Meet the alumni of awakening seed school
Age: 31 | Location: Tempe, AZ
Currently I tutor mathematics and I am the chief technical officer of a start-up, Sidereal Technologies. I graduated from Arizona State University in 2012 with a Bachelors of Science in Mathematics. Before that I graduated from Corona Del Sol High School.
The one thing above all others that makes me happy is learning something new. This led me to study mathematics, programing, physics, astronomy, and car repair. My goal in life is to become a polymath, or a person who is learned in multiple subjects. This was one of the many things the Seed instilled in me but the most important thing I was taught at the Seed was empathy, the ability to take another person’s point of view into consideration when making decisions. That, however, is a dry description of empathy. A much better description of it is the drive to perfect oneself by understanding others and trying to minimize the harm one does through one’s actions. If empathy were more highly valued, and practiced more, as it is at the Seed, then the world would have fewer ills. Indeed, the only ills that would exist are those that come from nature and not from man. That is the ultimate lesson about empathy I learned from the Awakening Seed.
Age: 26 | Location: Phoenix, AZ
After having left the Seed, I went on to graduate from Xavier College Preparatory in 2007. From there I graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2010. Currently I am working on my master’s in business administration with a focus in marketing. I hold a full-time position at Gannett and a part-time position at Ann Taylor, where I get to enhance the wardrobes of my clients as a stylist (I get paid to dress up!). I consider myself to be a constant work in progress, but I cherish most, my family, and I always strive to make those around me happy. The Seed taught me before anything else to appreciate the heart of a person, to look past the makeup and apparel at their heart.
Age: 19 | Location: Fairfax County, VA
I’m a university student at George Mason University, studying government. I went to high school at Arizona School for the Arts and McClintock High School. I love seeing my friends when I return home from school. There is nothing to keep you going more than knowing you are coming home. I also love to travel to new places and meet new people. Believe it or not, most of my closest and best friends are from the Seed. We have kept in touch and followed each other to different schools throughout our youth. The Seed really helped me find out that my talents are in people skills and helped me exercise those talents.
Age: 24 | Location: Tempe, AZ
I went to high school at McClintock High School in Tempe, played varsity basketball and volleyball, and graduated with a 3.8 GPA. I found an interest in design and architecture through elective classes in high school and decided to pursue a degree in a similar field. Following my parents’ footsteps, I attended Arizona State University and was accepted into the School of Design for the Visual Communications program. While attending ASU, I worked 30-35 hours a week at Harkins Theatres as a manager, saved up my money, and bought my first property, a condo near the ASU campus. After graduating from The Design School with a Bachelor’s of Science in Visual Communications, I began my career as a graphic designer at G/O Digital, a local digital marketing company in downtown Phoenix. I sold my condo and upgraded to a single family home in Tempe. I then took a designer position at Defero, a local agency in Scottsdale, where I am currently the senior designer, and now work alongside fellow Awakening Seed graduate, Tinsley Andrews.
In my free time I like hanging with my family and friends, trying new restaurants, and watching local Arizona sports teams. Aside from the basics like math, writing, reading, and science, The Seed helped pave a path in my life by letting me find myself and figure out what my passions were. I quickly grew fond of sports and art with all of the structured activities within our class. The Seed also showed me how to interact with people, be courteous, and problem solve in real life situations. At the time it may not have seemed like I was learning those interpersonal skills, but that is what I take away from growing up at the Seed the most. Speaking, acting respectfully, and learning how to problem solve in and out of a book has helped me immensely in moving up the chain at Harkins Theatres through high school and college, and now furthering my career in the design field. I still stay in contact with fellow Seed graduates and have great memories of my time there. I couldn’t have picked a better school to grow up in.
Age: 33 | Location: Cave Creek, AZ
My name is Ann and I am a proud former Seed. I moved back to Arizona after living in Seattle, Washington, Brooklyn, New York, and Paris, France. I studied theater and worked professionally in theater throughout my 20s. I am now pursuing a master’s degree in counseling at NAU and raising my two beautiful children with my husband. I most value human connection, mindfulness, creativity, kindness, education and spirit. My family makes me happy every day. Most of my favorite childhood memories were created at the Awakening Seed. I loved the Halloween carnival, the plays that we would put on, and the special community that I was a part of. The Seed inspired in me a love of healthy food, the performing arts and education.
Age: 34 | Location: Phoenix, AZ
I began attending the Awakening Seed School in kindergarten and, to this day, I view my time there as the foundation for my ability to think independently and critically. I am a graduate of Dartmouth College with a degree in sociology and I have a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy. I currently work as a policy analyst on higher education and historical preservation issues with the Arizona State Legislature. I am also a part-owner of a startup business with my two younger brothers who are also graduates of the Awakening Seed. I am happiest spending time with friends and family, as I have kept in close contact with many of my Seed classmates over the years.
