Castilleja School's Class of 2022 marked its graduation on Saturday, June 4, with an on-campus ceremony that included remarks both on the students' time in high school and on what lies ahead.
Commencement speaker Lisa Jackson, former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and current vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives at Apple, urged the 50 graduating seniors to find purpose in serving others and to work to create lasting change, according to Castilleja.
"Make your foundation a commitment to justice," Jackson said. "Then, find a sense of purpose that lights you up — that connects to something deeply held about who you are and what you believe in."
Jackson also spoke about the power of representation in fighting injustice and the importance of women taking on leadership roles. Jackson is herself a graduate of a girls' school.
"If we want to move forward, we need more women to have a seat at the table — ideally, the head of the table," Jackson said to the graduates, who were not in academic gowns but rather, according to the school's tradition, wearing white clothes that reflected their individuality.
"Because when women fight for each other, we're fighting for much-needed change. With the education you've earned here, you have a chance to be a part of that," she said.
For senior Aizza Rocha, graduation was a bittersweet experience. Attending Castilleja since middle school, and having the pandemic disrupt her sophomore and junior years, Rocha told the Weekly that in some ways, it was hard to believe she had reached the end of her time at the girls' school.
"A lot of these people I went to school with for seven years, so it just didn't really feel real," Rocha said. "It still doesn't."
In the fall, Rocha will be attending St. Olaf College in Minnesota and wants to pursue a career in environmental law. She has been awarded a full-tuition Posse Foundation scholarship, which is given to students judged to have extraordinary leadership potential. Raised in East Palo Alto, Rocha said that her interest in environmental law stems from learning about the history of environmental racism in her community.
"My hometown is definitely the driving factor in what I want to work in," Rocha said. "I'm very proud to live in East Palo Alto."
According to Castilleja, graduation speaker Riley Carolan talked at the ceremony about the gratitude she has for those who made her time at Castilleja special, which she said became clear to her when she started using a gratitude journal that her mom had given her years before.
"These expressions of gratitude are what ground us in community," Carolan said. "They allow us to feel heard, seen and appreciated for what we bring to the table.
"Simply put," she continued, "gratitude connects us and allows us to feel understood. It's what gives us a sense of belonging."
Local schools honor the class of 2022 with graduation ceremonies that resembled pre-pandemic celebrations.
Fifty students make up this year's graduating class at Castilleja School.