Edition 3 – January 2018


Dear Castilleja Families and Friends,

Happy New Year!

As has become our custom at Castilleja, we started 2018 with Global Week, a program that focuses on important global challenges and social issues. In lieu of classes, students attend lectures and panels featuring distinguished speakers who are working to raise awareness and promote change and then meet with their classmates and teachers to further discuss and explore these issues.

This year’s theme was “Equity in Education”. Speakers included Jonathan Jansen, President of the South African Institute of Race Relations and last year’s Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, who gave a keynote talk titled “Is Education a Human Right?” Students attended panels on topics such as EdTech, Global Solutions, and Local (Bay Area) Challenges and Solutions. The week was filled with courageous conversations, thought-provoking presentations, and a 6th grade tribute to one of the speakers. It was Castilleja at its best and an inspirational reminder of the importance and impact of the school’s mission.

Two weeks ago, students also had the opportunity to hear social justice activist  Bryan Stevenson speak. Stevenson is a lawyer and the founder and director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit based in Montgomery, Alabama that provides legal representation to the underserved. He has argued cases before the Supreme Court and has been part of a movement to end extreme sentencing of children convicted of crimes. Stevenson is a powerful speaker, and his talk may have brought a few of us to tears with his inspiring message about the hope, compassion, proximity, and commitment required to effect change.

Fostering a sense of purpose and responsibility in our students is a key tenet of our mission that we believe helps define and distinguish the Castilleja experience. Framed by on-campus experiences such as Global Week, our students engage in immersive community activities that bring classroom learning to life and reinforces the empathy and determination that are so critical to leadership. Among our community partners are Ada’s Café, Boys & Girls Clubs, and the Palo Alto Veteran’s Hospital.

The opportunity to step outside one’s life and make a difference is an experience that students carry with them beyond Castilleja. In fact, we are extremely proud to say that many of our graduates continue their commitment to public service throughout their professional lives, including right here in Palo Alto. Which brings me to this month’s feature: a Q&A with one of our alumna who models this commitment to service. 

Castilleja graduate Julia Ishiyama ’09 is a second-year law student at Stanford University. We hope you will read her story and feel inspired by her plans to work towards securing additional legal protections to help women thrive.

An Interview with Julia Ishiyama

Castilleja Class of 2009, Stanford Law Class of 2019

Castilleja: Can you tell us a bit about your pro bono work at Stanford Law?

Julia: As a first-year, I did pro bono work at Stanford’s Social Security Disability Project (SSDP) to help provide homeless and at-risk clients access to their Social Security benefits.

As a second-year student, I plan to work with Stanford’s Housing Pro Bono Project, which helps low-income East Palo Alto renters resolve landlord disputes – whether the client is facing eviction, habitability issues, discriminatory behavior, illegal increases in rent, or other housing problems.

Castilleja: Where did you volunteer while you were a student at Castilleja?

Julia: My primary volunteer activity was spent in my old kindergarten classroom at Walter Hayes Elementary School. Since Palo Alto public schools operated on a different schedule than Castilleja, I spent my breaks reading stories to students, preparing and running educational activities, and helping administer state-mandated assessments.

In high school, I served as a member of Congresswoman Anna Eshoo’s Student Advisory Board where I researched and drafted policy recommendations for a year-end report presented to the Congresswoman, including on how to incentivize HPV vaccination.

Castilleja: How do you feel your education at Castilleja prepared you for your future?

Julia: Seven years of all-girls education gave me an incredible appreciation for how rare and wonderful it is to have strong female voices in every classroom, female leads in every play, and women running (student) government.

As a result, my focus in law school is on issues of gender equity and removing real-world barriers to the kind of female excellence I was surrounded by at Castilleja.

To that end, I spent the summer of 2017 interning at the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. I am the president of Stanford Lawyering for Reproductive Justice and serve on the board of Women of Stanford Law. This summer, I’ll be at a law firm where I hope to work on Title IX litigation—advocating for survivors of campus sexual assault.

Castilleja: As you know, we are undertaking an effort to increase enrollment to provide more educational opportunities for girls and young women. Are there any comments you’d like to share about this effort?

Julia: Castilleja’s investment in its students pays dividends in this community every day. I think seeking the opportunity to double down on your commitment to Palo Alto by populating it with more young women dedicated to service while responsibly managing growth deserves fair consideration by the people of Palo Alto.


We’d like to thank Julia for making the time to speak with us, and we wish her the best in her endeavors. Please visit our website at to show your support for Castilleja’s mission and vision for the future.

Thank you,

Kathy Layendecker
Associate Head of School
Finance and Operations





Previous Editions:

Edition 2 – December 2017

Edition 1 – November 2017