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As Class of 2018 Celebrates New Alum Status, Class of 2017 Reflects on First Year of College
Mitzi Mock, Video Storyteller
Three students from the Class of 2018 meet with Diane Rosenberg

"As you embark on your journey from here, I just wanted to warn you: you may end up back here.”

Lee Holtzman — upper school history of science teacher and Nueva alum — shared these opening remarks as she welcomed the Class of 2018 at their first official alumni gathering earlier this month. Just two days after graduates flipped their tassels and tossed their caps, they gathered at the upper school for a brunch to embrace their new official status as Nueva alums.

It’s a special club, Holtzman explained, that would bond them together with alums present and future. “You’re going to find amazing friends, and mentors, and people, and places, and things to do out there in this big wide world, but every time you meet someone from Nueva, there’s going to be this strange spark, this understanding,” she said. “You carry it with you now, for always.” 

Nueva alumna and faculty member, Lee Holtzeman delivers a speech to the Class of 2018

Another speaker, Jake Mengarelli ’17, back from his first year of college at the University of Pennsylvania, assured his fellow alums that they were well-prepared for the academic rigors of college. But he told them the most important Nueva ‘sparks’ they could carry with them are a spirit of curiosity and a comfort with uncertainty.

“Being able to accept that you don’t know everything is important to finding your path,” he said. “If you assume you already know everything... you are not truly understanding the massive experience that a new environment in college can offer you.”

A week earlier, a handful of other members of the Class of 2017 also descended on campus to share their reflections. During the annual Nueva Parents Association retreat, retiring Director of College Counseling Pat Goldsmith moderated a panel of alums returning from their freshman year at college. While the panelists came from a wide range of institutions — large private universities to small liberal arts colleges — every student found that Nueva imparted valuable lessons that helped them navigate collegic life

Jake Mengarelli, from Nueva's Class of 2017, returns to speak for the Class of 2018

For Erik Mieke, a rising sophomore at Harvey Mudd College, Nueva taught him to always question the intention behind his learning. He said, “The thing I learned at Nueva that helped me most in college was being able to look at a problem and ask, ‘What should I be taking from this material? Should I be focused on the process for solving a problem or the specific content I’m trying to learn?’”

For other students, the most empowering lessons centered on self-knowledge. “Nueva showed me that there are different ways to learn, and I realized that I’m a visual learner,” said Swetha Tummala, a premed student at Boston University. “I’ve taken the time, got myself a whiteboard, and drawn stuff out.”

This was the second panel of upper school graduates Nueva has hosted this year, and it is just one of many growing opportunities alums will have to share their experiences and develop relationships across different classes in the coming year.

Two students hug during the Class of 2018's first alumni reunion

“For our alums, we are hoping to foster a lifelong relationship to the school and with each other,” said Shannon Lyons, Nueva’s Alumni, Alumni Parent & Grandparent Manager. These relationship-building efforts include regional dinners to bring together alums with Nueva students visiting prospective colleges, regular newsletters to share updates, a January luncheon to connect recent graduates with the senior class, and the Nueva Nosh program, which partially subsidizes alumni group dinners.

Some of these networking activities have also included Nueva alums who graduated before the completion of the Upper School. “Older college students who went to Nueva for Lower and Middle School have expressed incredible enthusiasm for connecting with our current students,” said Lyons.

Holtzman echoed this pay-it-forward sentiment as she closed her speech to the newest alums.

“Go out, plant new gardens, build new wonders, do good, and also, come back.”

Hear more reflections from the Class of 2017 on life after Nueva!


By Mitzi Mock, Video Storyteller

June 27, 2018



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Three students from the Class of 2018 meet with Diane Rosenberg

"As you embark on your journey from here, I just wanted to warn you: you may end up back here.”

Lee Holtzman — upper school history of science teacher and Nueva alum — shared these opening remarks as she welcomed the Class of 2018 at their first official alumni gathering earlier this month. Just two days after graduates flipped their tassels and tossed their caps, they gathered at the upper school for a brunch to embrace their new official status as Nueva alums.

A Jane of All Trades

What do a wedding officiant, violinist, actor, stunt performer, stunt-coordinator, singer/songwriter, and audio book narrator have in common? They are all means of employment for New Orleans resident and Nueva alumna Olga Munding ’86. She also publishes the occasional short story and in the future hopes to complete a book on the time she spent with blues legend Jessie Mae Hemphill. 

The Walking Dead Editor Got His Start at Nueva

For the past six years, Nueva alum Dan Liu ’96 has been an editor for the award-winning AMC television show The Walking Dead. Dan got his start by editing the concept trailer for Da Vinci's Demons with an editor of The Walking Dead, who then brought Dan on as his assistant editor for Season 2. He has been a full editor for several seasons now.

Designing Philz Coffee Shops

Among the many moments Heather Keane Leonard ’98 remembers from her days at The Nueva School, the most vivid are the times she spent outside exploring the natural beauty of Nueva’s Hillsborough campus. Whether she was studying the shallow root systems of redwoods, playing the xylophone under the willow tree, eating miner’s lettuce along the Crocker Road fire trail, learning about Native Americans, or acting out Billy Goats Gruff on the “Billy Goat Bridge,” Heather understood that the outdoors were not only her playground at Nueva but also her principal classroom.

Rapping for Social Change

Through his organization Rap Force Academy, Nueva alumnus Rahman Jamaal ’96 has been pioneering Hip Hop education for the last fifteen years, since he first encountered the educational nonprofit Hip Hop Congress. He helps people improve their communication skills through writing and performing rap songs in workshops designed to enhance a person’s self-expression and awareness. Students build their artistic creativity by playing with words and trying out their own voice as they develop their musical prowess and employ nuances of sound to write a rap.

Alumna Builds Robot for NASA

Before beginning her robotics PhD at Carnegie Mellon University, Catherine Pavlov ’08 interned at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) where she designed, built, and field-tested a robot called Volcanobot. Catherine designed Volcanobot to enter and map volcanic fissures to help scientists understand the nuances of volcanic eruptions on Earth, Mars, and the Moon.

Alumna's Leadership Stands Out at DreamWorks

When DreamWorks announced the shutdown of its Northern California studio and the layoff of 500 people, one of the few employees chosen to stay on and help close the doors was Nueva alumna Gemma Ross ’00, who was a technical resource supervisor in the IT department. Gemma was selected for her leadership skills and knack for uniting a team to work effectively for a common goal.

Alumnus Tackles California's Food Waste

While passing out meals at San Francisco's Glide Memorial Church during Nueva community service trips, alumnus Kiran Sridhar (Class of '11) initially witnessed California's severe hunger problem. From those early beginnings bloomed his nonprofit organization Waste No Food, an online site that connects charities in need of food to businesses with food surplus.