Age: 33 | Location: Liverpool, ENG
I went to the Seed in the late 80s and then went to Tempe High School, graduating in 2000. When I was young I became increasingly interested in pursuing a career in music composition (just like my father) and decided to study at the Eastman School of Music in New York. I continued studying at the University of California, San Diego where I earned my master’s and slogged through a PhD in music composition. After a period living in France and working at a research institute, I decided to stay in Europe and took a job as a professor in England. I teach about writing music for different instruments and ensembles, about ways of imagining and designing time, and about new forms of expression made possible by technology. I am quietly thankful that each and everyday I get to interact with young people who are curious and passionate about music. I wasn’t particularly strong in reading/comprehension at a young age. Nonetheless, the Seed did a wonderful job cultivating my creative tendencies despite the fact that I lagged behind in more traditional metrics. This is a refreshing approach, especially nowadays, as mainstream education increasingly ignores non-“core” subjects.
Age: 41 | Location: San Francisco, CA
As a kid, and one of the original Seeds who started in 1977 (I was 3), I always knew that I went to a different school but it wasn’t until later on in life I realized that in this case different meant special. Special in that I want everyone to know what an amazing place this was and is. Special in that way that you want to shout it from the roof top and want every kid to go there. Needless to say, the Seed has been a huge influence on my life in that it taught me to celebrate the differences in life and that different is special. I wish I could send my two kids, Liam and Fiona, to the Seed so that they too could experience this special place, but since I live in San Francisco it would be a hard commute on everyone.
Age: 34 | Location: Brooklyn, NY
I live with my husband and son and work for Performance Space 122, a presenter of multidisciplinary contemporary performance. I have a dual bachelor’s degree in Spanish and theater from Washington University in St. Louis and a Master of Arts in Arts Administration and Policy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. My favorite thing about being an arts administrator is working with artists at the very beginning of the creation process. As a fundraiser I help them craft language describing their work to seek funding and get the resources they need to take risks, further their creativity, and make fully produced work. Seeing the outcome of the full creative process is very rewarding. As a mother and human being fully invested in the world around me, I believe that education is the foundation of a better future. My early education at Awakening Seed fostered my creativity and taught me to value independent thinking, research, to trust people and to believe in myself. It helped shape me as an individual and still enriches my experience of the world.
Age: 37 (deceased) | Location: Portland, OR
(written by Blake’s mom)
Blake was born in Tempe, Arizona, May 18, 1978. He attended Awakening Seed School where he made life-long friends and developed strong and enduring learning and creative skills. He graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in forensic anthropology and additional studies in sculpture and drawing. He received a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Sculpture from California State University, Chico, where he was awarded numerous scholarships and the distinguished Graduate Student Award in Art and Art History. For fifteen years he worked as an art director in film and photography and conceptualized, designed and fabricated props, sets and installations for clients, design firms and agencies throughout the West. He was a partner in the design firm Thousand Design with Aric Mei and designed both The Parlor and Phoenix Public Market in Phoenix, Arizona. After a long struggle with cancer, Blake passed away on May 8, 2015. He leaves behind his wife and best friend, Vicki, his one-year-old son Carver Jett, his mom, Sheilah, and many other family members.
Britt (Cooley) Samii
Age: 35 | Location: Roslyn, NY
Britt lives with her husband, Parsa, and 1-year-old son, Cameron. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California (USC) in international relations and more recently, received her MBA in Executive Management from St. John’s University, where she was named student marshall for academic excellence and leadership. Britt works in the pharmaceutical industry in oncology sales but has held many positions throughout the decade; training and development, institutional sales, and market access. Outside of work, Britt loves spending time with family, staying active, escaping to the beach (preferably in the Caribbean), traveling in general and reading CIA operative books. Although Britt was quite young when she attended the Seed, the foundational learning she received is truly what makes her the person she is today. Creative thinking, independence, and inclusion are just a few of the things that Britt has carried with her from the Seed. The Cooley family lovingly talks about the Seed often and how it’s shaped both Beth and Britt into the women they are today!
My name is Caitlin Tierney. I’m 26 years old. I live in Menlo Park, CA and I’m a PhD student at UC Davis, where I study linguistics. My research is on pragmatics (a subfield of semantics) and how people learn to use and understand non-literal speech (e.g., saying, “it’s a little breezy” to get someone to close a window), as well as how people build communities of practice.
I went to Arizona School for the Arts for high school, then I went to University of Washington in Seattle, where I graduated in 2011 with a B.A. in Linguistics and Scandinavian Area Studies.
What matters to me is my family, my friends, and my research. What makes me happy is spending time with my family and closest friends (some of whom I met at the Seed) and learning new things. I think the Seed helped me understand that everything is connected. I think that applies to academic subjects as well as the different domains in my life. My friends help me get through professional challenges, and my work helps me find new friends. I get to work with languages, people, computers, and math, and the Seed helped me have confidence that I can be good at all those things and not just be a math person or a language person.
Age: 20 | Location: Worcester, MA
I am currently working on a aerospace engineering degree at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. I graduated in the top 1% in high school and am currently on an amazing scholarship to go to the pre-named university. I could not have done this without the Seed. They instilled in me a love of learning that I don’t find in most places. This love has gotten me far and made school less of a chore and more of an experience. I can never thank the school enough for what they have done for me.
Age: 27 | Location: Eugene, OR
Since my time at the Seed, I have earned a high school diploma from Arizona School for the Arts, a BA with concentrations in music and literature from Sarah Lawrence College, and a Master of Music degree in Music Theory from the University of Colorado-Boulder. I am currently pursuing a PhD in Music Theory, with a supporting area in Harpsichord Performance, at the University of Oregon. I am also a Graduate Teaching Fellow at the university, teaching students and assisting faculty with courses in the first and second years of the music theory curriculum.
