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Where Are They Now?

Where Are They Now?

Visit this page to discover news on what's happening with our Westfield Friends School alumni.

 
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Margaret Haviland had the opportunity to speak with alumna Angela Garcia ‘80 about her days as a student at Westfield Friends School and the ways her education has carried her through her life.

 

MH: Tell me briefly about your journey from Westfield Friends School to today.

AG: My parents enrolled my older sister in Woodbury Friends because they thought a Quaker school would be a good partner in the education of their children. Eventually, she went to Haddonfield Friends and I joined her there when I was in first grade. In third grade, my parents moved me to Westfield Friends School. Margaret Lord was my teacher. French was my favorite subject and I have fond memories of singing in French with our French teacher who played the guitar. It was in third grade my love for French began. At WFS, I learned to love sports, especially field hockey which I played throughout middle school and high school.

 

I graduated from Brown University, where I pursued political science but developed a love for teaching. Between my sophomore and junior years in college, I had this summer job tutoring newly accepted students to Trenton State. I was horrified that these young people who were just a few years younger than me had not received the education I had. That experience inspired me to become an elementary teacher and determined to give all of my future students an educational experience similar to what I had at Westfield Friends School. As I advanced in my career and school leadership roles, I knew that if I was ever given the opportunity, I would lead a Friends School. After a career in education, I now lead Friends Community School in College Park, Maryland.

 

MH: What are the two or three events, people, or experiences you most remember from your Westfield years?

AG: I have so many vivid memories. I remember WFS being diverse and that there were at least six students of color in my class from third grade to sixth grade. It was nice to see my reflection in the faces of some of my classmates. 

 

Mrs. Stanley was my fourth-grade teacher. In her class, we created books about our goals and aspirations for the future. My mother kept that book until she died and I have it now. Some of those early plans have come true. In fifth grade, we did research on historical figures. I selected Amelia Earhart, who I researched and I remember we had to assume the role and dress like our research subjects. In sixth grade, I had Bill Probsting. Mr. Probsting fostered my love of current events. We had subscriptions to Newsweek. On Mondays, he would give each of us an individualized list of names and countries. We each had to write our own summaries of what we learned. I think I ended up majoring in Political Science because of that weekly research. 

 

I was very shy as a child. All of the performances and speeches we had to give were so important in developing my self-confidence. 

 

MH: How do the values you learned in school continue to shape your life and the way you make choices for yourself?

AG: Meeting for Worship meant so much to me. Every Wednesday, the whole school went to the Meeting House for worship in the manner of Friends. We gathered in silence and waited for the spirit to move different people (including children) to share messages. The other days we gathered in the auditorium with Bible reading and chapter book reading. All of my life I have carried with me this appreciation for quietness and the importance of reflection. 

 

I have been really blessed in my career. When I was looking for where to lead, I was drawn to a Quaker School because the values I learned at Westfield Friends School were so important to me personally and professionally. There is something powerful in being able to talk with children about the Divine and that of God in all of us.  Now I am honored to be head of a Friends school, Friends Community School in College Park, MD.

 

For thee years, I examined ways in which education could change in order to prepare children for a “VUCA”  world, which stands for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. The term aptly describes the world we live in (even before the COVID-19 pandemic. I know a Quaker education gives children and adults a moral and intellectual grounding in this world.

 

MH: What do you hope for Westfield students today?

AG: I want them to enjoy every moment they are there. My other advice is don’t be comfortable, try something new!  WFS lit a passion in me and a sense of myself that remains at the core of my being. 

 

MH: What do you hope for Westfield alums as they think about Westfield today?

AG: I want them to appreciate the education we received and find ways to share their talents and resources with WFS. 

To read featured interviews with more of our Westfield Friends School Alumni, click on their names below.

Julie Martin '04

 

Margaret Haviland had the opportunity to speak with alumni Julie Martin about her journey from her days as a student at Westfield Friends School to her life today.

 

MH: Tell me briefly about your journey from Westfield Friends to today
JM: After graduating from WFS in 2004, I went to Moorestown Friends School for high school.  Then I attended Lafayette College, where I studied psychology.  After college, I went to Duke University and completed a PhD in Social Psychology in 2017. After graduating from Duke, I moved back to the area and worked as a researcher in the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment at Temple University. Now I work as a learning researcher for a leadership organization for chief executives called YPO. 

