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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.

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.

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Posted 02/09/2016 01:14PM

Castilleja celebrated two talented and courageous seniors at yesterday’s game against Notre Dame San Jose. Before the game started, Coach Gary Plummer paid tribute to the two seniors and presented each of them with a special gift. Lindsay Rosston, a three-year varsity player for Castilleja, and Ellie Chen, a four-year varsity player (seven years of Castilleja basketball overall) played some of the best basketball a coach could ask for last night.



Ellie scored a career high of 28 points and had a career high four blocks! She now has 51 threes for the season, which puts her in second place for number of 3-pointers in a single season behind legendary Eve Zelinger ’10. Chen also has 150 career threes putting her at second all time, behind Zelinger once again.


Lindsay Rosston had a great game as well! She had four important rebounds, two points, a steal, and a block. She has career season highs this year in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. Lindsay is arguably one of the most improved players in recent years!


The rest of the team assisted the seniors tremendously. Cate Alder had thirteen points and four blocks last night, including back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. With her next 3-pointer, she will tie Olivia Nicholls '13 for fourth all time in made threes. Anika Adzich had ten rebounds, and Claire Pisani had nine. They are both top ten in all of CCS for rebounds among freshmen players. Katie Fearon broke the ice with the team's first field goal last night. The huge Castilleja crowd went crazy for that shot. She played her usual lockdown defense and point guard duties too. Jashee Yang’s on-the-floor rebound in the 4th quarter was clutch. She had the presence of mind to find a teammate for an outlet pass while surrounded by Notre Dame players!


For more information and quotes from the team, check out these articles!

Palo Alto Online

The Reporter News

Mercury News



Posted 02/04/2016 12:37PM

Castilleja’s basketball and soccer teams had the top collective grade-point-averages of all the teams from the Central Coast Section! Committing many hours to sport and to academics can be very challenging, but these student-athletes have done a tremendous job. 


Full Press Release



Posted 01/26/2016 09:50AM

Last Wednesday, thirty-four Middle School students performed in fifteen different acts in the annual Middle School Talent Show. An enthusiastic crowd enjoyed a cappella, opera, solo and group singing, rap, rock bands, instrumental music, a music video and even a magic show. Kudos to all of the performers, to the Middle School government for organizing and running the show, and to Mr. Ochi for his behind-the-scenes technical expertise. 

Posted 01/22/2016 01:26PM
Although the origins of National Polka Dot Day and of polka dots themselves are shrouded in mystery, the librarians love a chance to celebrate the delightful dots. Other Castilleja faculty and employees were happy to jump on board the spotted wagon, making for a very silly group shot in the library during break.
Posted 02/02/2016 09:17AM

The Chinese IV (10th grade) just completed their Chinese food project, in which they learned about Chinese culture through traditional foods. The goal of the project was to have them each cook a Chinese dish. They were able to accomplish this after researching different recipes and preparations of authentic Chinese foods. They also participated in a mock radio cooking program, taking turns instructing listeners as both the host and guest. To celebrate the completion of the project, they all brought in their dishes and created a video about the process.


Posted 02/02/2016 07:00AM

Castilleja Library's Book Swap is coming up! Bring books from home that other Castilleja students might like to read, and get "new to you" books that others have donated. Bring books you want to donate in to the library this week, and next week, February 8th-12th, come peruse the books and take some home!

The library will donate any leftover books to a great cause.

Posted 02/02/2016 06:16AM

Watch Kate Laubscher '14 compete on Jeopardy tonight at 7pm! This Castilleja alumna is one of 15 students (out of 12,000 who tried out) in the college tournament.

Posted 01/19/2016 09:16AM
Castilleja's brand new Mock Trial team had a terrific debut this weekend in the Santa Clara County Mock Trial Invitational, scoring an acquittal as defense and a manslaughter conviction as prosecution. The team is working hard to prepare for the multi-night county competition, which starts February 2. Please come cheer the team on! Juniors Cate A. and Valerie H. lead the team. Ms. Wagenhals is the faculty advisor/attorney coach with assistance from outside attorney coaches Casti alum Michelle Melen and Casti parent Andrew Gray. Go Gators!

