Irene (Triandis) Harvalias ‘52, was nominated for the Alumnae Association’s Lifetime Achievement award by her class of 1952. For their nomination, they prepared an amazing handwritten book, including many photos of Irene at work in the community and of her exquisite handmade quilts.
When Irene arrived in Vancouver in 1948 from Greece after World War II, she knew no English beyond “hello”, “good-bye”, “please” and “thank you”, and “my name is Irene.” Before starting Grad 9 that September, she recalls having 10 lessons with Miss Langridge. From the beginning of her time at York House, Irene showed remarkable determination and by the end of the school year, she was well on her way to speaking, reading and writing in English and very much involved in school activities.
By graduation she was Vice-Prefect of Iroquois, President of the Drama Club, and was the YHS Chronicle’s Language editor as she excelled in languages. Her remarkable determination was not forgotten by her classmates. Irene attributed her success to the smaller classes, and her wonderful teachers. Her all-time favourite was one of the founders, Mrs. Gerhardt-Olly – Mrs. G.O. as she was called. “She was the best teacher in all my years of schooling, and that includes university.”
Throughout her life, Irene has always striven towards furthering her education and it was heartbreaking to have to return to Greece and not continue on to university. When she was able to return to Vancouver, she attended night school, while her children were little, then went to UBC when they were in school to reach her goal of becoming a teacher. “I taught in three different schools, then went back to UBC and got a Diploma in teaching children with learning disabilities. I taught everything from K to Grade 5, and French to Grade 7. I LOVED teaching and adored my students. I am proud to say that I am still in touch with many of them today.”
L – R Beverley (Graham) Hurd, Bobbi (Pritchard) Coates, Ann (Paterson) Bostock, Irene (Triandis) Harvalias, Marilyn (Pipes) Cassady, the late Pam (Rose) Metal, and Penny (Bell-irving) Wilson.
It was only after Irene retired that she was introduced to quilting. ‘I became an avid quilter and have made hundreds of quilts in the last 23 years.” Irene soon found herself back in the classroom teaching students how to quilt. Her daughter, who was teaching in an inner-city school asked her to teach in her class too, which eventually led to the Maywood Mom’s Monday group of 25 ladies from all over the world. This group is now in its 12th year. Much of the finished work of the students is donated to hospitals, homeless shelters and other deserving places. Through her love of quilting and education, Irene has not only lived the school motto, Not for Ourselves Alone, but also shared it with people from all over the world.
One of Irene’s students, Nirmala Mehta in India, sharing her joy at being able to create a stall of items to raise funds for those in need. Nirmala has been in Irene’s quilting group for three years and has deep gratitude for her ability to make a difference through quilting.
Irene commented, “Sharing my love of quilting has been a great joy to me, and being able to do what I do with my “Maywood Moms” gives me a very good reason to get up and get going every Monday morning. This has been a real “gift” for me, and I am SO grateful that I can still do this little bit. My giving has been my gift to myself!” Congratulations Irene, you are an inspiration to us all!
On Founders’ Day, alumnae from 1942 – 1968 came back to school and were met by student executives before being led on a fun school-wide tour by Laura Edwards ’74, Executive Director Advancement and Gillian Smith ’81, past YHS Parents’ Association President.
The Golden Alumnae luncheon began with the melodious tones of Ragazza, the YHS Senior choral group, led by music teacher Benila Ninan, in the singing of the old YHS assembly hymn Unto the Hills and a glorious rendition of Blue Skies. Head of School, Julie Rousseau welcomed the Golden Alumnae, YHS Legacy Society members, and guests.
“This is a very special day, one that honours our seven founders, trailblazing women, for whom I am truly grateful, who in 1932 had the bold vision to establish this wonderful school for girls.” Mary Raikes-Tindle, niece of founder Gladys (Morden) Jopling, who attended the luncheon commented, “This echoed my sentiments that these seven women, were way before their time and were very courageous and strong to take on such an endeavour.”
Julie introduced this year’s Alumnae Day theme, “Breaking the mold, overcoming obstacles, dismantling barriers and creating opportunities for both ourselves and others. Our founders clearly broke the mold as I am sure they surmounted many challenges along the way to making their dream a reality, this wonderful school for girls that continues to represent excellence in girls’ education, 86 years later.”
