  • Attending the POCC

    This year was my first year attending NAIS’s POCC (People of Color Conference). I’ve worked in independent schools for about a decade, but the conference I’ve always focused on every fall was the NACAC Conference, (National Association of College and Admissions Counselors) which is expressly for college counselors. It always felt indulgent to, just a few weeks later, attend another conference, so I never prioritized POCC, putting my role as a college counselor for students above my own need for connection with other educators of color. This year, as SA’s first/ interim director of DEI, whatever blocks I had about attending in the past were at last outweighed by the fact that it is “part of my job.”Any excuses I had to avoid this conference, subconscious or not, were out the window. Better late than never. POCC will continue to be the four days I look forward to every fall for as long as I am able to attend. 

    In my career as an educator, I have always worked at predominantly white institutions. Most independent schools are. POCC stands as a unique gathering of educators of color in these institutions that by and large weren’t built for POC, but are trying to employ them and serve them. It was a virtual conference of course, a technological nightmare or masterpiece (you pick) of zoom meetings, event mobi interfaces, and meetings with up to 50+ break out rooms. The engagement and energy was palpable in the sessions I chose to attend, facilitated by other educators who could share some part of my experience in independent schools. A common theme was the “E(race)sure of the Asian or Multi-racial identity.” Yes! Finally a space where people say things like “I often feel my story/identity is irrelevant” or “I feel like I have to convince others that my experience is not just like a white person’s.” 

    In these sessions, even if the attendance was over 200 people, the zoom space was alive. People were nodding and shaking their heads, snapping, smiling, laughing, showing all the signs of support through the means they had-- a laptop. It was everything I love about zoom, instead of all the...other things about zoom that I’m sure we can all commiserate about. 

    Despite being in the confines of my youngest child’s room turned office, a profoundly moving moment surprised me when I attended the Asian Affinity Group on day one of the conference. I logged in a minute or two early and watched as the participant number grew and grew. It was an effort of speed and will, but I rapidly scrolled through the 14+ pages that populated with Asian faces, a few of whom I recognized. My chat started blowing up: “I see you Dot!” “What’s up, girl!!” “HEY DOTTTTTT!!” All the while the participant number climbed steadily towards 250. And then it hit me. I was shocked to notice tears rolling down my face. I had never been in a space, virtual or not, with this many Asian people in my life. I thought back to elementary school when I took a family trip to Korea. But this time was different, because all of these faces, they were actively choosing to be with me in this space for the purpose of affinity. I chatted my friend and told her I was crying and that I couldn’t believe myself. She chatted back: “me too.” 

    There is so much about being an Asian American woman in the context of my life that I don’t pay attention to, or that I take for granted, because it’s my life and I’m in it every day. When I drill down, my identity is quite specific: Asian American cisgender woman, a biological mother of two biracial children, and married to a white identifying cisgender man. What does it mean to raise my family and continue evolving as an individual, in Petaluma, California, a town that I have chosen, knowing that I will rarely bump into another Asian identifying person? Inside POCC these conversations and questions are the norm. The next day, I selected a micro-affinity space specifically for Asian educators who are raising biracial children. I know I shouldn’t have been surprised. But I was. Again. There were over 20 of us in that room. A conference of thousands became a small room of individuals with a very specific life experience that finally felt common. As an Asian American, it’s hard to know how much I can claim POC-ness in a world that continues to push us towards assimilation and ultimately erasure. These groups validate that I am not indeed, “practically white.” My experiences are real and shared. 

    POCC is educational. It’s inspirational. And it’s imperative that your colleagues, teachers, and childrens’ teachers who are in a striking minority on a daily basis, have four days where they can be seen and heard, be inspired to ask for more, and look around the room and actually see the reality that they are part of the global majority. 
     





  • Random Acts of Kindness

    On Wednesday morning, just as administrative staff were finishing up their Zoom meeting, our staffulty members began to hear knocks on the door. On porches and doorsteps all over the North Bay, members of the Board of Trustees and the Advancement department hand-delivered gift bags of sanity-restoring essentials: coffee, tea, chocolate, wine, and baked goodies, as well as beautiful bouquets of flowers and a hand illustrated card. These treats came after an exceptionally challenging week, accompanied (appropriately enough!) by the return of clear, blue skies. 

    This thoughtful gesture from the board brought home--literally--our school’s commitment to kindness. When we are together on campus, that kindness shows up in a million little ways. We see it in the standing ovations our students give performers and speakers at Community Meeting and the snacks students bring to share in Advisory. We see it in the way students stop to pet their teachers’ dogs in between classes, in encouraging messages left on white boards in classrooms, in handmade gifts that students make in their art or studio classes. We show up for one another’s performances and panels; we share one another’s good news with enthusiasm and excitement. 

    Even though we are apart, our students, staffulty, and trustees are finding ways to spread cheer and buoy spirits. These small acts are manifestations of our supportive, connected community. Random acts of kindness don’t seem so random at all in the context of SA. If you haven’t done a little something to brighten a friend’s day lately, now is a great time to do it, whether you are a student, a parent, or a staff member. 

    Many thanks to the Board and the Advancement team for bringing smiles to our Wednesday! 
2500 Farmers Lane 
Santa Rosa, CA 95404 
(707) 545-1770 
inbox@sonomaacademy.org
 

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, religion, ethnicity or national origin, citizenship, gender or gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, or disability, to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. The school does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, ethnicity or national origin, citizenship, gender or gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, or disability in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and tuition assistance programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.