As the Rise Up campaign propels Seattle Girls’ School towards the future, we’re reflecting on and celebrating those who helped make SGS the incredible school it is today. We continue our alum series with Sydney Swonigan, a program manager at Microsoft and current SGS board member.
What do you remember about your SGS experience?
I remember touring SGS as a 5th grader, and I just loved it. At the public school I went to prior to SGS, project work was my favorite, so when I heard it was a project-based curriculum, I was so excited. Rosetta Lee (one of our founding faculty members and our current Outreach Specialist) was my first advisor which was special because she openly shared trials she overcame, so seeing this confident and amazing person on the other end of that journey definitely set a great tone for the rest of my impactful experience at SGS.
What aspects of the school are unique or set SGS apart from other schools?
There was so much priority placed on the anti-bias curriculum. It was integrated in our daily learning long before many current Seattle schools got on board the “social justice train”. We were learning about pansexuality and given terms and language to respectfully talk about tough topics like race and misunderstandings even amongst each other. Because of the empathy, activism and advocacy that we were taught, we were equipped at a young age to support those from many walks of life and speak up for ourselves. I’ve been talking about race and cultural issues since the 6th grade. I carry that comfort with me and comfort with challenging others to think and act with empathy to this very day
I was always grateful, because I knew no one else was getting this experience. The curriculum, the anti-bias work, the opportunity to play lacrosse, it put me ahead on a leadership and cultural competency level. I learned that leading by example is just as important as leading others directly, and I worked on leading and connecting with people in different ways.
This is not like any other school you can send your kid to. The benefits are not only academic, it’s really about the personal growth. I think girls can come out of SGS with self-love and confidence better than any other place. Loving self and advocating for one’s community are the most consistent outcomes you can expect from an SGS experience in addition to academic preparedness. That’s right! You don’t have to choose at SGS, you get to win both scholastically and as a person.
Tell us about your current career and where you are now.
I work at Microsoft as Program Manager in the marketing division, ensuring that websites are accessible, secure and so on. I like that my work impacts a typically unseen demographic. Recently, many of us have been really grateful for Microsoft’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Diversity work is incorporated into your performance review, and dialogue around these tough, important issues is required. While awesome, this seems to be a pretty new approach. It’s wild to me that SGS was already integrating these dialogues and learnings at its inception for 11 and 12 year olds. They’ve been walking and talking these things for a long time.
Recently I started a media LLC called Exes and Babies. I had a podcast called Two Exes and a Baby about co-parenting, because a lot of families have to co-parent. I found that there was a need for more positive examples of co-parenting, especially from people of different backgrounds. The podcast is being rebranded and will relaunch with more resources and actionable tips on how to co-parent effectively. The impact and feedback has been really positive from all kinds of parents, and even the children of divorced parents as well.
Why do you give back to SGS?
My life is incredible for a lot of reasons, but SGS has definitely played a key role in who I’ve became, the confidence that I have, the way I think, and the list goes on. My own experience at SGS continues to have impact on me, so I want to continue to impact the school in a positive way.
I see SGS as a direct link to the success of the world. I really believe it has that lofty of an impact. I’ve already seen alums do really great things big and small to help communities that they are in. If anybody’s going do it—it being a hard thing that improves lives—it’s going to be an SGS student.
What excites you about the new campus that is about to be built?
I am so grateful that they are building a new campus. It tells the world that we are not going anywhere, and that the mission lives on. I want the building to reflect the greatness that happens in these classrooms. So that’s why I’m participating in giving to this cause with my time, money and passion.