Our alumni define our success. In the last thirty years, we have enjoyed watching over 750 students successfully transition out of Chartwell and enter the schools of their choice. We celebrate all of their many achievements.
Are you a Chartwell alumnus or alumna? We want to hear from you! Please stay in touch by contacting our Alumni Relations office anytime by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (831.394.3468 ext 1020). Our current students and staff draw inspiration from your successes and your challenges. So please, tell us what you’re up to and how your post-Chartwell school years went.
Do you know a Chartwell alum? We love hearing from alumni families and friends too! Please email us at email@example.com and tell us what our wonderful alums are up to.
Ben Sugar — Class of 2007 (Ben was a speaker at Achievement Night 2011. Read his inspiring speech below!)
Hello, everyone! Let me begin by saying that I am honored to be speaking tonight. I would like to congratulate the Chartwell class of 2011 – great things are waiting out there for you. My name is Ben Sugar and just four years ago, I was sitting in the same seats as these Chartwell students, feeling bittersweet: anxious to move on to high school, yet upset about having to leave my friends and the close, loving and comfortable community of Chartwell School. I remember sitting in my seat, thinking about the inevitable challenges that I was to face in the years to come, the mysteries of high school, girls, and wondering when the teachers would just stop speaking and the ceremony would be done. So students who are paying little attention to me right now, don’t worry, I take no offense: I know how it feels.
In retrospect, I don’t know where I would be now if it weren’t for my time at Chartwell. Before attending Chartwell, school was a nightmare for me. I was different, and everybody knew it: in kindergarten I couldn’t grip a pencil, button a button, throw a ball, or even zip up my own zipper. To the inventor of Velcro, I am eternally grateful. To make things even worse, I received all sorts of unwanted public attention: teachers would pull me out of recess to give me Ritalin pills, occupational therapists would take me out of class to help me work on my motor skills, and I even remember a classmate approaching me at recess mocking, “Hey Ben, my mom told me you take pills because you’re stupid!” In my humiliation, it was hard to convince myself that he was wrong. In third grade, my class was learning cursive while I was still perfecting my manuscript. In 6th grade, our class was required to do book reports and I couldn’t even read! As if this humiliation weren’t enough, my parents told me that they were sending me to a school for students with learning disabilities. I felt I couldn’t get any lower. My parents promised me that it was in my best interest. It turns out that they were right.
My time at Chartwell was valuable and crucial to my development as a student and as an individual. The professional staff at Chartwell understands that each student learns differently and they care about the students’ individual needs. I received positive, special attention as the experts at Chartwell quickly addressed my learning issues and taught me strategies to help overcome them. I felt comfortable here: I was surrounded by a community of students just like me, all striving to reach the same goal, to overcome their learning differences, just in different ways. I learned that I learn best when writing, gained a sense of self confidence and motivation that I previously never had, and learned the importance of self-advocacy, which I will address later.
In my last year at Chartwell School I applied to York School, an academically rigorous college preparatory school in Monterey. Although the teachers at Chartwell believed in me, they warned me not to get my hopes up too high because only one person had been accepted to York from Chartwell prior to me – and that was almost 20 years ago. When I received an acceptance letter from York, I knew that my next four years were not going to be easy. I was right. You can equip yourself with all the training and weapons in the world, but you will never know how to fight until you’ve been out on the battlefield. After my time at Chartwell, I was prepared for York, but at first, needless to say, the transition was very difficult. I received C’s on my first tests in math, Spanish, and English, and an F on my first biology test. The one major difference between Chartwell and high school that I discovered was that at Chartwell the teachers come to you to help you when you struggle, but in high school, you need to seek out your teachers for help when you struggle. This is where I emphasize the importance of self advocacy. I spoke to each one of my teachers, telling them about my learning difference and asking how I could improve in their class. By the end of that year, my grades improved and I was on the high honor roll. Utilizing the study techniques I learned at Chartwell, I worked hard throughout high school, maintaining a GPA above 4.0, holding down two part-time jobs (as a lifeguard and a swim instructor), being involved in executive student government as the activities coordinator, volunteering hundreds of hours of community service, and participating in various varsity sports. For two of them, I was the team captain (basketball and tennis). I would have never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would be able to achieve so much, and I owe Chartwell a great debt of gratitude and fondness for all that they did for me in preparing me for this adventure.
In retrospect, my years at Chartwell were some of the best times of my life and I only wish I had appreciated them more when I was attending the school. Students, you have every reason to be excited for the future, and parents, you have every reason to be proud of your students. Students, you are about to face some great times and will flourish with this higher education. As for me, I just graduated from York High School and will be taking the skills I learned at Chartwell on with me as I attend the University of California Berkeley in the fall. I strongly urge you to remember the skills you learned here at Chartwell and appreciate the hands-on help that your teachers gave you, because this is the foundation of your success. It is now up to you to construct the building that will be your personal achievements. Thank you and congratulations – your adventure begins here.