Stevie (Bryson) Mitchell ’61, YHS Foundation Chair, led grace in the words of founding Head of School, Mrs. Lena Clarke, and the first course was served, an aromatic squash soup with yam, apple and nutmeg, quite different from the meals recalled by York House boarders. 50th through 70th reunions were celebrated with the sharing of a myriad of memories from earlier times. A member of the class of 1958 commented, “What a wonderful day we all enjoyed. The tour of the school was very impressive and the speeches and luncheon outstanding….it was such great fun chatting with classmates.”
After the luncheon, Joanne Lee-Young ’90, Alumnae Association President, announced the 2018 Alumnae Lifetime Achiever, Irene (Triandis) Harvalias ’52, who has truly lived the school motto, Not for Ourselves Alone, throughout her life and was nominated by her class of 1952. For their nomination, they prepared an amazing handwritten book, including many photos of Irene tirelessly at work in the community and of her exquisite hand-made quilts, as well as those of her many students. Much of the finished work of the students, completed on donated sewing machines, is given to hospitals, homeless shelters and other deserving places.
The nomination book is currently on display in the Museum & Archives display case in the Gail Ruddy foyer as part of a 1950s – 60s Alumnae Special Achiever display. Samples of her quilts are hanging in the Alumnae Art Gallery on the 3rd floor of the Senior School.
Jessica and Sophia, Junior Head and Vice Head girls, shared their thoughts about the Founders’ Day theme, Breaking the Mold, “Mme Curie, Rosa Parks or more recently Malala Yousafzai and Serena Williams. All of these women are connected by a common thread – they broke the mold. These important women have inspired many people here and around the world to act with courage, persevere when times are tough, and be willing to break through barriers that limit us. We too, each and every one of us, can Break the Mold.”
Their passionate address was followed by a lively performance by the Grade 2 girls, who sang I’m a York House Girl to a rapt audience.
Following the much-anticipated delivery of York House chocolates by the youngest Junior students, YHS Head Girl Ava, Grade 12, welcomed the Golden Alumnae on behalf of the student executive and shared a few experiences from her time at the school. Joanne Lee-Young, Alumnae Association President, encouraged all to attend the Founders’ Day assembly after the luncheon.
The highlight of the assembly was the presentation of the 2018 Alumnae Special Achiever award to Kirsten Sutton (Koopman-Osterreicher) ’83. As VP & Managing Director, SAP LABS Canada, Kirsten is one of only two female Managing Directors within the global SAP Labs Network. She is also the Global Head of Engineering for SAP Jam, leading a multinational development team on a product with over 51 million subscribers.
As an unconventional tech leader and executive, Kirsten is also an advocate for girls in tech, and supports education initiatives like Templeton STEM and GIRLsmart4tech and has led the way for SAP Canada’s adoption of Autism@Work, an initiative to hire 650 individuals on the autism spectrum globally. Kirsten was recognized in 2018 as one of Business in Vancouver’s Influential Women in Business and a YWCA Woman of Distinction. All were inspired by her address to the whole school.
Other highlights included the presentation of Alumnae pins, which were given to Grade 12 students. This was an especially memorable moment for alumnae in attendance, who had the chance to give the pin to their sisters, daughters, nieces, or granddaughters.
New on the Founders’ Assembly agenda this year, was the presentation of two new YHS Foundation Awards in memory of two outstanding alumnae, Caroline Anne (Sexsmith) Trausch ’84 and Katherine Manders ’96.
The Caroline Anne Sexsmith Trausch Award was presented to Pepi, Grade 12 and the Katherine Manders award, to Grace, Grade 12.
The Grade 4 student’s energetic performance of the YHS School March and the singing of the school song all together by alumnae, students, staff and guests, stirred up many memories, which will remain with those who attended this special day of celebration.
We usually think of alumnae as being connected to the school’s past. It is true we are the holders of history and tradition. However, alumnae are also very much part of the school’s present and we have an important role in building a community for its future.
This year’s Alumnae Day culminated in an inaugural staff, students, and alumnae basketball match. Players from all generations of Yorkies answered a call for them to be in the gym.