The Seed taught me to love learning! My time there also taught me the importance of finding and creating communities that foster dialogue and discovery, and that learning is, by its very nature, a collaborative enterprise. I will never forget the hours we spent in the garden, each student contributing to and caring for the community we built together. I hold those memories close as my students and I build our own communities together, term by term.
Age: 27 | Location: Bozeman, MT
I am currently working and studying as a PhD candidate in physics. My specialty is in condensed matter physics with an emphasis on the thermal expansion of H2O ice. I have about one year left before I can present my PhD dissertation and hopefully graduate. My post-Awakening Seed education sent me to the Tempe school district and Corona del Sol High School, then on to Northern Arizona University where I completed two Bachelor of Science Degrees in 2010; one in Physics and another in Astronomy with a minor in Mathematics. I came to Bozeman in 2011 to begin my graduate studies in physics. I obtained a Masters of Science in Physics in 2014 and continue to work towards a PhD in physics. The most important aspects of my life are my family and friends, spending as much time as possible outdoors—hiking, backpacking, landscape photography, mountain biking, kayaking, cross-country skiing and snowboarding. This strong connection with the outdoors germinated from the teachings of the Seed. I remember our Earth Day celebrations where we would learn about the natural beauty of our planet and, most important, how to maintain its beauty. That’s why any time I come across a piece of trash on a trail I pack it out. The practice of “leave no trace” has been engrained in me since childhood from my time at the Seed, it’s part of who I am. This is abundantly clear to me when I’m out with others who haven’t had such an Earth-conscious upbringing and things that seem so obvious to me, like not littering for example, don’t even enter their conscious thought. If only everyone had such an early education, our world would be a much cleaner place!
Denise (Davey) Anderson
Age: 33 | Location: Chandler, AZ
I live with my husband, Josh, and daughter, Elise. I graduated from Arizona State in 2004 with a B.S. in finance and in 2011 with an M.B.A. with a specialization in international business. I currently work in Tempe in business development finance helping my company set pricing and negotiate business terms in our contracts. Awakening Seed had a great impact on my life and my career by instilling in me a compassion for others and acceptance for others who are different from myself. It has helped me to work with others and understand people’s differences as we work together on projects and goals. On a personal level, it started an early love of other cultures, travel and education which continue to be things I love to experience with my family and friends. In addition to travel, I enjoy cooking, reading and supporting ASU football and basketball.
Age: 27 | Location: Berkeley, CA
After finishing high school at Mountain View in Mesa in 2006, I went to Yale for college, where I studied Italian Language and Literature and graduated in 2010. I’ve spent the last six years completing an M.A. and working on my Ph.D. in Italian Studies at UC Berkeley. Luckily for me, my dissertation research also involves trips to museums and archives in Florence and Rome. I’ve now been a student for more than two decades, and I can trace many of my beliefs about education and pedagogy to my formative years at the Awakening Seed. Now that I spend more time on the other side of the classroom teaching undergraduate courses, I try to work with my students to cultivate an open and accepting learning community in which all of our voices are heard.
Age: 17 | Location: Phoenix, AZ
I just finished my junior year at Higley High School. The most important thing that Awakening Seed brought to me is friendships. I met a lot of friends the first year I attended the Seed at age 18 months. I was part of the first toddler class that my mom, Sarah Balluff, taught with Kerri Tornow. I am still friends with them. I also learned to respect others and the planet. My favorite event was the the Halloween carnival. It was fun to dress up and try to win a cake in the cake walk. I also loved the in-school camp out. The teachers are open-hearted and they made me feel like I was important. I’m not sure what is in my future but I know I’ll do great things because of the lessons I learned at the Seed.
Age: 16 | Location: Paradise Valley, AZ
I am currently a junior attending Xavier College Preparatory. I spend most of my time playing volleyball, but I also really enjoy hiking, working with kids, and scuba diving. Going to the Seed taught me the importance of both individuality but also community. Being in such a loving place at such a young age, I learned how to appreciate others and our surroundings and developed critical creative thinking skills. Having the ability to think innovatively, as well as the concept of love for your community, has assisted me in every aspect of my life; from school, to sports, to relations with others. I feel like the Seed provided me a very balanced foundation of values.
Age: 26 | Location: Seattle, WA
I’m pursuing my PhD in International Studies at the University of Washington. My dissertation looks at identity formation and integration in Latvia through the lens of folk dancing. Dancing has always been my favorite thing to do, whether in a folk dance group, in a class or in the multipurpose room of the Seed. I have no doubt the Seed embedded in me the human need for expression and compassion, both of which are critical elements of what I work on now, and something I’ve spent cultivating the past (nearly!) 20 years with some of my closest friends from my earliest years in Becky’s and Mary’s classes.
