The FAMCare Blog

A Tiny School In A Small Town With A Really Big Heart

Posted by George Ritacco on Dec 17, 2019 12:21:36 PM


The Verde Valley School in Oak Creek, Arizona was founded in 1947 by Hamilton and Barbara Warren after the devastation of the Western European civilization by the horror of World War II. The Harvard educated couple decided it was their mission to bring together students from all over the world to live, work, and study together in a multicultural environment of mutual respect and service to one another and the wider world community. After 72 years, this tiny secondary school continues to foster intercultural understanding and world citizenship, environmental stewardship, the value of physical labor, and service to humanity with a willing spirit.

Lauren Kelley – Experiential Education Director

“The critical skills and concrete tools of planning, funding, executing and assessing projects, in conjunction with a relationship-centered empathetic world view, enables our students to serve more effectively, to create a new paradigm for giving, and to continue to positively shape the world of tomorrow. Service to the school, the local community, and the world is woven throughout most aspects of school life.”

The Hopi Nation

The Hopi Reservation, a Native American reservation for the Hopi and Arizona Tewa people, is 100 miles north of the Verde Valley School. The site in north-eastern Arizona has a land area of 2,532 sq. mi. and is the ancient ancestral home of a little more than 7,000 surviving Hopi people.

Timothy Nuvangyaoma – Chairman Hopi Tribal Council

“Since time immemorial the Hopi people have lived in Hopituskwa and have maintained our sacred covenant with Maasaw, the ancient caretaker of the earth, to live as peaceful and humble farmers respectful of the land and its resources.” 

Simple People by Choice

  • The Hopi are a matrilineal society organized by clan membership. 
  • The Tribe is fairly young with a median age of 29.4 and almost 30% under the age of 18. 
  • Hopi live in houses made of dried clay and stone with flat roofs and multiple levels accessible by ladder. 
  • Members of the Hopi Tribe have a high poverty rate - 30.6%. Female-headed households are especially vulnerable to living in poverty. (73.6 % of households in poverty are female headed). 

The Hopi World View

The Hopi consider their life on the reservation (in particular the traditional clan residence, the spiritual life of the kivas on the mesa, and their dependence on corn) an integral and critically sustaining part of the "fourth world". This is the current cultural epoch in which all people of the world now live.

Verde Valley School/The Hopi Peoplebike-map

Verde Valley School students have been visiting the Hopi reservation since the 1950s. The Warrens recognized the educational benefits of exposure to the values of humility, simplicity and responsibility for the planet that are the basis of the unique Hopi culture. 

“These simple people are not unfortunate because they are poor by our standards,” said a Verde Valley sophomore. “Something like western monks, they have chosen to remain simple farmers and caretakers of the land. At Verde Valley we are honored to be exposed to and support their lifestyle in any way we can.”

Coats for Kids

Nine years ago, Verde Valley School students realized that many of the children in the Hopi Villages faced the harsh winter without warm coats. They began a “Coats for Kids” program by erecting Christmas trees in local supermarkets decorated with personal request cards for coat donations written by the Hopi children themselves. The community response was positive, immediate, and overwhelming. This year, Verde Valley students delivered more the 150 coats to the Hopi children. 

Caroline Diehl – Verde Valley Social Global Goals Director

“Donors are amazing. They not only eagerly donate the coats that the Hopi children so desperately need, but add gloves, mittens, and caps (many hand-knitted by the women of Sedona and Oak Creek). The community’s response is heart-warming and inspires our students to continue a life of service after they go on from Verde Valley School. By understanding the value of the unique Hopi culture both the donors and our students are learning exactly what Ham and Barb Warren were trying to teach.” 

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