Experiential learning and a dedication to social justice inspired Irene Basloe Saraf to send her daughter Hannah to Seattle Girls’ School in 2016. Now, Irene and her husband, Tal, are choosing to support future generations of leaders by giving to SGS’s Rise Up campaign to build a new, permanent home for the school, even after her daughter has graduated.
Join Irene in investing in the development of confident leaders by making your gift to the Rise Up campaign today!
How did you first learn about Seattle Girls’ School?
When my daughter was really young, I would drive her to music class. On our way, we would pass Seattle Girls’ School, and I remember thinking how great it would be for my daughter to go to an all-girls school – and for middle school in particular. It had been on my list from the time she was really little.
What specifically caught your eye about SGS as a school for your daughter? What made it different from other middle school programs?
I really liked their dedication to social justice – a focus on social justice was really important to me. I also loved how integrated the curriculum was. My daughter had gone to an elementary school with a pretty integrated curriculum, and I liked the idea of not having subjects in silos, because that’s how it works in the real world.
The all-girls aspect was an essential component as well. I got the impression that Seattle Girls’ School would let my daughter be who she was and avoid getting caught up in some of the social pressures of a co-ed school. I appreciated that she got the chance to get to know herself better before she was in an environment that had those additional social pressures that teenagers face.
What kind of impact do you think Seattle Girls’ School has had on your daughter?
She understands the world in a way that I think is more mature than she might have otherwise. She has a high level of confidence and a high level of self-knowledge, and she knows how to advocate for herself and speak up around injustice – more broadly and at her school. And I think some of the ways she’s been recognized have been bolstered by her experience at Seattle Girls’ School. For example, her current school is engaged in a broad effort around diversity, equity, and inclusion, with two students from each class on the student committee. Hannah was selected for this, and the extent that she was able to be noticed for that element of her interests and concerns and advocacy after only a year at her high school is a sign of the impact of Seattle Girls’ School.
She’s always been an intellectually curious kid, and she’s always liked learning. SGS helped continue that love of learning and exploration, and it prepared her for her current school – especially the experiential learning. They aren’t just learning facts and figures at SGS, but how to operate in unexpected moments. And how to collaborate, which is huge.
Hannah’s also extremely interested in constitutional law, and I have to give that credit to Wendy. Wendy’s belief in her was really great. This summer Hannah applied for an ACLU advocacy program, and she was very excited to tell Wendy about that. Not only did Wendy foster her interests and encourage them, but she also continues to be a resource and an inspiration to her.
Why is it important for SGS to have a new space? Are there any new features you are especially excited about?
With the current space and the separate buildings, it feels a bit disjointed. It doesn’t surprise me that it was meant to be temporary. I will say that SGS has done the best that they could possibly do with the space that they have, but with a better space they could do so much more.
I really love the focus [in the new space] on making sure there are lots of good collaborative spaces for students. I love the idea of having spaces where people could work in groups, or for students who need extra support. There will be more space to do those kinds of smaller group activities.
What inspired you and Tal to give to the Rise Up Campaign?
Seattle Girls’ School deserves the better space. The sort of work that the school is doing and the way it’s encouraging new generations of girls to become leaders in their communities and in their schools, it needs to have space to foster that. And it’s the Seattle Girls’ School way – pay it forward. I want the school to be an institution for years and years, and I love the idea that it might be able to grow and provide this opportunity to more girls.
It’s a great investment in our future – in everyone’s future – to have girls who can have this SGS experience, and now an even better experience in a new building. It’s a good use of money – it promotes education, social justice, diversity. There are a lot of great things that the school is doing, and I think it is money well spent.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I will always be grateful that I drove by SGS when my daughter was a toddler. My mom went to an all-girls middle school, high school, and college, and she was one of three women in her law school class. And I do think my mom’s experience helped prepare her to have that confidence to be one of three women among all of those men. I’m sad that I didn’t get a similar experience in my small town in upstate New York, and I am really happy that my daughter has had an experience like that. Seattle Girls’ School helped build her confidence and her awareness of the world around her.