— Grandparents Circle knits warm, tight community

Seniors, students learn together. By Sarah Griego Guz. Published in the Half Moon Bay Review on November 29th, 2017.

Grandparents Circle Half Moon Bay ReviewFirst-grader Mira Mukerji sings Bengali songs with her grandmother. Seventh-grader Aidan Popple makes food with his grandma and model planes with his grandpa. Fifth-grader Shane McGuirk watches TV with his grandparents. They’re members of multigenerational families who have the opportunity to spend time together. Sea Crest School’s Grandparents Circle seeks to strengthen that connection.

Inspired by the pleasure and privilege of having known her own grandparents, Head of School Tekakwitha M. Pernambuco-Wise said she pitched the idea to Maryann McGuirk, a Sea Crest grandparent and friend, to start the group about two years ago. Since then, it’s developed into a steering committee of six grandparents who organize socials and initiatives that weave fellow grandparents and other senior special friends into the fabric of the school’s community.

“What I was noticing more and more was the young children in our school … not (having) that good fortune to know their grandparents,” Pernambuco-Wise said. “I think it’s important for us to value and treasure our elders and their wisdom. I see them as the wise generation.”

That includes grandparents, grand aunts and uncles, family friends and other senior community members.

On Friday, people of all ages attended Grandparents and Special Friends Day that coincided with a fall performing arts showcase.

Grandparents Circle member Kay Beffa greeted these guests of honor with roses as they filed in to watch students perform musical and theatrical numbers.

“I just want to make sure it’s very special for grandparents and special friends,” Beffa said.

The circle gives something special back to her — she gets to spend time with her grandson and meet his friends, Beffa said. “It makes a nice, community feeling.”

Grandparents Circle Half Moon Bay ReviewGrandparents Circle members also led an effort to transform the school’s innovation lab into a museum that day. They curated “artifacts” from their lives including a sewing machine, bound atlases, school textbooks, and models of cars, helicopters and other means of transportation from decades past.

Denny Freezer, a former captain for the U.S. Coast Guard, put his manual aviation computers and slide rule on display.

“I love them and I’d like to increase interest in how things used to be done — I guess because I’m getting old,” Freezer said.

He and his wife, Linda, relocated to the area to be near their family, including grandson Shane McGuirk, a Sea Crest fifth-grader.

“They can experience our life and we can experience their adventures too,” she said. “It’s priceless.”

Grandchildren spoke of the unique relationship they forged with their elders during these times.

“You end up with a very special relationship,” Aidan Popple said.

Pernambuco-Wise echoed this. Sometimes, a grandparent gets the job of passing on knowledge in a gentle way, she said.

“There’s just this feeling of warmth and being wrapped in a warm blanket and having them listen to you,” Pernambuco-Wise said.

As Linda Freezer phrased it, “What happens at Nanna’s stays at Nanna’s.”

At a reception for grandparents, Jana Mukerji sat between Donna and Ankur Mukerji, enjoying the company of her granddaughter’s parents. She was visiting from India, creating not only a multigenerational connection but also a multicultural one, said Donna Mukerji.

Jana Mukerji said she missed Mira’s birth, but was with the family three months later. Since then, she’s made an effort to make the transcontinental trip every other year for three months at a time.

“He’s my only son and she’s my only daughter-in-law. We have a special bond,” Jana Mukerji said.

And she dotes on Mira, whose classroom she visited later that day to see what she was learning in school. They also snuggle a lot, her parents say.

“Just having her as a part of Mira’s life is really a blessing,” Ankur Mukerji said.

Aidan Popple’s grandparents also traveled to visit him and his siblings, this time for their dad’s 40th birthday. Coming from Park City, Utah, the journey was a bit quicker for them. They visit often.

“They’re more like secondary parents,” the seventh-grader said.

His grandparents can attest to that. During visits, Cheryl Popple said she helps make sure the three grandchildren are fed and clothed and John Popple gets them to school on time.

“I drop off the kids. I pick them up. I know exactly what time we have to be out the driveway,” John Popple said.

“I’m a real believer in extended family involvement. Just because you’ve moved away is not an excuse not to be involved,” grandmother Cheryl Popple said.

