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Perspectives Logo V3Welcome to our Perspectives column, a chance to hear from Nueva leaders in their own voices. In this installation, meet Marie Yuann, Buffy Poon, and Arvind Sharma, Co-Presidents of the Nueva Parents Association (NPA). While Marie represents the Lower School (PreK–4), Buffy the Middle School (5–8), and Arvind the Upper School (9–12), these three dedicated parents work collaboratively across the entire school.

Marie became a Nueva parent three years ago when her first-grade daughter, Eva, joined preK. Buffy also became a Nueva parent three years ago when her middle son, Ryan, started sixth grade. With Ryan feeling at home so quickly, she wanted her other two children to be as fortunate. Her son, Tyler, is now a sophomore and Kelly, her sixth grader, is at Nueva’s Middle School. Excited by the chance to be part of the pioneering classes at the Upper School, Arvind and his family came to Nueva in 2013 with their son, Neeraj, now a senior, and then followed up with their second son, Rajeev, currently in eighth grade.

What drew you to Nueva?

Marie: We were drawn to Nueva because of the values it embodies, and I must admit I love everything about it: the natural surroundings, amazing teachers, creativity and innovation, and mostly the joy that the students and faculty exhibit on a daily basis. It just felt right for our family.

Buffy: We were drawn to Nueva because it reminded us of the GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) pull-out programs we attended as children. Nueva offered this vibrant, intellectually stimulating, energizing place where our kids could learn full-time! The close, caring relationships between the students and their teachers were extremely compelling, as well as the "age, not stage" philosophy that meets the students where they are.

Arvind: It was thrilling to join the new Upper School! We were excited to see our sons flourish with the hands-on curriculum and the impressive range and depth of electives across the disciplines.


In a nutshell, what is the NPA and why should parents care about it?

Marie: Simply put, the NPA is our parent organization. All current parents are members, and through our generous parent volunteers, we host an extensive calendar of events and programs that enrich the lives of our whole community.

Buffy: Nueva has a deep history of partnership between the school administration and the parent community. As we learned during the 50th Anniversary celebration, the NPA began as the Parent Support Group back in the late 70’s, so it’s a big part of our history.

Arvind: At Nueva, parent involvement is truly unique. Parents are not just engaged — through their creative ideas and initiative, they have taken typical school events and made them thrilling for students, faculty, and families alike. A simple book fair has become Nueva’s Literacy Week, a nearly religious experience for our reading community. An art display at another school is Arts Appreciation Week at Nueva, an extraordinary celebration of student creations and performances. At Nueva, the kernel of an idea to visit the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art one Saturday became an amazing day of experiencing art for 150 students and extended families. Our list of examples is long: our parents make things happen!


As Co-Presidents, you generously give your volunteer time to Nueva. Why do you do it?

Marie: I see the positive impact Nueva has on my daughter during these early formative years and I want to pay it forward. I started out volunteering in small ways: the preK STEM fair exhibit, Annual Fund Call Nights, volunteering in the classroom, and helping with the Benefit Auction. I moved on to leadership roles during the 50th Anniversary Celebration and in Staff Appreciation. Our family will be part of the community for many years so I want to contribute in whatever way I can.

Buffy: I felt immediately comfortable here because everyone is so welcoming. At my kids' previous school, I chaired the parent association for two years. I was so grateful for what my children were experiencing at Nueva that I couldn't resist getting deeply involved. After a number of volunteer roles including the Book Fair, the Annual Fund, the Benefit Auction, the 50th Anniversary Celebration, and Community Service Learning, I became Secretary of the NPA’s Executive Committee in 2016. Stepping into the NPA Co-President role felt like the right way to extend my support to the entire community. Since we arrived, it has been so wonderful to watch our children find their intellectual and social community, and this rapidly extended to our whole family in ways I could not have anticipated. I want to facilitate that experience for other families.

Arvind: At Nueva, before becoming NPA Co-President, I was Grade Lead in both ninth and tenth grades, acting as a communication point person. Over the years, I have found the best way to model Nueva’s philosophy of “learn by doing, learn by caring” for our sons is through my leadership and participation in the NPA. Nueva has grown rapidly over the last few years and I am inspired by the chance to create systems that support the parent community through this growth while retaining Nueva’s culture of connection and friendliness. 

 

What has surprised you about the parent experience at Nueva?

Marie: Even though we’ve only been at Nueva a few years, it is so clear that the parent-to-parent connections we make here become central to our lives. When you meet parents across the divisions or observe them working together on events, you witness this in action.

