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More Than 1,000 Grandparents and Special Friends Gather for Special Virtual Event
Rachel Freeman, communications/website manager

This is not a typical year, so it made sense that Nueva’s annual Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day (GPSF) would also not be so typical. In this virtual event hosted on November 20, approximately 1,300 grandparents and special friends Zoomed in from across the globe—from Burlingame and Oakland to Boston, England, and Pakistan—for a morning of music, dancing, student presentations, book discussions, and more. 

Emceed by interim Middle School Division Head Karen Tiegel, the morning featured a welcome program for all guests, which included musical performances, remarks from Head of School Lee Fertig, a look at the day in the life of two Nueva students and the preK class, a special message from Nueva students, and—a guest favorite—dancing to the song, “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge while donning custom Nueva hats they were mailed ahead of the event. 

“Seeing and listening to Karen welcome the hundreds of grandparents and special friends from around the world made my heart leap for joy!” said Gigi Tsai, grandparent of Thalia R. ‘22. “Her unending good cheer and smiles assured me that the Nueva School is thriving in good hands in the time of the pandemic.”

Lee shared some remarks about his background and what he loves about Nueva, before conveying to the guests how important their presence is in the lives of Nueva students.

Menaka Thillaiampalam sports her custom Nueva hat in front of Boston's Fenway Park

“Hearing where everyone is calling in from right now—from all corners of the globe—shows how much our students have this wider circle of advocacy—from grandparents to other relatives to special friends—that is so important to them,” Lee remarked. “Do not underestimate your role in how you help us nurture young people to bring their best to the learning game. You are part of that.”

“During the first session, it was great to hear where all the attendees were from, which is something I haven't experienced during the in-person events,” said Menaka Thillaiampalam, aunt of sixth-graders Natasha and Anjali M. “Hearing the wide-reaching locations demonstrated the global community Nueva possesses. I really enjoyed hearing from Lee and hearing how he is bringing his knowledge and experience from having lived in different countries to Nueva. It was informative and exciting.”

Following the welcome program, grandparents and special friends went to different Zoom rooms, based on the division of their students, to engage in special programming. Lower school students invited their guests to join them for a community meeting, where they were first greeted with hellos and welcomes from students in more than 10 languages. Then the community committee members kicked off the community meeting for everyone. 

Third-grader Elbert P. said to the group, “We hope we can be on campus together next year. But for this year, we're welcoming more guests than ever, and that makes us feel really proud and happy.”

In the middle school, guests were invited to join their students’ Lit Clubs to observe and even participate in this important part of the middle school program. Menaka found the programming to be a special opportunity that was different from her in-person GPSF Day experiences.

“Lit Club was really special because I got an intimate look into how both my nieces are learning during this pandemic,” she said. “It was actually the first time I realized how small their classes are, which lends itself to better learning. I was very proud to see how engaged my nieces were and their confidence when speaking in front of a virtual audience.”

In the upper school, Division Head Liza Raynal provided a warm welcome before handing over the virtual microphone to Student Council Co-presidents Willow Taylor C. Y. ‘21 and Andrew C. ‘22. They shared how Nueva has made the learning experience, even during COVID, meaningful and robust, and shared with guests information about the hybrid learning program. 

Harry and Kit Wang don their Nueva Grandparent hats.

Following this presentation, guests were treated to a special Internship Showcase. This showcase typically takes place in person and is designed to allow students who participated in the Internship Program during the previous summer to share their experiences and what they learned with their peers. 

“I'm honored that the showcase could live on in this format,” said Director of Internships Katie Saylor. “This is a culminating event that celebrates student accomplishments and our employer partnerships.”

Guests were then invited to either stay in the main Zoom room and enjoy two internship presentations live, or they could browse this internship catalog and select videos of presentations to watch. 

“Watching the videos of upper school students relate their experiences as interns with local employers, I was impressed with their talent, precociousness, and drive,” Gigi said.

It was clear in the smiles seen on the Zoom screens and the feedback Director of Alumni Relations Diana Chamorro received that the event was a resounding success. 

“The magic of Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day reached a new level this year,” she said. “Hosting our celebration virtually allowed us to create the most inclusive experience for these cherished members of our community, many of whom had not been able to attend GPSF Day before, due to not living locally or accessibility constraints. I particularly loved witnessing the Nueva pride and spirit elicited at the beginning of the event, where we heard proud grandparents and special friends share where they were joining us from, including Pakistan, Mexico and all over the continental United States! The NPA and all who supported the event did a wonderful job ensuring our guests were able to experience the joy, excitement, and enthusiastic learning that happens at Nueva.”

One grandparent shared, “We deeply appreciate the thoughtfulness with which you created this virtual event and, because we're not traveling for everyone's safety, how inclusive it became. It is a deep comfort in these uncertain times to know that our grandchildren attend Nueva, because of the way it centers the integration of an anti-bias approach and social emotional learning. We (as teachers) know how hard you are working and wish you restful, restorative holidays!”

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