20 for 20: In Conversation with Board Member and SGS Alum Parent, Dorothy Liu

Our goal for the 20 Stories for 20 Years series is to highlight various voices of the SGS community. Today, we share a conversation with one of our newest board members, Dorothy Liu! Dorothy may be new to the board, but she has been involved with SGS since the very beginning. Dorothy shares how her SGS involvement has morphed over the past 20 years and why she has been inspired to dedicate her time, energy, and knowledge to making SGS great. 

You really have been involved with SGS since the beginning, can you tell us how this started and where...
I have been involved with the school since it opened in 2001. I started off as a mentor and then ended up joining a few other mentors to lead the program. When I became a mom, I would go to luncheons occasionally. Then, when my daughter was in fifth grade, I took her to an open house, and it was clear that she wanted to be at SGS. 

As an SGS parent, I became active in the Community Association of Parents (CAP), which was our version of the PTSA. I co-led this for two years and we worked to build a better sense of community among the parents. A lot of times, parents will send their kids to a school like SGS and assume the school is going to teach their child to be socially active and aware, but it’s really important to close the loop for them by doing the same thing at home. So, we had a mission to give these families a way to live out the SGS values in their household and enrich their children’s educations and lives even further.

What is it about SGS that has inspired you to stay connected throughout the years?
Watching these students learn, evolve, and become adults really crystallized what I believe is possible for education. I love that SGS was really equity-centered by design and that it is intentionally socially, racially, and economically diverse. There are spaces for kids to be who they are as an individual, but also understand that they could come together as a collective and contribute to the community. It’s such a positive reflection of what is possible in society. 

I’m also still really close to my very first mentees from the charter class. They are all about 30 years old now, but we have stayed in touch since they were SGS students. I’ve seen them through high school, college, their first jobs, graduate schools, becoming wives and mothers.  It’s really fun and satisfying to have friendships now with these amazing women as adults.

As an SGS parent, how did you see this education impact your daughter?
Her experience at SGS was about finding her voice, activating it, and stepping into that power. I don’t even know if she realizes how much those formative years at SGS have created that inside of her. It’ll be interesting to see how it manifests further when she steps out into the world on her own.  She says now that the beauty of her experience at SGS was the mutual respect the students and teachers had for each other, even though they were thought of as “just kids” by most adults.

What led you to want to stay involved at SGS as a board member? 
SGS has led and innovated what it means to be a school of forwarding and progressive thinking. This is what has drawn me to SGS from the beginning, and I wanted to get involved to make sure that these ideas were going to continue to be refreshed. It’s important to me to help bring out what really makes SGS special. The fact that there are people on the board who are not afraid to ask difficult questions is a lot of what makes us unique. I want to look deeper into what embracing and running even more boldly with our mission can really look like. This is a place I really care about. 

Why is the new building so important for SGS?  
For so many reasons. They need a space that can adapt to the needs of the student body and SGS community. It’s important that the school kept its proximity to South Seattle and stayed true to the original mission of creating equitable access to progressive education. The new building will serve as a reminder to the community that there are possibilities and opportunities that aren’t obvious, and it’ll be interesting to see how those come to life when the building is finished and we are established within the community. 

Tell us about your own middle school education: 
I went to middle school in California in Silicon Valley in the 70s. To give you a taste of the things that would happen, I’ll tell you about my P.E. experience. In seventh grade, all the girls had to wear a one-piece, polyester gym suit that you stepped into and pulled up to get on. We had to write our names across the front so that they knew who was whom. The boys, on the other hand, had regular T-shirts and gym shorts. Being a generation that was starting to see the opportunities coming out of Title IX, we wanted change. So, we wrote a petition to get the school to let us wear the same things as the boys, and it worked! But overall, my education was very traditional, and not at all like SGS.

Tell us about your current career. 
I was previously working in tech, but when my daughter was in seventh grade, there was an instance when she asked me if she was a person of color. I said, “Yes, you are” and she was confused because she had only known POC to mean black or brown, and she knew she wasn’t white. She was saying that, as an Asian American, she was neither, just nothing. It was really heartbreaking and made me rethink where I was spending my energy and being a role model as an Asian American woman who leads. That led me to coaching and especially helping Asian leaders, really tap into what makes them special and how they might be holding back. I also love working with people that want to have some sort of greater impact on humanity. It’s not that different from what I love about SGS – you know everybody has some level of greatness inside them and it’s about creating an environment where they feel free and courageous enough to tap into that greatness and do something with it.

What would you say to parents who are thinking about sending their kids to SGS? 
It may not be the right school for everyone, but if you are seeking a place where your kid can and is ready to take some chances to fully bloom then this is the place for them. I hear from parents every day that are impressed with the skills their kids have developed at SGS. They find their voice, try new things, and are given many safe places to take risks. You’ll find that the most important thing they learn at SGS is that they have the capacity to change the world. 
Located in the Central District, Seattle Girls' School is an independent school for girls and gender nonconforming students in grades 5-8. Our mission is to inspire and develop courageous leaders who think independently, work collaboratively, learn joyfully, and champion change.