Grandparents Circle Half Moon Bay ReviewHowever, the extent to which Sea Crest opens its doors to senior generations is something that’s different from when she was a child, she said. Grandparents might have been invited to a dance recital or an Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremony, but not to day-to-day activities. Later this year, the Grandparents Circle will help make a date night possible for parents as they recruit grandparents and special friends to babysit the children at Sea Crest.

“You look at how education has changed since I was in school. They just didn’t have this type of thing,” she said.

Expectations for family arrangements in the United States have evolved over generations. Pew Research data suggests that multigenerational households became less common after World War II as people moved to the suburbs as nuclear families, and aging populations had better health and economic prospects. They’re on the rise again, driven by various economic and cultural factors.

At Sea Crest, the school community is modeling a way to connect different generations in a modern context.

“I think this is one thing I like best about Sea Crest: It’s so welcoming to the whole family,” Grandparents Circle member Diane Sikes told the audience at the performing arts showcase. “It’s really important for kids to hear their grandparents stories and see the items they’ve handed down … Kids have an opportunity to place themselves in time and see themselves on that long generational line they’re a part of.”

The payoff is invaluable.

“(It’s) just the importance of knowing grandparents, their story, their journey, an appreciation of what the journey has entailed,” said Maryann McGuirk, Grandparents Circle founding member and Shane McGuirk’s other grandmother. She added that she wished she had asked the generations that came before her about these experiences. “You don’t know what you have missed until later in life.”


— In the News: Boys Cross-Country Team finished first place in the Small Schools Intermediate League

Young runners reach finish line. Middle school cross-country SEASON comes to end. By Sarah Griego Guz. Published in the Half Moon Bay Review on November 15th, 2017.

As the fall sports season comes to a close, Coastside middle school cross-country teams are finishing strong.

athletics, boys cross countryLast week, Sea Crest School’s middle school boys cross-country team finished first place in the Small Schools Intermediate League Cross- Country Championship.

The triumphant win capped off a rather unusual season in which many of the meets were canceled due to poor air quality triggered by regional fires.

“Our top runners were mostly our eighth-grade boys,” said coach Jennifer Dill. “They definitely worked as a team. There wasn’t one superstar that carried everybody.”

Dill, who is also the co-director of the Half Moon Bay International Marathon, credits the collective finish of the boys as reason for the championship win.

Eighth-grade students Connor Moore, Matthew Spink, Billy Ou and Sean Andrasick snagged the fourth- through seventh-place spots. Jay Alsadir, Cade Ford and Ethan Lucas also finished well, their collective scores contributing to the team win.

Dill and her husband, Franz, have deep ties to the Coastside running community. When asked if she drew from her experience as leader of the marathon, she replied that her main focus is instilling a love of the sport.

“My sole focus is I just want them to like running,” she said. “It’s really great when you win, but at this age running is really hard. People have pretty strong feelings about running one way or the other. I want to make it fun and for the kids to enjoy it.


— In the News: Sports participation nears 100 percent for 6th- and 7th-graders at Sea Crest

Sea Crest School fifth- through eighth-graders gathered in the school gym for the end-of-year sports recognition assembly last week. Photo courtesy Ambar Pina.

Published in the Half Moon Bay Review on June 14th.

A unique approach to play. By Sarah Griego Guz.

In early June, Sea Crest School hosted a special athletics recognition assembly. The Kohrs Family Center erupted into thunderous applause as the coaches reflected on the banner year.

The girls volleyball and soccer teams as well as both the girls seventh- and eighth-grade baseball teams had earned championship titles. The golf team had also won a championship.

Even more impressive than the highlights was the school’s philosophy: Sports should be accessible to everyone, and all students should be able to take risks while learning something new.

This is not an “everybody plays” approach. Students who have put in the time to master athletic techniques are rewarded with increased playing time and opportunities to play at a high level.

The athletic department, however, has mastered the art of allowing all students to participate without compromising the degree of competiveness needed to win championships.

“Sea Crest Athletics has a no-cut policy and a philosophy of participation stemming from our daily P.E. program where risk-taking is not only encouraged but also celebrated,” said Craig Strong, director of athletics at Sea Crest School in an emailed statement. “We regularly ask students to take risks by giving a particular sport a try and see how it goes. We have generally had a very high participation rate because of this philosophy.

“Sea Crest Athletics relies on the participation of our fifth-grade and middle school students,” he continued. “This year, once again, we had great participation from our student athletes.”

