Class of 2020
Annual Report 2019-2020
While we were unable to celebrate the Class of 2020 in person, we are grateful to our graduates, parents, faculty, and staff for imagining and creating new ways to honor this important milestone.
A virtual graduation ceremony where each student shared their speech with the whole school, a carline parade with a distanced dance party and diploma distribution, home deliveries showcasing a choreographed dance by our Specialty teachers, Guild Week, mentor appreciation videos, virtual Family Feud and a special virtual campout were just a few of the ways that we came together to celebrate the Axolotls.
We are so proud of the Axolotls' grit, resilience, creativity, positive attitude, and support for one another during this unprecedented time. The 18 graduates matriculated to 11 area independent and public middle schools. We wish them the very best for the next step in their academic and personal journeys and look forward to keeping in touch as their stories unfold.
Below are excerpts from each student's graduation speech.
- Alex M.
- Alice K.
- Chloe W.
- Cooper P.
- Dashell W.
- Forrest G.
- Gian N.-W.
- Jack L.
- Isabelle B.
- Jake L.
- John D.
- Jonah R.
- Kealani P.
- Lily N.
- Lyla M.
- Paloma M.-O.
- Reilly M.
- William K.
Walden is the place for me, but really, it’s the people here that make it my home. At Walden I have made so many new friends, met so many new people, and best of all, I’m a part of a community — a community that shares, laughs, shows persistence, is kind, loving, and strong. We all have very strong bonds with each other, and after all of this, I never want to lose that bond. I have been at Walden for nine years, and I have grown, loved, failed, succeeded, learned, and I’m happy I got to experience the remarkable sixth grade year (well, at least most of it).
Walden has taught me to love and cherish those around me. In fourth grade, not only are you introduced to the upper core, but you get to be a part of the Ponderers and that's when you start to understand how important community is. Ponderers is an upper core experience, where you share and grow as a community. Connecting with new people and going on a three-day beach trip help me to find a new level of independence that I didn’t know I had.
Even though Covid has taken the last part of our year, this has still been the best year at Walden. I have an amazing group of friends, I love my environment, the projects we're doing, the things we started, and the things we've ended. I am very thankful that even during this quarantine I still have my friends and my wonderful teachers.
Thank you for being my home for nine years. As the Walden story song says, “Every story has a beginning, every story comes to an end,” And as my story at Walden is coming to an end, I still have many blank pages to fill.
In the words of Gandhi, “The enemy is fear. We think it is hate, but it is fear.” Fear is my greatest weakness; I am so afraid that I sometimes miss out on memories. Fear is just a block on the road of life. Something Walden taught me is that fear is a state of mind and can be faced. I have harnessed my fears to make memories and help others.
People face fear all the time, and I have lots of memories of times when I was trembling with fear. I do now and I know I will in the future. But fear does not define you, sometimes it even helps. At Astro Camp we had to go zip lining. I was petrified. I kept saying, “Xana, if I die, I want you to know you’re a great teacher.” Yes, I really did say that. But after I did it, I loved it and wished I could do it again. Thank you, Xana, for pushing me to face my fears on trips and for being outrageously funny. Over time I’ve learned that other people are sometimes even more scared than me, and I have to rise up and help them, even if I feel scared myself. [...]
Fear is negative and positive. Fear and courage go hand and hand. Fear is meant to be faced. Coping with my fears has made me a stronger, braver, and all together happier person. So next time you are scared, take a chance you might end up loving it or hating it but at least you know you tried.
My Walden experience has taught me the importance of being in a community. Over the course of this year in particular, I have come to appreciate how important a community is, even if we can't be together. Upon reflection I have also realized that Walden has taught me to be myself and to always strive to achieve my goals.
When I first started at Walden, I thought of community as bunch of people that helped each other. But Walden has taught me so much more about what community means. It means a safe environment, a place to make strong friendships, where people look after each other (like, when we went on our trips we looked out for each other and made sure everyone was safe), and a place where you can get to know everyone.
The Walden community has helped me with so many things, but the most important to me are to be myself and not to care too much about what other people think. I used to only work on my level and lower but at Walden I pushed myself and realized that I was more capable of doing things then I was letting myself do before. Walden taught me to be confident in myself because I was shy when I came here, but the people were so welcoming, and I made great friendships. Walden also taught me to always strive to achieve my goals. To work hard and to help people in need. It’s these little experiences that have helped me realize that I can be my own best self.
