Class of 2022
Annual Report 2021-2022
For the 2022 graduation, the Stubby Squids and their families and teachers came together for a beautiful outdoor ceremony that brought big emotions and bright smiles to our South yard!
As their lead teacher, Ella Moran, remarked in her speech—like actual squids, this class, if they want to get anywhere, must first EXPAND and then CONTRACT. They expand by making space within to accommodate and fill themselves up with the very waters they swim in ... and then contract—squeezing it all out, using the expulsion of that water to propel themselves in the direction of their next destination.
Ella pointed out that, "a significant percentage of the water you've been swimming in—up until today—has been the water of Walden. It has been the people sitting around you, the people watching and supporting you, the community you built together, the questions you've asked, the problems you've grappled with, the fun you've had." She reminded them, "whenever you need to contract, to reconnect and band together with each other or with any of us ... you can always come home to Walden."
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.
- Alexis N.
- Sophie S.
- Kylie C.
- Kwayi N.
- Oliver J.
- Kieran F.-M.
- Abrielle K.
- Juliet M.
- Addison G.
- Brandon S.
- Julia R.
- Henry H.
- Thea R.
- Gio M.
- Andrew Z.
- Aidan M.
- Julia K.
- David V.
Early on at Walden, I learned to be more open to other peoples' ideas. However, I rarely asked questions and almost never spoke out in class. My world flipped upside down in 5th grade, when Nan, my teacher, suggested I stick a post-it note on my desk which said: “I will speak up at least once a day.” It worked. That seemingly simple act opened the door for more interaction with teachers and classmates. Small as it might seem, it changed my life by creating opportunities that led me to become more confident. In the future, I will remember that small moments truly are big.
I discovered countless new interests at Walden, many of those came from social studies. I think this is because we didn’t just learn traditional history. Instead, we studied stories of inequity and how the people fought back. And we did this by thinking about how they might have experienced historical events. My clearest memories of social studies start in second grade. But that comes with a great reason. That was the year Kelli Dawn came to Walden. And with her, she brought Imaginative Inquiry. For anyone unfamiliar with it, Imaginative Inquiry is a pedagogy where students use their imagination to act as experts on the topics they are learning about and then find systemic issues and think of what they can do to solve those problems. Imaginative Inquiry not only made me love social studies, but it also made me understand systemic issues by considering potential solutions and what I could do to make change. [...]
All this is part of what sparked my passion and love for social justice. Learning about social justice at Walden is something I will miss. It is so important to learn about these issues, especially at such an early age. Being able to do it in such a captivating way is incredibly valuable and I will always be grateful for that experience.
Having compassion can brighten someone's day. Walden has taught me that through many experiences. From the day I started here as a Kindergartener, to today, the day I am leaving Walden, this community has shown me compassion and support. Not only that, but it has taught me the value of friendship, kindness, and perseverance. [...]
The value of friendship and perseverance are also traits that Walden has helped me develop. Throughout my years here, I have learned perseverance is a key in life. I have had challenges that seemed impossible to deal with in the moment. One thing that I take away from all of these memories is that life isn’t always going to be easy, but you must be willing to work through your challenges and get back up with a smile on your face.
Those of you who know me know that I am a very shy person. I am not outgoing, creative, or adventurous. I am highly introverted, and I do not like sharing my opinions. I do not have strong opinions or many friends. I do not throw awesome parties or participate in activities. I cannot sing, act, or dance, and I am all around just not a social person. You would also know that I love sarcasm.
Even though I was born with these qualities (thank you mom and dad), Walden has really shaped me into the amazing person that I am today. A lot of people find things to hate about themselves or how they look, and don’t give themselves the credit they deserve, now me ... the exact opposite. [...]
While it is not good to be narcissistic, per say, to love yourself and celebrate your strengths and successes is something that all people should be empowered to do. Walden is a big part of my growth in these areas.
