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Why We Volunteer: It’s Personal

The reasons alumni, current and former parents, current and former grandparents, and teachers volunteer at Sidwell Friends vary more than one might think. Yes, volunteers share a desire to give back to a place that helped shape their lives. But volunteers tell very personal stories about why they give of themselves for the good of the School.

“Everything I do with Sidwell has evolved organically,” says Jason Horowitz ’82, who helped start the Seattle area regional alumni club a few years ago. “As I have moved around in life — to Moscow, New York City, and Seattle, the Sidwell Friends community in each of these places has been a source of strength.”

Since graduating, Horowitz has stayed close to a small cohort of friends who attended Sidwell when he did. But he’s also noticed that no matter the generation, Sidwell Friends graduates share common qualities. “It’s an orientation toward serving the broader community, continuous curiosity about the changing world, and a thoughtful engagement with political, social, and economic issues,” he says. “I don’t see that as much among my other friend groups.”

After moving to Seattle in 2017, Horowitz and other area alumni started getting together. A holiday gathering led to an early summer environmental service event, and eventually to establishing the regional club. About the service event, he says, “Each year alumni from my generation, parents of alums, and recent graduates have participated. I am so impressed that we all bring the same general set of values.”

Through his work with the regional club, Horowitz has talked to alumni who don’t think they will be comfortable socializing with strangers or people they haven’t seen in many years. Others remember their teenage years as challenging and don’t want to be reminded of that time. He says he can relate. He says, “What I try to say to these folks is that I understand but I also encourage them to give one event a chance. To participate, you need only curiosity and the values you learned in school. You might reconnect with old friends or meet someone new with whom you have a lot in common.”

For Meredith Karam ’03 and her father Michael Karam P ’03, volunteering is a family tradition started by Meredith’s late mother, Linda Morgan ’69. “Continuing this tradition alongside my father is a way we can help keep my mother’s spirit alive, and honor both her dedication to the School and our family’s love for the School,” says Meredith who serves as the Recording Clerk on the Friends Alumni Network Advisory Board and , and has been an active volunteer since graduation.

The Karam family’s love for Sidwell Friends is shared but it’s also personal for each of them. “Sidwell shaped my values and perspectives and instilled in me confidence to be the friend, student, and leader I wanted to be,” says Meredith.

Her father describes how his late wife introduced him to the School through her Sidwell class reunions. “I always felt better when I stepped on campus,” he says. “It felt like home. When Meredith entered kindergarten in 1990, I was so excited that we would be able to renew our family’s connection with the School.” Michael Karam has been an active volunteer and donor ever since, with a particular interest in establishing endowed funds with and in his wife’s honor to support faculty salaries, venture grants, and professional development.

Cherished friendships and connections have kept Sidwell Friends’ teacher, parent, and grandparent Karen Bralove-Stilwell P ’89, ’92, GP ’23, ’26, ’29 actively involved with the School for nearly 60 years. After establishing the Middle School Drama Department in 1967, she taught there for 24 years, including teaching her two daughters, and volunteering in many ways. “I have had the privilege of wearing many hats,” she says.

Today, she is a substitute teacher in the Lower School, is part of the Current Parents and Grandparents Committee, as part of the Together We Shine Campaign. “I happen to have more time than money, yet I believe I haven’t missed a year of giving. Knowing how utterly important the Together We Shine campaign is for the future of Sidwell Friends, I totally stepped up my giving to the 1883 Society,” she says.

As she reflects on how her roles have evolved over the years, she says she remembers hearing a Sidwell Friend parent back in the 1970s say, “’Sidwell has always succeeded in educating the heart as well as the mind.’ I thought, this is why I am so comfortable in this community and at this School.”

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