The Walden community has helped me with many things that I will never forget. I know that I will carry Walden with me and all that I've learned. I truly understand what community means, to be more confident in myself, to be myself, to strive for my goals, and to keep helping people. Thank you, Walden!!
There are many things that I have learned at Walden, but one important thing is, that friendship is VERY important. One reason I believe this is because of my best friend Asa, he has helped me a lot through my journey at Walden, as well as make me feel better. From drawing, to eating with me, and even sleepovers with my dog, Blizzard. Friendship is a bond between people, animals, and even objects, but no matter what, it is a BOND, a two-way street, and to keep a friendship, both sides must contribute. An example of this is, when people celebrate birthdays, even if it isn’t their birthday, they come, celebrate, and most of all give gifts, they don’t need to but it is kind. “Kind,” what does kind mean? Well, kind to me is friends, family, and love, kindness is gifts, hugs, and looking out for each other.
The last reason I think friendship is important is, because friendship is very strong, if the bond is strong. Friends will overcome a lot, if they put their minds to it, like how this quarantine has stopped me from seeing my buddy Asa, but we overcome that by FaceTiming each other every so often, and that brings me joy to see him.
What is normal? Normal is what most people try their whole life to be. Normal means average. Normal is sameness. Last summer and then again, this year I read The Giver by Lowis Lowry, which takes the idea of a society where everyone is made to be the same, or normal, to the extreme. Reading this book led me to realize that we should be celebrating uniqueness as a society instead of trying to be normal.
When I was little, instead of playing with all my baby toys the way most babies do, I would just point to them, and show my mom how they were constructed, loving every minute of it! Normal, right? But that interest in how things are put together led to my desire to become an architect. So maybe not being normal is ok?
When I was in Pre-k I realized that I was very empathetic. I could always tell when someone was happy or sad, and when someone was sad, I would try to make them laugh. Sometimes it worked, other times they wanted a teacher. As I grew up, I kept that trait and it has helped me through the years to build strong friendships.
People who know me say that my level of empathy is more than normal. It’s my superpower because I can feel what other people are feeling very strongly. When I do, I feel like I can help them with whatever pain they are going through. But, it’s also my Kryptonite. Sometimes I feel things so deeply that they get in the way of everything else in my life. Even though I know I have to learn to control this, I am happy to have this superpower, this thing that makes me different. This thing that makes me not normal. As I think about everyone I know, each one of them has something unique about them. Something “not normal” that makes them special.
I feel lucky to have gone to Walden, where they help you find what is unique about you and then help you embrace it. Most people think they’re required to be normal to be part of a group. But at Walden you don’t have to be “perfect” or “normal”, you just have to be you.
[...] Something I will take with me from my experience at Walden is how to be a good friend and knowing how to pick good friends.
Here’s what I’ve learned about friendship from my time at Walden: Friendship is about respect. Friendship is about caring and showing care for what is important to your friends. Friendship is about sharing the same values. If someone is expressing homophobic, racist, or sexist views, I know they’re not the friend for me. Since I’ve had such strong friendships at Walden, I know what kinds of relationships I want to have when I move on.
Walden has also provided a fun and safe community that lets kids socialize, have fun, and make meaningful memories. One night at Tetons, William, Dashell, and I climbed the mountain. It was dark and we heard a branch snap. Then William yell-whispered to me to “run” because we thought there was a bear. Dashell was yelling at the top of his lungs and we got even more scared. Then I rolled down the hill as fast as I could. I got snow all over myself and a tree stopped me. The same tree stopped William and then we were stuck in a ditch. When we were stuck there, we talked about how this was our last year and that this was our last trip. So, we decided to climb this mountain every night because we need to make as many memories as we can.
I bet you’ve been vulnerable before. Putting yourself out there, for other people to judge, ridicule, or congratulate you. You’ve probably lived with the uncertainty of being vulnerable. It can be painful, excruciating when people judge and tease us. But because you are vulnerable, you can connect, love, make friendships, and be happy. We’ve turned vulnerability into weakness. But without vulnerability, we can’t learn or grow.
This made it possible for me to put myself out there as a basketball coach. basketball is a cool sport. And I love a good game with William and Jonah. So, Kealani and Finely wanted me to teach them. I admit, I worked them to death. I wouldn’t let them give up. I loved teaching because I felt like I was really helping them reach their goal. But I was scared. I felt like people would say, “why is he teaching them to do that?” And people did. They said that I wasn’t good enough, but I realized, what do they know? I was doing the best I could. And after I realized that, I didn't care what anyone said, I had confidence in myself.
