From students to alumni

From students to alumni

Established in 1895, Sequoia High School has been home to thousands of students and countless graduating classes. Outlasting technological changes from the abacus to our beloved TI-84 calculators, Sequoia’s spirit has withstood the tests of time.

These past six weeks interviewing alumni, I discovered the deeper meaning behind Sequoia’s motto, Unaliyi, a place of friends, and how its meaning has survived the decades on our historic campus. Learning from these six outstanding people, discover what it truly means to go from students to alumni.


Nancy Oliver – Secretary of the Alumni Association | Class of 1957

[What sports or clubs were you involved in at Sequoia?]

“I was on the cheer team for basketball, and it was in the old gym. We would sit [on the wooden bleachers and] we would wear white gloves and we would [dance] the hand jive, and we had a whole routines to do all together. That was really a lot of fun, I really enjoyed that and I enjoy going to our games.”

[What were some of Sequoia’s traditions from when you were a student here?]

“When we were freshmen, we had a very short orientation about Sequoia. [In that assembly], we learned the words to the Sequoia Hymn, because when you went to a football, basketball or baseball game, […] the tradition was whether you won or lost, you always stood for the Sequoia Hymn, and we would sing it. That [song] still brings chills to my spine.”

[Where is your favorite place on campus? The one with the most memories?]

“My favorite place on [campus] is the tea garden. [The old tea house] was really, beautifully designed, one with Japanese art. […] I used to go sit there and read some of my books. [I would also] sit in the library, and they would keep the doors open to the tea garden so that you could [look] out at the trees.”

[How would you describe Sequoia’s Unaliyi spirit, a place of friends?]

“I’ve always been amazed because everyone follows what’s on the Sequoia Seal from a long time ago. [Sequoia is a place of friends], I felt that when I went there, but I see that in action. […] It’s that [friendly] kind of a feeling, and I don’t think that’s at every high school.”


Nayeli Duran – GSWS Major at Bowdoin | Class of 2022

[What communities were you a part of at Sequoia?]

“When I joined [cross country] my freshman year, it defined my friend group. I still am in contact with at least four people that I met on the team, same with  acapella and choir. Even in IB, [we bonded over] the hardship of accomplishing mutual goals. That [feeling at Sequoia] is irreplaceable because [IB is] a really hard thing to go through.”

[How would you describe Sequoia’s Unaliyi motto? How does it affect you today?]

“[Sequoia’s spirit] stuck with me so hard that I went to a college where openness and community and the ‘common good’ are [at the] center of the values here. […] As I’m getting older, I try to keep looking at it through the frame of ‘a place of friends’. [I look for places] where [I can] be involved in that, because those [types of people] are kind [and] supportive people.”

[As a diploma graduate, what advice do you have for students taking advanced courses?]

“Give yourself credit and be kind to yourself, because I know how dedicated students at Sequoia are, especially those doing IB and going the full extra mile doing diploma. It’s […] very easy to feel like you’re not […] the best of the best. But truly, everyone’s doing great. […] Try to be [in classes], be present, but not burn yourself out.”


Logan Chin – Human Biology & Society Major at UCLA | Class of 2021

[What were you involved in at Sequoia?]

“I [was] involved in a little bit of everything. I was in photography club, […] drama club and theater, and I did varsity track.”

[In what ways did Sequoia prepare you for college?]

“Everything from the IB program prepared me well in terms of study habits and work ethic. It’s nice to get a taste of what [college may be] like in high school and learn the general premise of different subjects. [For] that to get more specific in college,  it’s nice to have that general background [that Sequoia provided].”

[Do you have any funny memories from your time in high school?]

“I remember when I went to prom when I was a sophomore, I felt so cool that […] I was one of the youngest people there. […] I couldn’t have predicted COVID-19 would happen [the year after] and that I would not have an in-person [prom], so it was really cool to experience that.”


Christle & Dustin Waters – Siblings | Ceramics & History Teachers | Class of 1992 & 2000

[What were you involved in as a Sequoia student?]

C: “I was popular in my art classes because I [could] help people and people admired my work. [I also] took woodshop, so I liked the hands-on [classes]. […] I joined the Junior Statesmen of America (JSA), which was like a debate team back then. We went on a few trips.”

[What was the “cool thing” to do in your grade?]

C: “We used to cruise on El Camino, once in a while. You drive slowly on El Camino with your windows rolled down and all your friends in your car and you’d gawk at other people and ‘say hey, what’s up,’ and then you go pull over into parking lot and meet [friends].”

[What was different when you came back as a teacher?]

C: “Something that […] caught me off guard when I came back here in 2014 was how huge that eucalyptus tree is! […] I remember being in high school, drawing that [tree] because it was a cool, huge tree then, but it is massive now.”

[What drew you to teach at your old high school?]

C: “Sequoia really is a place of friends. I do feel that it has a special spirit. [It] fosters a very friendly and good community […] and I’m proud that I was nurtured by that and that I can give back a little bit.”


[What were your hobbies as a teenager?]

D: “I started skateboarding when I was 11 years old. And that was my sport, my passion, that [defined] my friend group. I was putting in the blood, sweat and tears [into] skateboarding. […] Sometimes me and my friends would go skateboard during lunch. […] I could do switch nose blunts, backside nose blunts, and then I was really good at nollie flips and switch kick flips.”

[What is it like being a teacher at your old high school?]

D: “I walked through the same hallways [as my students], […] I sat in the same classrooms and grew up in the same community, a community that I love. I think that […] helps me relate to them or maybe helps them relate to me. […] When I became a teacher, my idea was to teach high school, […] It’s my dream job to be teaching at Sequoia.”

[How did your experience at Sequoia influence your teaching style?]

D: “I try to teach history the way I wish I would have been taught. Sometimes I had really good teachers who brought the story to life. […] I try to bring the curriculum to life and share the most intense experiences of human beings. People like my old teacher Ms. Berry brought that [idea] to me and [influenced my teaching style].”


Cindy Johnson – Nurse Practitioner | Class of 1970

[What clubs or activities were you a part of at Sequoia?]

“I was in the Treble Clef, […] it was about 12 women and it was run by Mr. Selby. […] When we were in Treble Clef, it was not a recognized course or class. We used to get school at 7 a.m. and have [practice] from seven to eight, and then school classes started at 8:10 a.m.. […] We traveled all around [for competitions]. And for the most part, we would come in first place […] because of Mr. Selby. It was really fulfilling, it was a really fun thing to do.”

[Where did you hang out for fun in high school?]

“At lunchtime, we would walk downtown and there was a great bakery down there. We would take walks during lunch, or we would just sit on the lawn area– where the walkway is to get out to El Camino.”

[Who was your favorite teacher at Sequoia? What do you remember about them?]

“If I ever think about the greatest teacher I had, it’s always Mr. Selby. He didn’t just bring music and teach us songs to sing and how to do harmony, […] he taught us …how you can sing a song and make it more meaningful. [Mr. Selby] had this knack of teaching you about music [where] I have a love of music, because I understand it more so it’s more meaningful.”

[Whats different about Sequoia today then when you were a student here?]

“We weren’t allowed to wear pants to school, we had to wear dresses or skirts. It wasn’t until I was a senior that we were allowed to wear pants, and that was only on Fridays, and absolutely no jeans! Forget having any midriff showing, or wearing something tight or low cut. You would be sent home immediately.”

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