A part of the second ever graduating class from SGS, Alum Natalie Dupille found middle school to be immersive, unique, and educational in ways that still impact her to this day. Going beyond a typical classroom experience, Natalie was given the space to explore her own identity and place in the world while also finding support within the SGS community that still prevails in her life today. Presently, Natalie is an illustrator and cartoonist with work published in outlets such as the New Yorker, the Seattle Stranger, and more. You can find more of Natalie’s work on her website at www.nataliedupille.com
You were among the first students at SGS! What were the early days like?
I was in the second graduating class, and it was very small when I started there. There were only two grades at the time, and it was a unique experience to be a part of a school that was growing and forming at the same time, especially with the core values that SGS holds. SGS will always be a unique experience for any student that goes there. Being there at the beginning was really special.
What are some traits of the school that are important to highlight?
Their commitment to social justice and, within that, having open dialogue. My peers in other schools weren’t getting those open and honest conversations and we were having anti-bias Fridays filled with emotional and intense conversations. These conversations were always educational as well, but more specifically, it was about processing where we were coming from. Opportunities to be able to have candid discussions about out places in the world and our identities at that young of an age was really formative.
How did you come to be a student at SGS?
My mom found out about the school through Sharon Hamill, a board member at SGS. We were looking at middle schools and SGS was this new school on the horizon that had such a different take than any of the other schools I was looking at. I have ADHD and being so hyperactive and bold takes up a lot of space and SGS essentially told me and my family, “We are here for you to take up this space!” It was a natural fit for me.
What stands out to you looking back on your years at SGS?
The strong network of support and community. The immersive curriculum was amazing, and every culminating project was memorable because each project was so unique. Within those projects you could come up with a far-fetched idea, and you would always find someone saying, “We could make this work.”
Tell us about the relationships you built with teachers and staff throughout the years.
Rosetta is someone that challenged me, and I’m so grateful to her and how much I learned from her. Marja, Wendy, and Sally were all impactful educators as well. Sally had a library full of amazing books in her classroom and she gave me a copy of an Indigo Girls CD which, in hindsight, was so significant to me. I’m queer and I didn’t know it at the time, but maybe she did. I could also talk about Wendy all day and how excited she is about everything and her focus on her student’s learning that is just so incredible. I think all the educators there were very attuned to the needs of each child, which is a benefit of being in a small educational community with educators that are passionate about their work.
What issues or topic areas would you consider SGS, as an institution, a leader or expert?
Social justice-informed education and gender and sexuality. In Seattle, this is rapidly becoming a bigger priority in other schools, but SGS has always been a leader in that area since its beginning. I think that having social justice integrated across all of our subjects and how the school was run was very significant.
I am a cartoonist and illustrator. I do a lot of freelance work for publications including the New Yorker, The Los Angeles Times, The Seattle Stranger, etc. I also do some contract work and I just finished a big, illustrated project for Seattle Public Utilities, which was amazing and dynamic. I try to keep it fresh and I’m actually working on my first full length graphic novel.
Both of my parents are artists, so I consider myself community taught. None of the schools I went to had a huge focus on visual arts, but I’ve always journaled and done a lot of memoir and autobiographical work. In college I was inspired to do more alternative comics and I continuously devoted more and more time to it every year. Now, I’ve been doing this full-time for two years. [MM1]
Was there anything about your time at SGS that influenced your career path?
At SGS, I gained that ability to believe in myself which has been significant in my career. Having this instilled sense of ambition and self-confidence, especially from such a young age, is important. And even though SGS wasn’t art-focused, we used the creative and innovative sides of our brain so often when coming up to creative solutions for complex problems. Creative expression inherently ties in with their curriculum.
What makes you hopeful for the future of SGS?
I have loved to witness how inclusive they have been around gender in recent years. As someone who is queer and has many trans folks in my life, I’ve been really impressed with the grace with which they have been inclusive. They are open-minded about what it means to be an all-girls’ school in a time where many genders are marginalized. This inclusiveness makes me hopeful for their future.
Do you have any advice for the current students of SGS?
I want to give the same advice that I give to artists that ask me this question, which is advice I got from a poet that I know. She said, “Cast all the nets and go for everything. The worst that anyone can say is no. And then you move on to the next thing.” I know that sometimes a “no” can feel like the complete end of the world. But, because you have cast your nets everywhere, you will wind up somewhere that works for you.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your SGS experience?
I think it’s sweet that pretty much all the SGS alum are really stoked to see each other. I met my best friend on the first day of school at SGS and we hang out all the time. As students, we were brought together in an intentional way from all different backgrounds and that carries with us throughout our lives. Even years after SGS we still reach out to each other like, “what are you doing? I want to support you.” Instilling that type of mutual support in girls at this age is so critical and such an important mindset to have.