There were two teams, each captained by alumnae, Lisa ‘05 and Jess ‘10. They were leaders in their time at the school and both stepped up early to say they would participate. Other players included alums from a range of graduating years between 1991 to 2017. There were also current teachers and parents, some of whom are alums, as well as current Tigers players in Grades 9, 10, 11, and 12.
Even though it was billed as a fun, exhibition game, it was also as intense and competitive as any Tigers game.
In a display of true Yorkie spirit, at halftime, Head of School Julie Rousseau rallied players and spectators together for a shooting competition and skills demo.
It was so great to see families of alumnae, including parents who gave much of their time and care to the school in a variety of positions in years past, come to watch.
Derek Francis, husband of the late Joanne Francis, a former Phys Ed teacher who was at the school between 1979-2001, delighted in seeing some of the up and coming Yorkie players. Gail Ruddy, former Head of School, cheered as loudly as ever.
The coming together of this event really highlighted how YHS admin, staff, teachers and coaches–especially those who are considered honorary alumnae for their long years of service to the school—stay in touch with and cheer on our alumnae.
Commenting on the game, Amanda de Faye, Class of 2010 said: “It was so much fun to see everyone, meet the girls who are current students and to play in the gym that was a second home to so many of us. Thank you as well for grouping players from the same year. Playing with Jess ‘10 again was magic. I already can’t wait for next year!”.
Thank you from the Alumnae Association to everyone who was part of this. Plans are already afoot for next year’s Alumnae Day basketball game. We’d love to see you there!
This year’s Alumnae Day was a jam-packed event that engaged our alumnae in meaningful discussions, gave classmates time to reconnect, and even asked them to step out of their comfort zones and try something completely out of the ordinary.
Our day started with both a mindfulness session with school counsellor Ly Hoang and recent grad Leah John, Class of 2018, as well as a yoga class with current parentDr. Genieve Burley. Afterwards, alumnae gathered in the Gail Ruddy Foyer for gourmet coffee hosted by Caffee Umbria owned by parent Peter Lee and his barista assistant, Joyce.
After lunch, one group attended a STEAM workshop hosted by Junior School teacher, Jen Sharpe, while another group participated in the improv workshop hosted by two grads of 2018, Anna Everett and Andrea McMinigal. Everyone else went on a tour of the school led by Laura Edwards ‘74.
The basketball game in the gym brought our alumnae back together for the afternoon and what an exciting and intense game it was. Teachers, past teachers, alumnae, honorary alumni, parents and past parents all joined together to cheer on the players and the enthusiasm was palpable.
The day ended on an artistic note with the opening of this year’s alumnae art exhibit on the 3rd floor of the Senior School. Co-curated by Brittne Potter, Class of 2012, and our own YHS curator,Julie Grundvig, the exhibit features five alumnae artists from a variety of classes and embraces the theme of “breaking the mold” through its exploration of a variety of mediums. We hope you will come up to see the exhibit – it’s well worth it!
Thank you for all who attended and made this Alumnae Day one of the best yet!
You are invited back to York House for an inspiring day to connect with fellow Yorkies, meet new members of the community, celebrate reunions, learn something new and more.
A Breaking the Mold panel of speakers, moderated by Julie Rousseau, new Head of School and innovative educator and leader, will include current YHS parent, Kirsten Sutton (Koopman-Osterreicher) ’83, Vice-President and Managing Director, SAP LABS CANADA, Anne Giardini, SFU Chancellor, lawyer, corporate director, author and past YHS parent, and Salima Remtulla ’00, Vice President, Operations & Corporate Strategy at Leith Wheeler Investment Counsel.
Fun hands-on experiential activities will follow in the afternoon with a chance to push boundaries and to see things through a different lens. There will also be tours of the school, the Alumnae Art Gallery exhibit, the Museum & Archives as well as yoga with Dr. Genieve Burley and mindful meditation with Senior School Counsellor Ly Hoang to start the day. Join us for an exciting alumnae versus students basketball game arranged by the YHS Alumnae Association. Come cheer on the teams! The day concludes with the opening reception of the Alumnae Art Gallery Breaking the Mold exhibit. Visit yorkhouse.ca/alumnae day for session descriptions, speaker bios, and to register.