Age: 18 | Location: Los Angeles, CA
I attended the Seed for PreK and Kindergarten. In 2015 I graduated from Xavier College Prep in central Phoenix, and am currently attending the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). What matters to me most is relationships, those with friends and family, and maintaining those relationships. I am also a dancer, photographer and artist, and am very interested in science. I am majoring in biology at UCLA to fulfill a pre-med requirement. I grew up with my mom, dad and little sister in Tempe. My family, especially my father, was always very involved with the Seed. He would come play the guitar for the students; he loved participating in the Seed’s warm community. Upon my father’s death, years after we became Seed graduates, the community still came together and supported us boundlessly, and planted a tree in his memory. I feel that the Seed influenced who I am today by instilling in me certain values and a well rounded character that I carried with me as I grew up and still have today. The creativity that the staff encourages and the inclusive classroom setting provide an atmosphere of intellectual curiosity and growth. At the Seed, students learn that they can do anything they want to do from a young age, and I feel that’s why I have aimed so high for myself. I am touched to be involved with such a welcoming community. I truly feel I would not have the ambition, curiosity or excitement for learning and achievement that I have if I had not attended the Seed.
Jessica (Spencer) Raasch
I attended the Seed from 1986-1990. I am a senior product manager at Nike; essentially, I brief and collaborate with designers on the products we need in our apparel line, ensuring they meet consumer and market needs along with financial goals of the company. I always loved fashion and art, and ended up working in the apparel industry after graduating with an Associate of Arts Degree in Design in 2001. From there I spent the next nine years living and working in beautiful San Diego,California; relocating to Portland with my husband to work at Nike in 2010. What matters to me? It’s quite simple: having balance in my life, something that isn’t always there but I am in a constant state of striving for it; and living without causing harm to others, animals or the environment is something that guides all my actions. The latter has become increasingly important to me only in the last eight years, but in reflection, it is interesting that they are the same foundation as what was taught at Awakening Seed. You could say the “seed” was planted long ago. Aside from that, one of the lasting gifts the Seed gave me was a love for learning and curiosity about the world which continues today. I never again experienced the style of teaching and depth of learning in my time in the public school system. I am forever grateful to my parents and the staff for that gift.
Age: 22 | Location: Phoenix, AZ
Hello, my name is Joseph Ehlers. I graduated from Arizona Agribusiness and Equine Center in May 2012. I also attended South Mountain Community College and graduated with my Associate’s in Arts. I transferred to Northern Arizona University to study parks and recreation in the fall of 2015. The Seed influenced me by teaching me how to care for the Earth and how to be a respectful person. I am proud to be an Awakening Seed alumni.
Age: 35 | Location: Tempe, AZ
The Seed has had a number of very material impacts in my life. I came to the school when it was clear that I needed a different format than what was being offered in the public school system at the time. An energetic kid with attention deficit disorder, I failed to find early confidence in school and was routinely told by teachers and administrators that I may have significant learning challenges. After lots of thought and consideration, my parents brought me to the Seed. There, I was taught to leverage my way of thinking, rather than change it. That’s been an incredibly important lesson in my life, and one that has never left me. I returned to public school after completing the fourth grade at the Seed with newfound confidence. School wouldn’t ever be ‘easy’ for me, but I was at least equipped with a perspective that helped me appreciate my learning differences.
I went on to high school at Tempe High, where I played football and was also a member of the track and field team. From there, I attended a small liberal arts college in Indiana called DePauw University, where I also was a member of the football and track programs. A big part of my choosing DePauw was its small class sizes and less structured environment, which aligns well with my experience at the Seed. Attending the school and continuing to play sports was really important. In retrospect, I’d change nothing about the path I took.
After school, I pursued a career in sales and marketing, always preferring to help lead startups. Today, I lead a company that focuses on helping large businesses acquire customers. I live in Arizona, where my wife Jennie and I raise our two sons, both of whom have benefitted from the Seed, tremendously.
Kaia (Lock) Udell
Age: 28 | Location: Tampa, FL
I received my bachelor’s degree and MBA from Arizona State University, in 2009 and 2012 respectively. Since graduating from college I have worked for both Target and McKinsey and Company. In October 2014, my husband and I welcomed our first child, Sayler Udell, and I am fortunate enough to be able to stay at home with her full time. My greatest passions are traveling, playing tennis, and spending time on the lake with my husband and daughter. The Seed was my first and best experience of my elementary education. I still have great memories of Monday morning circle time, the Winter Solstice performances and the many great teachers who encouraged me to learn and who fostered my love for writing and reading. I can only hope to find a school for my daughter that is as accepting, safe and fun as the Awakening Seed.
Age: 29 | Location: Cleveland, OH
My favorite thing about the Seed is that everyone is accepted and celebrated for who they are. I remember being worried about making friends when I started attending the Seed in second grade, but from my very first day there I felt like I belonged. The Seed strengthened my intellectual curiosity, taught me great respect for our planet, and provided an environment where I could open up to other people and just be myself. During my three years at the Seed, I invented games, wrote stories with my friends, and read as many books as I could get my hands on. I loved being a “buddy reader,” which entailed picking out picture books and reading them out loud to younger students once a week. My love of writing and reading continued during my high school and college years, and I am now pursuing a doctoral degree in historical musicology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. After graduation, I hope to teach music history at the university level and start my own ensemble specializing in early music. My Seed experience has contributed greatly to my passion for teaching and learning, and has profoundly influenced the person I am today.
