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Posted Friday, Aug 28, 2015 
Meet Julia Odelowo, our new Director of Alumnae Engagement. She's already been very busy meeting as many Alumnae and students as possible--maybe you saw her hosting a delicious breakfast reception up on the balcony during Tie Ceremony--Or maybe you've received an invitation in the mail for Reunion Weekend 2015 (September 25th and 26th.) Regardless, there may be a few things you don't yet know about our new champion of all things Casti-Alumna...





1. Julia is a fourth generation educator - her great grandmother taught in a one-room schoolhouse in Sonoma County.

2. Her first "real" job was making cotton candy at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in her hometown.
3. Her dog, Scout, is named for one of her favorite novels, To Kill A Mockingbird.

4. Julia spent a year working at a school in rural Tanzania.
5. She has visited 49/50 states...and looks forward to hosting Castilleja alumnae gatherings in several this year!  Stay tuned for dates and locations.
Posted Monday, Jun 8, 2015 

Sixty-two young women in white dresses filed into a large white tent in the middle of Castilleja School's central lawn. A small orchestra gently played "Pomp and Circumstance" as each member of the Class of 2015 entered clutching a bouquet of red roses. A stack of red diplomas awaited them on the stage. So began Castilleja School's 108th commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 6.

Friends and family listened as speakers reflected on the education and values Castilleja, an all-girls private school serving grades 6-12, imparted on the graduates.

"With the support of teachers who taught us not what to think but how to think we've learned to observe the world with a critical eye and to question the things that may seem obvious," class valedictorian Jolena Ma said. "The Class of 2015 has formed an incredible and unbreakable bond. An all-encompassing unity and sense of inclusivity."

Friendship was the theme of the day. Keynote speaker Dr. Pam Silver, who graduated from Castilleja in 1970 and is now a professor of biochemistry and systems biology at Harvard Medical School, reflected on what her high school experience meant.

"It was also about friends for life. I'm sure that all of you can point to at least one person that you will remain friends with forever," Silver said in a lighthearted, often humorous speech.

She encouraged the graduates to engage with science as college students. She brought along two examples of her work, a "bionic leaf" that looked more like a glass jar, and a large block of what she described as "cheese."

"It does not look like a leaf but this jar is capable of taking sunlight and like a leaf using it to split water and make hydrogen. The hydrogen is then used by organisms which we've engineered that live in the jar and can make fuel, drugs, or food. This is cheap and has potential for use anywhere in the world and even outer space," she said to impressed murmurs.

The "cheese" served more as a punchline. "One of my graduate students teamed up with a smell artist to make cheese from different parts of their body. So they made toenail cheese, armpit cheese, hair cheese, you get the idea. And they all smell distinct. I can still remember the lovely smell of Christina's big toe cheese."

Silver offered straightforward advice to the graduates.

"When you arrive at a college, everyone seems like a genius. But that's how you seem to them as well. Do not be intimidated, you are all geniuses in your own way. Take risks. I know everyone tells you that, but when I look back at my own success it's because of the risks I took and when I look at the disappointments it's because of the risks I didn't take," she said.

"Don't be too careerist, you won't enjoy yourselves too much and it's only college for heaven's sake. And don't follow the herd. As we often say the beauty of university life is that there really are no rules. You make the rules. And most of all, the world is your oyster. Go invent the future."

Graduates Megan Colford and Chloe Sales were selected by faculty for the Castilleja Award, which goes to the student or students who best exemplify the quality of the "Five Cs" (conscience, courtesy, character, courage and charity).

Colford described her classmates as fearless, though now they all face a new and terrifying challenge of taking full control of their lives.

"Our fearlessness does not just come from our classmates, but from our parents who always reminded us to get back up when we're down and to never ever give up," she said. "I don't view this award as a nod to my own personal achievements and abilities, but rather to the environment and family that we as a class created that has allowed all of us to thrive."

"(Castilleja is a place) where everyone is kind and caring and big-hearted," reflected Sales. "That is family. Familiar and warm. And this is what being at Castilleja feels like. It feels like coming home. What matters is that we remember each other. Though my classmates will disperse far and wide we'll remember our roots as we move on."

