Students Say

Want to know more about Desert Academy? Ask our students and graduates.

Joshua Medina, 9th Grade (Open House 2017)
“I am the third child in my family to attend Desert. Both of my sisters have graduated from Desert Academy – and now one attends NYU and is studying to receive a BFA in film and television production and the other attends USC’s school of dramatic arts. Both of my sisters took the full IB Diploma Program, which I plan to do as well. This means that, in their junior and senior years, all of their classes were two year, rigorous courses of study leading to a series of high stakes exams and worth up to a year of college credit. As you can see, I have very big shoes to fill – and I know Desert will help me get there, too. This is my 4th year at Desert, and every year has been full of such great memories. Each year, I have been able to participate in this community in different ways…. from representing my classmates on Student Council each year, to joining the National Honor Society and tutoring younger students. All the while, I am also able to pursue different extracurricular activities, because the homework load is reasonable and allows me time to do the things I love outside of school. I can’t tell you that I had a difficult time finding the right school that fit me – because I had the advantage of being able to attend different events throughout my sisters’ years at Desert. But one thing stood out the most to me – and it was a big part of why I wanted to attend Desert: it’s community. I still remember when I visited Desert Academy like you are tonight. I had such butterflies in my stomach, but my excitement and anticipation overcame every other emotion. Above all, I saw how welcoming and accepting all of the community was. As soon as I entered the doors, I was greeted by Leslie; I was greeted by Lis; and I was pleasantly surprised by how many people welcomed me. I saw the classes and the full extent of how Desert really prepares their students for the future. I saw how prepared my sisters were, and I really admired that. They took high stakes tests and trusted that their education wouldn’t fail them. At Desert, we shine light on all that matters, especially how important it is to be united. I came to Leslie with an idea to start a club focused on being aware of different cultures, ethnicities, and religions, and she was more than happy to make it possible. The club is called Tikkun Olam, which means repairing the world in Hebrew and in this club, we work to repair and heal the cracks in society. Regardless of race, religion, color, creed, or sexual orientation, Desert Academy is a place where you are always and forever welcome. The atmosphere, academics, preparation, and all that Desert stands for – these are what made my family want to keep coming back. I hope you see what I love about Desert.”

Natalie Longmire-Kulis (Open House 2017)
When asked the question, ‘why Desert?’, I often find myself struggling to find
the words that sufficiently describe just how special this school is. Any description of the
caliber of classes, teachers, and students at Desert fails to capture its genuinely
remarkable environment. I believe that it is because of this indescribable community-
which goes beyond being simply a school and is truly a home-that the term “Desertness”
was invented. As a student at Desert Academy, I see Desertness everyday. It is in the cheerful
greetings of classmates in the hallway, in the probing questions of the teachers, asking
their students “what do you think?”, it is found in the smiles exchanged between towering
seniors and backpack-sized sixth graders. I feel Desertness in the form of compassion,
empathy, and sincerity that only could have become such an innate part of my being
because others who exist in the same way surround me. Desert is not simply a place that
empowers students-it cultivates people.
In response to why Desert, I offer this: If you would like to be surrounded in a
community of individuals who greet you with a smile, who remember your name, and
who empower your individuality, then the question becomes, why not Desert?

I hope that you will come experience Desertness in action. We welcome you with
open arms.”