I've been at Walden for seven years, and over that time, I've seen how adversity can lead to greater strength through perseverance. I've learned that taking risks can lead you to mature as a person. This has occurred to me in a few ways in the years that I have been at Walden. Some have been painful, some have been challenging but, in the end, I have learned and matured as a person. [..]
A time that I showed perseverance in a challenging moment was in first grade. I was at Village, sitting on the stage in the south yard, playing with blocks, when a sixth grader came up to me and said, “hey, do you want to play football?” I was surprised at first because I never thought that a sixth grader would want to play with me but since I liked football, I decided to try. When I got to the court, I saw a bunch of fifth and sixth graders playing, and I was really intimidated because they were so tall. But that feeling of intimidation made me work harder, and I ended up playing well. This was a pivotal moment in my life because after that, I started playing football with all of them and becoming friends with them. It showed me that under pressure, I perform better, and that taking risks can lead to growth, to discovering passions, to building relationships, and to finding joy.
In conclusion, adversity can lead to greater strength because if you are willing to go through a challenge, in the end, you will learn from your mistakes and grow and mature as a person.
Walden has been my school for longer than I can remember. I first entered the doors of Walden in Pre-K and had no idea what was to come. But now I do, and I am standing at this podium on my last, but not least, day of school. I have realized some things I like to create. Whether I am drawing some wacky space monster, or building a cardboard car, my favorite thing to do is make. But I have an extremely tough time with subjects that might be considered “traditionally academic.” When I make something, I can just follow my imagination, but other times my attention span seems about as small as a grain of sand. When I am doing something like math, I usually have a challenging time getting started even though once I do, I can do well. But my creativity does not limit me when it comes to launching into social studies and the amazingness of Imaginative Inquiry. [..]
Of course, I could not complete my Walden story without the help of the amazing staff and faculty. First, I want to thank Kelli Dawn for bringing Imaginative Inquiry to Walden. My story here would be much different without the spark of adventure that you made a flame. You have made a change that will stay here at Walden even when I am in high school or college.
Albert Einstein once said, “life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” To me, this quote is all about perseverance and Walden has always taught me to keep persevering and work hard to get what you want. Walden has always been a supportive community and always made me believe that I could do anything. [..]
Walden has always supported me and encouraged me to persevere, and this is a skill that I will take with me to middle school and use for the rest of my life. There have been a lot of challenges that I have faced here at Walden, and I have learned that I must keep going no matter what.
There are very few times in life where I have felt free. The fraction of minutes in my life that I do are spent on the roof, looking over everyone. Yet, under the water near the edge of Catalina Island is magical in its own way.
It felt as if I were flying. The wind, the smell, and the excitement. I was going to be first to jump off the boat. Coming to a stop, we floated over clear, turquoise water filled with the wonders of life. The splash from our teacher told me it was my turn. In a matter of seconds, I too was submerged in the fresh water of the Pacific Ocean. I refused to wear the breathing part of the snorkel which does defeat the purpose of a snorkel but not for me. I dove down and collected shells, swept in and out of the water, and glided in awe of every single detail I could find. I found myself face to face with a bright orange fish I knew to be a Garibaldi. He told me his name was Monica.
I had a choice when I was at the edge of the boat, about to jump. I could have my small fear escalate into something bigger than itself, or I could’ve done what I did and ignored it. Because that’s who I am. Let it wash out of you with the tide. “Being brave isn’t the absence of fear. Being brave is having that fear but finding a way through it.” Bear Grylls.
Over my 7 years at Walden, I have learned many lessons about friendship, kindness, creativity, and how to be brave. Sometimes you struggle in life, but what I’ve learned is to just keep going. My friends have taught me to believe in myself. They have also taught me that honest feedback is important. I used to consider feedback a negative thing. But what it means is that you can make yourself a better person. I learned that there is always room for improvement and without their guidance, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Sometimes I get so worked up about something that I don’t get to enjoy it. But over time, I’ve learned to be brave and step out of my comfort zone so I can be ready for whatever life throws at me.
