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Posted Tuesday, Feb 24, 2015 

Consider yourself invited to Oliver!, the Middle School Musical. Travel back to Dickensian London for the story of a poor workhouse boy and a gang of thieves, complete with robbery, trickery, song, dance, love, and murder! Performances are March 6 and 7 at 7:30pm and March 8 at 2:00pm. Tickets are available here. See you at the show!

Posted Monday, Feb 23, 2015 

By Rosie C. '16

After lugging an electric piano across the Circle and stuffing it into the trunk of a car, Music for the Community members Yael, Kaitlin, Hannah, and Rosie arrived at Stanford Mall. We set up in the Center Pavilion at the doorstep of Tiffany’s and across from Macy’s – quite a lucky location! At this performance, we collected donations for the Music in the Schools Foundation, which provides music education for under-resourced children in East Palo Alto.

We joined forces with Woodside Priory’s music club, so we had two times the musicians and two times the repertoire. The program began with a violin duet, and shifted back and forth between modern and classical pieces (including Frozen, Bruno Mars, and violin/flute duets). It was extremely gratifying to see every and all kinds of faces in the audience: older couples, moms with their children, and girls dancing around until they excitedly ran up and put their donations in our open violin cases. Seeing their smiles made the performance all the more worthwhile.

Since we've been blessed with a great musical education both outside and inside of school, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to give back to the community and share our love of music with others who are less fortunate. After a jam-packed hour of singing and playing, we raised $234 for Music in the Schools Foundation!

Posted Friday, Feb 13, 2015 

Many members of the Castilleja community participated in "Blind Date with a Book" last year. This year, the library is sending folks out on more dates -- but with a twist. Each brown bag on the library shelf has two books in it -- a pair of star-crossed lovers that didn't know they were meant to be until our librarians plucked them out of separate spots in the library and put them together.

Supplies are dwindling, so stop in soon to check a book out. The teasers on the bags -- multicolored dots with word clouds and keywords -- also give an idea of which books might be waiting inside. Look for those labeled 9+ or 10+ for Upper School and adult-interest titles.

Also, watch this fantastic video made by Devon M. '16 celebrating the event!

Posted Monday, Feb 9, 2015 

Fifteen Castilleja students were among the regional award winners in the Scholastic Art & Writing Competition announced on February 2. 

In the Art Division the following students were recognized: Gold Key: Anahita Afshari '15 (Photography) and Emma Glickman '16 (Photography); Silver Key: Jane Choi '15 (Painting); Honorable Mention: Karina Gunadi '15 (Painting), Hanna Knowles '15 (Drawing and Illustration), Tammy Qui '15 (Painting), Mimi Tran Zambetti '16 (Painting), Anna Yu '15 (Painting), and Jessica Zubizarreta '15 (Painting).

In the Writing Division the following students were recognized: Gold KeyHannah Knowles '15 (Writing Portfolio); Silver Key: Gwen Cusing '17 (Poetry), Katie Mishra '18 (Critical Essay), Noel Peng '17 (Poetry), and Margaret Zhang '17 (Poetry, Flash Fiction); Honorable Mention: Caroline Harris '15 (Poetry), Sofia Khu '18 (Personal Essay/Memior), Hannah Knowles '15 (Short Story), and Margaret Zhang '17 (Poetry, Flash Fiction).

Since 1923, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards have recognized the vision, ingenuity, and talent of our nation’s youth, and provided opportunities for creative teens to be celebrated. Each year, increasing numbers of teens participate in the program, and become a part of our community–-young artists and writers, filmmakers and photographers, poets, and sculptors, along with countless educators who support and encourage the creative process. Students across America submitted 255,000 original works during our 2014 program year.

Congratulations to all the winners!


Posted Thursday, Feb 5, 2015 

Arts and Entertainment Reporter Elizabeth Schwyzer spent some time with Dance Production Workshop (DPW) students, Arts with a Heart (AwaH) cast members, and employees of Ada's Cafe as they prepared for their upcoming show, "HumanKIND."  

