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Cool Credo High School A

By Jonah Raskin of Santa Rosa ~

t 76, I’m too old to go back to high school. But if I could go back I would go to Credo High School in Rohnert Park, where I’ve gotten to know and to admire students, teachers and

trators who have little

adminis- in

common with the students, teachers


administra- tors at my high school back East. Credo, which means, “I believe” in Latin,


in 2011 with 40 students. Enrollment

this Fall is 415

students in grades, 9-12, all of whom have chosen to attend the school. Tuition-free and a public charter school inspired by the Waldorf philosophy that empha- sizes art, the imagination

and creativity,

Credo belongs to the Rohnert Park-Cotati School Dis- trict.

that emphasizes sustainability, whether it’s environmental, so- cial or personal.

Freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors say that sustainabil- ity is “cool.” Credo instructor, Marika Ramsden, 31, told me that, “What links all our interests— sustainabil-

ity, gun vio- lence, climate change, waste

zero and

more—is stu- dent empow- erment student

and voic-

es.” I didn’t experience any of that at

my high school where we were told what to do and where and when to do it. Chip Romer, 65, Credo’s ex-

It’s also

a world unto itself. Unlike nearby Rancho Cotate High School there are no separate tracks for students. The 50-member faculty and the staff prepare each and everyone for a four-year college. Cell phones and skateboards are not allowed during the school day, but that doesn’t trouble any of the students I spoke with during the school day and afterward. There’s a yearbook, a senior prom, the- ater productions, team sports, a graduation

ceremony and

lots more. What’s surprising about Credo is the curriculum

Student energy is apparent to anyone who observes the students as they arrive at the school on foot and bicycle, then file into... ability.”

ecutive director and one of its founders, added that the

at the school “have

students high

goals artisti- cally and ac- ademically,” “appreciate community” and


“under- the

importance of sustain-

Student energy is apparent to anyone who observes the students as they arrive at the school on foot and bicycle, then file into classrooms or stay outdoors to create a habitat and pollinator garden, as they did in the spring 2018 semester with help from farm teacher, Kelley McNeal. This fall, they began to cultivate a two-acre parcel at SOMO Village, where the school is housed, and where they’ll learn the principles of biodynamic agriculture.

Credo students are unique, but as Romer pointed out, “They have the cultural traits of typi- cal American teenagers: they love music, they’re competitive in sports and they’re invested in social media.” Many of them come from fami- lies that recycle and grow their own vegetables. Zoe Stapp, 17, for example, lives with her par- ents in a co-housing commu- nity in Petaluma. She limits her use of plastic products, stays away from big chains and buys from local business as much as she can. “We have to get away from old ways of thinking and acting,” she told me and add- ed, “You can’t live in Sonoma County and not be environmen- tally conscious.” Kids become grown-ups at Credo in part because they’re treated

like grown-ups by

guest speakers, such as Cap- tain Charles Moore, who blew the minds of the students when he described the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” an area the size of Texas that’s full of plas- tic. Former Rohnert Park May- or, Jake Mackenzie, explained that he grew up in a Scottish village where there were no cars and no running water and electricity.

Congressman Mike Thomp- son talked about the impor- tance of putting an end to gun violence. “We’re counting on you to cre- ate your own story and get it beyond Sonoma County,” he said. At the annual “rose ceremo-

ny” at the end of the school year last May members of the fresh- man class gave each graduating senior a red rose. “There’s a whole lot of love in the room,” Chip Romer said. If I could I’d go to Credo I’d go for the love, the student empowerment and the sense of freedom my class- mates and I never had in the 1950s.

“Education is no substitute for intelligence.” ~ Frank Herbert

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