Up until now the saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” has been completely and utterly meaningless to me. I have never experienced long periods of absence of any kind or even felt any form of separation from my normal life. Until now, that is. I’m not proud of it, but everything had to be ripped away from me before I could ever realize how incredible it all was and how grateful I am to have it.
I miss you, Sequoia; your stunningly tall redwood trees that block the rays of the bright afternoon Redwood City sun, your quirky, salmon-colored buildings I’ve spent the last three years of my life in, your aged hallways that are chock-full of history, your classrooms that have served as the fours walls and roof in which teenagers have made some of their most brilliant education strides. The place that turns clueless young freshmen into balanced, composed and educated young adults who are contributing members of a greater society.
But most particularly, I miss the people of Sequoia.
While writing this, I am reflecting upon a conversation I had with a friend of mine who lives in the San Francisco area who has attended small, religiously-acquainted private schools her entire life. She would always tell me about how much she loved being able to know every single student at her school on a personal level and feeling such a strong sense of community and support from that. For so long I was sad that I didn’t have a similar situation with every single student at my high school. For so long I felt that my school and I were less than because we had such a large student body, leaving us unable to know every single student by name who walks our campus. It wasn’t until more recently that I became grateful for this exact thing. I don’t need a small private school to feel accepted into a community of people my age. Sequoia can be viewed as a large, daunting school, or it can be viewed as a tiny little compact city in which the people all share the same love and goals. It’s true. Sequoia is my little city where we students speak and breathe Unaliyi every single day of our lives in an effort to produce a community that is even stronger and more bonded than any other school could ever imagine. Sequoia, you taught me community.
Another “barrier” that I thought I saw in Sequoia was our notable diversity. Dozens of other neighboring schools have a homogenous student body. Because this was what I had grown up seeing, this was my “norm” or something that was “good” in my eyes. Boy, how wrong I was. Sequoia, I absolutely love you for your diversity. I have such deep respect for the way that you have continuously provided such strong education for all of your students despite our racial, religious, political, economic, sexual or gender differences that we have thrown at you. Because of this, you truly have taught me to see people as the words they say, the efforts they make, and the work that they put forward. Our differences are irrelevant. I think that this is a pretty huge lesson that I was fortunate enough to learn at a pretty young age all thanks to you. Sequoia, you taught me equality.
And for any non-Raven students or staff or parents who may be reading this and having other thoughts, no, no, Sequoia is not perfect. That’s not what I’m saying. We have rats in our ceilings. We have fire alarms that no one seems to be able to control. We have our share of students who are struggling to find themselves and the importance of education and growth in this time of our lives. The list really could go on and on, but I’m obviously not here to speak poorly of you, Sequoia. Like any other school, we have our issues, but we are able to persist through our obstacles and continue our learning no matter the circumstance for one reason: our teachers. Oh Sequoia, you have truly thrown many “curve-balls” of teachers at me, but you really have blessed me with some of the most imperative adult educators I’ve ever had, whose teachings and lessons will be carried on with me for the rest of my life. Ms. Schimek, Ms. Horgan, Ms. White, Ms. Nadeau, Ms. Vinh, Ms. Peyton, Ms. Gazulla, Mr. Mora, Ms. Hale, Ms. Okon, Ms. Cuffman, Ms. Snow, Mr. Stalder, Ms. Magallanes— just to name a few. Words cannot come close to describing how lucky I feel to attend a school like you, Sequoia, that is home to so many incredible and skilled educators who have all taken part in shaping the person that I am today. I truly love you all. Like all of you. Like literally every last one of you. If you are an old teacher of mine and you aren’t in that list, trust me, I absolutely adore you too. At Sequoia, I’ve seen arrests, I’ve seen physical fights, I’ve seen substance abuse, and I’ve experienced a lot of failure and issues on my own. And what got me through all of this you ask? My incredible teachers. Sequoia, you have taught me devotion.
Oh, and IB. Where to even begin. Sequoia, by offering the IB program you have expanded my life in ways I never expected and given me lessons and opportunities I never even could have dreamed of having. I’ve spent countless nights freaking out and sobbing over various IB assignments and assessments, but it really is paying off. I still have over a year to explore the things that this program has to offer which I’m extremely grateful for, but I am overjoyed to have even received the months that I have participated in this program and learning things that I will need and use probably every single day of my adult life. Sequoia, you have taught me perseverance.
This letter hasn’t even touched on so many other aspects of my high school experience that you, Sequoia, have given to me; dances, rallies, games, shows, electives, etc. But what I want to wrap up this letter with is gratitude because, Sequoia, you really have taught me to be grateful. I feel that I took for granted coming to school every single day and being surrounded by kids that, even if I didn’t know their names or who they are, have their own amazing stories as individuals. I took for granted sharing an environment with the people whose presence, just their physical presence, have contributed to some part of me. Yaritza, Yoselyn, Mia, Bryana, Brian, Alexia, Isabella, any kids that I have met in one way or another at Sequoia that I so ungratefully never took the time to get to know or understand, thank you. You are important to me. To the class of 2020 who was so abruptly ripped away from some of the biggest mile-stones and events of their lives, I’m sorry. Trust me when I say that we, the class of 2021, will live our final year at Sequoia in honor of you guys and we will go out with the biggest bang, times two. Sequoia, you have taught me gratitude.
So Sequoia, I choose to feel no regrets from this point on. Love and excitement for my future with you, only. Thanks for reading, and until next time, Sequoia! Unaliyi!