SMASH — The Santa Monica Alternative School House (SMASH) is welcoming parents, teachers, students, alumni, neighbors and the community at large to their annual SuperSMASH fundraiser on May 17.
The SuperSMASH event is held every year as a fundraiser and gathering for the school but organizers said this year, the event will also celebrate the school’s 40th anniversary. As a result of the special occasion there will be some additional activities for the returning alumni in addition to the standard carnival, entertainment and silent auction.
“We’ve had about 100 alumni RSVP and more will probably show up,” said Principal Jessica Rishe. “We’ll have an alumni tent where they can view slide shows that go throughout the decades, they can meet and greet with alumni, staff members and we’ll be taking video footage of their reflections on the impact of SMASH on their lives.”
Rishe said SMASH’s approach to learning creates a strong community connection between students and teachers. The school provides written assessments of students instead of letter grades, organizes curriculum based on ability rather than grade level and uses an interdisciplinary approach to allow students to guide their own education based on their interests.
She said many students find themselves in careers that reflect the kinds of interests and passions that were nurtured and developed at SMASH. That results in a high percentage of alumni remaining connected to the school and interested in its current students.
“What’s especially interesting to celebrate is that (SMASH) is still a place where there’s a combination of student interest and their natural curiosity being a foundation for the type of learning and projects they do as well as teachers noticing what they should introduce,” she said.
The annual event is an opportunity for adult alumni to visit the school but Rishe said more recent students sometimes return throughout their school careers. She said Santa Monica High School has a late start on Wednesdays and many of SMASH graduates choose to spend some time at the school before heading to their high school classes. She said the older students help provide a bridge for the younger children, offering advice on adjusting to a school that’s more than 10 times the size of SMASH.
“They offer advice on how to find your niche in a big high school, they talk about the first time you’re handed a syllabus with six assignments and due dates, how to try and make it something that will be meaningful to you.”
Jamee Tenzer, President of the SMASH Parent Teacher Student Association, said the event benefits former and current students alike.
“The alumni are so excited to see the school and to see what has changed and also maybe a few things that have stayed the same,” she said. “I think the alumni will be very excited to reconnect with each other.”
She said recent and current students can connect to the school’s history and develop a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves when they interact with adult alumni.
“Current students are part of a legacy and a history and the school has evolved over the years and we’ve changed locations three times,” she said. “Many teachers have come and gone but what I want to say is the core principles that were there when SMASH started are still there.”
Both Rishe and Tenzer said SuperSMASH is an opportunity for non-affiliated residents to experience the SMASH community and gain some knowledge of the school.
“It’s important for the community because it’s celebrating something unique in the community. I think it’s a great opportunity for the community to come together, have fun and get to know each other,” said Tenzer. “This year being the 40th anniversary, it’s a once in a lifetime chance to really understand what SMASH is all about and really spend some time there.”
SuperSMASH will be held on May 17 from 11:30 a.m. — 5:30 p.m. at SMASH/Los Amigos Park (2525 Fifth St.). Free admission.