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Posted Tuesday, Jun 17, 2014 

This piece was originally delivered by Cassidy Jensen '14 as a speech at Castilleja's Founder's Day celebration, and later posted on the website of Stanford's Challenge Success program, which prepares students to become "resilient, successful, meaningful contributors for the 21st century."

On paper, Castilleja is not so different from other schools. There are other private schools, even all-girl schools, that can claim the same benefits and advantages that Casti can. At least, I used to think this was the case.

A few weeks ago, I discussed the practice of Senior Talks with a friend from a different school. Her school is much like Castilleja – small, and all girls – but located in a different state. They also have senior talks, where seniors speak about an important experience or idea that they want to convey to their peers, in a speech that is often moving and deeply personal. However, at my friend’s school, the best senior talks get voted on in a competition to win scholarship money. At Castilleja, the only prize you get for a senior talk or 8th grade speech is flowers – flowers and the comments of teachers and students alike who will tell you “congrats on your speech” and “great speech,” whether you have spoken to them before in your life or not.

This perfectly illustrates the Castilleja difference, which is not our students’ intelligence, not our achievements, not our clubs or sports teams, not even our amazing teachers, but the kindness that permeates all aspects of school life. When I say kindness, I don’t mean that ubiquitous descriptor offered to girls – “she’s so nice." Niceness is politeness, niceness is going through the motions of kindness. When I say kindness, I mean empathy and understanding. I mean that if a girl is found crying in a bathroom, she won’t be ignored, but hugged and reassured. If I miss a class, I can ask a classmate to send me the notes and she will do so without a second thought. These are little things, but important things.

Our teachers work incredibly hard in order to instill in Castilleja girls skills and knowledge that they need to be successful – the ability to consume information critically, to write and speak clearly, to analyze data and construct original solutions to problems. In short, they give us the tools to be great students and great citizens. But what they leave up to us is to be good human beings.

It can be hard to remember – in an age where personal, non-digital interaction is increasingly rare, and efficiency is increasingly important – that your value as a person can’t be defined by what you produce. You’re not your grades, your 100-meter time, your robotics trophies or audience applause – you are how you treat other people. As Maya Angelou said, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, but they will remember how you made them feel.”

In a book Mr. Smoot’s Rebellion class is reading, a character goes without speaking for decades, because he feels that if no one is listening to him, he might as well not speak at all. As someone who identifies as an introvert, I fully understand that urge. But no one who has had an English class with me in the last few years would call me quiet. When I’m in a place where people listen and respond to what I’m saying, whether I’m talking at lunch, begging Upper Schoolers to submit to Caledonia – which you can still do, by the way – or in a class, I can be outspoken. This is because at Casti, people have learned how to listen, instead of just waiting for their turn to speak.

I hope we never lose that, our ability to listen to each other with undivided attention and sincerely try to understand an opposing point of view. I hope you younger students, even you girls way back there in the sunshine yellow ties, remember that the little things you do for others really make a difference – not only for the people who you help, but for your own growth and sense of self-worth. Reason is all well and good, but compassion – and, of course, conscience, courage, charity, courtesy, and character – are even more essential. Seniors, take this with you when you go to college. Be kind, be smart and be important – but mostly the first one. How you are matters as much as what you do.

Divisiveness and polarization are so common today in politics and religion, and there are tremendous challenges facing our generation as we go about fixing the earth and keeping the peace. Basically, we need as many empathetic and capable women as we can get.

As seniors, we have tried to do all we can to create a culture of compassion. Now it’s up to the rest of you – juniors, underclassmen and the middle school – to make Castilleja known as a place where people are not just good at what they do, but good to each other.

Cassidy Jensen graduated from Castilleja on June 7 and will be attending Georgetown University in the Fall.