Leann Filbrun (Dabney) — Class of 1988
Leann emailed us this fall after reviewing the Chartwell website, where she was happy to see how much Chartwell has grown. Leann writes, "Chartwell made such a difference for me. I truly believe it changed my life. Had I not had the opportunity to go to Chartwell, I think I would have struggled through school and my confidence would have never recovered. I am almost certain I would not have gone to college because I would not have believed in myself." Luckily, Leann did come to Chartwell and became a very good student. "Now 20 years down the road," she says, "I have a B.S. in Nutritional Science and I am going back to school to become a nurse." Leann was eager to let her former teachers know about her success in hopes of encouraging them “to keep making a difference in kids' lives." Leann is making a difference too, raising two sons with her husband in Lincoln, CA.
Stephanie Stuart — Class of 1990
Steph is currently working towards a PhD at UC Berkeley. Before setting out on a six month research trip to Australia’s rainforests, Steph contacted us about sending digital Reports from the Field to Chartwell students. She said she was hoping to share "scientific experiences and ideas with a wider group of people – especially K-12 students." So, Chartwell technology teacher Mr. Bonner helped Steph set up a website where she could post reports and answer questions. For instance, sixth grader Thea asked, "Have you seen any snakes or unusual animals?" Steph replied, "I haven't seen any snakes, which I am actually pretty happy about. Snakes in Australia are some of the most poisonous in the world. I have seen a lot of kangaroos – they're as common here as deer are in California. I also saw a bettong which is like a kangaroo, but much smaller. It is pretty unusual to see them so I was excited about that. I'll put a picture of my bettong, and any other animal pictures I can find, on the main page so you can see them." Steph did post pictures of the bettong on the website, as well as pictures of snakes, spiders, kangaroos and lots of interesting plants. Judging from the number of student comments that describe her work as "cool," "wonderful" and "exciting," it seems Steph is achieving her goal of inspiring students to get interested in science. Feel free to check out Steph's website at http://reportsfromthefield.wikispaces.com/Reports+From+The+Field.
Catherine Hawley — Class of 1991
Catherine Hawley remembers a lot about her days at Chartwell, including "tracing letters in the air as I repeated them out loud… Mrs. Kirshner’s art class... the computer lab with Ms. Lee... Sanford Shapiro… Mr. Bob's math class and… Mr. Kirshner's science classes. It was a wonderful experience where I went from a child who could hardly read and dreaded the task to one who enjoyed reading and even chose to read for pleasure." Since then, Catherine has graduated from UCLA, where she was captain of the women's tennis team. After coaching tennis in Hong Kong and Northern Ireland, she moved to San Francisco where she works at a boutique financial planning firm. After passing the Certified Financial Planner Exam she became an Associate Planner and she looks forward to "helping clients accomplish their life's goals." As for accomplishing her own goals, Catherine gives Chartwell a lot of credit, saying, "I am very grateful for the commitment of the Chartwell faculty and staff who have created opportunities for those of us fortunate enough to attend Chartwell." All of us at Chartwell feel fortunate to have an alumna like Catherine, who recently became the first alumni member of the Chartwell Legacy Society! Catherine invites any friend of Chartwell to contact her in regards to financial planning at Rhodes & Fletcher, LLC in San Francisco by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 415-362-8636.
Robby Dixon — Class of 1995
Since leaving Chartwell in 1995, Robby graduated from Palma High School in 2001 and went on to get his B.A. in Communication (with honors) from Loyola Marymount University in 2005. While at Loyola Robby was on the school's debate team and traveled to Oxford, Cambridge and Dublin representing his school in international debates. Robby received his Juris Doctorate degree from the Law School at the University of Southern California. His immediate future plans include studying for and passing the California Bar Exam and accepting a position as a first year associate with the Morgan Lewis Law Firm in Los Angeles. Robby's best memory of Chartwell is the time he wrote a story in Ms. McMurdo's class and then read it aloud in front of his classmates. This reading was videotaped and he remembers watching himself read. Prior to coming to Chartwell reading aloud and speaking in class had been his biggest fear. Chartwell helped Robby overcome this fear.
Justin Howard Shoemate — Class of 1998
"Since graduating from Chartwell I have successfully completed my AA in Emergency Services and I am currently working on my Bachelor's in Public Safety, specializing in Emergency Management," Justin reports. "I can honestly say (with my 3.9 GPA) that I’m going to be eternally grateful for all the hard work and dedication of the instructors at Chartwell." He fondly remembers his teachers here working with him one-on-one. "I didn’t realize what good it did until I went to college. In my chosen profession there is a lot of field work, as well as a lot of essay writing and planning. I have really succeeded with the techniques I learned at Chartwell," says Justin, who is especially grateful for the writing skills, reading skills, and hands-on training in science Chartwell provided. Justin advises current students to remember that "college isn't so far away. It will be challenging but don't give up because of your struggles!" On a less academic front, Justin got married last year. His wife teaches 7th and 8th grade and Justin enjoys helping out at her school as well as volunteering with the Red Cross. "I love to help out in the community," he reports. The Chartwell community is certainly glad that we'll always have Justin as a member!
