A Year to Remember

A year to remember indeed. As we prepare to graduate our extraordinary senior class this Friday, we’re reflecting upon the transformative experience they, and all of us, have had.

It has been a year of striking innovation and exceptional hardship. We have been handed an entirely new set of experiences and offered an incredible opportunity to appreciate more deeply those things we took for granted. In Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche writes: Was mich nicht umbringt macht mich stärker “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” This was not intended as a statement of fact about life, as in: “What doesn’t kill you necessarily makes you stronger.” Rather, it was a statement of resolve: I will approach hardship in a way that allows me to grow stronger, wiser, more resilient. 

In this year to remember, this is an approach to remember. We get to decide how this extraordinary year will transform us. Concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl, no stranger to suffering himself, wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

As we move past this extraordinary year, let’s all remember that we can choose our path forward by asking of ourselves: How will I emerge positively transformed? What new or reconfirmed purpose will drive me forward? 

Each of you is extraordinary, and I know that your answers to these questions will be as well.

– Karen




We asked our team, “When you think of this past school year, what comes to mind, and why?” Here’s what they had to say. 


It has been a wild year of learning how to engage in assessments and check-ins with students virtually. It has also given us an opportunity to lean into being more flexible and willing to adjust things in order to support students. Many students will come away more resilient and capable of facing new challenges in the future. 

Brandon Allen


When I think of the past school year, I think of how unexpected everything has been. Our Quest Forward Academy community has done everything possible to ensure students have all they need, whether virtually or in person, to succeed in their education. The communication among us is above and beyond. I am so proud to be a part of a wonderful diverse team/community!

Thalia Becerril


This year was definitely one to remember. Despite the challenging year we’ve endured, it has been life-changing. I’ve learned so much about myself, my coworkers, and our students. It has been a great experience being a part of the Quest Forward Academy community and I look forward to seeing more students in the fall after we transition from hybrid learning. 

Micah Bledsoe-Holland


When I think of this year, I think of resilience and flexibility. Our students and staff have shown an ability to pivot and adapt in hard times, which is the most valuable lesson they could have learned. I am continually amazing and inspired by our community.

Matt Blumenthal


Classes were so quiet on Zoom… then we got to have school in person and I suddenly got to see how they really were! Teaching online wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be because of the web-based program. I felt like the year could have been much harder if I was putting everything online myself.

Danielle Bruns 


Last year, we rallied together to overcome enormous challenges! We took care of each other and grew as thinkers and people. We did it!

Jordan Bulger


I think of our creativity when it came to promoting Quest Forward Academy via social media. We were able to provide our students with resources within the community and host events that truly told the mission of the program.

Valerie Carpenter


Quest Forward Academy counselor Heather Concoff greets a student arriving at school for in-person learning.


What a great year! Full of challenges and the successful launch of Pathways! Our 16 seniors are launching and the rising class of 28 is right behind. We also have laid substantial scaffolding in the way of careers, resumes, self-discovery, and sharing interests. We are in a good space for progressing into the 2021-22 school year.

Heather Concoff


I think of how incredibly resilient the students have been and how impressed I am every day by their enduring passion and drive to succeed. After everything they’ve been through in this last year, I know that whatever they set their minds to, they’ll be able to make it happen. 

Emily Conway


I think this year brought many lessons on perseverance. Many students encountered mighty obstacles and still came ready to learn each and every day. My hope is that these students came out of this year with a new-found ownership of their learning. The staff also encountered their share of challenges, and it was warm to see the support we all had for each other. 

Juan Escobar Salsedo


This was the most challenging school year by FAR! Doing most of the year online and then trying to do hybrid learning as smoothly as possible was a hard task to take on. I was consistently impressed by the resilience of our students when coping with online learning, wildfires/evacuations, and completing all of their work even though all of this was going on around them. 

Nicolas Gilmore


So inspiring to experience the community’s resiliency and support no matter what was thrown our way, whether it was Covid shelter-in-place orders or California wildfires. It was a deeply challenging year in many ways, yet our community remained strongly connected and it has been such a joy to see students in person again now, relating to each other with kindness and good humor. I couldn’t ask for a more loving and compassionate group of colleagues to work with.

Dana Gundling


Quest Forward Academy Santa Rosa mentors set up monitors for seamless learning.


This year has been tough. The remote learning aspect that dominated the first half of the year was a challenge to students, families, mentors, and staff. In spite of that challenge, however, I watched many QFA students undergo profound positive changes and do school work that surprised me due to the level of effort and care they expressed. In addition, I have felt deeply cared-for by all of my colleagues and by the greater QFA community. While this year was difficult, I think everyone has gained resilience and also the ability to see things on the bright side. Thank you everyone!

Michael Herman


It has been a strange journey. I enjoyed the challenges and warm moments of this year. The 2020 school year has taught me that when faced with adversity, having a strong community is your saving grace. I am thankful for all of the compassionate and welcoming people that I get to work with. I am also proud to be able to work with students who are so invested in their education and are curious about life!

Riley Husted


Meeting my new work family! They are fun, love to bake, love to eat, love to visit new places, love to hike.

Maria Morales


Quest Forward Academy mentors Nils Palsson and Max Shafer-Landau wear masks and hold clipboards while they stand outside the school to greet students for in-person learning.


We really showed how resilient we are. It may have been one of the most difficult years most of us have faced, but it also became one of the most successful ones, all told. With a strong web-based curriculum and a focus on skills over content, we were able to focus on the most important things (student wellness and learning) and we became a stronger and tighter community through it all!

Nils Palsson


It’s been a whirlwind of a year, but it has been fun nonetheless. Students have been great and fellow mentors and staff have been AMAZING! We all worked together to build a strong community.

Meredith Pierson 


Flexible work schedules and creative problem solving made this year manageable. I’m impressed with the resilience and open mindedness of our students and their willingness to collaborate to come up with fun and engaging solutions to the problem of distanced learning. I greatly enjoyed teaching my Ancient Greek elective and was wowed by my students’ ability to immerse themselves in historical simulations, take risks, and go above and beyond to learn about and act out the class material.

Max Shafer-Landau


I have been amazed by the level of creative thinking that the art students have shared this year. It was challenging having a virtual art class and the students rose to the occasion. Every time they turned in an artifact I felt like I was receiving a gift. They were all very willing to create with kindness and curiosity.

Amy Waud Reiter 


Quest Forward Academy Santa Rosa’s Class of 2021 graduates this Friday, June 4.