MH: What interested you in Social Psychology? 
JM: I took a class in the subject in college and was drawn to it. I was especially struck by the fundamental role that belonging plays in people’s well-being. As a student at WFS, I don’t think I realized how special it is to grow up in such a caring and supportive school environment. But as an adult, I have a deeper appreciation for WFS and for everyone who has made it the community that it is for students.   

MH: What are the two or three events, people, experiences you most remember from your Westfield years?
JM: I remember each of my teachers and appreciate the work they did every day to help us grow as students and as people. Teaching is a labor of love, and WFS teachers are the best! I remember the school plays every year and getting to help create them in the later grades. I remember going to cut the Christmas Tree one year, and I remember the specialness of the second grade Christmas Play. I remember being an angel in the nativity scene in second grade, a queen in a sixth grade interactive medieval fair, and Wendy from Peter Pan in an eighth-grade play we wrote called “Mixing it Up” (a mashup of Disney movies). I think part of what made events and experiences at WFS so special was that the whole school was involved, which created shared experiences for the community.

MH: How do the values you learned in school continue to shape your life and the way you make choices for yourself?
JM: The values I learned at WFS were embedded in the way we operated as a school, and now how I try to live my life as an adult. I think leading with kindness and acceptance is an important foundation I gained at WFS and also at home. Also, seeing the Light in everyone, especially in the moments when it’s difficult.  And I try to allow space in my life for quiet and reflection.

MH: What do you hope for Westfield students today?
JM: I hope they are equipped with tools and resilience to lead happy, productive lives. Exploration is an important part of childhood, but children need a safe base from which to explore. So I hope WFS students today feel safe to grow and explore and that they know they belong no matter what.

MH: What do you hope for Westfield alums as they think about Westfield today?
JM: I hope they remember WFS was a nice place to grow up and learn. My re-engagement with the school came about through moving back to the area and through my family’s engagement. My mother is on the development committee and my sister teaches at WFS now. I hope alums will re-engage with this place that was such a big part of our lives for so long and at such a formative time. Coming to alumni events like the recent one at Double Nickel is a great way to begin. Two of my classmates came and we had a great time. Once you go to one event, you see it’s a lot of fun, and it feels easier to go to the next one. Maybe we need to have a class connector/representative for each class who reaches out and invites alums to events or to volunteer.

Rylee Fennell '12

Rylee Fennell, class of 2012 and daughter of Phys Ed teacher Mrs. Fennell, accepted an offer to the University of Virginia to get her Masters in Speech and Language Pathology with a partial academic scholarship.

 

MH: Tell us briefly about your journey from Westfield Friends to today
RF: I attended Westfield from kindergarten through eighth grade (2003-2012). After graduating from WFS, I went to high school at Moorestown Friends School for the next four years. I then transitioned to Haverford College in 2016 for my undergraduate degree, which will be completed this May. Next fall, I will begin my master’s degree in speech-language pathology at the University of Virginia.

MH: What are the two or three events, people, experiences you most remember from you Westfield years?
RF: Two of my favorite memories of my time at WFS are from second and third grade. In second grade, Mrs. Martino periodically read us a book called No Flying in the House by Betty Brock. After we finished it as a class, she gave (and personally signed) a copy of the book to each student. My copy has had a permanent place in my bookshelf for the past 14 years. In third grade, Ms. Lyons played a pivotal role in developing my love of reading through her ingenious creation of the reading loft. For every book we read, we earned points that we could trade in for time to read in an elevated loft that looked over the classroom, complete with pillows and blankets. I owe my love of reading and language to Ms. Lyons and the loft.

MH: How do the values you learned in school continue to shape your life and the way make choices for yourself? 
RF: Westfield’s emphasis on Quaker values and the strength of community have impacted all aspects of my life. Westfield’s commitment to intentional reflection via Quaker traditions has enabled me to make decisions with clarity and confidence, a skill that neither comes easily nor is often taught. The school’s prioritization of community building and collaboration have shaped how I view education and ultimately played a large role in choosing where I furthered my education. I have repeatedly chosen to replicate the sense of mutual trust and respect I felt at WFS in all relationships I form, professionally and otherwise.

MH: What do you hope for Westfield alums as they think about Westfield today?
RF: I hope alums, no matter how long ago their time at WFS was, take the time to recognize how dedicated our small school is to continuously evolving to be better than it was the year before. So many advancements have been made since my time as a student, and more will undoubtedly occur. One constant that I hope they see regardless of these improvements is that their mission remains the same: to guide students into becoming their best version of themselves, inside and out of the classroom, through kindness, commitment, and reflection.