Save the date for Alumnae Day on Saturday, October 13, 2018! You are invited back to York House for an inspiring day to connect with fellow Yorkies, meet new members of the community, celebrate reunions, learn something new and more.
A Breaking the Mold panel of speakers, moderated by Julie Rousseau, new Head of School and innovative educator and leader, will includecurrent YHS parent, Kirsten Sutton (Koopman-Osterreicher) ’83, Vice-President and Managing Director, SAP LABS CANADA, Anne Giardini, SFU Chancellor, lawyer, corporate director, author and past YHS parent, and Salima Remtulla ’00, Vice President, Operations & Corporate Strategy at Leith Wheeler Investment Counsel.
Kirsten and Anne were both among the honorees who received the 2018 Influential Women in Business Awards on March 8 from Business in Vancouver, and Salima, who drives organizational change at work and is passionate about new experiences, was selected as one of Canada’s young leaders to attend the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference last year, will have much to share and discuss with you from their wide range of work and life experiences.
Fun hands-on experiential activities will follow in the afternoon with a chance to push boundaries and to see things through a different lens. There will also be tours of the school, the Alumnae Art Gallery exhibit, the Museum & Archives as well as yoga with Dr. Genieve Burley and mindful meditation with Ly Hoang to start the day.
Join us for an exciting alumnae versus student basketball game arranged by the YHS Alumnae Association. Come cheer on the teams! The day concludes with the opening reception of the Alumnae Art Gallery Breaking the Mold exhibit. More information and full schedule can be found here: yorkhouse.ca/alumnaeday.
Dianne Whelan ’83 is back on the Path of the Paddle with her paddling partner for her first week, artist, Wanda Wilson. Dianne posted that the “trail is in great shape. High five to the trail keepers. The Path of the Paddle has six connected trails that comprise 1200kms of the Trans Canada trail in Northwestern Ontario from Thunder Bay to Whiteshell Park in Manitoba. One of the gems of the great trail.” It is over 3 years ago since Dianne began first walking, then biking, canoeing, snowshoeing and skiing her way across the Great Trans Canada Trail. To follow Dianne journey on Facebook: 500 Days in the wild: hiking the Great Trail
Page Samis ’63, who has been a professional artist for 27 years, has been selected in the Harmony Arts Festival Group Exhibit. The opening reception will be on Friday August 3, 6-7pm at 1564 Argyle Avenue, West Vancouver. This eclectic exhibition, which features a diversity of media and approaches, is held in an outdoor tent along the West Vancouver waterfront and is one of the long-time highlights of the festival. The exhibit will be open until 9pm August 3 – 12. For more information visit: https://harmonyarts.ca/art/group-exhibition
Natasha (Hudda) Jeshani from the Class of 2001 recently published a guide to finding the job of your dreams and keeping it. It’s called The HR Insider and is packed with information about all matters relating to finding a job. Natasha is based in Vancouver and is the Founder and Managing Partner of TAFA Consulting Corp, a human resources and recruitment consulting business.
Congratulations to Natasha Klein ’93, her husband Geoff and big sisters Mackenzie and Macey on the birth of Hudson Richard Scales. He was born February 2, 2018 weighing 8lbs 3oz.
Chi Lo ’02, her husband Harry and big brother Bodhi are thrilled to announce the arrival of Mila Mae Lauer into the world at 12:18am on March 17, 2018. Mila measured 7lbs 15oz and 19 inches.
Stephanie (Lang) Young ‘01 and her husband, Andy, welcomed Paige Elizabeth Lila Young on March 10, 2018 in Ottawa. Paige measured 7lb 13oz and has promoted Bailey (3) to the role of big brother.
Colette, you went to New York after York House graduation in 2016. Why New York?
I went to New York for the first time for my thirteenth birthday and it was love at first sight. There is a constant heartbeat to the city that pulses this energy of creativity and opportunity that truly makes me feel like anything is possible. I’m also very much a “places to go, people to see” kind of person, so the culture of constantly being on the go was a really good fit for me. Mostly though, as a performer with an eye on a professional musical theatre career, there’s really nowhere else to be. New York is the heart of the musical theatre industry, with new works being developed and performed here every day. I really wanted to be a part of that, so this was really the ideal place to try and get started.
