Kelli Tosone graduated from Suffield Academy in 1990, then matriculated to Boston College to earn a B.S. in Political Science and a Master’s of Arts in Teaching from Simmons. Kelli soon after began a teaching career at the elementary school level in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and quickly developed a great passion for working with students. She returned to Suffield Academy as a faculty member in 2014 and has since held roles in multiple departments, including the library and admissions.
She now works in Suffield’s Office of College Counseling as Associate Director. “Coming back to work here as an adult has been an amazing opportunity,” she says. “Being a faculty member brings me an enormous sense of pride, and I look forward to coming to work every day helping students with their college search. I love being an advisor and meeting new students each week during sit-down lunch. I have spent time at different schools over the years for various events, and I can say Suffield is by far one of the friendliest communities. We all come together in times of joy and struggle.
Kelli chose to attend Suffield as a student because she craved a school with a close-knit community and that is exactly what Suffield Academy has always offered. “I was a bit shy in school and felt the small class sizes would benefit me,” she says. “I wanted to develop relationships with new friends and form genuine connections with my teachers. I had peers who were attending Suffield and they spoke of how much they loved it. I know everyone says it, but there is something pretty special about this place. People are friendly and genuinely care for one another. Choosing to join this community for my high-school years was one of the best decisions I ever made. I valued meeting people from all over the world, and being in a diverse, inclusive environment helped nudge me out of my shell. I developed friendships and relationships with teachers that I would not have had if I had gone to another school.
For many alumni, it is difficult to pinpoint a single most memorable part of their Suffield experience, and for Kelli, it is no different. Although she admits she was not the strongest swimmer, she recalls a close bond with her swim team which included locker room shaving parties and pep rallies in the lobby of Brewster Hall. “I do still remember how Rocky ended one of our final exams,” she recounts. “He wrote out the lyrics to ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ by Billie Joel and asked us to describe their significance. That was a very creative way to end a history exam. And when I was a senior, we were required to write a senior thesis for Ms. Henehan, who is now Mrs. Molly Vianney. I looked up to her and took in every word she said in class. I loved her class so much that I thought I wanted to be a Supreme Court Justice. I still have the original copy in my office today. It means a lot to me.
Choosing to join this community for my high-school years was one of the best decisions I ever made. I valued meeting people from all over the world, and being in a diverse, inclusive environment helped nudge me out of my shell. Kelli ’90
Walking to school certainly beats riding a bus, making stops at every railroad crossing and passengers’ driveways and that occasional around-the-block cruise to prevent an impossible three-point-turn. Although indeed an enticing factor, Gabriella Tosone did not choose to attend Suffield Academy simply because the campus was within walking distance or because her mother is an alumna or in defiance of public transportation. She chose Suffield because she wanted “a memorable and enriched high-school experience.” A memorable experience she certainly did have.
“The most memorable part of my Suffield experience is the friendships I formed and the relationships I made with my teachers,” she says. “I know my friends are people I will keep in contact with throughout college and life and my teachers will always be the mentors I appreciate most of all, not only because from them I learned to become a better student but because of the life lessons they taught me. Suffield encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and learn more about myself. I came to Suffield as a shy and nervous young girl and learned that it is okay to be vulnerable. Suffield provided me the platform to try new things, discover my own voice, and pursue my passions. Through student council, the senior speaker series, and musicals I learned to use my voice to share myself with others. I knew I could be myself at Suffield no matter what that looked like each day.”
It is commonly said that the community of welcoming and unique students and faculty at Suffield create a vibe incomparable to any other place. Students feel they are accepted and embraced for being themselves and although this seems like a basic human privilege it is genuinely appreciated by the inclusion of consciousness very unique to Suffield Academy. The bonds formed here are strong and go the distance. “I miss the little things about Suffield like dinners with my advisory or in the dining hall with my friends, Saturday nights hanging out, faculty children, and the general feeling of acceptance,” Gabriella says with a smile. “I have also had some amazing moments in the Performing Arts Center, from watching my friends perform in showcases and dance shows to performing myself in musicals. It was always the place I felt safest to be myself and forget about the stresses of being a teenager.”
Mrs. Vianney [advisor] offered me new strategies to trust myself and see the strength and beauty I have within me, and because of her I am inspired to pursue the study of psychology in college. Gabriella ’20
Gabriella’s favorite subject at Suffield was history but she also loved English. “English allows me to be creative and writing is a passion of mine,” she says, “but I love history because it explains how we got to the life we have now.” A fine student and athlete, Gabriella was the recipient of the Freshman History Prize, French Prize, and Trinity Book Prize in addition to earning the Dedication and Determination Prize for her efforts in cross country her junior year. Like her mother she also has a deep respect for the teachings of Mrs. Molly Vianney. “She was my teacher for two years and her passion for history made me want to come to class and engage daily. I always loved the subject but because of her dedication, I found myself more invested in the material. Outside of the classroom, she is always friendly and her energy and smile are contagious.”
