Alumni Spotlight: Quinn Novak

Class of: 2006

Where do you live now? Richmond, Virginia

Did you enjoy your time at Arbor?
Arbor was a fundamental building block in my education. My experiences there were invaluable.

Who was your favorite teacher and why?
Alison Sherrill was my first through third year teacher. She helped develop my sense of independence and always encouraged exploration, creativity, and growth. I will never forget something she taught me at a very young age, “Life isn’t always fair.”

What was your most memorable moment as a student?
Going to Arbor from age three to fourteen, I had countless memories. Some highlights include going to Medicine Bow with Betty and learning to shoot a bow and arrow and choreographing the Middle School production of Guys and Dolls. The most memorable experience was being able to grow, develop, and experience so many changes in early childhood with friends that became more like brothers and sisters to me and teachers that became family. There is truly no community like Arbor and, for that, I will be forever grateful.

If you are in the working world, what are you doing and where are you working?
I am an attorney in Richmond, Virginia. I am an associate at a mid-size firm and my practice focuses on civil litigation, including family law and insurance defense. My work with family law involves child custody, visitation, divorce, an adoption, and a large portion of my work with insurance defense includes assisting child counselors and therapists.

Do you think your time at Arbor helped you to pursue your career? If yes, how?
When I was in Middle School, I asked my teachers if I could direct and perform the trial from To Kill a Mockingbird to present to the class. As always, I was encouraged to pursue my passions and was given the go ahead. I assigned roles to my classmates and memorized Atticus Finch’s closing argument. I wore my first suit (one borrowed from my dad) and performed the infamous trial for the class. Years later, I would think about that moment in college and it inspired me to join the mock trial team, where I would go on to become Vice President at the College of William and Mary. Later still, I wrote about that moment in my law school admission essay. Now I am barred in Virginia and practicing law, giving real closing arguments to real jurors. However, that first moment of inspiration of what may be my life’s purpose happened in the four corners of the Arbor Middle School classroom.

Are you still friends with anybody you met at Arbor?
Yes. I got married on October 26, 2019, and two of my lifelong friends and Arbor alumni, Dakota Flournoy and Hillary Burdette-Sapp, were in attendance. We met at age five and they are like sisters that I never had.

Describe Arbor in 3 words. Foundation, community, encouragement

What is your lasting impression of Arbor?
Arbor allowed me to grow, experiment, and make mistakes, knowing that I had a steady support net to catch me when I fell. Arbor really embodied Miss Frizzle’s motto, “Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!” Over the years, I learned that you fail (often) and, as Allison said, “Life isn’t always fair,” and it’s so important to remember there are people there to catch you and you have the power within you to lift yourself back up. Arbor taught me that and continues to teach me that.