Ryan Harvey
Ryan Harvey, 6th (Open House 2013)
“Good evening! My name is Ryan Harvey and I am proud to be a part of Desert Academy’s very first 6th grade. I am honored tonight to be able to tell you my story of how I became a student at Desert Academy. At the beginning of 5th grade last year, I heard the six graders talking about open houses for middle schools and it sparked my curiosity. Listening to their excitement made me want to go too. I remember it being a Friday and my older friends were making plans to go to Desert Academy’s open house the next morning. I asked if I could go too as a fifth grader and my friends and I decided that yes, I could go, but maybe pretend to be a sixth grader if I had too…”
Click here to read the entire speech
Taylor Bacon
Taylor Bacon, 11th Grade (Open house 2013)
“When you’re choosing a school, there are a lot of aspects to consider: teachers, clubs, academics, sports, campus, and homework…the list goes on and on. While these are all very important, there’s another factor that must be taken into account. It’s something that’s not as easily quantified or sorted into pro and con lists. This “Something” is the idea of finding the school that fits. How you function as part of the community, how the environment of the school feels. When I was looking at schools, I went to all of the open houses and immediately knew that Desert was the right place for me. None of the other schools “clicked”. There was something about Desert that convinced me…”
Click here to read the entire speech
Sean Colin-Ellerin
Sean Colin-Ellerin
Through its rigorous and comprehensive curriculum, Desert Academy has helped me achieve academic success. The culture created by the faculty and staff has inspired me to fulfill my academic potential. The International Baccalaureate programs have given me the opportunity to go to my dream college and have adeptly prepared me for the challenge of college studies.
Elliot Melk
Elliot Melk
Desert Academy has been a perfect fit for me. Desert provides a unique education experience with the International Baccalaureate Program, giving it a global perspective and hands-on teaching methodology. The variety of classes has given me the opportunity to pursue my interests, but also to try new things outside of my comfort zone such as the Assistance Dogs of the West Program.
Grayson Hallmark
Grayson Hallmark (Currently attending Santa Fe Community College)
Desert was the best option for me when I was going into 7th grade because no other school seemed to care about its students in the way Desert did. It supports individualism and allows you to find yourself. Desert has a phenomenal college counselor who helps kids find out what they want to do and how to achieve their goals. Grayson will be attending SFCC in preparation for attending UNM’s architecture school.
french letter
Isaac Fischer, 2015 Graduate (Translated from French)
“Dear Ms. Thiebaut, These two years in your class were very instructive and very entertaining, as well. In your class, I got more comfortable speaking French, and I think that my understanding of the language is far better than I thought it would be only five years ago. You are a very good teacher, and I am very grateful for all your efforts! Thank you very much for these two years!
Yours sincerely, Goodbye,
Isaac”
Sara Hartse
Sara Hartse (Currently attending Brown University)
“Desert Academy has been my school for the last 6 years, and it given me so much. Desert gave me a strong community of people who care about and support each other. It gave me teachers who are not only brilliant, amazing people but who are genuinely passionate about helping me learn. Desert gave me a space full of people who wanted to be there, and sometimes that’s really the most important thing. As I prepare to leave Santa Fe and go to college, I’ve been thinking about what I’ll take with me from high school. I think I’ll take the sense of possibility. Desert has been a place where I’ve found the strength to make my voice heard and known that people were listening, and it has meant so much.”
Ariadne Ellsworth
Ariadne Ellsworth
“Desert Academy taught me many things that have been invaluable at college at Brown University:  how to write, think critically, and question. But the truth is, I might have gained those skills at other schools, as well. I could even have learned them late at college. What Desert – through its teachers, its programs, and its atmosphere – gave me that was truly invaluable was confidence. Without confidence, none of the skills I gained would matter.”
Isaac Green, 2012 Graduate
“If you go to college with one thing, it should be the ability to write. If Desert had given me nothing else, this ability would have been enough. I came into Dartmouth head and shoulders above most of my peers in the versatility, depth and development of my writing because of the writing intensive program at Desert. In college you write all the time, and not just in English classes. I’ve written scientifically, analytically, historically, mathematically, comedically, creatively, and in a foreign language.  I would have had a much harder freshman year were I not already comfortable writing academically, across disciplines, in my own developed voice.”
Isabel Madley (Currently attending Vassar)
“I didn’t realize how extraordinary my high school was until I arrived at Vassar for freshman orientation. Others had attended elite private schools in big cities, or public schools larger than Vassar’s student body. Part of what made Desert Academy so special was its size: large enough to feel like a “regular” school, but small enough that there were camaraderie between grade levels and real relationships between students and teachers. Perusals of liberal arts college pamphlets left me saying, “So what? That sounds just like my high school.” At Desert, kids were unique, difficult to typecast. Athletes acted in plays, computer geeks sang choir, and science fanatics loved art. With its academic excellence, extracurriculars, diversity and personality, Desert prepared me extremely well for my liberal arts education.”
Nathan Sheridan, 2011 Graduate (Currently attending Wheaton College)
“While I’m officially a student pursuing a degree in International Relations at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, I have spent my junior year studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark observing the both lauded and criticized Scandinavian welfare model and taking an in depth look at the political institutions of Europe. For this summer I have been offered an internship at the US Embassy in Copenhagen to work in their Political Economy department assisting in American-Danish relations. I have to say now that upon reflection, Desert Academy and the International Baccalaureate program were some of the most influential factors that shaped me into the global citizen I am today. With courses specifically designed to encourage critical thinking and engagement in world affairs and a faculty that helped me find my passions, I walked away from Desert Academy with a confident understanding of myself, my place in the world, and some friends for life.”
Rikki Carroll, 2010 Graduate
“I cannot express enough how much Desert Academy helped prepare me for college. I’ll be graduating this spring with high honors from UNM, where I am triple majoring in Theater, English, and Psychology. Desert’s International Baccalaureate curriculum pushed me ahead in the fields of humanities, the arts, history, and science. The arts at Desert are incredible. Randy Bennett’s classes in Theater and Comedy Improvisation helped me realize my passion for acting, and I am now pursuing a career as a film actress. College theater programs are often rigorous and challenging, and Randy taught me how to face those challenges head on. For that, I couldn’t be more thankful.”
Josh Lochner, 2010 Graduate
“Communication skills and leadership abilities were the two most valuable things Desert Academy and its International Baccalaureate program gave me as I headed off to Washington University in St. Louis. Since the IB program stresses the connectedness of the classes to each other, I’m able to relate what I am learning in one class to other subjects and, as a result, explore concepts in a deeper way. The absolute best thing about Desert Academy is the teachers. They’re invested in the students’ success; they are approachable, and they teach with creativity and enthusiasm.”
Tamara Wheeler, 2009 Graduate
“When I am asked about the foundation of my success, my story always begins with the staff and coaches from Desert Academy. Prior to Desert, I never excelled in sports and did not understand the advantages of being challenged academically. I ended up graduating as Senior Athlete of the Year and received a generous scholarship to my first choice – the College of Idaho – with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Sociology. During college, I lived with one of Desert Academy’s first international students and her family in Spain for two months. Currently, I am the Program Administrator for the seven sites that comprise the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Fe/Del Norte. Desert’s infinite support has provided me with lifelong friendships, an endless passion for learning, and all the tools needed to pave the path I will walk towards achievement.”

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