On October 27, 2022, clinical psychologist Dr. Sarah Burgamy ’93 returned to Graland to receive one of the school’s highest alumni honors, The Nancy Nye Priest Alumni Award. Many who knew Mrs. Priest ‘39 (Graland alumna and former educator of 43 years) remember her for her leadership, selflessness, service, courage, creativity, and dedication to the school and the community. Those who have had the pleasure of knowing and working with Dr. Burgamy would agree that she embodies these same qualities as Mrs. Priest.
As the founder of PhoenixRISE, a private practice in Denver, Colorado, Dr. Burgamy is dedicated to offering impactful mental health and counseling services for children, adolescents, and adults in the community. Her clinic is known for its work in identity development, sexual minority competency, as well as transgender and gender-diverse identities. After attending Dartmouth College and the Graduate School of Professional Psychology at the University of Denver, Dr. Burgamy went on to serve as the chair of the Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity for the American Psychological Association (APA), as the president of the Colorado Psychological Association (CPA), and as the diversity division chair of the CPA. Currently, she is a member of the board of directors for Urban Peak, a non-profit organization in Colorado serving youth experiencing homelessness, a board of trustee member at Stanley British Primary School, where she attended grade school before coming to Graland, and serves on the Advisory Committee for the Leadership Institute for Women in Psychology at APA.
When asked what receiving this award means to her, Dr. Burgamy said, “I am beyond humbled and blown away to be given the Nancy Nye Priest Award. I, like so many of us, adored Mrs. Priest. In my job as a psychologist, I don’t think it’s an accident that I work with folks that have differences or challenges that are not always dominant in society. I think Mrs. Priest was one of the people who introduced me early on to the celebration of diversity because she lived it so thoroughly, authentically, and unobtrusively.”
As she reflected on her years at Graland, Dr. Burgamy shared that it was a gift to never feel like a number. Instead, she felt like a whole person that was continuously celebrated and encouraged. “When I was thinking about my time at Graland, I was really struck by how I was able to come into this school and be my full self even during times that were difficult for me. When looking through my report card comments from different teachers, I noticed that I was really celebrated in a way that I don’t think everybody feels everywhere they go in life, much less at school. I think that is something that makes Graland very special.”
In line with Graland’s newly launched strategic plan, Dr. Burgamy also spoke on the importance of providing a culture of belonging in schools and communities. “A culture of belonging is essential to thrive,” Dr. Burgamy said. “One thing I wish children heard more of is ‘You are enough, just as you are. You don’t have to earn worth. You have worth just because you’re here, and it’s not contingent on anything.’”
In addition to all of the meaningful services Dr. Burgamy has been able to provide throughout her career, she believes there is still more work to be done. “My goal is to put myself out of business,” she said. “Meaning that everyone is so well that I am not needed. But I am also absolutely dead set on helping people understand the evolution of other people’s journeys so they can be more welcoming of uncertainty. And by being more welcoming, I mean bringing themselves back from rejection because every time someone says no just because they’re uncomfortable, it doesn’t actually change anything. It just represses somebody’s truth. The struggle is real, and we need places to talk about it. We need to give everyone a little more grace. A little more room. And a little more truth.”
Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1927, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.