Class of 2021
Annual Report 2020-2021
For the 2021 graduation, the Sonoran Bumblebees and their families and teachers came together for a beautiful outdoor ceremony that brought record temperatures, rain, thunder, happy tears, and big smiles to our South yard!
As their lead teacher, Ella Moran, remarked in her speech—like actual bumblebees, this class, individually and collectively, defied the gravity of this year. They stayed curious about the world and unleashed their creativity and senses of humor, spreading joy to those around them. Like actual bumblebees, they proved themselves to be multidimensional, reflective experts at pivoting.
Through a live stream, the whole community was able to take part in their stories of perseverance, connection, and curiosity, as well as delightful musical performances and the festive diploma procession. We are so proud of this wonderful group of humans and look forward to keeping in touch.
Below are excerpts from each student's graduation speech.
- Asa H.-M.
- Braeden H.
- Camilla R.
- Chiara H.
- Dashiell E.
- Dex M.
- Dylan V.
- Eden S.
- Eisa H.
- Finley H.
- Gemma A.
- Henry H.
- June K.
- Michael R.
- Natalie M.
- Nicolas A.
- Raina D. G.
- Rebecca F.
- Simon S.
- Sophia H.-C.
At Walden, I have had the time to become who I am today. Walden teaches so many lessons, but the best part of Walden is having the time to learn and think for yourself. Through SEL, I thought about our actions and how they affect the world. I spent time in social studies wondering about the past. But most importantly, I had fun. From innovative solutions to Ponderers' games, or playing vocal games with my friends in 2nd grade, I have creatively found ways to have a ton of fun! [...]
Walden teaches that you should take care of planet, take care of the people, and take care of yourself. This thinking is a great way to look at the world. By using your creative problem solving, and really considering others, we can work together to make the world a better place. [...] I always have stories to tell from my time at Walden. Thank you.
Walden has helped shape who I am. It teaches kindness, humor, respect, compassion and of course, has an amazing community. At Walden I've learned humor is really important when it comes to staying optimistic in life. [...]
The teachers at Walden make sure that they teach us well while still keeping lessons and interactions entertaining. They understand that the best way to learn is often by having fun, because good memories stay with you much longer than boring ones. [...]
Caring is what I think of as what I have learned at Walden, caring for people, environments, and academics. Walden has taught me many valuable lessons over my 4 years and being caring is the overview, it’s shown me being part of a community means being caring. Within the lesson of being caring lies memories and traits Walden has made.
Beginning Walden, the Puerto Rican Parrot’s project was to redesign the L.A. River and create a replica of what we want for the future, incorporating critical thinking skills. All the Parrots went back into the past to look at the L.A. River during a time when the Native people lived there. June and I worked on a kei, our river plan was to create an eco-friendly building just like the Native people. Gathering moss, rocks, and lots of glue we created our kei. Information about the past made the present really count. Building a replica and critically thinking lead the Parrots to a completed, new blue river.
Caring is what is within Walden, and once you realize how it's there, you will see. Everything Walden has given me will always stay in my heart. [...] With all Walden has taught me, I know the future is bright.
I will be honest—while writing this speech, I had writer's block for a long time. I couldn’t bring myself to write something that I would read on the day I leave Walden, something that would have thank you’s for the last time on campus, and something that I would possibly look back on many years later as a remembrance of how Walden was. There are so many wonderful things about Walden I can’t fit into a 2-minute speech. But I hope my future self will remember how Walden taught me to be curious and take chances. [...]
The teachers here are amazing and super fun, so while I was writing this, I started to think. If the teachers didn’t lead by showing us that curiosity is a good thing, then I might not be curious today and I would not have as much fun overall. However that didn’t happen, and I can say thank you to the teachers for teaching me to be brave and curious. Specifically Jordan and Ella, you made this year amazing and you were the best last Walden teachers I could have asked for! Next, thank you to all my friends for being optimistic and energetic, and lifting me up when I am down! And most of all, thank you to my parents, I couldn’t be standing here without you. Daddy, you always push me to make my writing as good as possible while still encouraging me and giving me breaks, and thank you mama for being so dedicated to my learning and happiness. Love you both!