Read the full article here:

Posted Thursday, Feb 5, 2015 

Hannah Knowles '15 was recognized as a 2015 YoungArts Finalist (Writing/Short Story). Hannah was one of 23 students recognized in the Writing category and one of 170 Finalists nationwide selected from a pool of over 11,000 applications. As a Finalist, she was invited to participate in the 34th Annual National Young Arts Week in Miami, Florida where she spent a week taking master classes taught by internationally renowned artists including writers Jenji Kohan and Sam Lipsyte. She is also eligbile to become a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, and honor that will be announced later this year.

Since 1981, the National YoungArts Foundation has nurtured the next generation of artists in the literary, performing, and visual arts. YoungArts awards recognize outstanding student achievement in the cinematic arts, dance, design arts, jazz, music, photography, theater, visual arts, voice and writing.

Posted Wednesday, Feb 4, 2015 

Senior Kriti L. was selected as one of 40 finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search. The organization boasts, "The Intel Science Talent Search (Intel STS) is the nation's most prestigious pre-college science competition. Intel STS alumni have made extraordinary contributions to science and hold more than 100 of the world’s most coveted science and math honors, including the Nobel Prize and the National Medal of Science. Students are selected based upon their scientific research and also on their overall potential as future leaders of the scientific community. Intel STS recognizes 300 students as semifinalists each year and awards them and their schools $1,000 each. From that select pool, 40 finalists are then invited to Washington, DC in March to undergo final judging, display their work to the public, meet with notable scientists, and compete for $1,012,500 in awards, including the three top awards of $150,000 each." You can read the official press release here.

Kriti's project, "A Novel Bacteria Strain and Bioreactor for Practical Arsenic Water Bioremediation," is about creating an inexpensive way to remove arsenic from water. She says, "Arsenic poisoning is a huge problem that affects nearly 137 million people worldwide, and causes liver, bladder, and kidney cancer. The current problem is that arsenic removal is very expensive; so in my research, I set out to create an inexpensive solution. I developed a new strain of bacteria that converts arsenite (a form of arsenic difficult to remove from water) to arsenate (a form of arsenic that's relatively easier to remove from water). I also built an inexpensive bioreactor that uses this strain of bacteria to clean arsenic-contaminated water. In the future, I'm looking forward to hopefully taking this bioreactor to developing countries and villages where arsenic water contamination is a problem. I've always been interested in science ever since I was little. I would always want to find out how things worked, and have always loved asking questions."

Congratulations Kriti, and good luck in the next round!


Posted Tuesday, Feb 3, 2015 
On Friday, January 30th, a group of Castilleja middle and high school students participated in an engaging design thinking and leadership workshop hosted in the ACE Center by four students at Stanford University, including one Castilleja alumna. Students engaged in improv games and a hands-on design thinking challenge to creatively improve their school community, which included storytelling, a brainstorm relay race, prototyping, and skits. Then, students reflected on their passions, skills, and the causes they care about, and brought these three areas together in writing their own personal "mission statements."
The workshop was a part of a new Stanford social entrepreneurship initiative entitled "Girls Driving for a Difference" -- four college women will drive an RV across the country this summer and coach even more of these workshops to empower middle school girls around America to become leaders of social change.
Posted Tuesday, Jan 27, 2015 
ASB has decided to recognize those among our community who have become Commuting Superstars. Ms. Nella, from the Fitness and Wellness Department, has taken the Casti challenge of "creative commuting" to a whole new level! ASB has deemed Ms. Nella the first Commuting Superstar of 2015.
Every day Ms. Nella hops onto her collapsable bike, rides over to the train station, and then heads over to Castilleja. She also has her own personal reflections about green commuting: "Going from a 5-day a week single driver to a 5-day a week train/bike rider has been an awesome journey! In addition to the obvious benefits of creating a smaller carbon footprint, my commute is quicker and less stressful, I have the opportunity to connect with nature and enjoy the wonders of each morning, and I am able to enjoy moments of solitude and mindfulness to set my intention for the day ahead. This small change has not only helped me contribute to my community, but each day I am reminded about the positive changes it is making in my own life."

Are you our next Commuting Superstar? Know someone who is?  Let ASB know!
Posted Friday, Jan 23, 2015 

The Winter Concert last Thursday was a resounding success. Student performers impressed the audience with a wide array of past and present pieces. The performance featured everything from traditional holiday music, to jazz and blues, to some pop tunes. Musicians hailed from the Middle School and Upper School music ensembles, the Upper School a cappella group The Sounds Sisters, and the world famous employee a cappella group Staff Inflection. Thank you to everyone who came out and saw the show-- the singers and musicians appreciated your support!