Age: 25 | Location: Gorontalo, MYS
“Keep the circle whole” are song lyrics I learned in kindergarten at the Awakening Seed. The Seed left an indelible mark on my life, and today, I am inspired to share a little bit of the Seed with everyone I meet.
My name is Kelsey J. Roggensack, and I am a Human of the Seed. After attending the Awakening Seed from 1994-2002, I went to Arizona School for the Arts and Williams College in Williamstown, MA. I majored in U.S. history at Williams and remained active in the community. I was an NCAA All-American swimmer, a resident assistant, an advocate for peer health services, a campus tour guide, an orientation trip leader, a career center fellow, a teaching assistant for the drama department, and I volunteered as a swim teacher and elementary school pen pal. After graduation I worked as a Deputy Finance Director for Don Berwick’s gubernatorial campaign. After which, I worked on a non-partisan, issue-based campaign to advocate for an increased state budget for arts and culture. After working at Arts Emerson, Emerson College’s theatre affiliate program, I received a Fulbright scholarship to travel to Indonesia where I teach at a Muslim high school. I enjoy wilderness canoeing, dance, playing musical instruments, and I volunteer at an animal shelter. I recently set a masters swimming world record. I believe the world would be a different place if everyone could have just one year at the Seed…and I had seven! So, alongside that privilege comes great responsibility to “keep the circle whole,” as not everyone is as lucky as I am to have a worldview crafted by such a loving, nurturing environment.
Kristin (Baldwin) Fay
Age: 30 | Location: Carlsbad, CA
I attended the Seed K-4th grade. Currently I am caring for my 20 month old and 4 year old sons. I also sit on a committee and will be joining the board for Women’s Empowerment International that helps women around the world with micro-finance loans. I hold a BA in Psychology from Dickinson College( ’06) and a MSSA in Community/Social Development from the Mandel School at Case Western University(’08). I was a development director for a small non-profit in Oceanside, California prior to my children. Family, friends and helping to facilitate positive change are what matters to me most. The Seed is a large part of who I am today and how I got here. I even sing the songs from the Seed to my boys. I have spent most of my life since the Seed engaging the world through my education and volunteer work.
Age: 24 | Location: Phoenix, AZ
I am a visual artist, presently living in the greater Phoenix area. I graduated in May 2014 from the Kansas City Art Institute with a dual Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fiber and Art History. I’m currently working at Lisa Sette Gallery in midtown Phoenix as an art collections manager (basically I organize and inventory private collections). I will begin my graduate studies in fine arts at Arizona State University in August 2016. Aside from making and talking about art, things that matter most to me are landscape, interesting people, and finding a way to make the everyday memorable. I would, of course, attribute the Seed for instilling in me the things just mentioned, as well as the belief that being weird is much more fun and interesting than being whatever is “normal.”
Age: 29 | Location: Scottsdale, AZ
I am married and have an 11-month-old daughter. I’m an entrepreneur, currently working on DormRoomMovers.com and getSpaceShip.com. Recently I sold a VoIP company I was involved with for a few years. Prior to starting these companies I worked at Honeywell in their Aerospace division for seven years. I graduated from Arizona State University with a mechanical engineering degree in 2007. What makes me happy is spending time with family and friends, traveling, snowboarding, hiking, gardening, building things. The Seed taught me to be curious, problem solve, care for all people, and never give up.
Age: 22 | Location: Jacksonville, FL
I was a student at the Awakening Seed between the years of 1996-2002. I moved to Jacksonville, Florida, for the Disney Internship Program. I went to Batavia High School in Illinois and graduated from Northern Illinois University with a bachelor’s in liberal arts communications media. I am excited that I moved out of the cold with my family and am happy to start my new life in the Sunshine State! I have had the best memories of the Seed growing up and I have made some life-long friends. The Seed taught me how to use my creativity to its fullest and how to work together, along with understanding our differences. It was such a happy, free, loving environment and it was one of my most precious memories as a child. I will never forget the winter solstice dances at the end of the year that I eagerly anticipated. Our Roxaboxen homes were the most unforgettable activity! We learned how to build a community, grow fruits and vegetables in our gardens, earned currency from our produce, and worked together in our makeshift society. My proudest moment was growing carrots with my partner, Traci Jackson, and buying tomatoes from our neighbors so that we could eat a fresh salad. I am very proud to be an alum of the Seed and it has helped shape me into the woman I am today.
Age: 39 | Location: Raleigh, NC
I currently work as a senior staff engineer for Qualcomm Research and Development in Raleigh, NC. After receiving a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Arizona, I spent time in Oregon, Maryland, and Arizona before settling in North Carolina where I’ve spent the past nine years with my wife and two sons. I feel fortunate to have a job that I enjoy; it allows me to be creative in a field that interests and challenges me. I am grateful that the Seed nurtured my inquisitive nature and provided a place for encouraging and developing self-directed learning.
Michael Sommer Age: 33 | Location: Tempe, AZ.
I graduated from Tempe High, then attended San Diego City College. I am the owner of V2A Fitness (visualization to action), a personal training company and am passionate about helping coach and inspire as many people as possible to reach their goals regarding fitness and overall wellness. My son Hayden is my everything. Going on new exciting adventures with him is my favorite thing to do. Surfing, rock climbing, reading & spending time with my son make me the happiest. The Seed cultivated my creative spark and taught me compassion and how to truly be kind to the people in my life.
