A Common Stream
Reporter Austin Dilley learns the value of SDA after speaking to alumni who returned to campus to paint tiles for the new building.
April 7, 2017
The destruction of senior court was for some a melancholy signal of the ushering in of a new generation of the Academy and for others it was just another cog on the wheel of time, an inevitable inconvenience of success and modernization. However, for senior Kelly Luong, a current member of the art leadership class, a course which puts students in mentorship with a teacher to help promote the arts across campus, saw it as a chance to “keep the culture of San Dieguito alive by tying us in with our past, our alumni.”.
Hundreds of tiles and nearly a decade of SDA history was lost when senior court was torn down to make room for the new science and math building. Luong hoped to give back to those students who lost their mark on the campus and let them paint a new set of tile that would serve to help give life to the new building that she viewed as an uglier replacement for senior court.
Her event started as mainly targeting the classes whose senior tiles were lost during the construction, mainly 2006-2010; however the event ended up seeing a much larger turnout with students as far back as the 70s and more recent alums bringing their young kids who they hoped one day would attend the same school as them. Luong wanted to create a physical representation of SDA and its prolonged and lasting effects on its students, a current, from the past to know.
The idea came to her while reading one of the books from the Percy Jackson series: “I came across the part about the river Lethe, that when you drink it you are reborn and your memories are wiped away and I thought that could be a really cool image if we did a river of memories but since it’s embedded into the wall it could never be forgotten.” The tiles will take the shape of a river representing a common current between the past alumni and the students of today.
Speaking to some of the alumni who were painting they’re new tiles, it quickly becomes apparent how impossible it could be to ever forget SDA and its effect it has on its students. One of the students from the very first graduating class of the Academy in 2000, Steve Straw, proudly reminisced about being the first student ever suspended from the Academy and switching places with the principal as a reward for a school fundraiser.
As I spoke with him about his memories of this school and his four years here it was obvious the profound affect this place had on him. Even now nearly 20 years on, his eyes lit up with a youthful joy when he spoke about his memories of his time here at SDA. Yet despite his fond memories he still wouldn’t want to relive those days. “The four years I had here where the best of my life, they made me who I am today, yet, I would never want to redo them.”
That seemed to be a common thread amongst all the alums I spoke to. That SDA had truly become an extremely impactful part of their life. For Gidgett Sschultz, class of 2007, SDA was the school where “the artsy kids were allowed to be cool.”
There did seem to be one common theme about the memories of the alums time here: it was the teachers. For Straw it was memories of Tim Roberts’s freshman English class where he would play an MTV recording of the Beastie Boys singing “Sabotage” and analyzing the lyrics as if it were a Shakespearean sonnet.
For Schultz it was memories of doing a synchronized dance routine to “Me and My Shadow” with Bryan Scott, a now retired history teacher. SDA spirit comes from “teachers who actually care about their students and are passionate about their jobs,” Schultz said.
When I asked Schultz’s table, all 2007 graduates, if the teachers were the heart of soul of the SDA environment, I was met with a unanimous “yes” and a chorus of “definitely.” Every alumni I talked to shared that theme that the teachers are what make SDA, that their time and dedication are what keeps the spirit, the current, of SDA always fresh and always flowing upstream.
Luong set out to create a tangible representation of SDA culture, a stream that connects our past with our present, an ever-changing student body that has one thing it can rely on: passionate and inspiring teachers. Yet, she created something much greater than that. She not only managed to create a beautiful physical representation of the SDA culture and history, she managed to also create a link between past and future members of our school.
Reminiscing on my own four years and my fears for the future of SDA, I can’t help but be comforted by the words of Schultz, the bubbly, still passionate, San Dieguito alumna who graduated nearly a decade ago: “Enjoy and savor every moment. There is no other place in the world like this. Still 10 years on I still feel like here is my home.”
That is what makes SDA so special, that there is nowhere else in the world quite like it.