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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.

Posted Tuesday, Jul 8, 2014 

In the July issue of Marie Claire, Casti alumna Emily White '96 is profiled as the Chief Operating Officer at Snapchat -- the wildly popular photo-messaging app that turned down a $3 billion offer from Facebook. With Snapchat touted as a company which is "poised to join the ranks of Silicon Valley's most influential," Emily shares how her time at Castilleja helped propel her to her current role:

I was born in Palo Alto, California, and went to Castilleja, an all-girls school there. It was a really formative experience - there were uniforms, small classes, and no boys. It helped me understand that the ideas in your head, and making full use of them, are far more important than how you look or where the boys are.

Click here to read the full article by Yael Kohen!

Posted Wednesday, Jun 18, 2014 

With crimson bouquets clutched close to crisp white dresses, 61 seniors took the stage amidst the faculty, staff and junior class at Castilleja School's 107th commencement ceremony on Saturday, an occasion that lauded femininity and found inspiration in favorite books and movies.

After those gathered sang "America the Beautiful," Senior Class President and Castilleja Award Winner Smriti Pramanick opened the ceremony with Rudyard Kipling's "If--," a poem she modified at its end to laughter and applause as "Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, and -- which is more -- you'll be a woman, my girl!"

Other speakers echoed this emphasis on femininity during the independent, Palo Alto all-girl school's ceremony. Valedictorian Paulette Wolak recounted a humorous anecdote in which the Castilleja girls learned that sexism still abounds in progressive Palo Alto, at least at a bike shop they visited for a senior seminar.

Shock, anger and amusement ensued, Wolak said, when the owner glossed over the changing of tires, his rationale being that women -- "damsels in distress" -- could just wait for a man at the side of the road should they ever encounter bike trouble.

Despite the desire to "chastise the bike shop owner for his insulting words," she said, the girls decided "This was not the appropriate time to 'lean in,'" citing one of Castilleja's favorite phrases from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

Instead, they found humor in the situation and settled on displaying courtesy to their host while knowing their capabilities are more than he gave them credit for.

In her speech, Head of School Nanci Kauffman referenced the boldness, independence and authenticity of Katniss Everdeen, a teen female icon and protagonist of the fictional "The Hunger Games," saying, "She sounds an awful lot like a Casti grad!"

"Hunger Games" was one of several pop culture references made on Saturday, including the senior class' choral rendition of "You'll Be in My Heart," from Disney's "Tarzan," and a quote from Winnie the Pooh in Pramanick's speech.

"You can't stay in your corner of the forest, waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes," she said, quoting A.A. Milne's anthropomorphic bear while encouraging her fellow grads not to fear risk.

Healthy risk-taking was also touted in the message from guest speaker Emily White, COO of the popular photo-messaging app Snapchat. She encouraged grads to "take risks that make you excited."

"Never forget how it felt when you were younger," she said, mentioning the "spirit of freedom" and the "permission of youth" that can and should be carried into adulthood.

And every Castilleja senior did carry an air of youthful freedom and jubilation as she walked across the stage to collect her diploma, pausing only to shake hands with the faculty and grin for the flashing camera.

Each graduate also had a substantial cheering section, as bursts of applause and hollers erupted after each name. At the ceremony's close, the school hosted a reception for the families, seating each grad and their loved ones at a table adorned with a framed photograph of the graduate and a decorated graduation cap.

Arthur Zetes stood and cheered loudly for his granddaughter Hannah Mazonson when her name was called. He said he found the ceremony "terrific" but also would like to have heard a mention of the value of wisdom.

"Look for it. Get it. Keep it," he said.

In the coming years, he'll be able to remind his granddaughter of this lesson while she attends Dartmouth in Zete's home state of New Hampshire.

The graduation marked a special moment for Tibi McCann, mother to Cassidy McCann Jensen, and the family's three sets of grandparents.

"She's the first granddaughter to graduate from high school," McCann said tearily.

Mark Bernstein, father of grad Gaelin Sullivan Bernstein, remarked, "Every girl has a sense of purpose and character that are quite unique." He credited teachers who are "dedicated to challenging (students) to do better."