Posted Monday, Jun 9, 2014 

At a reception held on June 5, Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18) presented April C. '15, Jolena M. '15,  Wings Y. '15, Claire H. '16, and Emily B. '16 with the 1st place award in the inaugural House Student App Challenge for their iPhone app, Trext, which aims to improve public safety by providing automatic location check-in for teens and parents. Trext was a Computer Science II ("Making Mobile Apps") final project and a Technovation Challenge Club project. It will be on display in the U.S. Capitol next year and be featured on the U.S. House of Representatives website.

Established by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2013, this competition is part of a nationwide event that invites high school students from all participating congressional districts to compete by creating and exhibiting their app for mobile, tablet, or computer devices on a platform of their choice. It is designed to promote innovation and engagement in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education fields. Apps are judged based on the following criteria: quality of the idea, including creativity and originality; implementation of the idea, including user experience and design; and demonstrated excellence of coding and programming skills.

Posted Monday, Jun 2, 2014 

On Friday, June 6, the Cypress String Quartet offered a master class and worked with the Upper School String Quartet. This master class was open to the entire Castilleja community and took place in the music room (lower level of the Gunn Family Administration Center). This was a fantastic opportunity for music enthusiasts to hear a professional string quartet play and listen to what they had to say about learning music. Attendees also united to support student musicians Rosie C. '16, Elyse G. '17, Greer H. '17, and Simran S. '18. In a thank-you note to the quartet Greer wrote, "Your advice and suggestions will really help us out in our performances, and I will take them forwards into my ensemble life. Your quartet is very inspiring, and your teamwork is admirable to anyone doing groupwork! I am so lucky to have been in this lesson."

Known for its elegant performances, the Cypress String Quartet (Cecily Ward, violin; Tom Stone, violin; Ethan Filner, viola; and Jennifer Kloetzel, cello) has been praised by Gramophone for its “artistry of uncommon insight and cohesion,” and its sound has been called “beautifully proportioned and powerful” by The Washington Post. The Cypress Quartet was formed in San Francisco in 1996, and maintains a busy national and international tour schedule, making appearances on concert series and in venues including Cal Performances, the Kennedy Center, the Library of Congress, Stanford Lively Arts, the Krannert Center, and the Ravinia Festival. Their collaborators include artists such as Leon Fleisher, Jon Nakamatsu, Awadagin Pratt, Gary Hoffman, Atar Arad, and James Dunham.

The Cypress Quartet members received degrees from many of the world’s finest conservatories before coming together as a group. These include Juilliard School, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, the Royal College of Music (London), the Cleveland Institute of Music, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. After a residency at the Banff Centre and a fellowship at the Center for Advanced Quartet Studies of the Aspen Music Festival, the Quartet coached intensively in London with the Amadeus Quartet. Cypress Quartet members play exceptional instruments including violins by Antonio Stradivarius (1681) and Carlos Bergonzi (1733), a viola by Vittorio Bellarosa (1947), and a cello by Hieronymus Amati II (1701).

Posted Monday, Jun 2, 2014 

Members of music ensemble MUSE (grades 6-12) attended San Francisco Opera's production of the musical Show Boat on Friday evening to celebrate a year of making music together. Show Boat was composed by Jerome Kern with lyrics written by Oscar Hammerstein II and is based on a novel by Edna Ferber. Tony Award-winning actor Bill Irwin performed the role of Cap’n Andy Hawks and American bass Morris Robinson's performance of "Ol' Man River" reverberated throughout the entire War Memorial Opera House. If you are interested in joining MUSE next year watch for audition information in early fall or contact Dr. Hart.

Posted Friday, May 30, 2014 

Castilleja employees and the families of the Varsity Softball Team battled it out against the Varsity Team and some young alums on Wednesday afternoon. The employees were supported by a three-run inside-the-park home run by Mace McGinn to right field. The Varsity Team was led by a double in the gap by Meg J. '16 and a triple by Allison Z. '16. Students were excited to have Ari Yee '12 playing with the Varsity Team. Matt, brother of Meg; Charlie and Tony, brother and father of Frances H. '14; Steve, father of Allison; Raja, father of Tara T. '16; Dave, father of Abby L. '16; and Heather, mother of Elizabeth P. '17, played with the rest of the employees. The game concluded in a surprising 6-6 tie after 5 innings of play.

