Tunuka Gray: In Her Own Words

“I attended the Magnolia School for 2nd and 3rd grade in 1997–1999 before moving abroad. I am now a student at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations in May 2012. After graduation, I plan to work for a Boston consulting group. As I reflect upon my time at Magnolia and the effect it has had on me, a couple elements stand out, namely: creativity, open-mindedness, and a sense of ownership of my education. As a college student, I have observed a lack of creativity among my peers. Most students were taught to succeed in an exam or standardized test. While important, achieving high test-scores requires practice at any age. Creativity, however, can be lost throughout the years, and cannot simply be “practiced” or regained at any age. Because my peers in college were rarely encouraged to think outside of the box or to cultivate the creative sides of their minds, many of them lost this important element to critical thinking. My Magnolia School teachers sparked a sense of curiosity and creativity in me that has proved to be one of my greatest assets. I learned that my input in the learning process was appreciated and crucial.

This past summer, I interned at Google, a company that excels in innovation and seeks creative minds. I fit into the Google culture and was able to excel because of my ability to think beyond conventional boundaries. This said, innovation and creativity are sought after in many other companies, in both engineering and business.

Another element of my time at Magnolia that stands out is the emphasis on open-mindedness. The Magnolia School fosters a sense of community that is accepting and non-judgmental. While many elementary schools preach that they have an accepting environment, often in large public schools it is difficult to monitor and truly create this type of setting. Creating an open-minded atmosphere is crucial in early childhood development because it allows children to develop interpersonal skills. At the Magnolia School students are placed in a safe and productive environment in which students interact with people of different racial or socio-economic backgrounds, and peers with disabilities or non-traditional families. This environment creates citizens who are able to work with a variety of people.

While we live in an era where “accountability” in early childhood education is the benchmark for success, we often forget that we are talking about children; children who need to express their creativity and interact with a diverse group of students. Children need a combination of family involvement and education. The Magnolia School curriculum and teaching-style included my—and other—parents  every step of the way, so I learned in a multi-generational setting that expanded beyond the classroom during school field trips and more.

In all, I believe the seeds for my joy of learning and my capacity to quickly adjust to a multitude of situations were sown at The Magnolia School.”