The theme of character was also highlighted Saturday at the school, whose "five C's" -- instilled within the girls throughout their time there -- are conscience, courtesy, character, courage and charity.

As Alina Brown, a Castilleja Award winner, said in her speech to her classmates, "My challenge to you, Class of 2014 ... is to search for people of character who are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in."

Kauffman, too, touched on the challenges of making the right choices, a difficulty that can be eased by strong character. She encouraged the girls to ask themselves "What would Katniss do?" in tough situations.

"Guided by the principles of character you share with her," Kauffman said, "I am certain of one thing for sure: The odds will be ever in your favor!"

Originally Posted by Palo Alto Online June 8, 2014
Written by Lena Pressesky, Palo Alto Weekly

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 Tuesday, Apr 8, 2014 

Hopefully everyone had a chance to spot Tayo Amos '10 at the Oscars last month! Tayo was generous enough to return to Casti to share her experiences with our Dance 6 class. She answered questions from enthusiastic sixth graders about the red carpet ranging from, "What was it like to be on the Academy Awards handing out Oscars?" to "What did Jennifer Lawrence whisper in your ear while Matthew McConaughey was talking?" as well as more personal questions such as, "What is your dream job after you graduate form Stanford this year?" and "How many sisters do you have and did they all go to Castilleja?" The class was very impressed and inspired by Tayo's visit!

Posted Tuesday, Mar 18, 2014 

Today students spent their lunch hour grappling with the complex socio-political situation in the Ukraine. To help the girls gain perspective on the unrest, the ACE Center had a special guest: current Peace Corps volunteer and Casti alumna Katie Fitzgerald '07. While on campus Katie shared stores from her experiences teaching English in rural Ukraine and empowered students to examine the historical and cultural precursors to the current situation in Crimea.

Posted Friday, Feb 28, 2014 

If you're planning to watch the Oscars this Sunday, keep your eyes open for Casti alum Tayo Amos '10. She was selected in a nationwide search for aspiring filmmakers, and she joins five other college students for Oscar week in LA-- culminating in the on-stage role of passing the gold statuettes to the celebrity presenters. The Stanford Alumni Magazine has all the details here.

Tayo's most recent project also made the news recently: Black Excellence, a series of short video interviews celebrating Black History Month. These daily posts highlight students in the black community at Stanford. Really impressive work!

Congratulations Tayo!

Posted Wednesday, Nov 20, 2013 

Seniors Nicola Zimmer and Eve Zelinger have been appointed the 2013-14 Dartmouth women’s basketball team co-captains, as announced by first-year head coach Belle Koclanes to conclude training camp.

 “Nicola and Eve are very positive, inclusive and committed people, all traits of a captain that our team deemed necessary for our leaders to embody,” said Koclanes.  “They each have an incredible work ethic and the maturity to guide our team in a positive direction.” 

Last seasons co-captain, Zimmer returns for her second stint as team leader after posting career highs in points per game (8.9), field goal percentage (.377) and three-point shooting percentage (.341). No stranger to leading her team on-and-off the court, the former St. John’s College High School star had the exact role in her junior and senior campaign. 

Zelinger, also a captain as a senior at Castilleja High School will look for additional minutes this season after playing in 15 games last season. A proven leader off the court, Zelinger will be asked to mentor the 11 underclassmen as they transition into the new system.

“It has been exciting to watch them develop as leaders of our program and I look forward to their inspiration as the season moves forward,” Koclanes commented.



Castilleja Basketball All-Time Leaders

Eve Zelinger, 2006-2010

#1 Points 1,875
#1 Assists 482
#4 Blocks 184
#1 Field Goals Made 724
#1 Three-Pointers Made 177
#4 Three-Point % .267
#4 Free Throws Made 250
#4 Free Throws Attempted 360
#3 Free Throw % .694
#4 Rebounds 849
#2 Steals 294
#4 Double Doubles 30
#2 Games Played 112


Statistics provided by Stephen Kauffman at


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Student Life
Posted 11/20/2015 02:30PM
Guests joined Castilleja students on campus for an afternoon of student speeches, performances, and classroom visits. Click through to view a slideshow of some key photos from today's events.  Official photographs taken of students and guests will be available soon! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Break!

