Rolling Hills Prep, REACH & Renaissance Schools
Above: L to R: Amy Hollinger, Christina Morse, Jennifer Stroud, Christina Pak, Sharon Chia Claros
Rolling Hills Prep, REACH & Renaissance Schools are three independent schools and one school community specializing in a college prep program for both neurotypical and neurodiverse students.
How has your work performance exceeded your expectations?
We believe that high performance does not happen by accident. We are a diverse team with varied backgrounds, lived experiences, and skill sets. Through this lens, our intention is to guide our school in such a way that is supportive of the needs and expectations of the community. We strive for excellence in ourselves and our team every day.
Describe something that restores your faith in humanity.
Our community of schools restores our faith in humanity daily. We have a community with a lot of variety, in terms of our beliefs and backgrounds. In a community with so much diversity in beliefs, we encourage everyone to share their stories and listen to the stories of others. We understand that our differences bring us closer together rather than push us apart.
What are some of your favorite ways to stay grounded?
We start every team meeting with a check-in about our personal lives. We always take time to hear what is going on in each other’s lives, connect and understand each other.
Describe your leadership style.
We lead by listening and being curious. We are intentional leaders who approach every situation first with compassion and seeking to understand, then providing support. Being school leaders, we have to make difficult decisions all the time. We always want to listen to others to hear how they are experiencing situations. When it is time to make a difficult decision, it is important to understand what the student experience is like, the faculty and staff experience, and the family experience. We lead our school community every day by being vulnerable and staying curious.
Why did you start your schools?
We believe all students deserve educational experiences that support their unique needs. We specialize in an approach that is the “right fit” education. We all believe strongly in the mission of providing a high-level educational experience where all students have what they need to be successful and feel like they belong. We know that students are most successful when they are challenged academically, supported emotionally and given an environment where it is safe to be who they are. Our schools aspire to create this space for our students daily.
Tell us your favorite quote.
Amy Hollinger, Head of Schools: “Tell stories to help others understand your beliefs and opinions. Offer your stories, not in the hope that they will change anyone else, but because they are your stories to tell and they deserve to live outside you. And when you are a listener, allow the stories of others to change you.” – Elena Aguilar
Christina Morse, Director of Counseling & Wellness: “No mud, no lotus.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Christina Pak, Associate Head of Schools: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
Jennifer Stroud, Director of Schools for Academics: “I am still learning.” – Francisco Goya
Sharon Chia Claros, Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: “To live our lives based on the principles of a love ethic (showing care, respect, knowledge, integrity and the will to cooperate), we have to be courageous. Learning to face our fears is one way we celebrate love. Our fear may not go away, but it will not stand in the way. Those of us who have already chosen to embrace a love ethic, allowing it to govern and inform how we think and act, know that when we let our light shine, we draw to us and are drawn to other bearers of light.” – Bell Hooks
What has been the most significant barrier in your career?
Our identity markers, gender, race, etc. We are a strong leadership team with excellent qualifications. Sometimes people see a group of female leaders and have biases about our abilities and/or lack of gender balance on our team.
Who is your role model?
Amy: My mom, grandma and mother-in-law were/are very strong women. I am lucky to have grown up seeing women who are loving and strong. My professional role models are Elena Aguilar and Brené Brown. They are both vulnerable, and their work and stories resonate with me.
Sharon: My role models have been the college students and my chosen family with whom I have had the privilege to build relationships. They have shown me future possibilities of what our world could look and feel like with our collective action, especially BIPOC, queer and trans community members who have shared their beauty and stories and their light and love with me.
Christina M.: My role model is my mother, a highly skilled medical doctor who emigrated from India in the 1960s. Her experience taught me that love, compassion and resilience are the key ingredients that will sustain me in life.
Jennifer: My grandmother, who homeschooled all seven of her children, ran a children’s theatre and had an extremely creative spirit. Her dedication to the community and children has informed my path in education.
Christina P.: My role models have been those who have stood in the gap and in service for others, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Lewis and Maya Angelou. These individuals acted with bravery and selflessness for the benefit of the greater good of others that is purposeful and impactful.