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Student Life
Posted 08/19/2016 03:00PM

The first week of school is next week! Here's some information about our first week's activities.

Day by Day 

Mon Aug 22-Wed Aug 24, Orientation and Startup Activities for all students

Thu Aug 25, Tie Ceremony, 8:00 - 8:15 am, Circle

Thu Aug 25, Grade-Level Parent Meetings, 8:20 - 8:50 am, following Tie Ceremony

Thu Aug 25, All Parent/Guardian Meeting, 8:55 - 9:55 am, following Grade-Level Parent Meetings, Chapel Theater

Thu Aug 25, Casti Gear and Spirit Wear Sale, 9:55 - 11:00 am, Admin bldg. lobby

Thu Aug 25, Seniors Drive the Circle, 10:05 am, following All Parent/Guardian Meeting, Circle

Fri Aug 26, Picture Day, 8:00 am - 3:30 pm, Upper Gym



OPENING DAY TIE CEREMONY Castilleja's traditional Tie Ceremony will take place on Thu Aug 258:00 - 8:15 am, on the Circle. At this ceremony, the faculty will pin red carnations on seniors, seniors will tie 9th graders' ties, and 8th graders will tie 6th graders' ties. You can identify the class of each student by the color of her tie as listed below. Questions? Contact Head of MS Anne Cameron or Head of US Jim Pickett.

  • 6th grade - yellow
  • 7th grade - pale blue
  • 8th grade - navy blue
  • 9th grade - green
  • 10th grade - orange
  • 11th grade - purple
  • 12th grade - RED!

GRADE-LEVEL PARENT MEETINGS Following the Tie Ceremony on Thu Aug 25, everyone is invited from 8:20 – 8:50 am to attend their grade-level parent meeting hosted by the Lead Parent Reps (LPRs) for their class. The LPRs will describe the upcoming year, class-level events, and volunteer opportunities. Questions? Contact CSA Resource Chairs Lauren Segal or Victoria Chiongbian here.

ALL PARENT/GUARDIAN MEETING Following the Grade-Level Parent Meetings on Thu Aug 25, Castilleja’s parent group, CSA (Castilleja School Association), will welcome new and returning parents and guardians to their first meeting from8:55 - 9:55 am in the Chapel Theater. Head of School Nanci Kauffman will introduce the leadership team and priorities for the upcoming year. You will also hear about CSA events and opportunities to get involved. Casti Gear will be available for sale after the meeting. All parents are members of the CSA -- join us! Questions? Contact CSA President Alison Abbo.

SENIORS DRIVE THE CIRCLE Following the All Parent/Guardian Meeting on Thu Aug 25, return to the Circle at 10:05 am to cheer for the senior class as they take their ceremonial drive around the Circle. Questions? Contact Head of MS Anne Cameron or Head of US Jim Pickett.

Posted 07/05/2016 03:00PM

June 30th marked a milestone for Castilleja School, as it is the day we submitted to the City of Palo Alto our application for a new Conditional Use Permit (CUP.) So that Castilleja can continue to deliver a vibrant and continually evolving 21st century program, we have asked the City for permission to grow enrollment in our Upper School over time. In addition, we have applied for permits to build an underground garage, and for entitlements to rebuild our classroom buildings. This is an exciting time for Castilleja, but there is a lot to accomplish before our community's vision can be realized.

Feeling inspired? Please consider writing to the Palo Alto City Council in support of Castilleja's plans. See for more information, including guidelines for letter writing.

Castilleja: Educating Tomorrow's Leaders from Castilleja School on Vimeo.

Posted 07/02/2016 03:00PM

Congratulations, Elijah Docter Thornburg '16, for publishing this article in the Palo Alto Online & Palo Alto Weekly about your experience as the first Castilleja student to graduate as a young man. We are so proud of you for beautifully articulating and sharing your story.

"I ultimately made what retrospectively was one of the best decisions of my life: to be openly transgender and to stay at Castilleja. Castilleja was — and always will be — my home. I felt welcomed and respected and loved for all of my time there and couldn't imagine giving that up. I knew that finishing my last two years of high school as the one boy at an all-girls' school would present its own set of challenges, but I thought it would be worth it. It absolutely was."

