What do Graded 100 years represent?


On October 17th, Graded will turn 100.  The school was founded by the American Chamber of Commerce and six Americans; their vision was to prepare its students for colleges and universities in the United States and create an international community. After a century, Graded has done so much more than its founders ever envisioned. In this article, The Talon set out to explore the significance of the school’s 100th birthday for the Graded community, interviewing a Graded Lifer, an Alumni, a Teacher, and the Head of Communication. 


When the school first opened it welcomed six American students in a two-room schoolhouse. As the years passed those numbers began to grow, with students enrolled from all over the world.  Graded had to move to a larger campus in order to accommodate the larger student body.


Today, Graded does more than provide an American education to a diverse community of students. The school’s core values work to instill kindness, respect, perseverance, integrity, and intellectual curiosity in all members of its community. 


Current Graded teacher, Dave Butler, and lifer, Felipe Veirano, held similar views on what they believed the biggest change to the school has been. Both highlighted the importance of the Graded community and mentioned that the biggest change in the school was infrastructure. Veirano underlined how ‘everything has changed, from faculty to infrastructure’ in the years he has studied at Graded. He also mentioned that back in 2008 the school’s infrastructure was nothing like it is today; ‘we still had the little red brick classes, the old snack bar, and student center and the barren field.’ For him, Graded 100 years represent a very important date and landmark for a place he has known his entire life; a place that shaped him into the person he is today. 


When asking Mr. Butler, a member of faculty, what changed during his four years at Graded, he mentioned mainly infrastructure – as did other interviewees – such as ‘upgraded facilities, the gym, pool, tennis courts, student center, and libraries’. He added that Graded ‘has provided opportunities for staff and students to explore, inquire, and investigate and also build lifelong relationships’. Mr. Butler expressed that the 100 years of Graded represents ‘the power of education’ — he believes education is the most empowering force in the world because it creates knowledge, builds confidence, and breaks down barriers to opportunity. 


Noemi Camerini, a Graded alumna from the class of 1955, gave a slightly different perspective. She mentioned that during the time she studied at Graded there was nothing in particular that changed. When describing the school around 65 years ago, she recounted it was relatively small compared to what it is today. Noemi expressed that because the community was small, ‘everyone was so close’ and it ‘was a place where you could easily create a social network’. She revealed that the school kindly welcomed its students and transmitted a strong sense of coziness and community. The environment at Graded has not changed since. Although the school has expanded a lot in terms of infrastructure and population size since Noemi’s years at Graded, the values have not changed at all. In one sentence, she summarized Graded 100 years as being ‘100 years of hard work and search for perfection’. This centennial date portrays three things for her: ‘a school that represents tradition’, a place where she studied her whole life, and one that she has ‘a lot of affection’ for.  


Susan Clain has been the Head of Communications at Graded since 2015. When she first started working at, the physical plant didn’t really match this ‘great international reputation’ that the school was known for.  Hence, over time, Ms. Clain said that modernization is what changed the most. There was a shift into a modern way of thinking which consists of more focus on making the content stick, social and emotional aspects behind learnings, design thinking, and problem-solving. Yet, what hasn’t changed is ‘the soul of the school,’ which includes a deep sense of belonging and a sense of community and support. In addition, she explained that Graded  is ‘always ahead of its time.’ For instance, she commented that women have always felt free at Graded despite the limitation of women’s rights throughout the years. She quoted an alumnus saying that ‘Graded was multicultural before the word was coined.’ When asked what unique aspect sets it apart from other places, she said that ‘diversity is the whole essence of the school’. It is important to highlight that just because Graded is old, it doesn’t mean it isn’t innovative. As Head of Communications, the main part of her job is to ‘convey the school’s value proposition’, and the 100 years of Graded show that the institution ‘weathered the storm’. Meaning, it has dealt with many crises and issues throughout these years, thus instilling confidence in everyone, including faculty, donors, parents, and universities. The school’s history and its values are known to the universities and teachers worldwide. Ms. Clain stated that ‘Graded for 100 years has been a welcoming institution that combines the best of American education with Brazilian spirit’, concluding how its uniqueness makes it hard to replicate anywhere else.


The various perspectives show how Graded has maintained its traditional values while also innovating. Throughout these 100 years, the institution has overcome several political, cultural, and social crises. It has also served as a refuge where people from all over the world can feel at home. One aspect expressed by every interviewee was the sense of belonging that the school provides for every eagle. Now the question is: what do Graded 100 years represent to you?