Alumni Spotlight: Turea Hutson (’97)

May 9th, 2022
Category: Alumni News

Turea Hutson (PMFS ’97)

When asked why she is doing a PhD in Education Leadership and Policy, Turea Hutson said, “I thought I could make an impact […] I was getting a little frustrated by the way I saw things going; politics are so involved in education that it’s really starting to chip away at what’s best for kids.” Turea recently stepped down from seven years of service on the board of Norristown Area School District, with the last three years as School Board President. When she finishes her degree from Drexel on a full academic scholarship, Turea hopes to work for the State or Federal Department of Education where she can be an advocate for social justice and equity in schools. She is currently running for Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee. 

Turea’s journey in education began when she was splitting her time between getting a B.A. in Elementary Education and working as an Assistant Teacher at PMFS. Some young alumni may remember her from Pre-K with Martha Wolf and Melissa Schoerke Koomson, or from Fifth Grade with Leann Stover-Nyce. Turea went on to earn her M.Ed in Literacy Studies and TESOL from Arcadia, and considered becoming a classroom teacher. Feeling energized by Barack Obama’s presidential win in 2008, she chose instead to work on the 2012 Montgomery County Commissioner campaign for Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards. Leslie was a parent in one of the PMFS Pre-K classes that Turea taught, and she knew Turea would be an asset. The Shapiro-Richards ticket won, making them the first Democrats to lead the county since the 1870’s. 

After that experience, Turea said, “I knew I wanted to marry the politics and the education pieces.” While working for the county in a few different communications and outreach positions, Turea was also working hard for students in Norristown Area School District. During her time on the NASD School Board, she and her colleagues enacted policies that made a difference, like providing access to free breakfast and lunch to students regardless of income, so that students could “go through the lunch line with dignity,” establishing a natural hair policy to prevent discrimination based on race-based hairstyles like braids and locs, and making the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr a day off for all students. 

Turea also started her own business as an Independent Consultant on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). She said, “As we entered this season of change in the country, I felt I had experiences and a background that could help organizations get to a place where their minoritized populations could feel welcome and safe.” She led DEI workshops for institutions like Ursinus College and the Valley Forge Park Alliance before putting her consulting on hold to do her PhD. She still continues to do DEI work on a volunteer basis, serving as Interim Chair of the Diversity Committee for the Montgomery County Democratic Party.  

Turea, who started at PMFS in Third Grade, credits Plymouth with the path she’s chosen. She said, “PMFS really laid the foundation for me as far as social justice is concerned and being aware of what’s going on in the world. We had a lot of conversations early on that shaped the trajectory of my life and the reason why I care so much.” When she was Varley Paul’s student in Sixth Grade, Turea remembers “having really frank conversations about race and the history of race in this country, and feeling like I had a space where I could share some of my experiences that I was still making sense of as a child. […] It was a place I always felt safe. It was a place where I always felt like I could be my full self. And those are rare spaces. I made some really good friends; I still keep in touch with people. We made some incredible bonds.” 

Turea’s PMFS Sixth Grade graduation photo

In Memory of Carol Corson

April 1st, 2022
Category: Alumni News, News
Update: Carol Corson’s memorial service will be held at Plymouth Friends Meeting on May 14 at 10am. All are welcome at this indoor, masked gathering.
https://www.plymouthmeetingquakers.org/Articles/632939/_Carol_Ann.aspx

March 31, 2022

Dear Friends,

It is with a tremendously heavy heart that I write to inform you that Carol Corson passed away on Wednesday, March 30. When I arrived at PMFS in July of 2019, Carol met with me and shared her Plymouth story. She proudly claimed that she attended her first PMFS Strawberry Festival in utero; and she grew up in Journey’s End. Over the years, Carol’s “commute” across campus took her into classrooms as a PMFS student (Class of 1951) and eventually as a beloved teacher during the `60’s and `70s. Though her teaching path continued at GFS, Carol remained closely connected to Plymouth Meeting Friends School, serving on the School Committee and consistently offering her care and support of the school and our teachers over the years.