Read Elijah's article here.

Photo: "Castilleja School graduate Elijah Docter Thornburg gets high-fives from his fellow classmates after receiving his diploma on June 4." Photo by Veronica Weber.

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Posted 06/07/2016 04:48PM

Photo by Veronica Weber

Castilleja School celebrates students who lead

The Class of 2016 reflects on importance of friendship and gratitude

On Saturday afternoon, 67 girls clad in an array of white dresses strode across the circular lawn at Castilleja School arm-in-arm with their peers, each one holding a bouquet of red roses as they made their way to the stage.

Touching on themes of gratitude, education and leadership, Castilleja's 109th commencement began with a simple but telling statement from senior class Vice President Lea Sparkman, whose reading from Craig Silvey's novel "Jasper Jones" said what was palpably felt throughout the ceremony: "What I'm feeling, I think, is joy."

 After a choral performance of "America the Beautiful," valedictorian Claire Huang recounted the simple joys she experienced during her years at Castilleja like a friendly hello on her way to class or a joke between friends in the hallway after school, and how those small gestures made a big difference to her self-confidence. She explained that the best advice she received was not from a speech or classroom lecture, but was shown to her instead by the compassion and love of her peers.

"If there's one thing this class will be remembered for, it is our readiness to love ourselves and each other," she said. "Thank you for sharing your boundless generosity with me and everyone else on this campus and for showing me you don't need a big voice to have a huge heart."Photo by Veronica Weber

Other speakers talked about the importance of a Castilleja education, which keynote speaker and alumnae Laura Arrillaga Andreessen attributed to her success as a philanthropist, educator and social entrepreneur. Her schooling -- from its demands for excellence in academia, sports and service to its emphasis on camaraderie and friendship -- radically changed the way she approached life's most difficult and trying circumstances, giving her the foundation to be a leader in the world, she said.

"Education is the lighting of a fire, and at Castilleja we are ignited, we are stoked and we are illuminated," she said. "Castilleja educators light our fires, and they literally change the course of our lives."

Arrillaga Andreessen also imparted three "transformational gifts" to the graduating Class of 2016: competence creates confidence, hardship hones heroism and gratitude is everything.

Inciting laughter from students and the audience alike, she described the "two-year migraine" she suffered from her junior and senior years from the stress of school, and the constant diet of frozen yogurt, movie popcorn and broccoli that fueled her formative years at Castilleja, a battle greater in difficulty than any of her Stanford University degrees, she admitted.

Despite the difficulties of academic life, her education also gave her unique opportunities to learn from the world around her, to think critically and to gain entrepreneurial skills, all of which paved the way to her career today, Andreessen said.

"Learning how to multitask at a CEO level -- think academics, athletics, government, service -- before I had my driver's license, gave me the courage to have three full-time careers simultaneously," she said. "After succeeding at Castilleja, we can succeed anywhere and at anything because Castilleja gives us an invaluable gift: an acumen that creates unstoppable volition."

Castilleja Award winner Nicole Goodman, who was chosen by the school's faculty as a senior who best embodied the five Cs of Castilleja -- conscience, courtesy, character, courage and charity -- reflected on her gratitude for the opportunities and mentors that surround her and her classmates, dedicating her speech to the teachers who shaped the core of their learning experience.

"You have taught me the importance of learning driven by curiosity, and the value of understanding material for life rather than memorizing it for a test. You are my role models, my life coaches and my friends," she said.

In the final speech of the afternoon, Head of School Nanci Kauffman began with a reference to the Golden State Warriors, who are currently playing in the NBA finals, and asked the audience, "How can the Warriors' popularity and success become a source of wisdom to impart on our graduates?"

Kauffman went on to explain that in the complicated world, success is often defined by acquiring the "right combination" of leadership, risk taking, passion and teamwork. The Warriors have found that balance by equating strong leadership with shared leadership, a skill that the Class of 2016 also embraces, she said.

She praised graduates for their ability to shift leadership roles at a moment's notice and understanding "when to step up and when to step back."