Posted 11/16/2015 02:46PM
The Music Man follows fast-talking traveling salesman Harold Hill as he cons the people of River City, Iowa into buying instruments and uniforms for a boys' band he vows to organize - this despite the fact he doesn't know a trombone from a treble clef. His plans to skip town with the cash are foiled when he falls for Marian the librarian, who transforms him into a respectable citizen by curtain's fall.

Come see the show December 4th and December 5th at 7:30pm or on December 6th at 2:00pm. 

Tickets are $10, register here!
Posted 11/13/2015 08:39AM
On their week-long trip to Washington DC the Class of 2020 had the honor of spending time with Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker '77. She spoke to the girls about how her Castilleja education taught her to keep asking questions and continue learning. Sharing that she never could have imagined becoming the Secretary of Commerce while she was at Castilleja, she reminded the girls that they should aim high and be ready for anything.

Eighth graders have been in Washington DC all week! See photos from each of their busy days in the nation's capital here.

Posted 10/30/2015 03:32PM

Happy Halloween! Today students and teachers alike dressed up in creative and colorful costumes. At break we were entertained by a donut eating contest and some great performances! 


Posted 10/20/2015 09:57AM

Last Wednesday, the entire 6th grade class went to Bayfront Park for an opportunity to practice the map reading and compass skills they have recently acquired in science class.  The girls set out in small teams to navigate their way through the park using compasses, detailed topographic maps, and the collective wisdom of their team to find several points along the way.  In addition, each girl was tasked with leading her group at some point throughout the course. This activity was challenging and required spatial orientation, attention to detail, teamwork and courage.  It was a great real world opportunity to supplement the classroom learning and was considered a great success since the girls reported having so much fun doing something so difficult.

Posted 10/13/2015 11:33AM
This week, the History Department and the Library are collaborating to offer all 9th grade students the opportunity to deepen their research skills. Each student has selected one of five current events topics that mirror the themes and locations covered in the Culture & Civilization curriculum. Over the course of the week, we are teaching students how to ask more rigorous questions, use background reading to structure a search strategy, search more effectively, and evaluate sources. 

Through a variety of collaborative and independent tasks, students have room to experiment and develop confidence as they discover how powerful a thoughtful research process can be. Both the Vision and Voice project and later history assignments give them the chance to put these skills to work.
Posted 10/08/2015 10:13AM
6th graders had the chance to play around in the Bourn Lab last week during science class.  They spent two days learning programming with Arduino Boards - learning about inputs and outputs and some simple programming to connect the two.  After learning the basics, the girls were given two challenges: first, design a nightlight to take some sort of input from a sensor (light, motion, touch, sound, switch etc.) and connect that to an led light (or multiple) that would turn on.  Once that was completed, the next challenge was to design a light show using any of the inputs and outputs they had available (including multiple colors of lights, sound, and vibration motor).  The girls had a great time exploring the possibilities and there was lots of trial and error involved.  Once they found the perfect combination their faces lit up both literally and figuratively.

Posted 06/05/2015 04:46PM

Today family and friends gathered to promote 63 members of the Class of 2019 to high school. Maggie C., Sophia Y., Athena N., and Makee A. spoke on behalf of their classmates about friendship, kindness, lessons learned, and the importance of seizing opportunities as they present themselves. Incoming ASB President Paris W. '16 welcomed these rising freshmen to the Upper School, and gave them a glimpse of what high school has in store. Head of Middle School Anne Cameron closed the ceremony by praising the class's camaraderie and resilience, and encouraging the girls to approach their next adventures with the same zeal. Congratulations ladies!