Carol’s commitment to PMFS was unparalleled. In the fall of 2019, Carol joined me at the Conshohocken Street Fair to represent the school and inform the community about Plymouth. Decked out in her red PMFS t-shirt, Carol greeted passersby and shared pieces of her Plymouth story. Despite the 90 degree heat and the blazing sun, Carol was determined to do her part to spread the news about PMFS! In June of 2020, Carol returned to an empty campus to assist with connecting students to their belongings left behind during the mandated closure due to COVID. She brought that same determination and her love of Plymouth to help us on that sad day of farewells. As always, she recognized an opportunity to help and stepped in to do so.

Carol’s longtime connection to Plymouth Monthly Meeting and her experience and expertise as an educator enriched her service on the PMFS School Committee. A fierce advocate for teachers, Carol always articulated the need to provide faculty with support of all kinds. She understood the responsibilities of teaching and the unique gifts that a PMFS education offers; and she frequently volunteered to help wherever and whenever needed. As a trustee, Carol masterfully offered a voice of reason and challenged us to hold on to the rich history of Plymouth while working toward the vision of the school’s future. She focused on the success and growth of PMFS and claimed her role in lifting up our Plymouth story.

Since that first meeting with Carol, I have been in awe of her kindness, sincerity and persistence. She was unflinching in her love of PMFS and unwavering in her support of our school community. She had a strong desire to be of service to our school: Tell me what to do and I’ll do it. I’m not sure if you want my help or need my help, but I’ll help the teachers any way that I can. Those last few words, “any way that I can”, sum up Carol’s spirit. She exemplified John Wesley’s famous quote, “Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, to all the souls you can, in every place you can, at all the times you can, with all the zeal you can, as long as ever you can.”

Not many communities can claim the gifts of light and love that Carol Corson brought to Plymouth Monthly Meeting and Plymouth Meeting Friends School. We are grateful for her kindness of heart and generosity of spirit.

Please join me in holding Carol, her family and friends in the Light.

In peace,
Brenda C. Crawley
Head of School

To read more about Carol’s extraordinary life, see her article on page 3 of the 2022 Spring Newsletter.

2022 Spring Newsletter & Annual Report

March 31st, 2022
Category: News

Alumni Spotlight: Madainn Krall (’07)

March 15th, 2022
Category: Alumni News

Madainn Krall (PMFS ’07)

Madainn Krall (who went by his middle name, Jonah, as a PMFS student), is Manager of Programs at Kode with Klossy, a nonprofit that teaches computer science to female, gender nonconforming, and trans teens. He started his journey as an educator when he joined Teach for America after graduating from Dickinson College in 2017. 

Teaching Language Arts, Social Studies, and Science at a charter school through Teach for America, Madainn discovered a love for teaching and enjoyed how inquisitive his students were. At first he was reluctant to teach Science, but after a few months, he realized that “Science is such a cool subject, especially in Fifth Grade, which I was teaching at the time. Students of that age just want to understand the world around them.” By the time STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) became a priority for his network of charter schools, Madainn was known as the go-to teacher for Science. He was tapped to launch a pilot program of daily, hands-on STEM classes for Fourth and Fifth Graders. One of the first projects he brought to his classes was PMFS’s famous “Egg Drop”, where students invent devices to protect eggs from cracking when dropped from a height. Madainn was so motivated to make his classes successful that he learned to code so he could teach it to his students. 

Madainn’s school went virtual for a year during the pandemic, and during that time he was promoted to Curriculum and Instruction Specialist for Science, Technology, and Engineering for all twelve K-8 schools in his network. In this role he coached teachers about how to put the STEM program he piloted into practice. 