Describe some of your experiences over the past two years.
Coming to a post-secondary institution that was less academically focused was definitely a shift (as was re-introducing the male species into my social circles), but it really allowed me to meet people from very different backgrounds from me and learn about how they grew up and it’s really allowed me to look at how much my experiences shape how I see the world.
The Integrated Conservatory Program at AMDA was an amazing sandbox to hone my performance skills and really work on mastering the specificity that separates the “hobby” performer from the professional. I have had the opportunity to work with so many amazing professionals, ranging from Casting Directors who worked on Enchanted and Dirty Dancing, to director/choreographers who performed in national companies of A Chorus Line. I even had one professor who dubs over sound for Tom Hanks when he isn’t available to fix sound issues in his movies.
In addition, being in the city has allowed me to gain access to so many amazing resources that have helped me truly stay in touch with my art and my craft. The Lincoln Centre Performing Arts Library is my favourite place in the city, and has an extensive research collection including original scripts, archival footage and handwritten letters and notes by some of the Theatre’s greats. It has been amazing being able to spend a day reading through original materials from some of the most famous shows ever written, as well as getting first hand access to scripts and scores from some of the most recent work on Broadway, all because I’m a student and young professional in the city. I’ll spend entire days in the library just reading and watching because there is so much to learn and so many wonderful resources to discover. Not to mention being able to see dozens of Broadway shows in their original productions and meet some of the performers at the stage door. Being in the heart of the industry is so incredibly inspiring, I feel so lucky to be able to take every day to learn and grow and soak in what the city has to offer.
My most exciting project though was probably the show I produced in Vancouver when I came home last summer. Thanks to some amazing support from YHS, myself, some other amazing alumnae and some incredibly talented young Vancouver artists mounted a full scale production of Jason Robert Brown’s “13” the musical, which received rave reviews and played several sold out productions. It was the most challenging project I’ve ever taken on, as I produced and starred in the production, but also one I’m most proud of. It was challenging and stressful, but ultimately so rewarding as it really proved to myself and to the Vancouver theatre community that young artists really are capable of anything. It was a really empowering experience and it’s really propelled me into some of my next projects in New York.
Have you stayed connected to the YHS network in New York?
I was absolutely thrilled to discover that the welcoming family community of YHS extends far beyond the walls of the school and the girls that I went to school with. I went to a “New Yorkies” meet up last spring, and was honestly a little nervous. I didn’t know any of the other alumnae because they had all graduated years before I’d even started, but I was so comforted realizing that it really doesn’t matter when you graduated, if you’re a Yorkie, you’re family. The other women were so incredibly welcoming and interested in learning about what I was working on, and shared really amazing advice and stories about being so far from home and navigating as a Canadian in the US, as well as having incredibly inspiring stories about their own exciting adventures. They even made sure to send me home with all the leftovers, because they wanted to make sure that the college student had plenty to eat in the dorms. I am so grateful and thankful to be a part of such an amazing and wonderful community. I can’t wait for the next event so I can bring some of my friends from my years at YHS who graduated after me and recently joined me in New York along with me and show them just how powerful and loving the Yorkie network can be.
What are you currently working on?
Soon after graduating, a group of friends and I submitted the paperwork to incorporate a state not for profit theatre company in New York: Our Time Players. I’m currently the sitting Chair of the organization. We wanted to provide a platform to empower emerging artists finishing up their studies to take control of their artistic careers. What better way to gain experience and exposure than to collaborate with other talented young people to create engaging and meaningful art that matters to you. We’ve got a season of cabarets, full scale musicals and plays lined up that tell stories that are immediately relevant and important to young people. Especially in this global climate, the voices of young people are becoming more important and powerful than ever before, and we want to harness our power as the next generation of theatre makers to prove that it doesn’t matter how young you are, or how little there might be on your resume, you have a powerful and valuable artistic voice that is worth paying attention to.