Walden has supported my growth in many ways. Through the outdoor learning experiences, mentors, group projects, inquiry project, and assemblies, I have pushed myself and I am proud of all I have accomplished. Walden has given me opportunities to stretch myself at my own pace. I have been supported and encouraged in my journey, never forced.
I have grown as a leader. Walden has helped me develop my leadership skills through many opportunities, such as mentoring. At the beginning of the year, I was hesitant to lead my mentees. Over the course of the year, I have gained confidence to be able to plan and lead group activities. It was fun coming up with games and getting to know the group. One of my favorites was blob tag, and the K/1 Anna’s Hummingbirds seemed to enjoy playing it as much as I did.
Walden has encouraged my personal growth in many ways. One memorable experience was the Ponderers camping trip in 4th grade. This was my first camping experience without my parents. I was homesick because I missed my family, but all my friends comforted me by offering encouraging words. I had many new experiences on this trip, I even pushed myself out of my comfort zone by participating in some skits. Turns out the skits were a lot of fun. This experience, although scary, helped me fully take in and enjoy my future outdoor learning experiences. It also helped me be more independent.
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. [...]
Hmmm... Maybe I shouldn't be here. I don't want to be here, that's for sure. Sadly, my time at Walden is coming to a close, and piece by piece I remember all the good times I've had at Walden. Walden has taught me so many things, and I can even remember some right now! Hmm... Now that I think about this more, memories are, well, everywhere! They’ll stick to you too! Many of my strongest Walden memories have to do with an odd sense I have. I can tell, almost instantly, when someone is sad, or having an awful day, and I can help them, with almost anything they need. [...]
Throughout this wild ride of ups and downs, I’d like to say thank you Ben for always giving me feedback and saying my artwork is good. I have loved art this year.
Thank you, Alejandro, for teaching me all I know. Without you, I may have not chosen drums as my main instrument or learned to love drumming.
Thank you, Dad, for keeping me in a good mood, most of the time. I appreciate the humor that you bring to our family.
Thank you, Mom, for being just a nice person and teaching me about the art of talking to people. You’re an amazing person to be with and talk to.
Finally, thank you to all my friends at Walden for making my experience here better than I could ever wish for or imagine. Thank you, Walden, for all these things that have made me who I am today.
Change. Change has never been a word that I liked. Why change something that’s perfectly fine how it is? But through my time at Walden, I’ve learned I can accept how things turn out to be. [...]
Now for the sappy part.
What I've learned is that change happens whether you like it or not. The best thing to do during times of change is to look for things that make you happy. By 5th grade, I not only learned how to accept change, I learned to embrace it! And I started to change myself as well. As you may know, I am genderfluid, meaning my gender changes every few days to make me feel comfortable. Figuring this out was a challenge. I kept switching my gender, confused about how I felt. I’m so glad that I have friends and family to help me through my ever-changing genders and am grateful for their support through my journey.
Although change is tough, sometimes it can be good for you. Life can’t stay the same because you’re afraid of what might happen. Learn from my mistakes. The people at Walden are here for you. Some even want to be your friend! Get out of your comfort zone and meet new people. They may even become lifelong friends.
In the 7 years I have been at Walden, I have learned to be myself and not to try and be like others just because they are faster at answering a question in class, or in P.E. I have also learned that I really enjoy making things with my hands. Some of the reasons that this beautiful school is so unique are how diverse the community is and how welcoming it is. Even though I have a few learning disabilities, the teachers have still made it a fun and enjoyable learning experience. At Walden, if I’m feeling down or don’t have a lot of work done, the teachers will always help and comfort me by giving me tips and helping me with my work. I feel supported and that’s one reason why I’ve learned to just be myself. [...]
Walden has been like my 2nd home for almost my entire life, and I am sad to have to leave but it is just the way of life. You must move on.
But before I leave, I want to thank all the teachers and staff at Walden for being so helpful, kind, and giving the school such a loving and supporting vibe. I hope it will always be that way forever.