Now Madainn works for Kode with Klossy, a free coding camp whose mission is to get girls and non-binary teens interested in careers in technology. “It’s a nonprofit run by the supermodel Karlie Kloss. She uses her influence and social media to convince all these awesome young women to pursue the STEM field that oftentimes they’re shut out from in their high school and college careers.” Madainn develops curriculum and trains and supports instructors for the camp. He recognizes how transformative it can be for women and non-binary people to be in an environment where they feel that STEM is “for them.” He said, “Now more than ever, everybody recognizes how important Science education is from a young age.”

Madainn draws inspiration from his PMFS education in his own career as an educator. He encourages mistakes and tries to incorporate some of the tenets of Quakerism, especially equity. He hopes he can encourage students to be lifelong learners, expand their thinking, and keep exploring, all things Plymouth encouraged in him as a child. Madainn’s advice to current Plymouth students is “Push your boundaries.”

Madainn’s PMFS Sixth Grade graduation photo

Alumni Spotlight: Jonathan Meter (’96)

February 25th, 2022
Category: Alumni News

Jonathan Meter with his family

Jonathan Meter (PMFS ‘96) is a commercial still life product photographer, shooting fashion, beauty products, and food. Many alumni will remember his mother, Dora Ficher, who was a Kindergarten Assistant Teacher at PMFS for many years.

As a student at PMFS, Jonathan enjoyed playing with his parents’ cameras. He recalled a time in third or fourth grade when his “mom bought this Olympus camera with a zoom lens that came out and a flash that flipped up.” Dora taught him how to use it, and Jonathan felt drawn to the camera as a machine. “It’s more about the process and the tools that I use than the final product for me,” he said.

Jonathan went to Friends Select School after PMFS, where he took a photography class and learned to use a dark room. While he was earning his degree in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania, his interest in photography really took off when he became a photojournalist for the university newspaper. Around this time Dora was beginning her fine art career, and she taught Jonathan the basics of Photoshop and graphic design.

Now Jonathan “enjoy[s] bringing other people’s ideas to life,” photographing everything from handbags, clothing, and lipstick, to artfully arranged food. A recent project was photographing sourdough desserts for the new cookbook “The Sweet Side of Sourdough” by Caroline Schiff. The pandemic has turned many home cooks into sourdough bakers, so it was the perfect time for Jonathan to shoot these scones, cookies, and cakes.

The main thing Jonathan has carried with him from PMFS is his relationships with teachers, which he still maintains. He remembered teaching Varley Paul’s kids to swim, saying “She was such a great teacher for me, and I really appreciated being able to give back and be a part of the life of her kids.” He said that he still thinks often about his time in Dottie Leonard’s class, especially his trip to Mexico, and liked it “when I was going to Friends Select in the city, I would run into Dottie a lot while she was jogging around the art museum.” Frumi Cohen and Bonnie Templin both have a special place in Jonathan’s heart. And of course, there’s Heidi Schifferli. “Heidi literally is another mom to me and I feel so lucky that she’s been in my life. I feel so lucky that I got to have her as a teacher and a mom, and now as a grandmother to both my daughters who love her.”

When asked for advice for PMFS students, Jonathan said, “Listen, keep an open mind, appreciate people for who they are.” For budding photographers, Jonathan recommends learning how to use a camera (or even a camera phone) in manual mode, and treating photography as a physical activity by moving your body, which will help you see things differently.

When Jonathan has time, he enjoys photographing his family and landscapes. He is sometimes inspired to do a fine art project, like, he said, while cleaning out his closet, “I decided that some of the t-shirts that I really loved that I had to retire I would induct into my hall of fame.” His “T-Shirt Hall of Fame” is now housed on his Instagram, with photos of the beloved shirts and write-ups of their personal histories. He hopes to make this an annual project, and eventually put together a show. Jonathan can also be seen at concerts, camping, hiking, cooking eggs, and riding his bike to work with his daughter on the back. He has the same best friend as he did at PMFS. Jonathan lives in Brooklyn with his wife Jessica and their two daughters, Michaela and Annalise. See his photography at jonathanmeter.com or follow him on Instagram @johnnymeats.