After performing their last rendition of the Castilleja School Song, graduates filed out in pairs toward their family and friends for a reception hosted by the school, where each graduating senior had her own table adorned with pictures, graduation caps and presents."A true warrior does not allow fear to guide her choices, and neither should you," Kauffman said. "If you take nothing else from Castilleja, please take with you the confidence to take chances and to take your own shots."

Juliet O'Brien, who is attending the United States Naval Academy next year, said she is going to miss the all-girls aspect of Castilleja, in addition to the "really extraordinary" teacher-student relationships that the school fostered.

"To be able to have the all-girls experience in the back of my head as I go through college is something that will really help me in the classroom, like being more confident and courageous about sharing my voice and speaking out," O'Brien said.

Senior Laurel Nelson said that the closing remarks by Kauffman stood out for her, adding that the support she received from everyone on campus was unparalleled.

"Having the courage to go after what we want because we have the ability, not just through Castilleja, but through our own individual merits resonated most," said Nelson, who is attending University of California, Berkeley, in the fall.

Andreessen left graduates with the determination to constantly strive for greatness, but she also left them with an unusual request: "Today, as each of you begin to write the next chapter of your spectacular lives, my welcoming words to each of you glorious graduates is do not become the person you always dreamed of being."

"Become the person you never dreamed it was possible to be," she said, smiling with a knowing grin. 

by Avi Salem / Palo Alto Weekly
First and second photographs by Veronica Weber

For original posting by Palo Alto Weekly and more photographs by Veronica Weber, click the following link.

Posted 06/01/2016 08:00AM

All Middle Schoolers participated in Explo where the girls studied various aspects of the environment.  Each grade level made a unique connection to the theme based on what they had learned in their science classes this year: the sixth grade students explored the sources, effects, and solutions of climate change and pollution; the seventh grade students investigated aspects of environmental quality and the effects on various forms of life; and the eighth grade students, in their final year of Explo, delved into relationships between chemicals and waves and their effects on the environment.  This six-week process was completed during science class in groups.  During this time, they went on a field trip to collect data, participated in a service project, and spent time learning at Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge in mixed-grade groups. Back at school, they picked a topic of interest based upon what was observed, researched that topic, designed an experiment, ran multiple trials, analyzed results, and at the Celebration of Explo presented their results to the Castilleja community.  The purpose of Explo is to enable the students to have a collaborative learning opportunity as well as serve as an assessment of their growth within their scientific process skills. Teachers and parents alike marveled at the girls’ skills in scientific thinking!

Watch Explo Video Here!

Posted 05/31/2016 08:00AM



Hollywood Producer (and Casti Parent) BRAD LEWIS speaks to enraptured ninth graders, discussing how he got into Film and specifically Computer Animation...

As Brad stands in front of the Core Arts class, he details his experiences producing Antz for Dreamworks, Ratatouille for Pixar, and co-directing Cars 2 for Pixar.

Brad's presentation finishes with fantastic clips and a brand new trailer from his newest Warner Brothers' animated feature Storks -- coming this September!

Many thanks to Brad for getting Casti's ninth graders so excited about Film!



Posted 05/23/2016 08:43AM

As part of their American Political System class, sophomores have participated in a “mock congress” (“The Castilleja Congress”) focused on improving aspects of Castilleja. The House of Representatives was comprised of two class sections acting as two committees (“Environment and Facility” and “Student Life”), while the Senate, also two sections, acted as the upper house two committees (“Campus and Environment” and “Curricular and Extracurricular”). The House committees drafted and debated legislation. 

Students volunteered to play certain leadership roles, such House Speaker, Majority or Minority Leader, Majority or Minority Whip, or Sergeant at Arms. The mock legislative process occurred across six weeks, using two Extended Opportunitiy Periods for the formal House and Senate sessions in the Chapel Theater during which debate and voting occurred: members offered speeches, proposed amendments, and conferred with each other.

This year’s Congress (the “Fourth Castilleja Congress”) passed three bills: HB1 proposes that sex education be added to Wellness curriculum in the Upper School, HB4 suggests that snacks provided by our food service no longer be individual packaging as a way of reducing waste, and HB6 requests that water fountains in Rhodes Hall be upgraded to allow for water bottles to be filled.

After the bills passed Congress, the House and Senate leadership met with President Kauffman last Wednesday to present and discuss the legislation. In this meeting, President Kauffman immediately signed HB4 and HB6 and later signed HB1 after discussing the proposal with the Fitness and Wellness Department.

