"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.”
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
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.
“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