The school experienced participation levels of 94 percent for fifth grade, 99.5 percent for sixth grade and 99.5 percent for all seventh-grade students. The total participation rate for all middle school and fifth-grade students slid in at 95 percent.

The impressive level of participation was evident when the last student athlete was called to the stage to be recognized — the section of the gym where the middle school students had been sitting was virtually empty.

“Children often play a sport because they feel part of something. They want to be included and be part of what all their friends are doing,” said Strong.

Strong also feels that including fifth-graders in the middle school athletics program not only provides an opportunity for students to get a taste of athletics, it also provides them with a foundation resulting in a stronger program overall.

“Including fifth-graders in our middle school program has proven to capture the attention of students due to the level of enthusiasm at this age,” said Strong. “Once we have them engaged, we focus on player development to give them the skills to be able to continue playing at the next level.

“As our athletes begin to develop a passion for a particular sport, we continue to encourage them to play as many sports as they can manage,” he continued. “And, as our students end up in the upper grades, they typically have an extra year of experience from their fifth-grade season, leading us to the number of competitive teams at the varsity or A level.”


— In the News: A curtain call of community

The Half Moon Bay Review just published a wonderful article about Seussical, The Musical at Sea Crest School and how combined efforts from all members of our community contributed to its success.

By Sarah Griego Guz

The curtain rose on Sea Crest’s “Seussical” as whimsical monkeys, kangaroos and birds with feather boa tails bounded across the stage to the tunes of “Biggest Blame Fool” and “Solla Sollew.”

The triumph of Friday’s final production was the culmination of three months of hard work by both middle and lower school students as well as the effort and dedication of parent and community volunteers.

On stage, seasoned veteran Kai Guevara shined as Horton, the sensitive elephant who hears a sound coming from a speck of dust.

Guevara along with Macy Chase, who played Jo Jo, the mayor’s daughter residing on said speck of dust, belted out “Alone in the Universe,” executing every note perfectly.

Among many other notable moments were the appearances of the whimsical Wickersham Brothers, a band of monkeys determined to swipe Horton’s speck.

Monkeys Connor Johnstone, Roman Miele and Guido Togliatti infused humor and a bit of acrobatics into the roles, inducing many a giggle and grin from the audience.

“I thought the performance was amazing,” said technical adviser Andrew Geller. “It was a nice experience doing it at the school, having everybody here. Caleb Goh and Marcus Cooper have prepared these kids extremely well.”

Geller, who has two children who have graduated from Sea Crest, considers the annual event to be a rite of passage for students.

Indeed, as the eighth-graders tearfully take their final bow on the middle school stage, elementary-age children are getting their first taste of the spotlight by participating in bit parts that contribute to the flavor of the show.


Johnny Brozovich is ready for his cue as sea crest School students put on a musical based on the work of Dr. Seuss

Middle-school pupils are given two options when it comes to the musical. Those who hope to feel the warm glow of the show’s spotlight can take a trimester-long exploration and are assigned a part and then set about preparing for the performance. Others can choose to work behind the scenes, constructing stage sets and crafting props or controlling the light and sound.

Lead light board operator Finn La Guardia is one of those kids. He learned how to effectively operate the light control panel.

On Thursday, he was preparing to put what he learned into practice.

“I was talking to Johnny over the headset,” he said, pointing to where fellow student Johnny Brozovich was safely perched on a scaffold. “It’s fun. All I really need to do is tell him when he needs to do the spotlights.

“I’ve really learned how to use the equipment a lot better,” he continued. “This is an older light board. The new one is a lot more complicated, so this one is pretty easy.”

“Finn La Guardia is doing a great job and is very engaged,” said Bo Putnam.


Behind the scenes, Andrew Geller, Bo Putnam, Marcus Cooper and Matthew Cerza work to make Sea Crest’s “Seussical” a success.

Putnam, who has a granddaughter in third grade at Sea Crest, volunteered to be the sound technician.

“Finn will be wearing a headset, the guy up there will be wearing a headset, and they’ll talk the entire show,” he continued. “Sometimes I pick up the phone and they’re jabbering. It’s fine because that’s how production works.”

La Guardia is no stranger to the stage. His mother, Greet Jasparert, is highly regarded in the local theater community and has produced her fair share of plays. For “Seussical,” Jasparet helped craft the set as well as advise on prop design.