In addition, I’ve been working on several smaller acting jobs. I’ve become the face for a campaign encouraging young people to vote, done some extra work on a couple of well known web series and have done several cabaret gigs, and am looking forward to more in the near future!
As you finish up your two years at AMDA, talk to us about your immediate goals?
I’m currently working towards applying for my O1 Visa, which would allow me to continue to develop my career in New York for another three years. I’m hoping I’ll be able to score some principal regional theatre jobs, and lead Our Time Players into a successful inaugural season, and hopefully several more. I’m very excited to see what possibilities exist for me in the near future. I’m at this stage in my career where there are so many possibilities and I can’t wait to see what in the next couple of years have in store!
The YHS Alumnae Mentorship program was launched last September and the feedback has been very positive from both mentees and mentors. We asked Ashley Williams ’12 and Salima Remtulla ’00 about their experiences.
Ashley, you were matched with mentor Shannon Trainor from the Class of 2005. Tell us about your experience and why you wanted a mentor?
I got involved with the Alumnae Mentorship Program because I wanted to learn as much as I could from a Yorkie who had gone through a similar university experience. I also wanted advice for upcoming interviews for medical residency in Canada. It was a very worthwhile experience because Shannon gave me excellent advice about how to prepare for interviews and shared her own experiences as a medical student studying abroad. Ultimately, I felt very supported by Shannon’s empathy and genuine interest in guiding me through my residency interviews.
Did you feel comfortable connecting with her?
It was effortless to connect with Shannon as she was very friendly and easy to talk to. She always left the door open for questions and future meetings. We arranged our meetings in a flexible way that suited both of our busy schedules.
How did she help you with your career journey?
In terms of my career journey, Shannon helped by giving me some questions to reflect on as I was going through my interview process. She gave me wise advice from her own residency experience and this helped me decide which jobs were better suited to my future plans. She also gave me a good list of interview questions to practice answering on my own or with family and friends.
How did you communicate?
Shannon and I arranged our first meeting on FaceTime. We then corresponded mostly by email and we also met for lunch when I was back in Vancouver. I hope to stay in touch especially since we are both in family medicine!
Do you think it’s important for recent grads to find a mentor?
I believe it is important as it can be difficult to navigate career options post university and so connecting with someone who has been through a similar experience provides reassurance. It is helpful to have someone to talk to who is objective to your experience because they might point out options or ideas you hadn’t thought of before. Finally, in a technology-run world, I think it is crucial to keep cultivating genuine human to human connections, which this program achieves.
Salima, as a mentor, you were matched with Skylar Gordon, Class of 2014. Tell us about that experience.
There was so much I gained from the experience – a new friend, a stronger connection with York House, the opportunity to reflect on some of the key decisions I’ve made in my own life as Skylar and talked through crossroads she’s navigating, fresh insights into current events, knowledge of the start-up scene here in Vancouver (and a delightful tea company in particular!), the list goes on. I’m looking forward to building on my relationship with Skylar now that she’s moved back to Vancouver, and am also excited about getting to know the new Yorkie I’ve been matched with in the second cycle of the YHS Alumnae Mentorship Program!
Why do you think it’s important to be a mentor?
None of us got to where we are today without help – whether it be from friends, family, teachers, colleagues, mentors, or others. Mentorship is about paying the kindness we’ve received forward so that we each lift as we climb. As women, mentoring is even more critical, as the ‘gender confidence gap’ is very real. To change the face of leadership, we need to encourage other women to set their sights higher and act with the self-assurance we wish we had ourselves.
Have you had many mentors throughout your own career to date?
Too many to count! And what the most impactful ones had in common was that each of them believed in me more than I believed in myself and pushed me to take risks, do better, and ask for more. All of us struggle to some degree with self-doubt – the more people you have in your life who think you’re more capable and amazing than you give yourself credit for, the more confidence and support you will have to take leaps, and grow.
Are there any tips you can give other alumnae wanting to be mentors?