John Dixon — Class of 2000
Since leaving Chartwell in 2000, John graduated from Palma High School in 2006. He traveled to London and Paris after graduation and fell in love with Paris. John is currently a sophomore at Saint Mary's College of California in Moraga, CA. John is majoring in Theater Arts. Since being at St. Mary's, John has been cast in two plays and played the role of Antonio in Twelfth Night last fall. He loves college and this summer will be working at St. Mary's an an Orientation Leader for incoming freshmen. When recalling his time at Chartwell John's fondest memories include: the Pinewood Derby, Catapult contests and the cool art projects he did with Mrs. K. John reports the best thing he was told while at Chartwell, was Ms. McMurdo telling him to "always trust yourself, especially when in doubt and that it is always good to make mistakes, because that is how we learn and progress".
Rebecca Tanner — Class of 2000
Last spring Rebecca Tanner participated in the American Life Today blog, in which she answered the question, "What are you most proud of?" Rebecca replied, "I am immensely proud of the fact that I can read. I am severely dyslexic. I got to the 3rd grade before anyone figured out that I couldn't read and it wasn't until 8th grade that I could read at my grade level. I still read very slowly and sometimes it even feels like work. But I cherish the fact that I can do it and I am proud of the hard work it took to learn. I will forever be grateful to the dedicated and gifted teachers at the Chartwell School, who taught me so much and to whom I owe all of my academic successes, and to my mother who first differentiated between the ability to read and intelligence. When the public school told her I was too 'delayed' and that she shouldn't have high expectations, she told them they were wrong." We got in touch with Rebecca after reading her blog, and we are happy to report that she graduated from Smith College last year. She is currently a busy graduate student pursuing a Master's of Divinity at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA.
Stephanie Dodds — Class of 2001
We were delighted to hear from Stephanie this winter, especially when she offered to volunteer at Chartwell or TNHSP. She graduated from Scotts Valley High in 2007 and received an athletic scholarship to play soccer at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. She enjoyed her time there in what she calls "a very new and different environment." Ultimately though, Stephanie wanted to finish school in California. This year, she is a junior at CSUMB studying psychology. Now that she's taking upper division psychology classes she says, "I am finding myself more interested and motivated to succeed than I have ever have been in other classes." Stephanie plans to focus on Social or School Psychology and tells us, "I want to use this degree to give back to the dyslexic community and work with children who have learning disabilities – hopefully in an environment outside the classroom." Stephanie is already giving back at her alma mater, and we are happy to have her as a volunteer. Plus, she's learning a lot about her field!
Cody Sheppard — Class of 2006
Cody's senior year at Carmel High School was very busy. His mother Pam tells us that, "Cody wrapped up his third and final year of football with not only an MTAL Championship but a CCS Championship as well—the first in Carmel High School history!" While winning football games, Cody also maintained honor roll status, excelled on his ACT exam, and met his goal of being accepted to a 4-year college. In fact, Cody was accepted at every college to which he applied. At his final IEP conference, Cody was asked what specific things he felt attributed to his success. Pam reports that, "He specifically mentioned Ms. McMurdo," who taught him in both 7th and 8th grade at Chartwell. "He felt that Ms. McMurdo had really helped prepare him for transitioning to a public high school and that without her he probably wouldn't have gotten off to such a strong academic start. We are extremely grateful to Ms. McMurdo and the entire Chartwell staff for providing Cody the tools to achieve so much success in High School." Cody also credited Ms. McMurdo for equipping him with the confidence to play a sport and the work ethic that has helped him succeed academically. Cody has decided to attend Chico State in the fall. He plans to study Agriculture: Crops, Horticulture and Land Management.
Erik Colombini — Class of 2007
In February, Erik stopped by to check out The New High School Project and meet with his former teacher, Mr. Henderson, for some career planning. He also popped in on a staff meeting and received an enthusiastic round of applause. After 8th grade at Chartwell, Erik transitioned to Santa Cruz High School where he immediately noticed some "pretty big differences" between the two schools. "Here at Chartwell you know every single person," Erik says, adding, "It's not like that in high school." Erik does enjoy running into fellow Chartwell alumni at Santa Cruz High occasionally. He tells us that the sports program has been a "real highlight" of high school, and he plays both football and baseball. As far as his classes go, his favorites are P.E. and history. "I have a really good teacher in that class," Erik says, and of course, a good teacher can make all the difference.
Courtney Lindly — Class of 2009
Courtney Lindly came to visit Chartwell on Geography Day in the fall. She said that she misses Chartwell so she came by to "see old friends and teachers, and just hang out for the day." Courtney is currently an eighth grader at Santa Catalina School, which she finds "academically challenging." Courtney did feel wellprepared for the transition from Chartwell though, and she reports that her teachers here did a good job getting her ready for high school. She is enjoying her classes so far and says, "My favorite classes are English and art."