Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving is Here, For Sure...

This was an amazing day; I feel as if everywhere I turn there is kindness, appreciation, honesty, generosity and open-heartedness.

Today marked the first giving to the Annual Fund Campaign, which was launched through the mail last week. Our goal is $70,000 - a bit of a mountain for our little school, but as a percentage it's in line with the goals other school communities need to raise each year, and it's a necessary one at this crucial moment which marks our steps away from years of generous support from the Andrah Foundation. Today I was given checks and pledges exceeding $11,500. Incredible. The response of one family to thanks was this: 'Believe me when I say that sometimes the beauty of this school and its role in our lives brings tears to my eyes as well. So it is an easy thing to do...'

So in one day we are 16% of our way to our goal. And I was reminded today of why we do this, why raising the money is crucial, why these children are so important. Today a seven-year-old asked if he could speak with me, and he laid his thoughts, hopes and fears squarely out before me with trust and faith that we could make things work. Another child talked with me about a struggle she had witnessed, and came to a new realization about her power to make a difference. Both these students talked openly and honestly, putting their points of view fearlessly and listening with open hearts to mine. Our children are not cookie cutter perfect angels, they are complex people exploring the world and their place in it. The joy is that they are in a place where they can do so with the support of a community that loves them. Because of that, they grow up to be complex people who still have open hearts, who still want to make a difference, and who have confidence and self-knowledge to back them up. A couple of weeks ago, one of our alumni went to Washington DC because the high school newspaper she works on was nominated for the prestigious Pacemaker award – the Pulitzer of high school journalism. I watched a pair of Summers-Knoll alumni performing at a local theatre, along with a whole bunch of adult professional actors, and the two of them owned the stage. Their confident mastery of the Shakespearean language and their comfort level with their professional colleagues was consummate. Another won an award in middle school writing last year. Yet another was one of six high school students from across the country to be awarded a spot in the Coast and Ocean Science Training Internship. I could go on, but the point is this: these are people who know they can move mountains, and they CAN - in part at least because they learned to do so here, with small hills that were more their size. They, the past, present and future students of Summers-Knoll, are worth every ounce of energy we give to them day by day. And they are the reason that our Annual Fund goal is worth striving for.

And then (back to my day, here) I got to spend time with a wonderful woman from the University of Michigan whose team is working on a marketing plan for SK. She was incredibly generous-spirited, showing total understanding for why the work we do - progressive, nurturing, flexible education for children with creative minds and unique gifts - is important.

And THEN, back at school, I was faced with Renata (whose talent, energy and love for her students radiate from her) who was asking about a space to perform 'As You Like It'. Now, this was a project with a mind of its own, if ever there was one. Much like Susan Carpenter's students with the plastic bag campaign a couple of years ago, Renata's students have picked up the ball on this and run with it harder and faster and with greater joy than any of us could have anticipated. It has grown from a little dalliance with the Bard to a Play That Needs To Be Performed, and as such, it needs a space. So I picked up the phone and called Deanna at the Kerrytown Concert House and she gave me an incredible and completely unexpected deal. When I tried to thank her she told me how wonderful she thought it would be to have these children and our school community at the concert house (Wednesday December 16th, 7pm, by the way). People are amazing. Our school community is amazing. Our wider community is amazing. Today was amazing, in its parade of wonderful, loving human beings. And guess what, it's Thanksgiving. I could not be more thankful for all of you.

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