Alumni Spotlight: Christina Colon (’78)

January 10th, 2022
Category: Alumni News, News

Christina Colon, PMFS class of 1978

As a student at PMFS, Dr. Christina Colon (PMFS ‘78) said she wanted to be an “animal scientist”. She grew up to be a tenured professor of Biology at Kingsborough Community College in New York, and one of the first researchers to study the Malay civet (a tropical mammal that looks a bit like a fox-raccoon-zebra-cat) in the wild. Christina has done fieldwork all over the world, from the Caribbean to Singapore. Her latest projects are near her college campus in Brooklyn, where she and her students study horseshoe crabs and urban coyotes. 

Christina’s career started in earnest after college graduation when she decided that Alan Rabinowitz, a famous zoologist, was going to be her mentor. “I didn’t really stalk him, but…” Christina grinned. With her characteristic persistence and moxie, Christina went to talks Alan gave, did field work at the jaguar preserve he created in Belize, and got a job (after three tries!) at the Bronx Zoo where he worked. When Alan saw that she was working at the zoo, he said, “You just don’t quit, do you?” And that’s the story of how Christina found her mentor and future doctoral advisor. Incidentally, Christina’s advice for PMFS students is, “Don’t quit. If people say you can’t, prove them wrong.”

A Malay Civet

Since then, Christina has had a fascinating career. She “wrestled alligators, owls, and pythons” in the education department of the Bronx Zoo. She earned a Fulbright fellowship to study civets in Borneo, “discover[ing] that they have the dietary breadth of walking garbage cans,” happily eating everything from plastic bags to venomous centipedes and scorpions. Christina produced and directed two documentary films, plus K-12 curricula on botany at The New York Botanical Garden, where she learned to appreciate trees as well as the animals living in the trees. She has also developed curricula for the American Museum of Natural History, published over a dozen research papers and book chapters, and authored numerous Frommer’s Travel Guides (she remembers an especially packed writing trip to Hawaii when she spent 12 days doing everything from jumping off a waterfall to climbing a volcano). More recently Christina has taught at Columbia University, led field courses to Belize and the Caribbean, worked at a bear and orangutan rehabilitation center, and followed her own research interests across 12 time zones.

Christina’s lifelong love of the natural world started with her mother, who used to take her to the Philadelphia Zoo with a bag of treats for the animals (who knew wolves liked hard boiled eggs?). PMFS alumni may remember Christina’s mother, Norma Colon, from one of her many roles at PMFS in the 70’s: bus driver, lunch helper, office administrator, assistant teacher, art teacher, and librarian. Christina said, “She recently passed away and we had a lovely memorial in the [Plymouth Friends] Meetinghouse where I spent many a quiet hour as a child, so it was very apt.” 

Norma Colon, wearing a Strawberry Festival t-shirt that she designed and screen printed

Academics didn’t come easily to Christina at first, but special teachers at PMFS like Carol Corson, Diane Gunnett, Wilma Culp, and Willard Terry saw her potential. Christina remembered what it was like living next door to Willard and Holly Terry in Germantown, saying, “They gave us a pet rat and we named it Willard.” She also has good memories of the Mexican Exchange, which she calls, “the ultimate cure for xenophobia.” Now that Christina is an educator herself, she takes extra care to help students who are struggling in their own academic journey. 

One last word of advice for future “animal scientists”: “You don’t have to be the best at anything important, you just need to be good at something that nobody else is good at.” In Christina’s case, that special skill is identifying animal poop by smell. Years of cleaning cages at the Bronx Zoo finally paid off when she was in the jungles of Borneo. Her remarkable ability to sniff out the scent of rare species earned her the full respect of the field center staff and scientists, who dubbed her ‘Civetina of the Jungle’. “It’s not a very marketable skill” she laughed, “but I published two dissertation chapters on my civet scat analysis, which helped get me a PhD!”