My first, and unfortunately last, year at Walden has been short, but incalculably sweet. I have learned Math, History, Social Studies, but also how to be part of a community, to be a benefit to any community you are a part of, SEL, and so much more.
[...] Creativity, thinking outside the box, challenging yourself, and most importantly, having fun have been paramount to my year here at Walden.
Lastly, I would like to thank you. Yes, you, for helping make my Walden year as awesome as it could be. Thank you to my classmates for being great friends and people, and for accepting me coming into their last year. Thank you Ella, Jordan, and my Specialty teachers for helping me immensely on my way here. I legit think I would have died at Pali without you guys. Also, thank you to my parents for, 1, being the reason I exist, and 2, being the best parents I could have ever asked for. Love you guys.
During my time at Walden, I learned how to add, how to multiply, how to research one specific topic and dive far into it. I learned all these things at Walden and so much more. Like how to be loyal and stand up for what you believe in. [...]
At Walden, loyalty can mean many things. Keeping a secret that someone trusted you enough to share. And for me, loyalty means all those things. Which is how I found how many people can be loyal. By always sticking up for you, being there for you, helping, and supporting you. But most importantly for me? A friend that is trusting you. A friend that can listen as well as tell you how they are feeling, too. These are traits I have found in the people who have been my friends at Walden. I have always done things with a friend. I’ve been with a friend during math to help me. During writing, to help me edit my work. During social studies, to help me learn about the past. During independent work time. The point is, I couldn't have made it through my Walden journey without the people who were and are loyal to me. [...]
Lastly, thank you so much to the entire Walden community for teaching me, helping, and supporting me. Thank you everyone who has given me the motivation to keep going and learning. Walden, thank you for being my home away from home.
As some of you know, I came to Walden in 4th grade, and every moment of my Walden experience has been amazing. Well, maybe not every moment of it, but none the less it has been amazing.
Ever since my first day, people have been nice to me and someone even started talking to me on the second day of school. He eventually introduced me to more friends and eventually the whole school. I even found some good friends that I not only have a lot of things in common with, but also things that make them unique, like different senses of humor and different personality traits, for example.
And finally, if I could describe myself in one word, it would be a follower. Now when people hear that word, what comes to mind is weak, but if we are being honest, being a follower isn’t a bad thing because it benefits both the follower and the leader, and being a follower is something I enjoy doing. And Walden has helped me learn that being a follower is not only ok but great because being a follower contributes a lot to a friend group and people’s self-esteem. But if I had to choose my favorite thing about Walden, it would be how nice and welcoming everyone is. [...]
I thought this day would never come, but here I am standing in front of you. I’ve now been at Walden for 9 years and what stands out is how they supported my ability to be outgoing and encourage us to speak up. [...]
Through the years, I've used my outgoing personality in many ways, but this year has been an emotional roller coaster. My entire time at Walden, I looked up to the 6th graders and thought about how confident they seemed and looked like they were having so much fun! But, when I hit 6th grade, my world felt like it might collapse, and I worried I wouldn’t get to be that kid. The best part of myself, my outgoing self, would be trapped inside a Zoom screen.
When we got the email that we were going in-person I was so excited I could have screamed! Once we got in-person, I felt like I was myself again.
I was the outgoing, energetic, fun 6th grader I always wanted to be. [...]
I am leaving Walden but feel prepared socially, emotionally, and academically for my next journey, and want to thank the people that made my Walden journey special. Thank you, Sonoran Bumblebees, for making this year amazing and better than I could ever wish for. You’re the best 6th grade class, and though this year has been tough, we got through it together. [...]
And last but not least – Walden: to infinity – and beyond!
Everyone is unique, everyone is made up of small experiences that make them who they are. Because everyone’s memories are different, we all react differently or enjoy or dislike different things.
The Ponderers camping trip has had a big effect on who I am today. The Ponderers camping trip was a big turning point for me because it was the first overnight trip that I went on alone. By alone I mean without my family. I was definitely not alone; the entire Upper Core was with me! It was a wonderful experience because of the Walden community. [...]
