Alumni Profiles

Green Acres alumni are passionate, creative, curious, intelligent, and successful adults. They are writers, lawyers, scientists, activists, and artists who approach life with enthusiasm and determination. Please enjoy reading about some of our accomplished graduates.

Collaboration and Inquiry - Eli Spevak '85

Eli SpevakActive learning is what Eli remembers best about Green Acres. Memorable class projects include recreating the stock market boom and then the great depression, staging the Haymarket Trial, and “heading West” as a pioneer.

“We learned about probability during Gaming Day in fifth-grade math, and how tendons work by dissecting a chicken in third-grade science,” Eli says.” I learned how to brainstorm, to negotiate, and to collaborate.”

A dedicated cyclist and onetime backcountry ranger, Eli says the rigor of his Green Acres education taught him lifelong skills. “In seventh and eighth grade, I thought I was writing pretty well – I wasn’t,” he remembers. “My teachers challenged me to improve. I learned to work well in groups, but also on my own. Projects like a series of increasingly challenging pendulum experiments required self-directed, independent inquiry.”

Eli has leveraged these skills throughout his life. After Georgetown Day School, Swarthmore College, and then graduate school at Portland State, Eli began working to develop affordable housing. Now he owns and operates a general contracting and development company, Orange Splot, which focuses on pioneering community-oriented, affordable, green housing developments in Portland, Ore. In his career, Eli says, “There’s a lot of latitude to be innovative and improvisational,” – just like at Green Acres.

Connections to History - Laura Dean '02

As an assistant speechwriter working at the White House, Laura says lessons learned at Green Acres remain valuable to her today. “Green Acres taught me the importance of sharing – not just the sharing table in the AP Room at lunch but, more importantly, sharing my discoveries and passions and knowledge with others,” she says. “This lesson has served me well in my current job, where we strive to communicate the President's vision and policies for the country.”

Laura also credits Green Acres with having sparked and nurtured her continual curiosity as well as joy in learning, both inside and outside the classroom. “I often reflect on my years at Green Acres and credit the school with fostering my love of learning and understanding,” she says. “Green Acres emphasized that the how and why is equally important as the what and when.”

She fondly remembers teachers at Green Acres that “made history feel like a story I really wanted to keep reading—a feeling that took me through to my senior honors thesis in college. I completed a literary historical analysis of the original diaries of 33 young girls who crossed the country in wagon trains during the nineteenth century. I couldn't help but think about all the many travesties we encountered as we simulated crossing the Oregon Trail in Social Studies class in fifth grade!”

Laura graduated from Georgetown Day School and earned a degree in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality from Harvard University, with a minor in Government. She plans to eventually attend medical school and train as a neonatologist.

Expecting Success - Abdullah Wright '96

Abdullah says Green Acres taught him to “always expect success from myself” – and so far, he’s met his own expectations.

After Green Acres, Abdullah went on to The Field School, and then completed a double major in economics and African-American studies at Wesleyan University. Upon graduation, he entered a career in investment banking with UBS. “Growing up in Green Acres' close- knit community taught me the importance of honesty and integrity, lessons that were extremely valuable when working on a trading floor for six years,” Abdullah says.

At UBS, he not only excelled in trading bonds, derivatives and loans, but was recognized with an award for his dedication to community service. Abdullah recently completed his MBA at Dartmouth University’s Tuck School of Business. His class selected him as their student investiture graduation speaker, and he’s now transitioning to a career as a strategy consultant.

“When I work in teams, I strive to create a culture of open communication and friendship, similar to the culture I experienced at Green Acres,” Abdullah says, adding that his Green Acres classmates are some of his oldest and dearest friends.

Finding a Voice - Liz Phang '94

Liz is a successful television writer who says she “found her voice” while at Green Acres.

“We were all given a huge amount of freedom to explore and be creative,” at Green Acres, Liz remembers. “I don’t think I can overstate how influential my time at Green Acres was for me.”

After Green Acres, Liz attended Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, then received her undergraduate degree from Harvard University. She earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Michener Center for Writers at The University of Texas at Austin.

The nurturing community at Green Acres helped Liz flourish. “The small class size and intimacy of the school was wonderful for me, a naturally introverted person,” she explains. “The kindness and caring atmosphere of Green Acres promoted open-mindedness and a willingness to try. It really was a second home.”

Liz remembers doing a lot of creative writing, singing “Grandma’s Feather Bed” at weekly assemblies, and playing with the animals during science class. She also remembers learning outdoors: creek walks, exploring the Chesapeake, and the terror and thrill of a zip line.

“I remember conquering fears, surprising myself and bonding with people I didn’t expect to bond with,” she says. “These are all skills that I’m proud to have carried with me into adulthood.”

Sense of Adventure - Daniel Smith '98

Daniel SmithDaniel’s interest in environmental awareness was nurtured at Green Acres. One of his fondest memories is when he went for an extended and adventurous walk along the creek that runs through campus. Daniel and his friends were so energized by this outing that a teacher “helped us organize a return trip to the creek to pick up trash we’d seen there,” he says. We paraded triumphantly back up the main driveway that day, laden with several bags full of trash and a few old tires.”

