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PSCS Spring Fundraiser 2011: "10 Stories in 10 Days" - Vol. 10   

The big idea

Here’s the story of the moment that changed my life.

It was the fall of 2009, and after 10 years teaching in the public high schools I had just started working at PSCS. The phone rang, and a woman asked me, “Are you an alternative school?”

I was flummoxed. I knew what she meant by the term “alternative school,” and by her definition, yes, we are an alternative school. But we don’t view ourselves that way. At PSCS, we see ourselves as a mainstream school for the 21stcentury.

I fumbled and stumbled my way through the conversation before finally hanging up. I walked into the office of PSCS founder Andy Smallman and asked him, “Are we an alternative school?”

“No,” he said.

“I know that, but what do you say when people ask that question?”

“Alternative schools use alternative strategies for helping kids understand geography and science and math and literature,” he said. “That’s not our product.”

“What’s our product?”

“Our product is this environment,” he said. “We provide a safe, loving, nurturing environment in which kids feel connected to a caring community, then we surround them with people of high character who are excited about life and excited about learning. Then we partner with them to help them figure out what they love to do, what brings them joy.”

I stood in his doorway for what seemed like an eternity, staring blankly. School is not, first and foremost, about the transfer of academic content from teacher to student. School should be about surrounding kids with role models who help them identify and pursue their signature strengths. School is about the journey from childhood to adulthood. Academics become a powerful by-product of this process.

I am convinced that this is the transcendent idea in our conversation about transforming our schools. This is the idea that’s going to change everything.
* * *
This is the final installment of our “10 Stories in 10 Days” fundraiser. Thanks to everyone for your generous gifts, for reading the stories, and forwarding them along to friends and family.
This is an exciting time of year because spring has arrived, and that means the Student Showcase is fast approaching. I would like to offer everyone the opportunity to celebrate the success of this fundraiser by joining us at the Wing Luke Museum on Friday, May 13 from 6-9 p.m. Like most PSCS events, it’s a potluck so please bring something delicious to share with the community. There will be great music performed by PSCS students, a massive display featuring amazing work completed by students this year, and fun conversation with kindest people you’ll ever meet. In addition, our four graduating seniors—Tristan Schneider, Kestrel Wenig, Aaron O’Toole, and Clare Stemmer—will present their senior projects. It’s always an amazing night.
The 2010-11 school year will culminate with our annual graduation ceremony at the Bathhouse Theatre at Green Lake on Saturday, June 4 at 10 a.m. It’s always an emotionally powerful experience as we send our senior class out into the world with love.
I hope you can join us for both of these events.
* * *
After that, it will be summer vacation and we’ll begin preparation for the fall term. Not only will we be bringing back the entire teaching staff next year, we’ll also be hiring two new staff members. Their names are Andy Smallman and Melinda Shaw.
It’s going to be so awesome! It’s crazy to think about this, but among next year’s student body, only 16 of them—fewer than half and barely more than one-third—will have experienced PSCS with the founders, Andy and Melinda. It seems fitting then to complete this campaign by reminding everyone of Andy’s vision for PSCS, in his own words. Here’s an excerpt from an interview I did with him back in 2009. 

By the way, today we received one last donation—$100 from a person who wishes to remain anonymous. That brings the final total of this campaign to $21,850. With all my heart, I thank you for your extraordinary generosity. We’re changing the world, and we’re doing it together.

With love and appreciation,

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