Head of Castilleja School Nanci Kaufmann, who was a member of the Class of 1974, recounted her reunion with some of her classmates when she turned 50, and urged the students to maintain their connections with their classmates.

"Friendships help us to live better lives. Today you graduate from Castilleja with so many gifts and all of them will matter in the future. But the greatest gift of all is the one I almost forgot to cherish for myself. So don't wait until your 50th birthday to reunite with your Castilleja connections. Grab hold of each other and don't let go," she said.

After the graduates filed out of the tent, with red roses and diplomas in hand, they gathered with family and friends.

"It's been amazing," said graduate Wings Yeung, who was surrounded by her family beaming with pride. "I think I've really learned how to work in a group and form a community, make friends and keep them."

Yeung is going to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she hopes to study electrical engineering and computer science.

Margaret Lane, Megan Colford's mother and a teacher at Castilleja, had the great privilege to witness her daughter and her classmates grow up.

"Teaching her class was a dream. They're one of the brightest and most motivated classes I've had," she said. "I've really seen them grow up. But I have to say that one of the things I've been so grateful for is that my fellow parents have been very supportive. As a group the parents of this class have been very respectful of the teachers and supportive and critical when they needed to be. It's been a really great group of people."

--By Joshua Alvarez, Palo Alto Weekly
Originally Published June 7, 2015

Posted Wednesday, Jun 3, 2015 

On a sunny Wednesday afternoon the Class of 2015 gathered at the Lockey Alumnae House for a lunch to celebrate their induction as Castilleja alumnae. Recognizing that graduation on Saturday isn't "goodbye," but rather the beginning of another phase of their relationship with the school, girls shared contact information and promised to keep in touch. Many members of the Class of 2014 returned to campus to welcome their friends to the alumnae community. In addition, four Castilleja employees were inducted as "honorary alums" to celebrate their decade of service to the school: Shannon De La Cruz (Office/Purchasing Manager), Shana Nistler (Spanish Faculty), Maggie Ely Pringle '71 (Alumnae Relations), and Jon Rockman (Science Faculty). Congratulations, everyone, and welcome to the alumnae community!

Posted Thursday, May 21, 2015 

On Founder's Day alumna Pamela Hawley '87 came to campus for an inspiring keynote about her personal journey to the nonprofit sector and her current work as founder and CEO of UniversalGiving, a social entrepreneurship nonprofit organization whose vision is to "create a world where giving and volunteering is a natural part of everyday life."

Pamela's community service began at the age of 12, and has extended into the international realm. She has worked and volunteered in microfinance in remote villages of India, crisis relief for the El Salvador earthquake, digital divide training in the Killing Fields of Cambodia, and sustainable farming in the countryside of Guatemala.

While on campus she spoke about how her Castilleja education and transformative experiences abroad helped her find her passion for a life of service. She also gave listeners a window into her current work with UniversalGiving (an award-winning, web-based nonprofit allowing people to give and volunteer with the top-performing projects and volunteer opportunities across the world) and how her time around the Circle prepared her to thrive.

Wish you'd been at the talk? Watch the video recording here!

Posted Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015 
In recent years, Castilleja's Commencement speakers have included:
  • Carol Bogart -- Human Rights Activist
  • Carol Jenkins -- Television Newscaster
  • Mona Simpson -- Author
  • Emily White '96 -- Tech Executive and an Alum

This year, Castilleja is pleased to announce that once again it will host an alum -- this time from the world of science. Pam Silver '80 is one of the founders of the Systems Biology Lab at Harvard Medical School, and is the lab's first Director. She is building cell-based machines, designing novel therapeutics, and reengineering photosynthetic bacteria to produce hydrogen and other fuels. Among Pam's most recent innovations is an artificial extracellular matrix that could become a highly effective and safe tool for regenerating bone, muscle, and other tissues. Kriti L. '15 assisted with the research in Pam's lab this past summer.

We look forward to Pam's insights as an alum and as a scientist -- she is eager to share her wisdom with our graduating seniors!

