Welcome to the first piece of our 20 Years, 20 Stories series, celebrating Seattle Girls’ School’s two decades of educating and nurturing young leaders! We chatted with alum Keira Edwards, who graduated with the SGS class of 2006. Keira describes her time at SGS as a one-of-a-kind experience where she learned who she really was (at only 12!), felt safe and empowered to have tough conversations, and became a part of a unique and close community. Today, Keira is a counselor in the public school sector, working with middle school students and their families.
Can you tell us a little about your experience while attending Seattle Girls’ School?
Going to SGS was a one-of-a-kind experience, all the way down to the community base—making you feel like you’re in control of your actions, your education, and your personality. SGS gave me the experience of figuring out who I was at 12 years old, and that’s a really different school experience than most middle schoolers have. I started to realize what I was passionate about at such a young age, I learned about other world perspectives, and I was exposed to opportunities and subjects never discussed in my household before. Working now as a school counselor in a K through 12 public education setting, I see how powerful those opportunities are for kids of that age.
Are there any significant moments that really stuck with you during your time at SGS?
To this day, there is an experience that I still bring up and think about. There was a situation that happened at the school where someone had written something derogatory on a table. I’ll never forget the moment that it was found because everything just stopped—classes, all our materials, everything. The whole school community was brought together, but instead of using this space to shame and point the finger, it was turned into a profound learning moment for everyone about the impact that this kind of action can have on others within our community. That was so powerful, because it taught me to communicate with other people when things aren’t right. It taught me to say: You have to talk about these things and not just run away. It was a moment I will always thank Seattle Girls’ School for.
What is unique or different about the SGS experience?
The first thing that comes to mind is the independence, which you don’t always see in a middle school setting. We were given the freedom to grow into young adults and learn what responsibility is like. The second is that everything was very hands on. Everything was something you could see, feel, or touch. Whether it be math or science or language arts or social studies, it was some kind of hands-on or discussion-based project. That helped me to learn because I grew up with dyslexia. The third piece was equity. What that meant for me was access to computers. While I was growing up, we were not able to afford that kind of stuff. So, when it came to having access to materials I didn’t have, SGS would always figure it out for me or anyone who needed help.
Tell us about the relationships you formed while at SGS—with teachers and other students.
The relationship building was phenomenal. It was nice having personal relationships with teachers and peers—it was your own little community. At the same time, disrespect was not tolerated, which made it a really safe environment. We didn’t deal with bullying per se, but when issues came up, they were shut down. If there was any tension between students, it was like, “alright, you’re going to go and talk it out now.” It was neat to learn those social-emotional skills at such a young age, getting us ready for whatever was to come next.
Can you tell us about your journey after SGS?
After high school I went on to the University of Washington at Bothell for a year. A cousin of mine—who also went to Seattle Girls’ School—ended up going to a historically black college that same year, and she told me how her college experience was the best experience ever. “Everybody looks like me! It’s amazing, I’m telling you, you’ve got to come here.” I decided to take a leap of faith and transferred to Hampton University. And I flourished. I can’t even explain what that experience feels like when you have always been in an environment where you’re the minority, but you’re also in a city (Seattle) that is such a mixed pot. I had never seen what it meant to be in a community of people that look like you and come from all of these different walks of life—many from very successful walks of life.
While at Hampton, I started taking some psychology classes and realized I really enjoy talking with and being empathetic towards other people. I decided to focus on psychology—thinking I would become a therapist—and I quickly learned that you needed a Master’s degree. I took another leap of faith and applied to one grad school: Seattle University. Long story short, I got into the program, and I remember feeling so overwhelmed and joyful because I was the first person in my family to pursue a Master’s degree.
What are you up to now? What are you doing for work?
After getting my Master’s degree I decided to go into the school sector. I wanted to work in the public school setting because there are so many kids and families that I felt were missed or misunderstood, and I wanted to make an impact. I chose the middle school level, which is not always easy. However, it is such a unique time for kids, and the reason I chose middle school is because of Seattle Girls’ School. I thought about how, at that age, we went through ups and downs, but also how we had such a nurturing community of people to help us figure out who we are and how to be comfortable with that. I wanted to take that little piece of what I learned and give that back to students and their families.
What are your future plans? Where are you going next?
For a long time, I had been really stuck between going for my National Boards or pursuing an administration route. I finally came to the decision that I am going to pursue my administration certification, but not to be a principal or vice principal. I’ve been in my position for six years now, and I have seen where the gaps are with counseling programs. I want to build a program from scratch—to implement a new plan that can be used by school districts and is built from a counselor’s perspective. A lot of things I see in the public school setting are decided by people outside of mental health. I want to create a program for counselors, by counselors.
What would you say to parents thinking about applying to send their kids to SGS?
I would say: You know what you’re doing. Your child may not know what you’re doing, but you do. You are choosing a great path. I pray in the next 10 years that my daughter can go to SGS, and that is my goal when she hits 12. You’re giving your child an opportunity that is not going to be given elsewhere—I can promise you that.
What advice would you give to the current and future students at SGS?
Enjoy this time. Take in every moment. Ask those questions that need to be asked and create relationships with everyone. Almost 20 years later, I still have connections with certain people to this day. Build those relationships and communication and take every opportunity.