Aside from history with Mrs. Vianney and on a more personal level, Gabriella also discovered solace and inspiration in her relationship with the counseling center’s Mrs. Heather Dugan, who she says had a strong impact on her life. “She was a great support for me during all life’s obstacles and was always there for me when I needed to talk,” explains Gabriella. “She offered me new strategies to trust myself and see the strength and beauty I have within me, and because of her I am inspired to pursue the study of psychology in college.”
Suffield Academy is not just a school; it is a home. Annually representing over 20 domestic states and more than 35 world-wide countries, Suffield is a gathering ground where cultures connect in small, intimate classroom settings, compete at the highest levels of athleticism, and learn from each other in fun, dynamic social circles. Sophia Tosone also grew up within walking distance of the school and from an early age was very familiar with sledding down Bell Hill in the winters and babysitting faculty children. “Whenever on campus I would see students going from class to class laughing and having fun,” she says with excitement. “I wanted that to be me when I got to high school. And after hearing and seeing what my mom and sister had, I knew Suffield was the right place for me.”
Sophia definitely likes people and it shows because her favorite place on campus is Landis Student Union. “My mom told us that the union used to be open from 10 to 10:30pm every night during the week with music playing for everyone to enjoy a break after study hall and before lights out. She said day students would even come back for that short period of time just to hang out. There is always something to do there. Everyone practices at different times, but there are always people there from every grade, making it easy to have fun no matter what time of day it is. There are places there to work quietly, get a snack, or just catch up with friends. Whatever I need to do I can do there.”
Whenever on campus I would see students going from class to class laughing and having fun—I wanted that to be me when I got to high school. And after hearing and seeing what my mom and sister had, I knew Suffield was the right place for me. Sophia ’22
At Suffield, the community supports one another, and that is a universal response when asked what makes the school so special. However, there are other aspects of the programming that are additionally worth noting. “The amount of different activities offered makes Suffield a very special place,” acknowledges Sophia. “No matter what your interests are, there is an activity for you here. My sister is more artistic than me having been involved in musicals and plays, while I am more athletic. I focus my time more on sports. Either way, there are things we both enjoyed. There are also many clubs and an increasing amount added each year. It is nice to know there are now even more choices for everyone.”
As a student, Sophia was the recipient of the Freshman Advanced Math Prize and as an athlete she is already within the top 25 swimmers for the 500-meter freestyle and 100-meter butterfly, earning her the Class of 1981 Swimming Award her freshman year. She has been a three-season varsity athlete since arriving as a freshman competing in field hockey, swimming, and crew. Although skilled in mathematics, Sophia shares the same interest as her sister when it comes to academics. “My favorite subject is history because of the teachers I have had here at Suffield,” she says. “I have had two teachers and both are passionate about the subject and have made it that much more interesting and enjoyable. They create a balanced learning experience and make classes just enough fun while at the same time informative. Before coming to Suffield I was never able to make this kind of connection to history or develop this amount of passion for it.”
One of the many things that make Suffield so unique is that it is a very small, big school. In the past several years there have been many updates to campus and remarkable renovations to its facilities, making Suffield Academy one of the most coveted independent schools in New England. With an average class size of 10 and a 5:1 student to teacher ratio, Suffield is very much like the American sitcom television series Cheers where everybody knows your name. In short, without the exceptionally kind, talented, ambitious, and tenaciously competitive students and faculty, the school’s community would simply not be the same. “When I graduate I will miss the people who I may not see again. Many of them live far away and I will miss them the most since they added so much to my experience. Our breaks are never more than just a few weeks but even during that time I miss everyone and everything about Suffield. My most memorable part of Suffield will always be of the people I met here.”
Upholding a legacy means different things to different families, but for the Tosone family it is clear they carry with them a cherished bond for a place they grew to love in each their own way. They will always be able to look back and share common stories about teachers, traditions, events, athletics, Bell Hill sunsets, dress code, favorite places on campus, and the joys and sorrows of teenage years. “Suffield will always be a common piece in our lives,” concludes Kelli. “While our experiences are unique and individual, many of the traditions here have remained the same. I still feel like I should be in the pool swimming when I hear Andy Lowe’s voice, and it is wonderful to see my daughter Sophia as part of the same strong swim program. As a parent, I feel fortunate that both Gabriella and Sophia have had the opportunity to experience the amazing community that Suffield is. The friendships and relationships they have built will be with them for a lifetime. I hope this legacy continues with their children as well.” Sophia and Gabriella add, “Our mom has so many fond memories of her time at Suffield and now as a faculty member she is making new ones. We are proud to have shared some of the same experiences and learned from some of the same teachers and coaches, but more importantly, we are grateful to have made Suffield our own.”