Posted Monday, May 19, 2014 

This weekend, the Bourn Idea Lab represented Castilleja at the annual Maker Faire in San Mateo. Maker Faire is a huge event with over 900 exhibits/performers/speakers and over 100,000 attendees, all to celebrate the spirit of making and encourage everyone to become makers -- hey, doesn't that sound exactly like what the Bourn Lab likes to do?? Castilleja's booth showcased student projects from a variety of classes and grade levels and also had areas where visitors could make little robots from toothbrushes and rebuild da Vinci's armored car. Thanks to all our volunteers who spent time at our table being our Ambassadors of Making -- we can't wait until next year!

Posted Friday, May 16, 2014 

You are cordially invited to the Spring Music Concert on Thursday, May 22nd at 7:30pm in the Chapel Theater! The concert features students from the vocal and instrumental classes and a variety of chamber ensembles such as a newly formed flute quartet and a musical set of sisters. This also marks the final concert for several seniors! Another special treat is that MUSE has transformed into a jazz ensemble with several students taking their very first "solos" in front of an audience. Cookies and treats are available for purchase at intermission to support the Music for the Community Club. All 100 performers hope to see you there!

Posted Thursday, May 8, 2014 

To honor the Class of 2014, the Casti community created its largest flash mob ever with about 175 dancers. With parents, employees, students, and siblings all joining in the merriment, the mob danced to Pharrell Williams' "Happy" out on the Circle. The seniors were truly moved by the community's efforts. One Senior was overheard saying to her mom, "I couldn't believe how many people were out there!!" If you missed the action, make sure to check out the video at www.castilleja.org/flashmob!


 

Posted Tuesday, May 6, 2014 

An app is born! Congratulations to Computer Science II ("Making Mobile Apps") students Carly R. '14 and Becky A. '14 for their final project app, GatorScout, which just became available in the iTunes App Store. GatorScout is used to assist in the compilation, storage, and retrieval of scouting information collected in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) challenge. A beta version of this app was used in the field by members of the Gatorbotics team during this year's competition season. Preview it here.

Posted Tuesday, Apr 29, 2014 

This week Casti's Margarita Espinosa Library welcomed a very special four-legged guest to campus: a hedgehog from Palo Alto's Junior Museum & Zoo. Kenya, a 6-month-old African hedgehog, thrilled library guests of all ages with her indescribable cuteness. Whther she was curiously sniffing at the library scents, or protectively curled up in a spiny ball, girls gathered around and asked questions about everything from Kenya's diet to her natural habitat. Want to learn more about hedgehogs? Stop by the library to check out one of their many books on these adorable creatures!

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Student Life
Posted 05/18/2015 10:51AM

The Spring Concert is Thursday, May 21, at 7:30pm in the Chapel Theater. The concert will feature jazz, classical, show tunes, and pop tunes performed by the Middle School and Upper School music ensembles including Show Choir, Sound Sisters, MUSE, Jazz Combo, Flute Choir, and String Quartets. The concert is free and there will be refreshments and a raffle at intermission. The singers and musicians would love your support. See you there!

Posted 05/15/2015 04:45PM

For the final STEMx meeting of the year, Lea S. '16, Rashi B. '18, Sydney L. '18, and Reilly A. '18 shared an "unplugged" coding activity (to introduce computer science concepts without the use of computers) with elementary school-aged girls participating in Girls to Women. Girls to Women is a program based in East Palo Alto that partners with families, other local youth development agencies, and local schools to provide a nurturing environment supporting under-resourced school-aged girls' healthy development. STEMx, which is an ACE org, introduced hands-on activities in science and computer science to Girls to Women participants several times this year, sustaining an arrangement that was established in 2013 by what was then called the Programming Club.