Posted Friday, Mar 13, 2015 

On Wednesday, March 11, Castilleja alumna Elizabeth Yin spoke to members of the Technovation Challenge teams. Elizabeth graduated from Castilleja in 2000, where she was an early advocate of and aficionada for technology: she participated in Gatorbotics, developed websites, and determined—with her Casti best friend—someday to develop their own company. She majored in Electrical Engineering in college, worked in the tech field in Japan, earned an MBA, worked for Google, and then reunited with Jennifer Hsieh '00 to found LaunchBit, which they just sold. While on campus Elizabeth advised the students on how to formulate a “pitch” that would elicit financial interest and support from investors, and she spoke candidly about some of the challenges she faced as a young woman in the male-dominated tech field.

Posted Monday, Dec 1, 2014 

In late November, Rachel Skokowski '11 was named as a 2015 Rhodes Scholar. As a student at Castilleja she epitomized our motto “Women Learning, Women Leading” and has continued her outstanding achievements in education and leadership since graduating.

Currently a senior at Princeton University majoring in French, she has a deep commitment to making the arts more relevant and accessible in the modern world. Elected to Phi Beta Kappa, she has a superb academic record across the humanities and a commitment to forge strong connections between art museums and local communities, especially to expose underprivileged children to museums and to the beauty of art. She has curated or interned at the Morgan Library and Museum, the Princeton Art Museum and for the Santa Fe Arts Commission, and is a Behrman Undergraduate Fellow. She is also a three-season varsity cross country and varsity track athlete. Her career aspirations are to push the boundaries of art curation. Rachel will do the European Enlightenment Programme within the M.Phil. in Modern Languages at Oxford.  

For more abotu Rachel visit:

We look forward to seeing the impact she will continue to have on the world!

Posted Friday, Aug 15, 2014 

Campus has been a hub of activity all summer with two sessions of summer campers coming to Castilleja each day for singing, playing, and swimming. Laughter emanated from around the Circle as girls enjoyed sunshine and a sense of camaraderie. Whether the girls were experimenting with arts and crafts, playing hide-and-seek, or staging a carwash by Good Court, their energy and enthusiasm was contagious. Several of the counselors were Casti alumnae or long-time campers who are now on staff, leading the cheerful songs, fun classes, and big smiles. To celebrate their final day, families were invited to watch skits, see artwork, and celebrate the fun and learning that went on all summer. See you next year!

Posted Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014 

On Saturday, August 16, at 7:30pm Casti alumna Sophie Delphis '06 will sing Poulenc's La Voix Humaine in San Francisco (Old First Presbyterian Church, 1751 Sacramento Street). This forty-minute, one-act opera was composed by Francis Poulenc in 1958 for a soprano and orchestra; the theme centers around a jilted woman's last phone conversation with her former lover, and is not to be missed! Tickets are $25, sold only at the door.

Posted Monday, Jul 21, 2014 

On June 15, Sanah Imran '14, Katherine Hobbs '13, and eight other students presented to a group of parents, physicians, and CEOs about their experiences as the first class of Lefteroff Interns at the Fogarty Institute for Innovation. The presentation, title "Rules of the Road: Navigating the Fogarty Institute," highlighted eight key lessons the interns learned during their internship, such as "always bring a pen and paper" and "embrace ugly ducklings."

Each intern spent time working on group and individual projects with one or more of the start-ups in the Institute, heard from influential guest speakers and CEOs, and spent time learning with physicians from El Camino Hospital.

Katherine researched the demographics and regulatory environment in Indonesia for InPress and Prescient devices, and also edited content for Materna Medical's website. Sanah, only a week deep in her internship, has also helped design and edit Materna's website, and is planning to help build new devices for clinical trials.

The Fogarty Institute for Innovation promotes medical innovation by providing support to promising innovators and researchers as they transform their creative ideas into practical solutions to improve patient care. They offer mentorship at every step of the process, coordinating access to intellectual, physical, and financial resources to propel medical concepts from initiation to application. For more information, please visit their website.

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Posted 09/21/2016 12:00PM
It's Spirit Week! Kicking off 3 days of crazy costumes and fun was Workout Wednesday. Tomorrow is TV Thursday, and Friday is the day to rep your class color.  Get ready for an awesome Pep Rally Friday afternoon! Check below for reminders of each grade's themes!