I remember at Astrocamp, when we were led to the “sky coaster.” When my name was called, I walked up some stairs to a rope that was hanging from the trees. My classmates helped lift me into the trees. At some point the instructor called out for everyone to stop pulling. I was asked to pull on a rope hanging nearby. It reminded me of a parachute rip cord. For a second after pulling the rope, nothing happened. I felt like a cartoon character floating for a second before they fall. Then I did fall. At the last second, a combination of science and at the time what I thought was luck, but again was only science, saved me from splattering on the concrete floor below. This memory really taught me to be trusting and open minded.
Places also hold memories. The Walden campus Is like a huge folder that holds hundreds, no millions of memories. When I walk back through my past classrooms, I remember key memories that are tied to those places. These Walden experiences will forever be a part of me as my adventure through life continues. I want to thank my family for supporting me throughout my time at Walden. I would love to thank all my friends that saved me from eternal boredom during Covid (and before). And finally, I would love to thank everyone who has been a part of my Walden story for helping me make countless memories at Walden.
I’m ambitious - ambition means trying new things. It also means making mistakes is very probable. I’m often afraid of making mistakes.
I chose to research infinity and when time began for my Inquiry Project. I knew nothing about space, time, and anything related to my project at the beginning. My biggest fear was making mistakes in my research paper and presentation. As I continued to learn more about my concepts, my fear of making mistakes slowly started to disperse, but there was still a small voice in my head saying ‘you’re going to epically fail this presentation. Everybody is going to be mad at you for making one small mistake.’ I tried to ignore this voice, it worked. [...]
To end, I’m ambitious, and I used to be afraid of making mistakes. I chose exceedingly difficult concepts to study for my Inquiry Project. I had some bumps in the road, but I was always able to repave and get on with my journey. At the beginning of this project, I was afraid of making mistakes. As I kept moving forward, I learned that I had to make some mistakes so that I could improve parts of my project that could be extraordinarily better.
Perseverance, or the ability to overcome challenges, has really helped me throughout my life. Walden has helped me challenge myself to grow more confident and guided me through obstacles that seemed impossible at first. For a long time, I couldn’t ever imagine myself reading my graduation speech to you all today. But I kept my goals in mind and have grown so much in my past 8 years here. [...]
Perseverance has not only helped me academically but also with hobbies. When I first started drawing, I was always comparing myself to others. I felt like everyone was better than me but as time went on, I practiced every day, and I realized that someone will always be better than you and there will always be someone who is looking up to you. My goal for as long as I can remember was to be an artist, and being able to overcome countless days of artist block and self-doubt is, in my opinion, so important to becoming an artist.
[...] I am so grateful that Walden has led me through real life experiences, always having my back when I need help navigating a tricky situation with a friend or a conflict on the basketball court. I have been fortunate enough to have teachers who want to see me succeed and who have pushed me out of my comfort zone and taught me to never give up when I really felt like quitting. [...]
Everyone experiences growth. Growth is one of the most important things that will happen in our lives. One of the ways we experience growth is through meeting new people and making friends. Walden teaches you this skill early on. [...]
I walked into the Community Room for the first time and my ears filled with different people, voices, and movement. I didn’t know anyone there, so I was scared. The high ceiling made me feel like I was an ant. [...] In the moment, I felt like I had taken a big leap into a new era of my life. Later that year, I was chosen to speak in the class animal assembly. I remember feeling nervous and excited. It was my first time presenting to more than 10 people in my whole life. I started reading my script and I suddenly felt more confident, I continued reading my lines and finished. On that day, I became less nervous in front of people. I grew. [...]
There is something I want everyone to take away from this speech. It is that, when facing things you’ve never done before, it doesn’t matter if you succeed or fail because you tried it and you grew. I want to thank all my teachers for helping me grow academically and as a person. And thanks to my friends, I’ve gotten better at trying new things. Lastly, thank you parents for supporting me all the way through Walden. Thank you all for helping me grow.
When I started 1st grade at Walden, I came from a school without many friends. So, I didn’t know how friends acted, or how to make them. On my first day of school, I was shown kindness from everyone. I learned how kids include other kids, even if it was their first day of school. I still didn’t really know too much about kindness, so I wasn’t too kind, and honestly, I was kind of selfish.