Posted 11/03/2015 12:00AM
Members of the sophomore class recently teamed up to interview local non-profit leaders on their organizations' respective missions, challenges, and success stories as part of their grade-level "Community Activism" program.  The program formally launches sophomores into designing to effect change in the world. It emphasizes the first two steps in the design thinking process: empathize and define the problem.  As a result, the final product is an info-graphic that identifies community organizations’ self-articulated challenges and opportunities.  

Photo and quote from the Executive Director, Castilleja Alumna Sara Alexander, of local non-profit There With Care:

"Our current goal is to expand our reach and our connections"

From left to right: C. Westly ('18), S. Zoroufy ('18), Castilleja Alumna Sara Alexander, J. Yau ('18), and J. Yang ('18)


"Interviewing Community for Green Foothills was a valuable experience because we were able to practice interacting in a professional manner and because we got to learn about a non-profit organization up close and personal. It was enjoyable not only because we were out of the classroom, but also because we were able to hear answers to questions that we wrote ourselves."
 - Student Interviewer

"I am someone who sees the whole picture.  I can always see the other side.  For me, being an advocate for one slice of the whole focus doesn't resonate with me because I always feel like there is a whole broader set of goals, so to me its important to look at the whole picture, and I feel SPUR is very much about looking at the whole picture."

- Identified as a meaningful quote by student interviewers; Kristy Wang, SPUR


Posted 10/14/2015 07:01AM

On Saturday, October 10th, Music for the Community members Simran ’18, Meher ’20, Kareena ’20, Kaitlin ’18, and Rosie ’16 performed at Town and Country! We set up in front of Kara’s Cupcakes and played for all the lunchtime passersby, who enjoyed listening to Simran’s cello pieces, Kaitlin’s flute pieces, Rosie’s violin pieces, and Meher and Kareena’s violin-cello duet. Similar to our Stanford performance in February 2015, we put out a violin case for donations. We are donating all proceeds to the Music in the Schools Foundation, which provides a fundamental music education for under-resourced children in East Palo Alto. After 45 minutes of playing, we raised $101.25. Big thanks to Town and Country for letting us perform and brighten up the day for those who listened; it makes us so happy that people care about music funding in schools just as much as we do!

Learn more about Music in the Schools here.

See pictures from the event below:

 Learn more about the ACE Music for the Community Organization >>> HERE


Posted 10/07/2015 05:10PM
From left to right: Nicole G. (Grade 12), Tara T. (Grade 12), Kate W. (Grade 12), Jordan J. (Grade 11)


On Friday October 2, several members of the Upper School Green Team attended Know Tomorrow, a free event hosted by Students for a Sustainable Stanford in anticipation of the 2015 UN Climate Negotiations in Paris. Held at the White Plaza on Stanford Campus, Know Tomorrow featured speakers from various environmental organizations such as Communities for a Better Environment and Fossil Free Stanford, information booths run by local non profits and student groups, a performance by the University Marching Band, and more!

The keystone speaker of the evening was former Vice President Al Gore, who spoke passionately about the exponential growth of the environmental movement and the ways in which the current generation can combat climate change in both our local and global communities. Just being in the presence of so many passionate environmentalists was inspiring, and the Casti Green Team looks forward to using the insights and inspiration gained from the event to further advocate for climate action in the Casti community and beyond. To quote Mr.Gore, "Political will is a renewable resource."

Visit the Green Team website to learn more about the list of projects for 2015-16.
Posted 10/05/2015 08:49AM

HE NAMED ME MALALA is an intimate portrait of Malala Yousafzai, who was wounded when Taliban gunmen opened fire on her and her friends’ school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.

The then 15-year-old teenager, who had been targeted for speaking out on behalf of girls’ education in her region of Swat Valley in Pakistan, was shot in the head, sparking international media outrage.  An educational activist in Pakistan, Yousafzai has since emerged as a leading campaigner for the rights of children worldwide and in December 2014, became the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. 

You can view the trailer for the film here. Many thanks to the Danner Family for providing this opportunity!

Please take note that transportation to and from campus will not be provided. This film is rated PG-13. Parents are welcome to accompany students to this event, just reserve an additional ticket!

Register HERE 

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