Although the Casti Congress is only a class activity, it not only introduces students to how Congress functions (using Roberts’ Rules of Order and other formal procedures), but also gives sophomores an opportunity to design and craft real reforms for their school. Ultimately, students both experience how Congress works and have a significant impact on their school in the process.

Posted 05/19/2016 08:00AM

Lelia Glass, a PhD candidate from the Linguistics Department at Stanford, visited Castilleja and delivered presentations about Linguistics to all four sections of freshman English.  Ms. Glass was incredibly passionate about her subject and engaged the entire ninth grade in several exercises about the structure and study of language. Students have just finished reading Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, so they gained greater insight into the authentic African American dialect present in the novel and were especially intrigued by her discussion of African American language systems. They were also curious about the ways different language systems are connected by their historical roots and "vestigial" qualities and were fascinated to learn from Ms. Glass that English and Hindi are closely related under the "Indo-European" language family! 

Posted 08/22/2016 02:00PM

This week, on and off campus, students are participating in grade-level orientations, retreats, athletics, and special break-out trainings of all sorts in preparation for the upcoming year.

On Monday, 7th and 10th grade left for their retreats and 8th graders had their opening and orientation. Ms. Kertsman and Ms. Clark led an active and reflective ACE Student Leadership Training (pictured) and 6th graders opened their year. 

Tuesday is 6th/8th grade Big and Little Sister orientation, Freshman orientation, and Junior Global Orientation begins with an Athletics meeting this evening. 

Opening Day isn't until Thursday morning, but by then Castilleja students will have already laid the foundation for a successful school year. Go Gators!

Posted 05/25/2016 08:00AM
Senior Seminars kicked off on Wednesday May 18th with personal finance workshops. Educators from the educational nonprofit Next Generation Personal Finance and economics teacher Ms. Hammer taught seniors about college budget management, credit scores, and banking. In the afternoon, Stanford gynecologist Dr. Sophia Yen spoke to seniors about contraception and the state-by-state laws concerning reproductive health. The day concluded with a discussion on leadership and community by Ms. Kauffman.
On Thursday May 19th, seniors listened to a panel of recent Castilleja Alumni give advice to college-bound seniors. Seniors also attended a self-defense workshop led by Andre Salvage to learn how to physically defend themselves from assault. Lastly, seniors were able to choose between electives on voter registration, personal health and wellness, and car mechanics (changing a tire). In the afternoon, seniors walked to lunches hosted at Castilleja faculty's houses both to learn life skills such as sewing and to enjoy time with their beloved teachers. Afterwards, seniors returned to campus to talk to other Castilleja faculty members about their life experiences and advice for high school graduates.
Seniors Seminars concluded with a photo-decorating activity with music and TBT hashtags in the cafeteria.

Posted 05/12/2016 08:00AM

On Tuesday afternoon, the kindergarten students from Brentwood Academy in East Palo Alto joined their Castilleja 7th grade "big" buddies for an afternoon spent singing, dancing, playing field games, touring the Castilleja campus, and saying goodbye to each other for the year. Now in our 4th year of partnership work with Brentwood Academy, we are starting to feel like this work is very meaningful for our 7th graders and for the Kindergarten community alike.  We start the year by prompting the 7th graders with a question, "how do I partner within my community?" and through the year our 7th grade students grow so much as they discover what this means to each of them individually.  It is wonderful to watch this relationship flourish and, as many of the Castilleja community can attest to, it is such a joy to see 100 kindergarten faces and their teachers enjoying our campus as much as we do. 

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Posted 04/26/2016 10:44AM

On April 25th four students from the Girls Learn International (GLI) Ace Org and their advisor represented Castilleja at the annual Feminist Majority Foundation and MS. Magazine Luncheon. The girls listened to thoughtful speeches by various women leaders from around the nation. The students left truly impacted and empowered by one speaker in particular, Dr. Mender Mandefro. Dr. Mender Mandefro was the producer of the movie DIFRET, an award winning movie that emphasizes the need for an end for child brides in Ethiopia. In addition throughout the luncheon, the girls volunteered, and interacted with other students who lead Girls Learn International clubs in their respective high schools. Be on the look out for further GLI programming around the circle in 2016 - 2017.

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