Age: 22 | Location: Phoenix, AZ
I went to Arizona School for the Arts for high school, playing cello and piano, but switched my senior year to New School for the Arts and Academics for a more visual arts-centered approach and graduated from there in 2012. I attend Johnston College in Redlands, California, and completed my degree, which is a fusion between the arts/writing, and environmental studies/geography in May 2016. When in Redlands, I traveled to Los Angeles quite often and did some modeling, and am interested in getting into acting. Beginning in September 2014, I lived in London for study abroad at the University of College London, studying geography and enjoying the city with my boyfriend. I have been working on completing my 200-hr yoga teacher training to become a yoga teacher and am very passionate about the art and mindset of it, and all physical activities. In the summer of 2014 I went backpacking in the Alps and northern England with a school group, and before that in high school got up to a brown belt in Kung Fu. I am very passionate about the arts and sell my oil paintings at Art One Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona. I have a small Etsy shop selling smaller things, and am interested in cultivating my passion for ceramics. From the Seed grew my love for gardening, and when I cannot grow my own plants around me, I like to take walks in gardens and parks. The Seed influenced my love of the environment, as it reflects in my studies. I hope to somehow tie together science and art into something that can help the world. Living in a large city, such as London, opened my eyes to the world that the Seed first gave me in a way that is unique. Without the Seed, as some fellow Seedling friends of mine have said, “I would be a completely different person.” The Seed has made me who I am today, and although nothing’s perfect, I am grateful for that.
Age: 33 | Location: Brooklyn, NY
I left Awakening Seed after 1st grade and transitioned to public school. I give Awakening Seed and my family all the credit for my survival (perhaps too dramatic a word) through public school. Awakening Seed provided a very safe and loving space for me as a non-binary/gender queer child, a “tomboy” as we said in the 80s and 90s. Public school was not as understanding of my difference, but starting out at Awakening Seed helped me realize my difference wasn’t the problem and I went though school confidently, even becoming the elected class president of my junior high. My family moved to the suburbs of Chicago when I was 14 and I attended New Trier High School. New Trier and the surrounding community was a bit of a culture shock for me socially and politically; however, I really loved the music department in the school and fully immersed myself in the audio/visual side of things. I went to undergrad for cinema production spending one year in Canada at the University of British Columbia and then moving to San Francisco State University. I stayed in San Francisco for 6 years and then moved to New York to attend Bard College’s MFA program at The International Center of Photography. I now work as a freelance video professional in a wide array of capacities in order to support my own artistic practice. Last summer I was in residence at the Camera Club of New York, aka “Baxter Street,” with the residency culminating in a solo show in the spring of 2016. People matter to me and they make me happy. As a child and now adult who deals with the social and political reality of being different, I find it important to recognize every person’s difference and both the struggle and joy that difference can bring to their life. I am happiest when I am creating and working both by myself or with friends and lovers. I prioritize pleasure and love to be indulgent with food, the sun, the ocean, mountains, deserts, anything that gives me joy. I feel Awakening Seed’s influence to this day. The Seed taught me to embrace and love difference and the school’s non-hierarchical approach to learning helped me understand at a very young age that there are so many different ways to learn, work, play and live.
Age: 29 | San Francisco, CA
I attended the Awakening Seed from (I think) 1991-1993. I work for Industrial Light and Magic, the visual effects studio under Lucasfilm. After leaving the Awakening Seed, I finished elementary and middle school in the Madison School District and went to high school at North High. In 2004, I left the desert for the Bay Area and attended college at UC Berkeley. I finished my degree in electrical engineering and computer science in 2008. In the process I developed a passion for computer graphics and visual effects, which lead me to my current job at ILM, where I’ve been for 4 1/2 years. The Seed taught me early on how important it is to be curious and hungry for knowledge. I discovered a love for learning there that has stuck with me to this day. I try to set aside time in my life to pursue new skills on a regular basis. I think my love for reading and writing began at the Seed, too. While I don’t write as much as I’d like to anymore, I still read as often as I can. All in all, my time at the Seed gave me a fantastic foundation for the rest of my education and my life.
Age: 28 | Oakland, CA
After leaving the Seed I went to school in the Tempe Elementary District and attended McClintock High School (Payne Academy). After high school I went to the University of San Diego and graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration in 2009. I am currently a special assistant to the head coach and manager of advance scouting for the Golden State Warriors, 2015 NBA champions. Being around people working toward and being a part of something greater than themselves matters and brings happiness to me, along with traveling and gathering. The Seed has a tremendous influence on their students’ ability to interact with, care for, and treat others as equals. It generates a curiosity in learning and about the world as a whole. They make their students feel valuable and capable of anything their minds can dream of. These things molded who I am and my approach to the world today.
