Dear Menaul School Families,
This January we celebrate Menaul School’s 125th year of preparing students to succeed. In this letter I am highlighting three recent graduates who are using the lessons of their Menaul School experience to make the world a better place, please take a moment to read their bios at the end of this letter. Though New Mexico and United States have changed much in the intervening century, I am amazed at the consistency of what a Menaul School education has brought to our students from its founding:
Our Historical Commitment to Character
- Learning how to focus and prioritize what needs to be done.
- Understanding how to work cooperatively and fairly.
- Growing one’s faith and the confidence to make a difference.
- Moral integrity and a commitment to social justice.
Our Constant Commitment to the Whole Person
- Building strong and self-reliant young people able to stand on their own two feet.
- Our focus on physical and emotional growth rather than pure academics. In the beginning it meant working on the farm, homemaking arts, and taking care of the campus. Today it means learning how to make wise investments in the stock market, how a democracy works, and how to evaluate behavior according to ethical principles.
Menaul School teaches the academic and interpersonal skills needed to think creatively and critically, preparing our students to thrive globally in the 21st-century. Menaul School has always been a beacon of light bringing diverse cultures and people of all faiths together as part of the messy business of working peacefully and productively as a community. Today we bind these ideas together as part of our “World Smart” identity. Specifically, it means that we are preparing students to live in a “flat world” – an interdependent global economy. Examples include:
- College-level courses, including AP courses like AP Human Geography and AP Calculus
- An integrated mathematics curriculum aligned with international and American standards.
- Innovative new classes like God and Science, World Literature, and Greenhouse Science
- Four times a year the middle school engages in Learning Expeditions: a weeklong, engaging, relevant, problem-solving experience where labels like History, English, and Math disappear, and all skills are brought to bear to resolve real world problems through Project-Based Learning planning and technique.
A year like no other has brought trials beyond measure, but also opportunities for Menaul School. As one of the few schools in New Mexico to hold mask-to-mask classes (with no spread), we learned these lessons:
- The faculty and students in our community are tremendously creative and resilient. Our students have grown up so much in this challenging time.
- In class learning is more effective but synchronous online learning is second-best. (With national and international research bearing this out)
- Reinforces what we have long known – that arts and athletics feed the soul and keep students happy.
- Our technological tools and capabilities have allowed us to thrive as an academic community.
- Community and human contact is vital to proper development and psychological health.
College Preparatory Basics
- Superior college preparation – our graduates consistently report being well-prepared for university studies be they at Brown, UNM, or UC Berkeley.
- A rich arts tradition, with students having paths in Music, Visual Arts, and Drama.
- Strong athletics which emphasize student involvement; in the middle school where 90% of students play sports, 60% in the upper school.
- A broad socially, economically, racially diverse community with amazing young people from other countries sharing their lives, cultures, and perspectives creating a unique, engaging social environment.
- While we have made significant investments in science facilities and faculty, our heart and excellence has always been in the humanities. Menaul students leave with deep historical understanding, love of literature, and the ability to write and speak a foreign language. Top scholars and recent studies reinforce the idea that a liberal arts education produces adaptive, creative critical thinkers and great citizens!
Finally, the magic of our community is that students find themselves and feel like they belong. After I visit other schools, I love coming home. During lunch at other schools, I see students hanging out and looking at phones, isolated in cliques. Our lunches, especially the middle school, has students building stick forts, playing tag, foursquare, and ball games. Menaul students can be individuals and are not held to the social pressure that typically comes along with middle and high school.
They are kids here, not hiding their enthusiasm for life because of social pressure. This continues as they go through upper school; as they discover their strengths, their passions, and graduate from Menaul School prepared to thrive and live with purpose. They are created to make a difference in the world!
Kyle Paul, class of 2014, works as a manager of the Disney Junior cable network’s Educational Resource Group. He says he hopes to have “a positive impact in children’s media.” He said his experience at Menaul School helped him as an undergrad at Tufts University, enabling him to feel comfortable learning a variety of subjects and skills and helped him “feel well rounded” during his college experience. After graduating from Tufts in 2018 with a dual degree in Child Studies and Development and Film and Media Studies, Kyle earned his Master of Education (MEd) from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. During all that time, he completed professional internships at well-known public television station WGBH in Boston, Marvel Entertainment, before serving as a production assistant at the Jim Henson Creature Shop. His time at Menaul infused him with the personal skills that allowed him to develop the professional skills that have taken him to where he is today.
Thinking “outside the box” is a much-desired trait in 2021. Cameron Santos, class of 2015, says attending Menaul School prepared him to do just that. Just five and a half years after graduating from Menaul, Cameron is now an internet entrepreneur who currently manages a multi-million-dollar business. “Menaul School believed in me when I did not deserve it and was a critical aspect of who I am today,” he says. In Fall 2019, Cameron led one of the most well-received chapels of the year and told the stories of his seven years at Menaul and his unique business journey. Head of School, Lindsey Gilbert, recently quipped, “He answered questions for 20 minutes and had 40 students surrounding him after his talk, asking for his contact info… He is an inspiring young entrepreneur with big ideas.” Cameron attributes the life skills he developed at Menaul School as vital to his success. He has given back to the Menaul community by helping with the Gaming Club and joining the new “Tech Future at Menaul School” advisory committee.
For Chavela Verdeja, class of 2008, Menaul School is a family affair – with her brother, sister, and niece and nephew – all past or current Menaul School students. She says her six years at Menaul were remarkable in many ways. Chavela participated in an array of extracurricular activities – volleyball, soccer, track and field, student council — and was a member of the Albuquerque Youth Leadership Program and student founder of the Rocket Club. She was also crowned Homecoming Queen. Chavela went on to earn her B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida and her master’s degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Houston. She currently works in the solar industry in New Mexico, supporting solar component production, and hopes to own a manufacturing facility in the next ten years. She says that she would not have excelled in college without her wonderful teachers at Menaul or “had a thirst for learning to get my master’s degree.” She says, “I think Menaul sparked my joy in learning, which I used throughout the rest of my life.”