Natural beauty and opportunity draw Marin natives to return home to settle

Olivia Brekhus

Green rolling hills are illuminated by golden sunsets. The Pacific Ocean’s blue swells rush in and out. Headlights flash across a towering red monument, overlooking the alluring San Francisco Bay. The bridge provides the passageway to a land of opportunity beyond: endless hiking trails are scattered throughout the County, speaking to its natural beauty and abundance. Marin has it all, causing me to wonder––why leave? For many Marin natives, they decide not to, instead returning to their hometowns and continuing their family legacies.

Redwood parent Debbie Fraschetti grew up in Greenbrae and Kentfield, and after graduating from Kent Middle School, she attended Redwood and then the University of Colorado, Boulder. Eventually, she moved to Italy, where she married her husband and gave birth to their daughter, junior Sarah Fraschetti. Their family moved back to Marin when Sarah was just 3 years old.

“It was mostly about family, but also quality of life. As much as we loved being in Italy and [having] a slower paced life, we loved to live in an area where we could go hiking and be outside more. Rome does not really offer a lot of that. We thought we would be happier here,” Fraschetti said.

In addition to the lifestyle, Fraschetti shared that education played a large role in why she chose to raise her family in Marin. She attended Kent Middle School because her parents felt that Marin offered a great public education, a common belief by many parents according to Fraschetti. Data Network suggests that 94.4 percent of Marin County students graduate high school. This statistic could be due to a number of factors including the quality of teachers and administrators or significant parental involvement in children’s education that boost student’s grades, among other plausible reasons. Whatever the reason, according to Redwood parent, Kirsten Womack, high intensity education has always felt like a part of Marin’s culture, for students at both public and private schools.

Debbie Fraschetti and friends before their senior ball in 1985. Photo courtesy of Debbie Fraschetti.

Womack was raised in Mill Valley and now lives three minutes walking distance from Redwood. Womack explains that she moved back to Marin to be close to her parents, and because Marin offers great schools. But like Fraschetti who highlighted family and schools as important, Womack also mentioned the outdoor lifestyle Marin offers was a key aspect of her return to Marin.

“The surrounding beauty and what we have access to with San Francisco being right here, Mount Tam being right here, Tahoe being so close––I just feel like we are so lucky to have all of these different opportunities right at our doorstep,” Womack said.

Kirsten Womack’s senior portrait in the Marin Catholic yearbook, class of 1988. Photo courtesy of Kirsten Womack.

When asked whether or not moving back to Marin had been her plan all along, Womack laughed and explained that kids “back in the day” did not plan their lives play-by-play as many do nowadays. But she explains the appeal of moving back as an interest in nature given all of Marin’s features.

“I have always liked Marin. It is a beautiful place to live and we had family here so it wasn’t like I was dying to go somewhere else. But, I didn’t necessarily plan to be back here raising my kids or to be back here for the long haul,” Womack said.

In addition to Marin’s beauty and the family connections, Fraschetti observed that students at Redwood seem different from when she was a student.

“The level of stress is higher now than I think it was back in the day when I went to Redwood. There used to be a lot more kids sitting on the lawn, having fun at lunch. Whereas now, I feel like that doesn’t really happen,” Fraschetti said.

Although there is a lot of talk about the increased stress levels of high school students, Redwood alumni and parent Kim Allen believes the Redwood student body continues to have a positive view of the Redwood community.

“Everyone likes to be active and to socialize. You know people are inclusive and you know there is a community and people care about each other genuinely. There is a comradery––it’s not like everyone is just working all the time, coming home and staying in their house,” Allen said. She felt that this type of environment would be the perfect place to start her family.

Students and parents in Marin County feel a strong sense of community that is created by Marin County’s excellent schools, according to Allen, echoing the description of Redwood today by former alums. Maybe this is not so surprising. Just like in the era of these alums, Marin offers Redwood families sports games and various other extra-curricular events, and parents are as eager as ever to participate in and be a part of their school’s community. These are traditions that Marin natives value deeply, eventually convincing them to return to the community they call home.

Womack admits that it can be easy to get caught up in what some people call the “ Marin bubble.”  In a county with many residents who have extreme wealth, some students experience a lifestyle unparalleled in other places. But there are many positives as well, she notes.

“Appreciate what we have and never take it for granted. Respect other people’s opinions and perspectives on things. Just realize how fortunate we are to be here,” Womack said.