Students Day

Celebrating community, literacy, and inspiration

One of our greatest joys in producing the Sonoma Valley Authors Festival is Students Day, when we bring more than a dozen authors and thought leaders to share their experiences and ideas with 2,700 middle and high school students across the Sonoma Valley.

Each year, we begin the Festival with this celebration of community, literacy, and inspiration designed specifically for local students. World renowned writers including Doris Kearns Goodwin, Billy Collins, Anthony Ray Hinton, Astronaut Scott Kelly and Simon Winchester have enthralled gymnasiums full of students with their stories. Additionally, an average of 4,000 books written by the presenting authors are given free to the students, all paid for with private donations.

The Sonoma Valley Authors Festival sincerely thanks the Vadasz Family Foundation for their continued generous support of Students Day. This support, plus many individual contributors allow us to produce Students Day each year.

Sonoma Valley schools who have participated in Students Day include Sonoma Valley High School, Sonoma Academy, Adele Harrison, Altimira Middle Schools, Archbishop Hanna High School, and Kenwood School.

Students Day impact by the numbers

9,700+ students

have explored new ideas in person with our award-winning writers and thought leaders

15,000+ books

written by the presenting authors have been given to students, all paid for with private funds

152+ world-class authors & speakers

have discussed a myriad of topics and various disciplines on Students Day

The Lasting Impact of Students Day

Joseph Silvi was a 15-year-old sophomore at Sonoma Valley High School intent on becoming an engineer when he met Pedro Irazoqui, PhD, after Pedro spoke at the 2018 Sonoma Valley Authors Festival Students Day. At the time, Dr. Irazoqui was the Director of the Center for Implantable Devices, Associate Head for Research, and Professor at Purdue University’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering. (He is now Incoming head of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering.)

When Joseph discussed his desire to become an engineer, Dr. Irazoqui offered him a paid summer internship once he turned 16. Having just passed his driving exam, Joseph and his father drove cross country to Purdue University in Indiana, and Joseph went to work for Dr. Irazoqui and his team for the summer. Joseph graduated from Sonoma Valley High School in 2021 and is now studying Environmental Engineering at UC Berkeley. Watch the interview with Joseph and Laura Zimmerman, a former television news anchor and reporter, as they discuss this very special internship and the impact it had on Joseph.

Students Day – Brochures from past years

Yesterday will remain one of the highlights of the entire 20-year history of Sonoma Academy!

Janet Durgin

Head of School Sonoma Academy

You truly did a good deed in bringing the Sonoma Valley Authors Festival to Sonoma Valley High School. I was literally moved to tears to hear the excited comments, to answer this request for one more book, and to see how engaged our students were with the wonderful speakers. I know you will be hearing from the students as well but thank you from the bottom of my heart-school should be like this every day!

Janet Hansen

Librarian & Co-Head of the English Department Sonoma Valley High School

A student (senior) got up at the school board meeting last night and said it was the best day of his educational career [at Sonoma Valley High School.] My daughter at Sonoma Academy said the same thing. Bravo! I really hope you have the energy to do it again next year!

Lorna Sheridan

Reporter for the Sonoma Index Tribune

Support Students Day

The cost to produce Students Day is substantial — approximately $150,000 each year. But it remains an integral component of the full Sonoma Valley Authors Festival experience, allowing us to contribute meaningfully to the inspiration and education of young readers. Please consider supporting this effort by becoming a Festival Sponsor or Donor today.

Additionally, we work with many Donor Advised Funds, Family Foundations, and Community Foundations to make Students Day a continuing success.

Students Day also depends upon the continued the support of the local community. This year, we hope new funding will allow us to serve even more students, including young scholars from nearby Santa Rosa schools.

Supporting Partner

Sonoma Valley Education Foundation

Led by Executive Director Angela Ryan, PhD, the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation is an independent nonprofit organization that enriches students’ education from preschool all the way through high school. Their mission is to help every student find inspiration and success in the classroom and to graduate well prepared for college and a career. Working with teachers, administrators, and the school district, SVEF supports Sonoma schools by funding targeted programs aimed at raising students’ achievement and fostering a love of learning.

The foundation has invested over $15 million dollars in the Sonoma Valley public school programs, funding specific, innovative academic and enrichment programs that help students thrive throughout their school years from Early Childhood Literacy to College & Career Readiness.