Buffy: These connections become the fabric of our community. As our students move from the lower grades to Middle and Upper Schools, they become more independent from us. With a tween and teens at home, I find it so important and valuable to stay connected to fellow parents. We learn a lot from one another!

Arvind: And it is personally rewarding for parents too. When we were younger, it was easier to make friends. As adults, with so much of life competing for our attention, it can be more challenging. As Nueva parents, in so many instances across all divisions, we come together authentically around our children, we partake of activities we personally care about, and we find friends through this common ground. Sharing our interests and experiences of parenting enriches our lives.


You speak so passionately. What is one key message you want to share?

Marie: As a geographically diverse school, we want parents to know that Nueva is as much theirs as their students'. We seek to communicate this feeling through our actions and through the work of the NPA.

Buffy: When so many of us Nueva parents hear the amazing things our kids learn and experience each day, we wish we could have had their educational experience. We want parents to know that there are many ways to share it, and one of the best ways is by engaging in the community.

Arvind: Coming to Nueva with the mindset that you too are part of the community allows each parent the opportunity to understand their child better, to be immersed in the philosophy of the school, and to contribute and make a difference.

Contribute and make a difference? You mean volunteer? What if parents don’t have time?

Marie: There are so many ways for parents to participate in the Lower School because of the many rewarding classroom opportunities. Parents can learn about these by reading the emails from teachers or from the NPA Grade Leads. You can see the experience with your child in the classroom reflected in them.

No matter how much time you have, every amount of participation is helpful and appreciated. No contribution is too small.

Buffy: Yes, I’d like to see more people volunteering and we do know parents have differing amounts of time. If parents want to join in yet feel very time-constrained, we’d love to help them find something mutually rewarding that fits their availability. As the saying goes, “Many hands make light work.” If everyone could volunteer a little bit, we could more easily sustain the great programs and events of the NPA at a high quality so that we don’t burn people out.

With fourteen grades across two campuses, pulling together as one school is a priority, so parents can participate in their student’s division, or in a program that spans all the grades. We encourage parents to join one or two things that personally interest them, and once they do, we’ve seen so many examples of parents working across divisions or on “all-school” events. The more we can do this, the stronger it makes our community.

Arvind: We are appreciative of parents’ time, and our team seeks to create and sustain the processes and systems that support all volunteers, allowing their roles to be productive and rewarding. There are opportunities for every field of interest and time available.


What else do you want people to know?

Marie: I want people to know that, near or far, there are many ways to be connected. Parents can always contact one of us, their NPA Grade Lead, or a program or committee chair.

To create easy-to-use channels for parents to share experiences, ask questions, connect for social activities, and so on, we launched Google Groups this year. There is a group for all Nueva parents collectively, and then one for each grade, and so far participation has been great. These connections will also make it easy for parents to stay connected after students graduate from Nueva. We invite and encourage all Nueva parents to opt in!

Buffy: I try to keep in mind the importance of promoting very personalized connections. I also put a high priority on making sure our faculty and staff know how much we appreciate them. Nueva teachers are amazing, talented, and caring individuals who are thoughtful about educating our students in dynamic and personalized ways. We want them to feel appreciated and supported.

Arvind: It is every interaction that matters when it comes to the person-to-person connections. Sometimes it’s the simple things that matter most. Regardless of whether parents are new or have been a Nueva parent for a decade, we encourage everyone to connect with their Nueva neighbors. Extend a hand at a meeting, introduce yourself at an event — the welcome this creates is contagious!


Arvind mentioned the school motto of “Learn by Doing, Learn by Caring.” Does that apply to the NPA?

Marie: Yes! Our NPA volunteers and participants love to innovate, and this reflects our passion for the philosophy of our school.

Buffy: In my NPA role, “learning by doing and learning by caring” means being engaged. We always want families to have a voice, especially when there is something on their minds. Our role is to hear parent feedback and be a channel of communication to Nueva’s administration. We are action-oriented in support of everyone and ask parents to not leave their concerns as parking-lot conversations, but to be proactive, communicative partners with us.

Arvind: Our leadership team and our extended Executive Committee strive to be open-minded. We welcome input, new ideas, and initiatives from our very creative, smart, innovative parent community. We are prepared to change, adopt, and adapt to make a difference for Nueva students. We care deeply, and we learn by doing.

Want to learn more? Please connect with the NPA Co-Presidents! They want to hear from you.

Marie Yuann (Lower School)
Buffy Poon (Middle School)
Arvind Sharma (Upper School)


By Dianne Willoughby, Editorial Manager

May 2, 2018

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