And speaking of props, one of the highlights was the extra large helicopter hat worn by the Cat in the Hat, who served as a sort of emcee, effortlessly tying all the scenes together.

The contraption, consisting of a large propeller attached to a blue and red dome hat, had been created on the Innovation Lab’s 3-D printer by Kai Lin, a sixth-grader at Sea Crest School.

Sea Crest instructors Khalid Birdsong and Patrick Neary guided Lin and his fellow creators in the art of crafting props of all types.

As opening day neared, Putnam graciously donated a sizable chunk of his time to ensure the sound was up to par.

Putnam, who has worked as a sound technician for the Pescadero Art and Fun Festival and was on tour for eight years with Melvin Seals and Jerry Garcia Band, was instrumental in making sure all the hard work wasn’t lost due to subpar sound.

“I carved out the week and as we got into it,” said Putnam. “You have a little bit of a skill set and you want to help the kids.”

“The volunteers, kids and parents, everyone put in a lot of time, but, as you can see from tonight, it was well worth it,” said Geller after Friday’s final curtain call.

— In the News: Sweethearts go dancing

DJ Beech, a seventh grader at Sea Crest School was spinning tunes for the Sweetheart Dance on Saturday night. John Green / Review

Today the Half Moon Bay Review published an article about our Sweetheart Dance on Saturday and how it opens up the fun of a time-honored tradition to all.

By Sarah Griego Guz

Father-daughter dances take on more inclusive flavor.-

For some generations, the mention of a father-daughter dance may evoke memories of young girls in ruffled white socks dancing with Dad while under a shimmering disco ball affixed to the ceiling of the school gym.

Mention a father-daughter dance to most kids attending school on the coast, however, and you might get a shoulder shrug and a blank stare.

Even three years ago, father-daughter dances were considered a relic of the past. Father-daughter dances on the elementary school level did not exist.

Sweetheart Dance Half Moon Bay Review

One reason could be that the definition of family changed. For many girls, a father may be absent from the core unit, replaced by a mother, uncle, grandmother or someone else entirely.

At Sea Crest School, a handful of parents presented the idea of bringing back the father-daughter dance. Director of Lower School Michelle Giacotto had a suggestion.

“When I was first presented the idea of a father-daughter dance, my challenge was, let’s not make it a father-daughter dance, because that’s sort of limiting. So that’s how the dance turned to ‘sweetheart,’” she said. “That was what we were trying to do, to have the tradition of a father-daughter dance that many parents remember when they were kids, but make it more inclusive.”

What happened next was such a sweet thing that many of the other schools followed suit.

Over the past two weeks, El Granada, Hatch and Sea Crest schools have hosted sweetheart dances, with little girls coming to the dance with a chosen person they consider to be their sweetheart.

“My daughter June was really excited to go because all her friends were going. So I said, ‘Sure, I’ll take you,’” said Sea Crest parent Heidi Bennett, whose husband happened to be on a ski trip with their son. “It was really nice that there was a mix of families there to celebrate the girls.

“There were a few couples, a mother and a father, who brought a daughter,” she continued. “There were maybe a handful of moms who brought a daughter, and it was totally not a big deal.”

Business trips and other travel schedules prohibited some dads from joining the dance.

In those cases, moms sprang to the rescue, getting dolled up along with their daughters and enjoying a nice meal before hitting the dance floor.

“My daughter got to wear a little bit of lipstick and a little bit of sparkly eyeshadow,” laughed Bennett. “We did our hair and our fingernails and we went out to dinner first.”Many of the pint-sized dancers were amazed by the transformation of the Kohrs Family Center, which featured a photo booth as well as a treat table laden with a plethora of sweets.

The funky photo booth, complete with oversized neon glasses, hats and other accessories, was set up in a section of the building.

Fathers, daughters — and mothers — took time out from dancing to document the evening with a funny photo.

“I think it was really good and really fun,” said second-grade Sea Crest student Madeleine Willits who attended the dance with her father, Chris. “They had cookies, cupcakes, candy and you get to make your goodie bags.

“My favorite part,” she continued, “was taking pictures and dancing with my friends.”

Besides inclusion, another benefit is that the cost of the tickets goes directly to the school.



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