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Greetings from new LAJF Executive Director Judy Fox

Dear Rising Sun Alumni and Friends:

Greetings, everyone!  I am more than delighted to be writing to you as the new Executive Director of LAJF.  I have enjoyed a month of becoming acquainted with the precepts of the Rising Sun program and the work of the foundation.  In this first letter, I’d like to share with you what attracted me to this position in the first place, and what I see as the challenging and exciting work before us.

When the Board’s search consultants approached me to consider LAJF and I explored the website, my first thought was that if the Rising Sun program is what it is represented to be, it is the best kept secret in the world of young adults.  In fact, I articulated just that at one of my interviews with the search committee.  After reading about how the summer operates and visiting the Red Hook and Clinton campuses, my conviction about the value of the program only deepened. 

One young alumna, Cristin Strining, was kind enough to accompany Bob Mellins and me on our trip to Rhinebeck.  She reminisced about her experiences as both a high schooler and a staff member.  She was a knowledgeable tour guide, literally walking me through a typical day, offering stories and vivid images that brought the place alive.  Perhaps most important were her reflections about the values that were part of her Rising Sun experiences: caring about others, respecting cultural differences, committing oneself to making the community and world better in some small way. 

Even if that were all, it would have been enough to convince me that I wanted to be part of this enterprise.  By now I’ve had the pleasure to meet and speak with a number of members of the Board and MAC who have dedicated many years, substantial effort and no small measure of brainpower to first, maintaining, and now assuring the future of Rising Sun and LAJF.  What I heard echoed from alumni and program friends whose initial experiences spanned several decades, was the same conviction about the transformative potential of Rising Sun expressed by Crissy during our April tour. 

To someone like me who spent many years working with teenagers in schools, the iterative accounts I have heard of connecting with others, coming to know oneself and one’s potential, developing an understanding of the complexities of others’ cultures and internalizing a sense of obligation to improve the world in some way, were expressions of a mission worthy of perpetuation.  Indeed, the enduring friendships of Rising Sun seem often to outlast those of high school, college, and beyond.  Now, I am here, and after a month, I feel energized and eager to contribute what I can to a most worthy program.

With all the strong relationships, powerful learning, intense positive feelings and diverse memories of Rising Sun, come strong opinions, powerful points of view, intense passions and diverse visions of how to build on that which contributed to our success in the past in order to ensure it going forward.

I’ve been told by some of their disappointment about the hiatus in operating the program this summer, and I’ve learned of differences of opinion about directions in which we might move.  It shouldn’t be surprising that Rising Sun alumni care about what happens and are confident and eloquent enough to express their views.  We have some rebuilding and reconnecting to do.  What I fervently hope is that you will respond to my invitation to participate in those endeavors with me.

By the time you read this, I will likely be in Stendis, visiting for a few days to learn, first-hand, what it is like to participate in a Rising Sun program.  I need all the knowledge I can soak up because in only ten weeks, we initiate our selection processes for the 2010 programs in Red Hook and Clinton. 

I am grateful to the Board for organizing a series of alumni retreats at Rhinebeck this summer.  The first retreat is full, but there remain a few spaces in each of the three others, so please contact Christina Busso if you think you might have time to join us for a weekend.  It will be a wonderful opportunity for us to meet, share our stories and get to know one another.

To those of you I’ve already met, I say, “Thank you!” for your remarkable hospitality and for sharing your stories.  I look forward to coming to know many more of you over time. 

I will try to communicate regularly through notes like this, on the website and in the newsletters.  I welcome your ideas and suggestions as we construct the future of Rising Sun and LAJF together. 

Warm regards,

Judy Fox

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