My Walden journey has taught me a bunch of skills that I will take through my middle school years. The most important takeaway from my Walden journey is how everyone is super supporting and helping. I have learned that if someone needs help, I should help them. And I should also notice when I need help.
First, I have learned to notice when others need help. An example for this is in math, I am one of the people in the class that math comes easy to. I usually finish earlier than everyone else in the class. While I wait, I tend to ask if others need help. I was also able to help my schoolmates on our annual Ponderers' Camping Trip. I get homesick and I know how it feels. It is easy for me to help my homesick peers because I have felt the same way. On the trip there was someone feeling down, I chose to sit with them instead of playing. I stayed with them until they were able to stand up and feel better and enjoy the rest of the trip. I felt good after I helped them with the problem they were having.
Next, I have learned that sometimes I may need help because nobody knows everything. First, I challenge myself by asking, “Can I figure this out on my own?” After I feel more comfortable asking teachers questions and consistently asking for their help. One example is in Art, because sometimes I do not know what to make and I have artist’s block. I ask Ben what to do, and he is there to help me out. He suggests doodling or I could also do a back and forth drawing with him. I still can have the same amount of fun that I would have had if I were doing something bigger.
In conclusion, I have learned that sometimes others need help and that I might need somebody to give me a boost. I hope everyone can have someone that can help them.
Wow, I can't believe I have made it this far! I have been dreaming about becoming a sixth-grader and now 6th grade is ending, and I’m finally graduating! I will forever remember the wonderful friendships that I’ve made at Walden, because friends help to make you who you are.
My friends have always been there for me. They have accepted and understood my strengths and weaknesses. Their words have made me feel more confident. For example, I’ve never been the greatest speller, but starting about 4th grade, I realized I could just ask my good friend Kealani (because she’s like a human dictionary!) and she never made me feel embarrassed. And, even though math is a bit challenging for me, my friends have helped me learn to be more accepting of myself and that everyone has strengths and things they’re still working on. [...]
I wish I had more time to talk about all of my friendships because each one has helped me to become someone who uses my imagination, enjoys a good conversation, is understanding, is a free spirit, and I’m definitely someone who loves to laugh! Walden has given me the opportunity to have these amazing friendships.
Something I've learned over the 12 years that I've been alive is to walk my own path in life. I know it’s tempting to follow friends and copy what they are doing, but I’ve come to realize that you can't let other people tell you how to live your life, you have to live it yourself. There are so many opportunities and moments to experience that you have to pursue your own way and follow your own dreams, ideas and inspirations.
When I was younger, I felt comfortable following other people’s decisions. It just felt right, it felt cool and it felt comfortable knowing I had people by my side. For example, sometimes I would choose the same essay topic as my friends and that made it so I couldn’t really elaborate on my ideas. But as I got older and saw more things, I realized that I wasn’t enjoying myself. So, I decided to go about my life and make my own decisions. In doing this, I realized I felt so much better about myself, like I could really focus and make sure I was happy.
The second thing I want to talk about is perseverance. A good example of this is when I was younger, I had trouble comprehending reading, but my mom worked with me and encouraged me to do my best. Another example is math. I used to struggle with it but thankfully my dad always focused on helping me and making sure I'm confident. I’ve never taken struggles as a challenge, but I have always looked at them as growing experiences that build character. Throughout my life, I have run into obstacles, but I’ve learned that perseverance is the key. And the only way to live is by moving forward.
Have you ever drag raced at 120 mph? Neither have I, but I wrote a short story about that when I was little. In the story, my mom and my aunt were drag racing down the freeway at night at 120 mph. Then, they got pulled over and taken to jail for reckless driving. I acted out the story in front of my aunt when she was visiting. I remember having loads of fun and my family laughing along with me. Through writing, I have found a way to express myself, my feelings and my interests. In other words, I have found my voice there. During my time at Walden, I have learned that my voice is what makes me unique and that we are all different and have something important to say.
My Inquiry Project was a big milestone for me. That is where I did my best and longest writing: 8 pages and 2,638 words! The experience expanded my writing skills. When I started, I felt nervous but excited to share my thoughts. Ella and Jordan worked with me to brainstorm new ideas when I was stuck. They always showed support, encouragement and patience. When it was done, I felt relieved but proud of myself. I knew I had given the Walden community something unique and important about cars and helping the environment.