Posted 02/01/2016 11:29AM

On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday both Middle and Upper School students presented a vision of a brighter future where quality education is available to all. Castilleja performers paired with Building Futures Now students to artfully deliver facts and testimonials through speeches and a range of dance numbers evoked emotion, reflection, and hope. Congratulations to the Dance Production Workshop, Ms. Shea, Mr. Ochi, and all of our fabulous performers and their families for a fantastic show. 

Arts with a Heart (AwaH) is dedicated to raising money and awareness for a worthy cause by creating an entertaining show utilizing all art forms, including dance, drama, music, and art. We aim to foster engagement in both the local and global community, while being inclusive of the entire Castilleja School student body.

Arts with a Heart 2016 benefitted Building Futures Now in partnership with the Halford Young Women's Leadership Program. Building Futures Now is an after school academic enrichment program based in East Palo Alto for rising 4th graders through college bound students. It provides underserved students with year-round, individualized academic support and mentorship so that they can not only thrive in school, but also engage and give back to their community. Halford is a mentoring program for Castilleja sophomores through seniors which works in partnership with Building Futures Now. Castilleja's US students work with 4th and 5th grade girls every week and help them with their homework, or tackle key topics such as enhancing self-esteem, confronting body-image issues to help each girl develop skills for success and a stronger belief her own capacities. The group also meets one Saturday a month and partners with the Robotics team to plan fun Science Saturdays or engages in exciting off-campus field trips. 

Posted 01/26/2016 04:39PM

Last weekend, Castilleja School joined forces with neighboring Sacred Heart Prep, Menlo School, and the Palo Alto School District to put on a free heart-screening event. The event was run through the Via Heart Project, a non-profit organization based out of San Francisco, CA. This organization is dedicated to the awareness, education, treatment, and prevention of sudden cardiac arrest. They dedicate their work to doing worldwide community outreach, CPR training, automated external defibrillator (AED) placement and maintenance, and teen cardiac screenings.


Last year, the Sequoia Union School District put on a similar, very successful event, and Castilleja Director of Sport Performance, Jessie Starr, jumped at the opportunity to get our school involved with an event in 2016. Starr said, “Each year you read about youth deaths due to sudden cardiac arrest. In all the training I do for managing sudden cardiac arrest scenarios, you never actually want it to happen. It’s extremely important to be proactive in screening your children so as to discover any undiagnosed issues before they lead to something fatal.” The goal of these events is to create heart safe schools and discover undiagnosed issues before they lead to cardiac arrest.


A total of 535 teens were screened at Sacred Heart Prep on Sunday, January 24th. Of those 535, three were found to be at high risk and eleven will require follow-up care for issues ranging from hypertension to stuctural anomalies. The event involved hands on CPR and AED training for both teens and parents, an EKG, a health history questionnaire, and if indicated, an echocardiogram. The entire process was non-invasive, with no needles or x-ray exposure. Volunteer healthcare providers, as well as local community members and students, staffed the event. There was food, healthcare booths, Olympians, and sudden cardiac arrest survivors, all resulting in a successful day!




Posted 01/25/2016 10:14AM


Castilleja alumnae, friends, and family had a great time volunteering at Second Harvest Food Bank this weekend, where they helped sort 28,000 lbs of produce for hungry families in the Silicon Valley.

The group plans to do more volunteer events in the future - stay tuned for details.

Posted 01/12/2016 08:23AM

Throughout this year's Global Week students explored the question "What is Climate Change?" and extended their learning to explore the interdisciplinary nature of this global dilemma. Each day Castilleja hosted a series of compelling speakers who were able to share their findings from their invidiual experience and field of study. Through these lectures, students were exposed to the views of activists, geographers, scientists, economists, political advisors, alternative energy innovators. On Friday Global Week 2016 concluded with a performance by Baba Brinkman, a Climate Change rapper. The bulk of the week was dedicated to grade-level projects where each grade came together to respond to a problem through presentations, scientific experimentation, art, or a combination of all three.

Students were challenged to:

Discuss the intersection of demographics, globalization, geography, and climate.

Wrestle with the geopolitical tensions that climate change provokes.

Wonder about the technological innovations that could lessen its impact.

Imagine new mindsets with which to think about consuming, distributing, and investing.

Understand yourself effecting change in the world as a potential contributor both to the problem and the solution(s).


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