Over 1,000 students have graduated from Sonoma Country Day School over the course of our thirty-plus years. They can be found in high schools all over Sonoma and Marin counties, universities across the country, and in businesses around the world. Our alumni maintain strong connections with the current SCDS community through events and family ties, and some are even coming home to enroll their own children at SCDS.
Carlo Traversi returned to tell us about his adult life as a professional rock climber at an Assembly in November. Along with sharing photos of his workplace (simply amazing cliffs, precipices, and crevasses around the world!), he had some advice that rang as true for our younger audience in their school workplace as it does for someone engaged in Carlo’s work.
While Sierra Maciorowski did not know she would return to SCDS as a debate coach when she graduated in 2011, the Winston Churchill quote she chose to accompany her photo in the yearbook left the door open to returning in some capacity.
Dana Rizer is the program director for Groceryships, a young entrepreneurial nonprofit that is already making a difference in how inner-city Los Angeles residents eat. The Groceryships model calls for buying groceries for a family over a period of six months. During that time the family’s cook participates in frequent nutrition education and support meetings in order to facilitate changing the family’s eating practices from fast-food and processed items to preparing healthier whole foods.
Andy Schmidt’s early affinity for math led to an appreciation for physics that endured throughout his educational experience and somewhat unexpectedly put him in the right place at the right time for a career as a software engineer with IBM.
Emily McNab has parlayed a passion for sports into a career as operations manager for an international sports travel company in a manner that reflects the same willingness to step up that was evident during her years as an SCDS middle school student. After shadowing as a fifth grader at our first campus, she arrived as a sixth grader in our first year on this campus. While the location change might have been unsettling for some, Emily handled it with aplomb, remembering, “Everything was great! I had a really good group of friends, I enjoyed the teachers, the sports, weekly assemblies, and the class trips."
Allison Slater, who recently left Teach for America (TFA) after several years as Director of Human Capital and School Partnerships, and two colleagues have launched a three-week overnight summer camp program for children in Oakland. Inspired by memorable and life-changing summer camps they attended as children, the founders aim to profoundly reshape expectations of students from some of Oakland’s most disadvantaged schools. Camp Phoenix (the symbolic reference to the phoenix of Greek mythology and its promise of renewal is intentional) opened this summer with an initial enrollment goal of 45 rising sixth graders.
Ashley Inman launched herself as a communications consultant in Washington, DC in June, bolstered by a full-time client and thrilled to dedicate her passion for public policy and expertise in website and social media communications to the important national policy issue of education reform.
A couple of years after she graduated from college, Haley Boylan realized that her job with a big LA ad agency wasn’t doing it for her. “There was drama going on around some advertising issue, and I thought there was no justification for the hubbub. I didn’t mind working hard, but it didn’t feel like I was working for anything,” she remembers. “I went home that night and thought about what I would feel better about doing.”
Jason Thompson credits his parents for introducing him to cartoons and instilling a love of reading, but even they could never have imagined how what they considered family fun would help launch their eldest son’s career as comic and graphic novel illustrator, author, and critic.
In May, Johnny Nicholson touched down for a day at SCDS to speak with our sixth through eighth grade students prior to hosting a concert in the Jackson Theater. It would be an understatement to say Johnny’s life is exciting. His band, ECHOREV, wrapped up a 50-city U.S. and European tour in the winter, and Johnny “rested” by heading to Baja to spend two months completing the duo’s new record.
Douglass Toth credits SCDS for demonstrating the importance of personal development, which he uses now to cultivate relationships of value. “Relationship is foremost in my life and in my business, and it is based on maintaining a character of integrity,” Doug said. “I use the priority of personal development I experienced at SCDS as a reference point. It was exemplified at SCDS in the way we felt encouraged to be involved and inquisitive. We were treated with genuine interest regarding our thoughts and personal experience. The emphasis was on our development, I think.”
Francesca Preston defined herself as a writer and an artist at SCDS. “My work has always had to do with words, and the way that words relate to images,” she said. “Ever since I was a kid, people have come to me for help with their writing, basically to spend time with their words. Words are physical objects for me. Over the years, I’ve acquired a real sensitivity as a writer as well as an editor, and am able to hear the music of words in my writing as well as in the writing of others.”
Kara Seil may have been a seventh grader when she arrived at SCDS, but she was hardly a newcomer. Her mother, Anne Seil, was our second grade teacher, and Kara had visited Anne’s class many times. “I wanted to go to SCDS because I was really interested in foreign languages and fine arts, and knew that the school I was attending didn’t have as strong a curriculum in those areas,” she explained. “I had always liked visiting SCDS, and I knew my mom’s students.”