9/21: Workout Wednesday
6th Grade: Olympians
7th Grade: Sports Team Players (you may wear college gear)
8th Grade: Dancers & Gymnasts
9th Grade: Marathon Runners 
10th Grade: 80's Workout
11th Grade: Workout? What's That?
12th Grade: Yoga
Teachers: Speed (or Slow) Walkers

9/22: TV Thursday
6th Grade: Once Upon a Time
7th Grade: Wizards of Waverly Place
8th Grade: KC Undercover
9th Grade: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
10th Grade: The Big Bang Theory
11th Grade: Bob's Burgers
12th Grade: Law & Order
Teachers: The Office

9/23: Class Color Friday
6th Grade: Yellow
7th Grade: Light Blue
8th Grade: Navy Blue
9th Grade: Green
10th Grade: Orange
11th Grade: Purple
12th Grade: Red

As a reminder: anything that's not part of your costume must be uniform

Posted 09/06/2016 07:00AM
Last Friday Castilleja employees celebrated National Stripes Day by dressing up and embracing our silly sides. National Stripes Day is technically September 4th, but we chose to do it on Friday to kick off the weekend in style.
Posted 08/31/2016 11:21AM

The Afghanistan National Women’s soccer team competed at Cubberly Community Center in Palo Alto on Aug. 31st against a local club soccer team. The club team has been helping the Afghan team get local press and support through Palo Alto Weekly and NBC news. Castilleja senior, Amanda McMaster, played goalie in this game, and she is quoted in Mercury News talking about what this game means to her. Check out the full story from Mercury here! Also, here's another story from ABC. Finally, NBC covered this game on Wednesday (short video clip here). 


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 09/20/2016 09:47AM

Emily Sinclair, Head of the Voice Department at UC Santa Cruz, recently led a Masterclass on vocal technique with Castilleja’s Upper School Vocal Ensemble. During this session, students had the opportunity to explore what college music programs are like- how they are set up, what the options are for music majors and non-majors, and how the typically classically oriented music departments connect with the theatre departments and the greater university community. Additionally, members of the vocal ensemble used this time with Ms. Sinclair to grow and challenge themselves as musicians.  A number of Castilleja vocalists practiced solo work with the professor while students watched and gave feedback. 

Posted 09/08/2016 08:00AM

The sixth graders learned about the ancient world from Herodotus the "father of history." They narrated, directed, and acted in silly yet creative scenes that brought the Persian Wars to life. In addition to battle scenes, they also presented scenes about hereditary rule, paying tribute, and the Olympic Games. They will also be learning new vocabulary, locating places on maps, and exploring the library as they complete their introductory unit called "What is history?"

Posted 08/30/2016 07:00AM

The new sixth grade class came to the library for orientation last week! They were introduced to our resources and our collection and had a lot of fun browsing our books.

A group of incoming sixth graders enjoying our dry-erase tables.

Above: A group of incoming sixth graders enjoying our dry-erase tables.



Ms. Huyck-Aufdermaur talking to a new sixth grader about Charles Dickens




Right: Ms. Huyck-Aufdermaur talking to a new sixth grader about Charles Dickens.

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 09/15/2016 09:00AM

Castilleja School is delighted to welcome Pulitzer Prize winning poet, author, and educator Tracy K. Smith as this year's Arrillaga Family Speaker.  Ms. Smith will address the students during the school day on October 6th. That evening, everyone in our community is invited to join us for a special reception with Ms. Smith in the Anita Seipp Gallery on Thursday, October 6th.

RSVP at the following link!



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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Upcoming Events
    • Wednesday - September 28, 2016 US Meeting 2:55 PM to 3:15 PMChapel/Theater, Loc: Chapel Theater
    • Friday - September 30, 2016 Middle School Meeting 2:55 PM to 3:15 PMChapel/Theater, Loc: Chapel Theater
    • Friday - September 30, 2016 US Dance 8:00 PM to 10:00 PMAthletic Center, Loc: Upper Gym
    • Saturday - October 1, 2016 SAT Off Campus
    • Wednesday - October 5, 2016 US Meeting 2:55 PM to 3:15 PMChapel/Theater, Loc: Chapel Theater

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