Legacy Parent Q&A: Matt Watterman '00

Matt Waterman '00, shares a few thoughts from the perspective of a legacy parent. 

When it came time to decide where to enroll your current 8th grade son Jonah, what made Milken the right fit for him?
As a family, we have really prioritized the character education and experience and we felt that Milken would continue to enrich that and provide him a home (and us). The academics are arguably better than anywhere, the myriad opportunities available to the students, and the framing through a Jewish lens of how to handle certain scenarios make it the perfect place for him to spend 6 important years of his and our family’s life. We also noticed that he was somewhat independent but as a learner would have to push himself and Milken provides a great balance and forum for him to do that. He came into the school with a close-knit group of friends and has been able to branch out and make so many other good new friends that I know will be in his life a long time and surround him with any support he needs.

Looking a few years into the future towards Jonah's graduation, what are your hopes for his biggest takeaways from a Milken education?
That he realizes how lucky he is to have had this transformational experience. To be surrounded by other students whose families have similar values and will be the future movers and shakers of both the Jewish community and the world beyond.  That with hard work and perseverance anything is possible.  To be kind to himself, and others, and make a substantial positive impact on the world around him.
How has Milken evolved since you were a student here? In what ways do you anticipate these changes affecting Jonah's experience?
Under Dr. Shulkind’s leadership, in many ways Milken is an entirely different school than I attended, but still built upon the same rock solid foundation which continues to guide the institution today.  Everything the institution does is with polish and intention, and the mission is so clearly articulated and then delivered upon. With now additional resources, there are many more opportunities both for learning and preparation for the next steps in life with things like public speaking, presenting and learning to collaborate with a group.  The approach to the student is so well thought out; there is as much support as the individual needs. The hiring of staff that interacts with the students is so purposeful, and the connection that the teachers feel to students and vice-versa is palpable – they are truly investing in both the academic and character success of each. It feels like Jonah is able to experiment and try many new things in an enriched positive environment. I truly believe that he will leave Milken with all of the tools and knowledge how to use them to be successful and live a life full of meaning.
What experience/memories stand out from your time at Milken and how do you think that has shaped the person you are today?
Looking back now, I remember the school closer to its infancy as a work in progress. We had classes in trailers, one bathroom for the entire school, science at UJ, swimming and t’filah at Stephen Wise, and were bussed all over. So much has changed and improved over the 30+ years of the school’s history and it’s a testament to what can evolve from a mission and good stewardship.
The emphasis on relationships, both amongst students and with faculty, has always been a core value at the school and that has played a key role in how I interact with others. While Dr. Powell has since moved on from his amazing headship in the 1990s, his mantra of it being more important to be an A person than an A student lives on, both in my life and as the bedrock of Milken.
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At Milken Community School, we think education is more than what you know. Our School, founded on Jewish values, is about who our children can become and how they can help others become who they might be. Because the world our children will create tomorrow is born in the School we build today, our mission is to educate our children so they can surpass us.
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