I was looking back at all of the experiences that I have had at Walden and one of the things that I realized I learned from and grew from was the overnight trips that we had as a class.
The day before our 5th grade trip to Catalina Island I was optimistic. I was excited to spend the week on an island snorkeling, hiking, learning about sea life, and many other things. The boat ride there was quite rocky. Half of the class threw up, but I didn’t so I was flying high. When our boat finally docked, we heard all about the camp. And it’s large population of foxes and potentially aggressive bison. Then we ate lunch... while being told never too run out alone in the middle of the night as to not get gored by a bison. We packed up... while learning that we could only shower twice a week in the camp’s lukewarm water. (It didn’t bother me though, because I didn’t shower at all.) Then, we took a walk to the composting area... and I realized... that I HATED Catalina Island. (Sorry, Xana.) Fast forward through a long week of tears, homesickness, extremely cold water, and depression, it was finally time for me to return home.
Fast forward one year and it was time for me to go to Tetons. (You can imagine how that was a big whopeee for me given my experience at Catalina, and I was not very happy to say the least.) I was begging my parents not to make me go and crying. A lot. Nevertheless, I was dragged out of bed on Sunday at 4:30 am and went to the Long Beach airport. After a surprisingly easy goodbye, and two turbulent flights, we finally arrived in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Needless to say, I wasn’t very excited about being there and was preparing for a very, very long week. Anyways, we got in a van and drove to our dorms and they were comfy, and then we went snowshoeing and it was fun, and then we ate dinner and it was good, and then, I realized that I Liked it? (You're welcome, Xana.) ( I even showered.) To this day, I still do not know whether I actually liked it, or if I just set my bar so low that It was better than I was expecting. What I do know for sure is that I can get through anything.
I believe that when you truly accept yourself you can make amazing friendships and bonds with others. Learning to be myself was one of the most important and memorable lessons I learned at Walden. Ever since I was little, I had a big personality, I loved to talk a lot and to make new friends. But once I became older, I started to adjust my personality to please others. I have learned not to let others’ opinions influence my decisions or affect me and I have made amazing friends by just being myself. They are the friends that are always there for me, will always support me , the ones I can trust and the people who make my life better.
If I wasn’t able to attend Walden, I probably wouldn’t have met my best friend, Finley. Finley is one of the bravest, most passionate, and hardworking people I have ever met. She always pushed me to my limits when I couldn’t do it myself. She taught me to always strive to be my best self, to be persistent and made sure I always put 100% into my work. I never would have reached my goals without her advice and support. She always was there for me even if I wasn’t there for her. Finley has made amazing opportunities possible that I never thought would be. One time during the summer when I was on my swim team (with Finley) we had a swim meat, one of the strokes I had to do was butterfly. Which is a stroke that’s very challenging for me, I was sure that I would get last place, but Finley told me to push. To keep on swimming till I was sure I couldn’t swim anymore. I listened and ended up getting 2nd place. I was so surprised and happy , but I knew it wouldn’t have been possible without Finley's support. Finley is one of the only people I could be open to, but she has helped me become more brave and confident in myself.
I have come to realize that life isn’t about making everyone else happy, but more like making yourself happy so you can help others. Once I finally realized this, I was able to overcome things that I struggled with in the past, like making lots of friends or paying attention in math class. Now my favorite subject is math. Attending Walden was one of the greatest experiences and achievements that I will ever have. I will remember every touching memory for many years to come . There are so many lessons that I will take away from this experience with joy. [...]
Through my time here I’ve learned that being playful and being part of a community is important because it can help you create bonds.
One thing playfulness helped me with is getting to know my teachers more. In the 4th and 5th grade, we would always bug Jordan to play freeze tag, and he would only accept to do it at recess. When the time finally came, we would swarm around him and say, “Jordan! You promised you would play now so you have to!” He would get up, sigh, and say “okay...” We would all scatter away from him.
Our usual tricks didn’t work, because he could jump over the pond. If someone got frozen, we would circle them, trying to distract Jordan to save them. It usually worked, but sometimes he nabbed a few of us first. I remember bolting around and dodging Jordan and feeling great getting to finally run around. It was important for me to spend time with my classmates and teacher doing something I love.