Posted 05/15/2015 09:02AM

To round out a fabulous year together, the kindergarten students from Brentwood Academy in East Palo Alto joined their Castilleja 7th grade "big" buddies on the Casti campus on Tuesday for an afternoon spent singing, dancing, touring the Castilleja campus, and saying goodbye to each other for the year. Kyli Arford, the Sustainability and Middle School Community Action Coordinator, said, "This is the first time that the Castilleja community has had the pleasure of having students from the Brentwood Academy community onto our campus, but hopefully the first of many to come. The experience was rewarding for all of our students and the Brentwood students and teachers, and as many of the Castilleja community can attest to, it was a real joy to see approximately 100 kindergarten faces on our campus as well." The 7th graders were prompted at the beginning of the school year with a guiding question of "How do I partner in my community?" that helped to frame their community engagement experience with the kindergarteners at Brentwood. As one 7th grader put it, "I liked making a difference in my buddy's life. When I met her she was only in her second month of school ever. I hope I set a good example for her and that she looked up to me. It felt really good to see how excited she was to see me every time I visited her. This is what it means for me to be a partner in the community."

Posted 05/14/2015 10:16AM

Castilleja held its first annual Pride Dance last Friday night and it was a resounding success! The mixer found a large turnout from high school students all over the peninsula: Aragon, Bellarmine, Carlmont, Crystal Springs, Everest, Gunn, Los Altos, M-A, Menlo, Monta Vista, Paly, Sacred Heart, Saratoga, Sequoia, and, of course, Casti. CAIE, or the Community Alliance for Identity and Expression, sponsored the event. CAIE (commonly pronounced 'kye') is an ACE Org whose mission is to ensure that all members of the Castilleja community feel safe and included on campus in terms of their gender identity expression, and thus the Pride Dance was student-organized in hopes of giving all members of our community a safe place to unwind after a long week packed with schoolwork and APs. The dining hall and pool patio were decked out with lights, streamers, and food, not to mention a student-run photobooth. Students and faculty from Casti and CAIE were thrilled to host this event and hope to establish it as a tradition for years to come.

Academics
Posted 05/22/2015 10:30AM

With the year coming to a close, sophomores were tasked with leaving their mark on the school. As part of the “Casti Congress” activity in sophomore history class, students wrote and proposed bills with topics ranging from editing the schedule to changing the facilities.

Following both a House and Senate session, only two bills had been passed by the Congress. One bill, The Hydration Station Act, addressed the lack of adequate water fountains in Rhodes Hall as well as the fact that there are very few water bottle fillers on campus. The second bill, Altering Core Arts, suggested a new layout for the Core Arts curriculum. These bills were presented by the congressional leadership to President Kauffman on Wednesday.

While President Kauffman signed The Hydration Station Act without hesitation, she indicated she would likely approve the Altering Core Arts bill with a “signing statement” (which presidents use with increasing frequency to allow flexibility in the enforcement of a law). This signing statement will allow the Visual and Performing Arts Department to have control over the specific implementation of changes to the program. Stay tuned to hear how the bill plays out and keep an eye out for new water fountains coming soon!

Posted 05/21/2015 03:37PM

This week Spanish 3 held its annual Famous Spanish Speakers Party. In preparation, the students researched and wrote about Spanish speakers whose lives interested them. On this last culminating day, they came dressed up as their subject and circulated, learning about the lives of everyone from Evita Perón and Roberto Clemente to Rafael Nadal and Shakira.

Posted 05/20/2015 05:22PM

On Wednesday the Advanced Topics Physics classes transformed the Middle School Lower Level into a "mini-Exploratorium." The students built exhibits that demonstrated a fundamental science concept, either of their own design or based on an Exploratorium exhibit or activity. Concepts included mechanics, color and vision, sound and hearing, electricity and magnetism, and the ever-popular crowd-pleaser: giant bubbles! Each station delighted guests (including a group of twenty elementary schoolers from Building Futures Now), and the seniors taught all their visitors a thing or two about how scientific principles affect the world around us.

