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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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Alumni Lee Holtzman poses with a lemur

“My years at Nueva were the best three years of my intellectual life,” upper school teacher and eighth-grade class of 2001 alum Lee Holtzman said. “Ever since I left Nueva, it was always the biggest part of me. Which is odd because I was only here for three years.” After only one week at the school, Lee identified the need for Nueva to expand from a PreK–8 school to PreK–12. “The end of my first week at Nueva (I started in sixth grade, so I was eleven), I went into the Head of School’s office, sat down, and said ‘You need to start a high school, because I need to go there!’”

Judee Brasesco and her two grandsons

Judee Brasesco has the unique perspective of seeing how Nueva shaped two generations of students in her family. When she learned about the Nueva School in the 1970s, she had two school-aged children, Jill Brasesco Thomsen (’77 sixth-grade graduate) and J.D. Brasesco (’80 sixth-grade graduate). Last spring, Judee’s oldest grandsons, Scott Brasesco ’18 and Chip Thomsen ’18, graduated from Nueva, and her youngest grandson, Jack B., is now an eleventh grader at Nueva.  

 Andrew Lam and his parents in a city

When Andrew Lam (eighth grade,’01) visited the Upper School with his father last year, he was thrilled to see learning in progress. “There was stuff all over the floor,” he said. “An intentional mess of art and science projects where kids were learning and exploring.” He was happy to see that the culture of exploration and the freedom to make and learn from mistakes were still part of the school he loved so much.