Age: 17 | Phoenix, AZ
I am currently a junior at Xavier College Prep and I will be graduating in 2017. My entire life I have played soccer. I eat, breathe, sleep soccer and I’m planning on doing it in college. Soccer is what makes me happy. I play on my high school varsity team and have been on my club team for nine years. When I was younger, I struggled with anxiety. Soccer was my only way to “forget” about my irrational fears. When I attended the Seed, everything changed for me. The encouragement and the support of the teachers helped me understand what my anxiety can do for me, how I can make it into something good. I specifically remember sitting down with Mary and writing a poem for our class poetry book. We edited and proofed it and she made me feel like I was writing a poem for a book that would be published and sold worldwide. She made me feel needed and wanted, and as a 4th grader with severe anxiety, that was very important to me. Mary was not the only one who helped me, and I am just so thankful for what the Seed has done for me. I am glad I’ve gotten the opportunity to share it with everyone else.
Rachel V. Smith
Age: 30 | Location: Florence, IT
I’m currently an art historian, Italian culturalist and writer living in Florence. I grad uated from Corona del Sol High School in Tempe, Arizona. In 2006 I received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Italian Language and Literature, Communication (Magna Cum Laude) from the University of Rhode Island and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Art History from Lorenzo de Medici Istituto (Florence, Italy)in 2010. In 2012 I earned a Master of Arts in Art History from Arizona State University.
It is difficult for me to put into words exactly how much Awakening Seed has influenced my life. I went to public school for one year (kindergarten) before my mom removed me from public school and enrolled me at the Seed. My first year in public school was difficult; I didn’t fit in with the other kids, having already learned much of what we were learning in class and because I am, and even then was, a very free spirit. I cried every day when my poor mom dropped me off and finally out of her desperation to find a place where I would belong and be treated as an individual, my mother found the Seed. At the Seed, I was finally praised for my differences. My creativity, originality and desire to learn were rewarded instead of punished. The other students didn’t tease me. There were no bullies. I learned to accept my individuality, value my self worth and express myself because of my time there. Additionally, the Seed set me up for success from an early age, because they allowed me to explore and develop my natural interests and talents. Currently, I live in Florence, Italy where I truly do what I love – art history, Italian language/culture and writing. I know unequivocally that I would not have had the drive, determination or fearlessness to get to where I am today, without my early formative years at the Seed.
Age: 35 | Phoenix, AZ
I’m a senior manager at a specialty pharmacy. Our team manages and mitigates complaints from patients, prescribers and clients. I graduated the AP track at McClintock High School in 1999. I then went on to graduate from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering (Biochemical). I achieved a couple certificates from Stanford after that in subjects of product creation and project management. What makes me happy is quality time with my family. I also relish moments to read, exercise and create—food, art work, writing. The Seed greatly influenced who I am today. It fostered an environment for us to be children in and uplifted each of us as unique beings. I learned the value of creative play, curiosity, community, mutual respect, nature and culture, all of which stayed with me. One specific example is that I still use a visualization technique I first learned from our Aikido sensei at the Seed when he was teaching us basketball. I don’t use it for basketball any longer, but it applies to any challenge in life. When I was too old to attend the Seed, I started public school and, while the transition was abrasive, I flourished academically due to a curiosity and love of learning that was nurtured by the Seed.
Age: 35 | Location: Fort Collins, CO
I am living in Fort Collins, Colorado, where I’m in a family medicine residency program. I grew up in Tempe, where I also went to college. After graduating from ASU, I married my college girlfriend and together we traveled through almost twenty countries with our backpacks. We came back to the States and I decided to pursue medicine. I finished valedictorian of my medical school class at Midwestern University, and now spend my time focusing on the things that are important to me: my work as a doctor, my relationships as a husband and father, and my free time spent enjoying the nature that surrounds us here in Colorado. I came out of the Seed with a greater sense of what it means to take on another person’s perspective, to consider what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. I also have a greater respect for the Earth, for the nature around us. I remember everything about the Seed. I remember all the kids I went to school with, all the teachers. My closest friends to this day went there. Pretty amazing, really.
Age: 21 | Location: Boston, MA
After graduating from Arizona School for the Arts I started studying French and Spanish at Middlebury College until transferring to Berklee College of Music, where I’m now studying music production and engineering and jazz composition. Right now everything I do is centered around music, my relationships with other artists in the area, and creating a family for myself in this new space! Every time I meet someone new I find myself sharing an anecdote from the times at the Seed. Anyone who knows me well knows of my history there and it’s been incredible to look at how, through those relationships, the Seed has become an extension of their stories, too. I think I’m still coming to realize how instrumental those experiences were/are in my choice to transfer, in my attitude towards friendship, and in seeking out opportunities to learn and experiment. I haven’t been in a better place in my life and I owe it entirely to what I was taught at Awakening Seed. Though it’s difficult to fully express, I couldn’t be more grateful to have such a meaningful reminder of the things that make me happy every day!
Sarah (Spaulding) Balluff
Age: 42 | Location: Phoenix, AZ
I’ve been a part of Awakening Seed from its inception. My mother, Mary Glover, started the school in our home garage and it quickly grew. Almost forty years later, I am still a part of the Seed. I taught at the school for eleven years and have been working in the office for the past three years. There were so many meaningful experiences I had as a student. I learned to write stories and turn them into bound books. Because we were able to participate in hands-on learning, our experiences were meaningful and that sparked our creativity for storytelling. Some of my best memories are the time we took the city bus to downtown Phoenix and went to the top of the Hyatt Regency, the time we learned about, built, and set off a volcano (with real gun powder and no one got hurt!), and the time we taped 5 X 7 note cards covered with Vaseline onto the curbs in the neighborhood to investigate the pollution that cars emit when driving down the streets. These lessons sparked an interest in travel, nature, and environmental awareness. Because of this experience, I have continued to enjoy learning.