Posted 05/12/2015 11:59AM

The 6th grade fitness classes used a creative and unique method to learn the steps to the cha-cha-cha, or what is sometimes referred to simply as the cha-cha. This dance of Cuban origin is best known for the shuffling of dancers' feet. Ms. Nella came across the steps to this dance while walking down a sidewalk in Napa and was instantly reminded of the Global Week theme, “The City.” This simple and playful piece of visual art encourages community members and visitors alike to slow down, engage with their surroundings, and activate their sense of spontaneity. What better way to learn the steps to the cha-cha-cha than to create your own visual representation with sidewalk chalk, imagination, and collaboration? Students practiced with a variety of partners and enjoyed dancing to traditional Cuban music!

Posted 05/20/2015 05:22PM

On Wednesday the Advanced Topics Physics classes transformed the Middle School Lower Level into a "mini-Exploratorium." The students built exhibits that demonstrated a fundamental science concept, either of their own design or based on an Exploratorium exhibit or activity. Concepts included mechanics, color and vision, sound and hearing, electricity and magnetism, and the ever-popular crowd-pleaser: giant bubbles! Each station delighted guests (including a group of twenty elementary schoolers from Building Futures Now), and the seniors taught all their visitors a thing or two about how scientific principles affect the world around us.

Posted 05/15/2015 04:45PM

For the final STEMx meeting of the year, Lea S. '16, Rashi B. '18, Sydney L. '18, and Reilly A. '18 shared an "unplugged" coding activity (to introduce computer science concepts without the use of computers) with elementary school-aged girls participating in Girls to Women. Girls to Women is a program based in East Palo Alto that partners with families, other local youth development agencies, and local schools to provide a nurturing environment supporting under-resourced school-aged girls' healthy development. STEMx, which is an ACE org, introduced hands-on activities in science and computer science to Girls to Women participants several times this year, sustaining an arrangement that was established in 2013 by what was then called the Programming Club.

Posted 05/15/2015 09:02AM

To round out a fabulous year together, the kindergarten students from Brentwood Academy in East Palo Alto joined their Castilleja 7th grade "big" buddies on the Casti campus on Tuesday for an afternoon spent singing, dancing, touring the Castilleja campus, and saying goodbye to each other for the year. Kyli Arford, the Sustainability and Middle School Community Action Coordinator, said, "This is the first time that the Castilleja community has had the pleasure of having students from the Brentwood Academy community onto our campus, but hopefully the first of many to come. The experience was rewarding for all of our students and the Brentwood students and teachers, and as many of the Castilleja community can attest to, it was a real joy to see approximately 100 kindergarten faces on our campus as well." The 7th graders were prompted at the beginning of the school year with a guiding question of "How do I partner in my community?" that helped to frame their community engagement experience with the kindergarteners at Brentwood. As one 7th grader put it, "I liked making a difference in my buddy's life. When I met her she was only in her second month of school ever. I hope I set a good example for her and that she looked up to me. It felt really good to see how excited she was to see me every time I visited her. This is what it means for me to be a partner in the community."

Posted 05/14/2015 10:16AM

Castilleja held its first annual Pride Dance last Friday night and it was a resounding success! The mixer found a large turnout from high school students all over the peninsula: Aragon, Bellarmine, Carlmont, Crystal Springs, Everest, Gunn, Los Altos, M-A, Menlo, Monta Vista, Paly, Sacred Heart, Saratoga, Sequoia, and, of course, Casti. CAIE, or the Community Alliance for Identity and Expression, sponsored the event. CAIE (commonly pronounced 'kye') is an ACE Org whose mission is to ensure that all members of the Castilleja community feel safe and included on campus in terms of their gender identity expression, and thus the Pride Dance was student-organized in hopes of giving all members of our community a safe place to unwind after a long week packed with schoolwork and APs. The dining hall and pool patio were decked out with lights, streamers, and food, not to mention a student-run photobooth. Students and faculty from Casti and CAIE were thrilled to host this event and hope to establish it as a tradition for years to come.

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