Even though I may have arrived at Walden late, that hasn’t changed how it has empowered and helped me. In 2nd grade, I was bullied at my previous school, and I absolutely hated it. I told my parents I wanted to change schools, even though it was the middle of the school year. They still agreed, however, when I told them what was happening. That was the beginning of my life at Walden. On my first day, I didn’t know anyone there, and the campus was unfamiliar. When I finally arrived at my classroom, I was enthusiastically welcomed by my teachers. This was completely the opposite of my other school, where everything was dull, dreary, and a total bore. They tried to hide just how boring it was by putting bright colors all over the place, but it somehow still looked monochromatic. Anyway, the classroom I had just arrived in was also completely different. There were bright rugs and a huge bookshelf with all sorts of books. The students also seemed friendly, and I was certain I would like this school better. After a few months of settling in, I made some friends and was perfectly content with the way that things were.
Now, you may be expecting a plot twist here, but there is none. To this day, I’m still sure that being at Walden has been one of the best times of my life. There have been some bumps along the road, but I’m glad that I’m finally in 6th grade. I’ll miss Walden after I graduate, for sure, but I also am excited for the summer and the years ahead. [...]
The time has come. I am ready to graduate. I’ve been at Walden for two thirds of my entire life. During this time, my personality has gone through many changes. I have gone through waves, flights, crawls, and strolls with it. I have had many friends at Walden, and luckily, all of them are here today, so before I get to the heart of my speech, I’d like to thank Jalen, Kieran, and Oliver for always being with me. [...]
But the thing about Walden, which makes it so special, is that it teaches you how to be, well, you. Walden taught me how to stare into the soul of others which society insists is normal, it taught me how to be brave, it taught me how to not be like a small turtle and hide myself when I see new things or meet new people and taught me who my inner self is. [...]
During my amazing nine years at Walden, I have learned many important concepts and ideas that I will take with me throughout my life. Some of the main things being kindness, friendship, bravery, perseverance, and the notion that being wrong is okay. Perseverance was one of the things that took more work than the others. Like most other kids, I liked to do things on my very first try. I've learned that it is perfectly fine to be wrong and that most successes start with several attempts and failures. [...]
I’m so grateful that Walden has helped shape me into the person that I am today. Without the endless support and kindness of this community, I wouldn’t be me. This monkey bar experience has been a symbol of perseverance because I was able to achieve a goal that I really wanted to do. I have learned to never give up, especially when things are hard and that when you put your mind to something you can do practically anything.
I will take this concept of perseverance with me throughout my whole life, and it is something that I will always try to use. I’m excited to see what new challenges arise in middle school and in the future and I’m also excited to see how I deal with them.
I am proud to be standing in front of you today, to show you how I persevered from my first day to my last at Walden. Perseverance is important if you want to succeed in life, reach your goals, push through challenges, and be proud of yourself. Walden has encouraged me to persevere during the three years I’ve been here, which has helped me to be more confident as I move forward in my life.
I’m the kind of person who likes to get things right and get them done ahead of time, otherwise, I worry a lot. For example, this speech is something I wanted to get done quickly, but I realized that it takes time and effort to do a good job. Walden has taught me that patience and flexibility are very important and I’m starting to realize that it’s ok if things don’t go perfectly and I’m more able to roll with changes that come up. [...]
But perseverance also requires taking on challenges. In 4th grade, my first year at Walden, we went to AstroCamp. One of our activities there was the SkyCoaster. It looked very scary. I was terrified to get on it. As I was being pulled up, I was more and more petrified and considering backing out. But then I thought, “No, I got to just do this.” When I reached the top and looked down, I couldn’t breathe! The instructor told me to pull the rope and for a few seconds I wasn’t moving, and then boom, I was suddenly flying like a bird at full speed. I loved it, and I wanted to do it again! Walden gave me this challenging experience and I realized with perseverance, there is often a reward at the end.