He may have attended SCDS for only seventh and eighth grades, but Matt Nix has formed a deep attachment to our community. As a founding student and son of Founding Headmaster Philip C. Nix, Matt, his sister Esmé, and the children of the other founding families shared their parents’ sense of purpose during our start-up.
Considering Caitlin Doty’s affinity for community—among her family, friends, and business associates—is much like the age-old query of what came first, the chicken or the egg. While it’s clear that as an adult she appreciates her communities, it’s also clear that SCDS informed and supported her appreciation for developing community during the seven years (grades 2-8) she spent here.
Longtime teachers will agree that running into SCDS alumni occurs more and more frequently as our alumni count grows. However, running into Seaman (Surface Warfare Specialist) George-Paul Scheppler while he’s on the job might be both alarming and comforting. He is a U.S. Navy Search and Rescue Swimmer on board the U.S. Crommelin FFG 37, based out of Pearl Harbor.
Max Baumhefner thinks that his years at Sonoma Country Day School (he arrived as a sixth grader) were singularly important to him. “I was naturally curious and loved learning, but SCDS challenged me as I had not been challenged in an academic environment. I went on to a very good high school, college, and law school, but the three years I spent at SCDS were the most important in cementing my dedication to lifelong learning,” he says.
Whitney, Rob, and Cameron Fisher don’t recall undue attention because they were the children of one of our founders. However, Whitney and Rob began at SCDS the year it opened (Cameron is four years younger), and Rob and Cameron are lifers, having attended SCDS for grades K-8.
Tristan Harris associates the school’s “Pledge to Ourselves” with his entrepreneurial zeal. “I remember that Headmaster Nix would end assemblies with the pledge,” the founder of the high-tech start-up Apture says, “The phrase, ‘I promise to use this day to the fullest, realizing it can never come back again,’ is important to me. I believe that the more you perceive your life as limited, the better you’ll use it, and make sure to do something you love."
Lauren Selman remembers relishing every opportunity presented to her as a fourth grader in her first year at SCDS. “I loved everything we did. We made beautiful story books and built a miners’ town and a Pomo Village in the classroom. Everything we learned was interactive and integrated so that when we learned about Monet in art class, for example, we took a field trip to gardens in San Francisco to study flowers in order to appreciate the flowers in his paintings.”
“I never thought I wouldn’t own my own business,” said alumnus Ryan Yacura, the founder and CEO of Superba Coffee, based in Marina Del Rey. “My father is an entrepreneur, and I guess I just inherited that desire for independence and freedom.” What may have come as a surprise—to others, if not Ryan—is that he would have his own company before he even graduated from college. He launched his business in March of this year, after spending five months in startup mode, then graduated from Loyola Marymount University three months later.
When it comes to goals and accomplishments, Charlie Shepperd has literally set his sights high. The Second Class (or Junior) Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy hopes to be a Marine Corp Aviator, flying either jets or helicopters after he’s graduated from the academy with a Bachelor of Science in naval architecture.
Chris Villar’s earliest lesson about thinking big and not to be afraid to challenge himself was initiated by an SCDS science project. As a seventh grader, he undertook a project about videoconferencing; which was, believe it or not, a new technology at the time. After some coaching from SCDS faculty members David Cole, Philip Nix, and science teacher (now retired) Claudia Lyons, Chris wrote to the company marketing the leading videoconferencing technology. He did so in a big way, addressing his inquiry to the president and CEO of Intel, Andrew Grove. The response was amazing.
Could it be coincidence or destiny? When Lily Hirsch was an upper school student at SCDS, she created a display about music history for a class project. It was a free-choice assignment, and even though she sang at SCDS and played piano in the upper school band, she had never before considered studying the history of music.
Barry Stump grew to appreciate his elementary education at SCDS while he focused on completing his higher education and working as a computer programmer. So much so, in fact, that he brought his family to our BBQ in May and reestablished his relationship with Headmaster Nix.
While Lauren Feldman was in the midst of settling on a career after graduating from college, she took strength from a value instilled at Sonoma Country Day School. “I knew that my teachers always wanted me to be something great,” she said. “But they never meant that to be making a lot of money or having a lot of power. They wanted us to be happy and healthy, and to find a career that could allow us to be constantly growing and striving for that happiness.”
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The premier, fully accredited, independent TK-8 college preparatory school in Sonoma County. Located in northern Santa Rosa and proud home of The Jackson Theater, SCDS offers a challenging academic program rich in fine and performing arts, music, world languages, and social and emotional learning. For more than thirty years SCDS has been the school that brings learning to life.