One time, Julia, Gemma, and I were swinging on the old blue benches in the South yard when Julia bumped into me, and I fell over. As a 1st grader I naturally overreacted and started crying. [...] She was still with me when I told Anna that she had hurt me. Julia was still in tears when she said she didn’t mean to but when she was saying how sorry she was, I was very confused. In Pre-K, no one said sorry to me unless the teacher made them, but she was genuine when she apologized. I realized this must be how friends acted. [...] From then on, I learned how friends acted, and I started being more kind and caring to not just my friends, but to everyone.
From then on, I always wanted to act more kind to everyone, give people a second chance, and just help people when they need it. I always tried to help people even with the little things, because that was what really mattered to me. When I got animal crackers in my lunch, I would share them. When someone dropped something, I would pick it up for them. If someone needed something, I would let them use mine. Even though some people may not notice these things, I did because I wanted to be a good friend, like the friends I met in 1st grade that made me feel happy and helped me overcome my shyness and made my first and my 2nd and my 3rd and my 4th and my 5th and my 6th year at Walden amazing. I will miss my friends and this amazing school, but I will always remember it from the things it has taught me. [...]
I love the moments that I get to spend with my friends and fellow students. In each of these moments, I get to make new memories, some that will be remembered many, many years after they are made.
Back on March 13th, 2020, my grandma handed me her phone while we were on the way to Walden and told me to read the e-mail that was on the display. It explained how Walden was shutting down classes due to COVID-19. It was a Friday. I guess bad things really do happen on Friday the 13th. My friends and I were so scared about this. There was no way we would want to let go of each other. I was so scared of what would happen next, and it turned out it was the last day in almost a year that we would get to see each other. I missed my friends so bad for the next 362 days. But on March 10th, I was so grateful that we would finally get to see each other again. [...]
I would like to thank Ryan, and all my friends, for helping me make the most memorable moments. And thank you, Dad and Mom, for enrolling me in this school. Thank you, Grandma and Grandpa, for driving me to school every day. And a huge thanks to all the other students who helped make memories with me.
Walden has been my second home for as long as I can remember. Some of the first things that I learned at Walden were being determined, how to make friends, and how to be a good friend. My friends have always been super important to me and I will always remember how kind and sweet they have been.
[...] In addition to friendship, I have learned to be determined because I always strive to do my best, and being determined will always be something that I will bring with me wherever I go. Some people that have taught me to be determined to finish something with my best work are Alejandro and my dad. Alejandro helped me be determined to finish the Winter and Spring Sing by helping me feel more comfortable performing in front of other people, which is something that has always made me feel nervous. My dad has helped me be more determined because he will push me out of my comfort zone and to be determined to do my best.
Walden has taught me so much, and I will always remember how I have grown at Walden and what I have learned. Thank you , mom and dad, for supporting me and helping when I need help, thank you to all my friends for being so supportive of me and comforting when I am having a bad day, thank you to all my teachers for being so kind and helpful, you have taught be so much, thank you to all of my family for helping me whenever I need help, and finally thank you [to my sister], Emily. Even though you are annoying sometimes, you have always been there for me and I hope that you have as amazing a time at Walden that I have. Even though I have to leave Walden, I will always have the memories of what Walden means to me and how much of an amazing school this is.
In my past 8 years at Walden, I have learned to be myself and respect others’ feelings. Walden has also taught me many valuable lessons that I will never forget. Walden has been my home for almost my whole life, and every day of Walden has been amazing and welcomed. I have to say my favorite part about Walden is that everyone always has a smile on their face and always says hi. Another really important thing I figured out here at Walden is to not give up and to keep trying.
In second grade, I felt like a horrible reader and I wasn’t happy with myself. I was farther behind in reading levels than my classmates. This made me feel really bad, but I decided that I was going to approach my challenge by trying harder and doing my best. I asked Janice if she thought there were any books I might like. She thought for a few minutes and then handed me a book. I turned it over and read the cover. It was Dog Man by Dave Pilke. But I read “Dav Pickle” and asked Janice, “who would name their kid Dav Pickle?!" She corrected me, and this was the day my feelings about reading and myself started to change. I found something I could enjoy in reading, which allowed me to practice and improve those skills. [...]
