Alumni Stories

Sophie Amundson

Sophie Amundson, Class of 2012, was the featured senior speaker at her graduation from Interlochen Center for the Arts in June of 2018. She said it was a breeze after writing and giving a speech at Walden in 6th grade. Sophie now attends George Mason University.

Lotte Brush

After graduating Walden in 2016, I continued my journey at Flintridge Prep. This year, I am in ninth grade. One of Flintridge Prep’s main projects last year was a community impact service project. For this, I donated 15,000 individual pads and tampons to homeless girls in Los Angeles. Walden’s extensive writing program gave me the tools to learn how to outreach for this project. Other core values of communication, respect, and advocacy also helped me tremendously. I have continued my efforts for period equality by working with my school to get them to provide free pads and tampons. Most restrooms provide free toilet paper, soap, seat covers, and water, yet they don't provide menstrual products. After my success with my school, I am aiming to take my project to larger companies and institutions. Walden’s teachings of persistence have played a key role in my success with both of these projects.

Other programs I have been participating in after leaving Walden are Amnesty International and Flintridge Prep’s Speech and Debate team. This summer, I attended a math program so I could accelerate to higher levels. I also attended Teen Vogue Summit, an activism conference in New York where I heard from the March For Our Lives team, Al Gore, and Dolores Huerta, among other inspiring people. I remain a travel aficionado and an avid reader. I remain close friends with most of my classmates from Walden and am extremely grateful for those friendships. Walden’s lessons continue to support me wherever I go. I am extremely appreciative for all that Walden has given me.

- Lotte Brush, Class of 2016

Erin McDonald

I graduated from Walden in the 6th grade from Danica and Marsha’s class, and then graduated from Westridge in 2014. I went on to study and play tennis at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. I graduated in May 2018 with majors in psychology and exercise science and a concentration in family studies. I just started at USC’s master of occupational therapy program. I’ll graduate as an OT in 2020. 

I loved loved loved Walden and it still holds a dear place in my heart.

- Erin McDonald, Class of 2008

Samantha Pastron

I have recently graduated from Lafayette College in Easton, PA with a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art. I am two months in to my first job out of college at The Gersh Talent Agency as a Floater. I am forever indebted to Walden and credit all my success to my time spent inside its warm and welcoming walls. 

The connections I made with friends and faculty have proven to be life long and I still visit the campus multiple times every year. I met my best friend of 18 years, Erin McDonald, in Laurie’s Kindergarten class. Terra Toscano was my third grade teacher and has been a huge part of my life ever since, I am so proud to see her as the current Director. I can’t think of a single person more equipped  for the job. 

The Walden Agreements are something I carry with me in all aspects of my life. I rely on them and their teachings everyday. Walden taught me to be a self sufficient and strong person. On my online portfolio (see below) I discuss the impact Walden has had on my life as a whole. I fell in love with art at Walden and I have dedicated my entire education career to the field ever since. The encouragement I was provided with, the space I was given to create and the support I felt made me the artist I am today. 

Here is the blurb that can be found on my online portfolio:

"Walden School in Pasadena, CA. An independent and progressive elementary school committed to creating self respecting, critical thinking individuals with a sense of confidence and self direction. From my first year as a Kindergartner to my final year in the 6th grade, art played a major role in my academics. We were encouraged to discover and create in a large studio space, with unlimited materials at our disposal.” 

I would not be who I am or where I am without Walden. 

- Samantha Pastron, Class of 2008

Noah Rofagha

Noah Rofagha, Class of 2011, is a political science major at UC Berkeley. His goal is to work in international relations and public policy. He is a manager for UC Berkeley's men's basketball team and said his love for basketball started at Walden. "There is a special place in my heart for Walden because I would not be who I am today without my time at Walden."

Makala Thomas

Makala Thomas, Class of 2012, graduated from Westridge School for Girls in 2018 and is now attending Florida State University as a Division 1 soccer player. She and her team recently won the ACC national championships making them number one in the United States.

Jena Umfress

I graduated from Walden School 15 years ago, and yet, somehow, it still feels like yesterday that I was drinking green milk on St. Patrick’s Day in Lori Livrano’s kindergarten class; or listening to Linda Carey read The Call of the Wild; or giving my lengthy, seven-minute speech at 6th grade graduation, the first real speech I had ever given.  Those, along with countless other memories of my Walden years, remain dear to me, even at 27.

Walden, with its extraordinary ethos and wonderful educators, had an invaluable impact on my world view during those formative years I spent as a student.  I still recognize influences in my adult life from my elementary education and I truly believe that so much of what I still am passionate about today stems from the encouragement I received back then to explore my own interests. 

I have always had an aptitude for language, but it was bolstered by Walden’s unique commitment to storytelling and read aloud, which nurtured a love of both the written and spoken word within countless students each and every day.  For me, that love never wavered and, in 2013, I graduated from the University of California, Irvine, with a degree in English and Comparative Literature.  And while I still often have a book in hand, professionally, I sought out a career where I felt I could have a more active impact on the world around me. 

I am currently the Senior Manager of Marketing & Donor Relations at Stand Up To Cancer, having previously worked in events and public relations with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.  Walden’s mission of “stewardship for the world in which we live” has and will continue to serve as a guiding principle for me. 

To the Walden teachers and administrators to whom I can never express enough appreciation: thank you for your wisdom and creativity, and for encouraging Walden students to be both stronger learners and better people.  I would be remiss not to mention Linda Carey, Trina Chavez, Billy Christian, Tina Riddle and Terra Toscano, who, along with so many others, will always hold a special place in my heart. 

I am proud to be a member of the Walden alumni community and I look forward to seeing what the next 50 years of Walden students achieve in this world.

- Jena Umfress, Class of 2003

Brennan Williams

I am currently in 8th grade at Mayfield Junior School, where I’ve joined the Debate Team. One of the skills I learned at Walden was public speaking.  From the Inquiry Project, Learning Adventures, and Kid Shakespeare, I learned how to research, think about different perspectives, and do presentations. Because of this, I’m one of the top debaters at my new school. Thanks, Walden!

- Brennan Williams, Class of 2017

Mason Williams

Since graduating Walden, I moved on to attend Mayfield Junior School for middle school and now am a sophomore at Loyola High School. Walden gave me the awareness and confidence to venture out of my comfort zone and head into new environments as an independent thinker. Walden’s writing workshop provided the foundation to succeed in middle and high school English classes, as well as other subject areas.

- Mason Williams, Class of 2015

Andrew Westphal

I followed Marilyn Fiedler from Casa Montessori when she and Ted Calleton founded Walden School in 1970, so I was in the pioneering class. My years at Walden were formative, and launched me on my trajectory in life.

At Walden, I learned to be autonomous and adventurous, to be kind and to be thoughtful, and to work hard and play hard. I learned that the planet is precious. I learned that teaching is the best way to learn. I am deeply grateful to Mrs. Fiedler, her brother Bill, and my other teachers at Walden for these tremendous gifts. Since leaving Walden, I have been on all sevencontinents, and have had instruments in space. Now I study the first extraterrestrial materials brought back to Earth from beyond the Moon, in order to understand the earliest history of our Solar System. And I have two children of my own, both alumni of Montessori Family School in Berkeley, now following their own fun adventures in life. 

-- Dr. Andrew Westphal, Research Physicist and Senior Fellow, U. C. Berkeley