Age: 32 | Santa Monica, CA
I live and work in Santa Monica, working in Advertising Sales at Google. I attended Awakening Seed during my most impressionable years (Kindergarten – 3rd grade) and I credit the Seed for so many of my successes in life. The Seed inspired me to dream big, to be curious, and to treat everyone equally. These three traits enabled me to go away to college at The University of Texas – Austin, travel the world (visited over twenty countries across five continents), live in New York City for 6+ years, and get hired at reputable companies like NBC, Microsoft, and now Google. Even though it has been over twenty years since I walked the halls of the Awakening Seed, I think often of the amazing teachers/mentors, the peace pole, the hikes up A-Mountain, Halloween, and so many wonderful memories I made there. It brings a huge smile to my face.
Age 27 | Location: Los Angeles, CA
I am 27 years old and currently living in LA. In 2015, I completed my PhD in Neuroscience at Caltech and began working as a researcher at an asset management firm. I am passionate about science and science communication and am part of a SciComm group called the Nerd Brigade, which works to get people asking questions and learning about the world around them. I graduated from the Seed in 2000. The Seed inspired my life-long love of science and taught me that anyone can be a scientist, a lesson I hope to pass on to everyone I meet.
Age: 24 | Location: Phoenix, AZ
I am a recent graduate from Drury University in Springfield, Missouri. I moved home to live and work in the Phoenix area as a digital specialist at a digital marketing agency called Defero USA. There are a lot of aspects to my job, a big part being creative and objective writing for clients on behalf of their social media, blog, quarterly reports and more. My love for writing stems from the emphasis Awakening Seed placed on it, encouraging kids to journal and jot down thoughts on the fly. I will forever be thankful for that. Helping local and small businesses grow through strategic thinking and writing is what I love about my career thus far.
Age: 19 | Irvine, CA
I am currently attending Concordia University Irvine located in Irvine, California. I have just completed my sophomore year and I am studying business administration with an emphasis on management. I plan to graduate in 2018. I am also a member of the Concordia swim team and have just finished my second year as a collegiate athlete. Moving out of state to attend college has really taught me what is most important in my life and what I value most. Family and friends are a huge part of my life and are truly all that matters to me. I receive great support from each and every family member at home and have extremely loving and supportive friends who keep me focused and motivated in all that I do. Academics and athletics are currently the main focus of my life as I work towards receiving a college degree, as well as being a supportive and friendly teammate to my entire team. The Seed greatly influenced the person I am today in a few ways. I believe I have a very positive outlook on life and always try to see the best in every person I meet and I have the Seed to thank for that. I learned from my time there to accept all people and embrace every individual’s uniqueness. Also I believe the Seed had a great influence on helping me discover who I am. The Seed taught me a lot about loving myself and embracing my strengths while also learning from my weaknesses, which still helps me in my life decisions today. I am very thankful to have attended the Seed from kindergarten to 4th grade and believe it has strengthened me and built me into the individual I am today.
Valerie (Thayer) Devoy
Age 37 | San Francisco, CA
I live in San Francisco with my husband, John, and my daughter, Eliana. I run a small business from home where I provide creative and financial services for the owners of small businesses such as restaurants, salons, hotels and boutiques. The work I do includes web design, writing, bookkeeping and coaching management teams. I love what I do and mostly the people I work for, who are longtime friends and colleagues. I find my biggest assets have been being reliable, hard working and nice. I graduated with a Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Communication Design from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Since then I have lived many places, including Seattle, Paris and New York. I have worked hard and have been fortunate to follow my dreams. I believe life is an adventure and I’m happiest when I’m on the brink of discovering something new. I was fortunate enough to have been a part of one of Awakening Seed’s earliest classes. I started when I was three years old and continued through 3rd grade, a total of six years. It was during these years at Awakening Seed that my creativity and bravery were fostered and encouraged. I learned how to write using my unique voice, directed plays, and illustrated books. I researched complicated science questions and demonstrated them in shoebox dioramas. I learned how to be a part of the group and, most importantly, that what I did mattered to the world that I was becoming a part of.
Age: 36 | Location: San Francisco, CA
I have lived in San Francisco since 1997. I attended the San Francisco Arts Institute, and graduated in 2001 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Photography. I worked 10 years at a nonprofit multi-arts organization before deciding to explore a new field. I currently work at an organic soil nutrient company called Growers’ Secret. Friends and family are what matters to me most. I have a strong sense of balancing work and life. I practice yoga daily and work as a part time event photographer. In practicing yoga, I am reminded not sweat the small stuff, to ignore life’s distractions, and that change is constant. I have always had a special place in my heart for Awakening Seed. There is no one mold for a human and Awakening Seed recognizes that. Allowing for personal growth to happen at the natural rate, making learning fun and accessible. I’ve always told people that Awakening Seed taught me how to learn, how to want to learn.