I would like to take a moment to thank some people who helped me in my Walden adventure. Thank you Mom, Grandma, and Grandpa for always being there and supporting me. Thank you, Kelli Dawn, for being the best social studies teacher and showing me that we all have an imagination. Thank you, Tina, for showing me how to make friends. Without the friends that I made over the years, I would not be the same person I am today. Thank you, Grace, for being an amazing writing teacher and having the patience to work with me.
Raina D. G.
Fear. Fear can come out in many ways, sometimes when we are least expecting it. Facing your fears is harder than it sounds because it's all a mind game, that little voice in your head that tells you can't do it, that you shouldn’t. Walden has always taught me to say no to that little voice and push myself.
I will always remember the AstroCamp trip that showed me that I shouldn’t let fear control my life. It was the last day at AstroCamp. I was staring at the towering zip line that I was going to be riding with my heart pounding in my throat. [...] When I was called, I walked over, griped the rope, and started to climb. About halfway up, I looked down. I couldn’t take my eyes away from the ground because if I did, I knew I would fall. I wanted to turn back but when I looked behind me, Janet was there. “Keep going, you got this,” she said. So, I kept going. [...] I had this little voice in my head telling me that I can just turn back. There’d be no harm done, right? Then I thought no, I’m going to do it because I would never know what I missed. So, when he asked if I was ready, I nodded and picked my feet off the ground.
That moment was one of my breakthrough moments because I'm always in my head about stuff like this. Like I said before it's always a mind game for me, a battle with my mind. And this time, I won that battle. Fear can be bad, but it also can be good. Fear can equal growth and fear gives us an obstacle to overcome, it drives us to be stronger and better. Walden has taught me to embrace that fear and use it to change in the world. [...]
No, I will not leave. I refuse. Thank you. Now that I have been at Walden for seven years, it feels like leaving a place that is such a big part of my life is impossible. Almost everything that I know and the things that I do every day … solving problems, coming up with new ideas, I’ve learned that at and from Walden. The Walden community has taught me that a community that is supportive and inclusive empowers people to solve problems and come up with new ideas.
Walden has taught me how to make friends, and when I run into problems with friends, how to solve them. How to use my own voice and not be scared to say what I’m thinking. Because at Walden, everything you say is valuable and everything is important to the teachers and your classmates there. I have learned how to be creative and think outside the box because of how supportive and inclusive the community at Walden is. [...] I will always remember our teamwork.
As I am talking, I am beginning to realize that even though when I walk out that door, the next time I come in I will no longer be a student, all the things Walden has taught me made me, well, me, and I now know to look for communities like Walden when I am out in the world, because Walden has showed me the amazing things communities can do. So, I will always have a little bit of Walden with me.
Walden has been my second home for 7 years now. They have taught me many things and have helped me discover others. One thing I have discovered is that sometimes, even though I have anxiety, it should not stop me from doing new things because I am worried about the outcome.
The writing, planning, and delivery of this speech has also caused me anxiety. This made me anxious because I did not know how it would turn out. I also felt anxious because this is my final leaving massage and I want it to be good, which is another layer of anxiety. I was worried it would be horrible and everyone would hate it, but I feel differently after completing it.
These experiences of pushing through anxiety don’t make anxiety vanish but help me push through more situations—and different ones at that—, which helps me feel more confident about myself. If I were to stop whenever I felt anxious, I would get nothing done. It would be as if I built myself a maze of walls forever wandering its hallways.
One thing that I’ve learned at Walden is that I don’t need to be anyone other than me. I can surround myself with people who accept me and make me happy. I’ve also learned that everything is not always sunshine and rainbows. You need to adapt to changes and be able to find happiness even when things are uncertain. And you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for and receive help. There are always people who see you, understand you, and care about you. I've met many people who want to help me, like my teachers, friends, and especially my parents who have guided me over the years at Walden.
Aside from the things I’ve learned in class, the most lasting memories for me are in the connections I made with people at Walden. [...] Walden has taught me many lessons throughout the years. I’m excited to take these lessons from Walden with me into the future. [...]
I would also like to say a special thank you to my family, My mom and dad, who have always been supportive of whatever I want to pursue, especially my passion for art. My grandma, who has helped me with everything and has brought my Spanish to the next level, and my sister Marlina for showing me a great example of how to work hard in school. Para mi abuela solo quiero decir te que te quiero mucho y gracias por todo que has hecho por mi.