With her SGS graduation only three years ago, Class of 2019 alumna Dayanara Almon can already see the positive impact that her SGS education has on her life. Through involvement in school groups and activities, Dayanara was able to discover valuable leadership skills in herself and come into her own as a student, citizen, and woman. Dayanara is currently a high school junior who is excited to go on to college and continue to pursue her interests in journalism, social justice, and podcasting.
As a recent SGS alum, can you talk about your overall experience with the school?
I am class of 2019 and so it feels like I was there very recently, especially because of the pandemic. I started at SGS in 6th grade, and it was a new environment for me to be at an all-girls school and have all the different activities and programs that I didn’t have at my public elementary school. I was able to explore my creativity, become more involved in social justice, and gain leadership skills from the different student groups that I was in, including Student Council and IMPUHWE, a group that raises money for girls’ education in Rwanda. One thing that I got to be a part of in Student Council was when we, as students, were able to change the dress code to something that we felt represented us more. In IMPUHWE, we were all about supporting women’s education rights and we got to be pen pals with students in Rwanda, as well as hold sanitary pad, toy, and book drives.
What characteristics of the school standout to you when you think back to your time there?
They really encouraged bringing out leadership skills in their students. That was a big thing for me, and I definitely became more confident while I was there. I was also able to come into myself and get more involved with my school and the world around me.
I would also say that the school is bright. I don’t mean this so much literally (although there is a new school being built!), but more like the fact that they are so supportive of their students, and they give students a lot of good memories to look back on from their middle school years. That’s a really positive thing, and can’t be said for all middle school experiences.
What made your middle school experience most memorable?
Maybe every grade is like this, but my grade was a very close-knit class. We did a lot of stuff together, including planning a walkout for the gun violence that was happening around the time of the March for Our Lives movements. We were also able to go to DC and Costa Rica and have all these new experiences together. Class of 2019 was tight.
Tell us about the relationships you built with teachers, students, and other staff during your years there. How were those relationships influential in your life?
I was really close with the other people in Student Council. As far as my teachers, I always remember Ms. Lulu, the performing arts teacher that also led the Black affinity group, Black Girl Magic. I was close with the other members of this affinity group, as well as people in the Latinx affinity group. Having the opportunity to talk about my identity at school and share with other students of similar identities was a first for me and was a really positive experience.
I also had a good connection with Lydia Valentine, who was my language arts teacher and advisor in 7th grade. And then in 8th grade I also formed a good connection with Ms. D, who was my 8th grade advisor and math and science teacher. There are so many others I could mention, but lastly, I’ll say Wendy. You can tell Wendy really enjoys what she does, and it makes you more passionate and engaged in her classes. She taught me not only important things about history, but also skills like sharing my opinions and being more vocal.
What issues or topic areas would you consider SGS, as an institution, a leader or expert?
I would say uplifting girls and non-binary students in their education. Middle school is the age where you are learning a lot about yourself and they really help students do that. Not just to prepare for high school, but to actually improve themselves and come into their own while learning to be a leader. That’s rare because there aren’t many spaces for women and non-binary people to do that.
Tell us about your current career and what made you decide on that path?
I am currently a junior in high school and I am definitely going to college after I graduate. I’m starting to think about that a lot more and how, to continue to grow as an individual, I would like to leave Washington. Last year, during the pandemic, one of my friends from SGS and I started a podcast called “Empowering our Melanin.” That got me really interested in podcasting. I was also working for a blog called South End stories last year, and that furthered my interest in journalism, writing, and social justice. I’d like to continue to pursue that after high school.
Currently, I’m doing a program at University of Washington through the Foster School of Business called YEC, which stands for Young Executives of Color. Not only am I learning a lot about business, but it is also really uplifting for people of color, and it has made me interested in that field as well.
As SGS prepares to celebrate its 20th anniversary, what would your hopes be for the school in their next 20 years?
I hope they expand and touch the lives of more students and support them the way that other alums and I have been supported. I know they’re getting a new building and that’s really cool to see. It will be good for them to have that space for students to learn and grow.
Do you have any advice for the current students of SGS?
Take advantage of all the opportunities and enjoy it while you are there. In 7th and 8th grade I felt ready to go to high school, but, when I look back, SGS was a really good time for me. I’d advise them to really enjoy it and don’t lose the lessons that you learn there. SGS really made me a better person.