Mentees give great advice! When we don’t actively seek out different perspectives, each of us tends to operate in an echo chamber. Consider how your mentee can offer you a fresh perspective on something you hold long-established beliefs about, or how they can help you understand a new trend (hashtags, anyone?). Skylar and I had a fantastic conversation about “Millennials” in one of our early meetings that fleshed out both of our understanding of generational biases – which run both ways! – and how workplaces and corporate cultures are shifting to address the needs of an increasingly purpose- and impact- oriented next generation.
Have you any advice for young graduates looking for mentors?
The hardest part is often figuring out what you want. Once you’ve identified what you want from a mentor (Help navigating a big decision? Career advice? Life advice? An introduction?), then do some research to figure out who might be able to give you what you’re looking for (Someone in your workplace? An expert in your field? A former Yorkie?), and ask!
I have yet to experience someone turning me down point-blank when asked for something I know they are able to offer – sometimes they’ll ask for some timing flexibility, other times they’ll refer me to someone they think is better able to help, but I always walk away with something! Similarly, I strive to pay that forward and give something whenever it’s asked of me.
Jenna, you graduated from York House in 2011 and then went on to Claremont McKenna College. What did you study and why?
My passion for the social sciences and humanities was definitely cultivated at York House in classes with Mr. Cropley, Mr. P, Mr. Abt, and Ms. McIvor. It was not until university that I realized I was also interested in business and decided on an interdisciplinary major in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. After a trip to Tanzania in 2012 with my parents to explore their birthplace, I began to focus on development economics with an emphasis on East Africa.
You were until recently based in LA. You’ve now moved to Kenya. Please tell us how that came about.
Upon completion of my undergraduate degree, I was recruited to join an economic consulting firm in LA and worked as an Analyst for two and a half years before moving to Nairobi. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to build a non-profit consulting practice at the firm. In addition to working on private sector client engagements, I also worked on a number of projects for non-profit clients in Haiti, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania through this practice. I was extremely excited about these projects and was passionate about their outcomes, and I decided to search for a position at an impactful social enterprise in East Africa as my next professional step.
Please tell us about your company and position in Nairobi and why you decided to work there.
Ever since my first trip to East Africa in 2012, I have not stopped thinking about the region, particularly about ways to combat economic inequality and provide basic needs to the ultra poor. During my search for a position in the region, I was introduced to one of Sanergy’s founders through a mutual connection. I was extremely impressed by their innovative and impactful business model. Nairobi’s informal settlements (slums) are not connected to the city’s sewer system and human waste is disposed in the streets and rivers, resulting in serious consequences for the community’s health. Sanergy has developed a sanitary toilet (see picture) and franchises it to the residents of the informal settlements who operate the toilet as a small business by charging customers a small fee to use it. Sanergy safely collects the waste, transforms it into fertilizer, and sells it to local agriculture companies. My role is to maximize operational efficiency for the division of Sanergy that produces and franchises the sanitary toilets. My work cuts across all areas of the business including finance, sales, customer support, and supply chain.
You exemplify the school motto “Not for Ourselves Alone” – Did this passion for community service flourish at YHS?
Yes, definitely. My desire to improve the global community is something that was nurtured throughout my 13 years at York House. I value the emphasis the school places on community service – whether that is through raising funds for the annual Terry Fox Run, committing to sponsor a child’s education abroad, or through disaster relief efforts. A particularly memorable community service engagement was my trip to Paraguay in 2010 with a group of classmates to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.
What is life like in Nairobi for a young woman?
Nairobi is an incredibly vibrant, world-class city with an amazing culture and a fantastic food scene. People here are very welcoming and it has been very easy to build a community of friends. Nairobi’s nickname is the “Silicon Savannah” due to the city’s thriving technology sector and since many private sector and social impact start-ups operate here. It is a fun city to live in and I am really enjoying my time here.
Do you have any life advice for the newly graduated Class of 2018?
Some of the brightest people I have ever met were my classmates at YHS. As Yorkies, we are so lucky to grow up in an environment full of talented and driven young women. I would advise new graduates to continue to stay in touch, continue to build their friendships, and “pay it forward” – offer advice and help to each other and continue to build a community of mutual support.
Also, I would advise new graduates to explore the world and share your skills with the global community. You will gain personal satisfaction from working to make a positive impact on others’ lives, and you will gain confidence in yourself when you move to a new city and build a new network.