[...] All of my times being playful with my friends and teachers at Walden weren’t just one-off events. The power of playfulness to create bonds lies in playing together over a long period of time. Doing this makes friendships grow and creates happy memories to look back on. These memories make me feel stronger and I will take them with me wherever I go. I have loved being a student at Walden and I will always cherish my years here. And I’m excited to move on and learn more.
Determination comes from hard work, courage, never giving up, and mistakes. Mistakes are proof that you’re trying. Determination can make the impossible possible, if you enlighten every thought with determination, and believe that you can, and you will. Walden has taught me that. Every year I was reminded that I could do anything I wanted to, and that amazed me. But as I started to grow up people started adding, “but it takes hard work and determination” after they told me I could do anything. At first it seemed unfair, but now it just seems realistic.
It’s very important to be determined. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to keep trying when things got hard, nor would you even be able to give the slightest bit of effort. Everyone has determination in them. For me I can’t ever start something without finishing it.
I chose to talk about determination because for as long as I can remember, that's what really made me, me. Walden showed me that a big part of me was determination, and each day I was at Walden they made that piece of me get bigger and bigger, and for that there will never be enough words for me to show my gratitude with.
But I'm still going to try. Because that's the Walden way to go.
Having a family is a gift. When you have a family, you recognize that everyone is unique, and everyone is accepted and appreciated for who they are. Walden is my family.
On my first day of school I had on my white traditional Mexican shirt. I wondered if I would be accepted for who I was. Here's a poem I wrote about how I was feeling:
WHAT I THOUGHT
What I thought is that I would be different I thought that the color of my skin was the first thing that people would see I never thought that people would care on my personality I thought that I would be ashamed of having two moms that in my life I would never be able to ever sing a happy song I thought that everyone would ask “where’s your dad? he's gone right? aren't you sad?” I thought that I had to live in the shadows to make people think that my head wasn't hollow that I wouldn't drown in the shallow but I never thought that I could be accepted for who I really was but then all those thoughts turned right upside down.
To me, Walden isn’t a place, it’s the people. It’s the community. The community that learns, laughs, and cries together. AND it’s the teachers that love, teach, and look after us. This is Walden. No matter whether we’re apart or together, we are Walden. No matter if you’re a parent or a student or a teacher, you are a part of Walden.
[...] Walden has basically been my home for 9 whole years. If you put into perspective on how long I've lived, that’s a long time! Walden has helped shape me into who I am today and for that I am forever grateful. I have learned so many things here, not just academics, but how to be a good person.
During my time at Walden I have learned a lot of things, whether it was how to add, or if it was what is the name of bison poop. Through all these things that I have learned two things have really stuck with me. One is that in your life you must find out who you are as a person, and what that means to you. Another important lesson was how to be humble.
One thing that I learned is that you must be yourself. No matter what the situation is you should always be yourself and no one else. If you are always being someone else, you will never be able to enjoy yourself for who you are. I think that this can be a hard but important lesson to learn. I have learned it and that has been important to my life. When I first came to Walden, and when I was younger, I often copied what other people did. [...] Living someone else's life isn’t good because you don’t make your own decisions or have your own experiences.
The second thing that I am going to talk about is being humble. When I was a younger kid, I always wanted to show off how I was “good” at running, or how I knew the answer to some hard math problem, even if I had just used a calculator to find the answer. Even as I got older, I always wanted to show off something, usually a talent. When I reached second and third grade, I had gotten pretty good at math, and didn’t just look up math problems on a calculator. I was always eager to answer a question during math. After a couple of weeks of my math teacher Janice calling on me a lot, she started to look for other people. At first, I thought that it was unfair that she didn’t call on me, because I had the answer so why couldn’t I answer the question. It took me a fair (haha) amount of time to realize it but, it was fair. I realized that even though other people may not be raising their hands, they might have an answer but were nervous about getting the answer wrong and being embarrassed. It was important that I knew how to let other people have chances and accept that sometimes other people needed chances.
One thing that I learned even more recently was how to apply both things into my life. What I am talking about is learning about who I was and how that related to how I need to act to be a good person, basically to be humble. This was challenging to learn because I had to put two things that had been hard for me to do together. I had to learn how to be a kind person to other people and to be humble, while still being able to live my life. [...] That sounds like it would be easy, but it was hard for me to really understand that I need to learn this lesson even if I didn’t think that I did, because it wasn’t going to be easy to do but it would be important to learn.