Following Green Acres, Daniel attended Maret School, then graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Daniel’s sense of adventure and passion about clean water continued post-college. As a Sanjuan Fellow, he built and provided training for a water treatment plant in Ojojona, Honduras. Later he worked on hazardous waste remediation and river restoration projects in Montpelier, VT. As a Fulbright Fellow, Daniel returned to Honduras to conduct research on water treatment plants. Daniel is now In-Country Coordinator for AguaClara, a water treatment program of Agua Para el Pueblo in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Daniel credits Green Acres for helping him develop habits of “reading, reading, reading, and more reading” as well as learning through play, adding, “I have the trait of thinking learning is fun!”

Enhancing Education - Jessica Millstone '85

Jessica has blended creative thinking with a love of technology for a fulfilling career helping educators and parents leverage technology for learning. She provides professional development for educators, and also teaches a class she developed at Bank Street College on integrating technology into the K-12 curriculum.

It is at Green Acres where Jessica became deeply invested in her own learning. “I think of Green Acres as the most ideal place to have gone to school,” she says. “It made me look at learning as a playful, passion-filled, continuous event.”

Entering Green Acres in Grade 5 after attending a large public school “where I was rarely challenged to think creatively or critically about the subjects I was learning about,” Jessica appreciated that at Green Acres, “we were always asked to bring ourselves and our interests into the classroom, so we were motivated to be increasingly creative and deeply critical. All this interconnected learning occurred in a way that seemed so natural and seamless at the time, but now that I'm an educator I know how hard it is to make happen! And how rare to find a school that encourages it.”

Jessica continued her education at Stone Ridge Country Day School, earned a degree in art history from Mount Holyoke College, then went on to New York University’s graduate film school to pursue her MPS in Interactive Telecommunications. She returned to graduate school to earn her advanced master's degree in education from Bank Street, an institution with a long history of training progressive educators.

She explains, “In my current work with teachers, I very consciously mimic the style of teaching and learning I experienced at Green Acres – creating projects to both learn material and show acquired knowledge, and letting my students' interests drive the curriculum – because I remember how meaningful the end results were and how much fun we had along the way.”

Making an Impact - Sam Wight '01

Sam WightOne of Sam’s favorite Green Acres memories is “a great science project” where a team of students built a Rube Goldberg-like device to perform a number of functions and then have it “do something cool at the end” that the students chose. “My team had ours launch a model rocket off the field,” Sam remembers. Lots of people came out to watch, including Arnie, the Head of School. The choice to end [the project] in the way we wanted was something that was pervasive at Green Acres and was awesome.”

After Green Acres, Sam attended Montgomery Blair High School’s Math, Science and Computer Science magnet program. He then went on to Washington University, where he earned a BS/MS in Mechanical Engineering, graduating as a class valedictorian and giving a commencement speech. “Green Acres was and still is so important to my entire worldview, as well as my schooling experiences,” Sam says. “The general impact of being told and shown that we were important and that our views mattered, and that our questions were worth following up on and studying, was absolutely wonderful and sticks with me today.”

Sam now works as a structural engineer in Los Angeles, building spacecraft with Space Exploration Technologies. “In terms of aspirations for my career, I am looking to remain on the cutting edge of engineering technology,” he says. “Whether it is aerospace or medical or something else, I want to be designing things that change the world.”

Listening First - Evette Pinder '88

A complex field like public health requires absorbing vast quantities of information, along with strong perspectives on every side of an issue, to make sound decisions. Evette says she learned to “listen first” at Green Acres, and employs that life lesson in her work today as a contracted research analyst for the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

She says her years at Green Acres also helped her develop the “ability to adjust to any situation – academic, social or otherwise – and not feel uncomfortable.” She excelled at Spring Brook High School, and then earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland system. After earning a master’s degree in public health from Drexel University, she completed her doctoral degree at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

Fond memories of Green Acres include journaling about the progress as the new gymnasium was built; a project involving a Barbie in a time capsule; and a business/sociology class contest to see who could earn the most money selling popcorn to lower grades. She even recalls some creative interpretations of the “rules” from one of her classmates! She also appreciates having developed a better understanding of the practices of a variety of religions during her Green Acres experience.

Pursuing a Passion - Zachary Diamond '02

A “lifer” at Green Acres (he started in Pre-K and graduated in Grade 8), Zachary absorbed the key lessons provided by a progressive education. “Green Acres left me wanting to learn, and maybe more importantly, wanting to learn to learn,” he says. “The process of learning has always been more important to me than the raw facts. I know this attitude was nourished during my 10 years [at Green Acres], by what and how I learned during my time there.”

A graduate of the Edmund Burke School and Oberlin College, Zachary is an accomplished jazz drummer. As a Fulbright Scholar, he is currently working in Lima, Peru, establishing a university music degree program.

“My connection to Peru was born in seventh grade when Sebas Suarez, an exchange student, stayed at my house through the Green Acres exchange program with the Leonardo da Vinci School here in Lima,” Zach explains. “My family became very close with his. Now I work at the Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas, UPC where Sebas’s mother is the Dean of Psychology. So I definitely have Green Acres to thank for that!”

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