Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Inspiring gifted kids for 25 years – and they sure inspire us!

December has been a month of reconnecting with Seabury alumni who have come back to share their stories of life after Seabury. After having been at Seabury for a long time now, it is always exciting to see former students and meet those who were at Seabury before my time. I love to hear the stories of where they have gone and what they have done since leaving our program.

Over the years, I have talked with and heard the stories of many of our alums – both recent grads who are still in high school and those who have gone on to colleges and careers. A number of themes have emerged from those conversations, themes that both validate the work that we are doing with our current students and that provide valuable information for parents regarding the benefit of the significant investment they are making in their child's Seabury education.

First, every alumnus I have ever talked with or heard from through others has said that their experience at Seabury has had a significant impact on their lives, choices and successes. Alumni consistently tell us that Seabury was the place where they recognized their passion for learning and where they discovered what true academic rigor looked and felt like. Many have shared experiences of going on to high school programs with a reputation for rigor and challenge and finding, instead, that there was a great deal of work and hours of homework, but much less rigor in terms of thought, analysis and application of learning. At Seabury, students from pre-k through eighth grade are expected to take information they learn and apply it in new and unique ways – a rigorous activity requiring higher level thinking and deeper understanding. A number of alums have shared that Seabury set the bar for them, and that they demanded that kind of rigor from the teachers and professors they had in high school and college.

Second, alums consistently tell us that Seabury is the place where they gained self-confidence. Research tells us that when gifted students learn with other gifted students, they not only increase their academic achievement, but also show greater social/emotional growth than when they are in classes with more typically developing students. We see that every day at Seabury – our students inspire and stimulate deeper levels of questioning and discovery in each other. And they grow in confidence as they recognize that they not only have areas of strength and expertise, but that others have areas of strength as well and that they can learn from and support each other. We see that self–confidence carrying forward with students as they move into high school, college and career. We see alums demanding excellence from themselves and seeking out those who support and encourage them.

Third, our recent grads talk about Seabury's program giving them the tools to advocate for themselves, getting what they need from school and other experiences. When we talk with graduates of our current middle school program, we hear again and again that the community element of the program – our students’ experiences interacting with people of all ages through partnerships, field studies as close as Tacoma and as far off as the D-Day beaches at Normandy, participation in the Model UN – even Thursday lunches out – has given them confidence, poise and sophistication beyond their years. They are able to advocate for themselves appropriately in their high schools, asking for more challenging classes, talking with teachers, seeking out internships and relevant experiences, and getting what they need to be successful. Whether they are at public or private schools, they tell us they have learned how to be their own advocates and they attribute that to their experience at Seabury.

Finally, we our alumni show us that Seabury is not a school that produces "cookie cutter" students who look the same and follow similar paths after leaving our school. At Seabury, our goal is to help students discover their passions and develop their talents, whatever those might be. When we look at our alums, we see young people who are pursuing careers in medicine, business, social service, law and academia. We have musicians, dancers, and artists. We have alumni who have studied at Ivy League schools and students who have military careers. We have a successful Indie musician, an Olympic athlete in training, technology experts, a rocket scientist, world travelers, and students who have made their way from high school to college early. The broad range of schools our students attend and careers they have chosen reflects Seabury's commitment to helping our students define success for themselves and to giving them the tools to ask great questions, think deeply and seek inspiration and innovation.

Whether they started at Seabury in pre-k and finished the eighth grade here, or spent just a remarkable year or two with us, our alumni are an inspiration. Seeing them discover their passions, set their personal bars high and seek excellence in a variety of ways reminds me of the tremendous importance of our work. It is significant to me that Seabury is the only school I have worked at in more than 30 years in education where students cry on the last day of school because they don't want the school year to be over.

Seabury students past and present inspire us and inspire each other. We are grateful for all of them, and I am humbled when I see what they are contributing to the world. It is a privilege to be part of this special school!

– Sandi Wollum

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