Castilleja Middle School Meeting: "We've Been Waiting for You. Welcome to JCC!"

“We’ve Been Waiting for You, Welcome to JCC!”

Cheers boomed, tiaras sparkled, and 6th graders sang and danced to a modified Taylor Swift song as they welcomed 7th and 8th graders to their temporary campus at the Oshman Family JCC on Thursday, September 21.

“We’ve been waiting for you, welcome to JCC!” may have been the official theme of the first combined Middle School meeting of the year in JCC’s 3,500-square-foot Schultz Cultural Arts Hall.

Castilleja Middle School students playing Tug of War in the outdoor amphitheater of the JCC during Spirit Week.

“This is very special for us that we’re here together today,” said Ms. Laura Zappas, Head of Middle School, during her remarks at the podium. Ms. Zappas gave Zappendations—shoutouts to those who demonstrate the 5Cs and go above and beyond—to the hardworking individuals who made this meeting possible: the teachers, the operations crew that drove the shuttles with 7th and 8th graders from the Bryant Street campus, and the lunch crew that prepared customized lunches. “The sixth graders did an amazing job welcoming us here,” Ms. Zappas said. “We’re excited to experience a little bit of your day today.”

Kicking off with a speech on stage, eighth grader Selin A. discussed her passion for figure skating. “When I’m engaged, I don’t realize that time is slipping away,” she said. 

“You’re literally the best figure skater I know,” noted Middle School Student Government President, 8th grader Kylie D., to the cheers of the audience. 

Next, 8th grader Ire A. talked about resilience when facing uncertainty. “I am excited by the unknown,” Ire admitted. “It’s always good to have goals, but remember, things can change. When I’m afraid, I try to lean on my imagination to think of all the exciting possibilities.”

Middle schoolers also shared affinity group updates, affirming Castilleja’s commitment to learning from diverse voices and experiences on campus and beyond. A new affinity group, MEAG, will provide a welcoming space for Middle Eastern students to connect and share traditions and cultures of the Middle East. Meanwhile, five students from KASA (Korean American Student Association) and Chinese+ affinity groups introduced the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as Chuseok.  

 The auditorium was rocked by jubilant cheers and applause as faculty unveiled upcoming after-school activities. Ms. Bridget Rigby, Bourn Lab Director and Maker extraordinaire, invited students to participate in Castilleja’s legendary Gatorbotics club, where girls code, build robots, and attend a robot petting zoo (now with new AI and audio recognition capabilities). 

Visual and Performing Arts instructors took the stage to put out a casting call for the Middle School performance, “Matilda the Musical,” as well as for the spring dance production. 

And with a holler, “It’s soccer season, baby!” a student lead announced winter athletics: soccer and basketball.  

The meeting culminated with students and faculty playing a game of “Name That TV Tune!” on stage to honor their reality TV show-themed spirit week costumes (The Great British Baking Show, Survivor, and Toddlers & Tiaras). The auditorium then serenaded students and faculty with September birthdays in four languages. 

Capping off the afternoon, students in all three grades enjoyed lunch in the spacious outdoor amphitheater and played Spirit Week games, including Tug of War and Rock, Paper, Scissors on the turf field, celebrating an afternoon of togetherness and belonging. 

Eighth grader Selin A. gives a speech about what makes her most engaged.

Eighth grader Ire A. presents a speech about resilience when facing the unknown

Students in 6th, 7th and, 8th grades, together with faculty, eagerly listen to announcements at the Middle School meeting.

Middle School students rocking their Spirit Week costumes.