Now, That's Empowerment!

By Debbie Swartz

Let’s Hear It For the Girls!

Nanci Zabatta Kauffman '78
Nanci Zabatta Kauffman '78

Nanci Zabatta Kauffman ’78, head of school (other Vassar alumnae affiliated with the school are Barb Aaron Rosston ’84, board chair, and Christy Heneveld Story ’89, teacher)

School: Castilleja School, Palo Alto, California

Founded: 1907

Website: http://www.castilleja.org/

Mission: The all-girls school offers independent curriculums to students and stresses the five Cs: conscience, courtesy, character, courage, and charity. Girls in grades 6 through 12 can attend the non-sectarian Palo Alto, California, school.

What’s the history of Castilleja School?

The school was founded as a college preparatory school, specifically for young women to qualify for Stanford University. The founder of the school, Mary Lockey—a Stanford graduate—had support from Leland Stanford (Stanford University’s founder) to establish the school.

From the second year of operation, and for many years thereafter, graduates of Castilleja were admitted—without examination—to Stanford University. This list grew to include University of California, Wellesley, Smith, Vassar, Mills, Mount Holyoke, and Wells.

What have you learned in your time in education?

My first teaching job was at an all-girls school in Manhattan—the Marymount School of New York. I think I was there three days when I realized that having an all-girls education prepared women in ways that I hadn’t imagined.

I believe now more than ever, that all-girls schools will play a role in the future. We have all recognized, nationally and globally, that we need more women prepared for leadership and for STEM fields. The girls’ schools are the places where that’s going to happen.

There’s something about that moment in time that you just get to be the smart girl that you are, without all of the social obstacles to that. It’s extraordinary. We all know that there’s enough pressure in the media and on the internet on girls and women, that to put them in a place every day where they don’t have to deal with that really gives them a huge opportunity to grow, develop, take risks, and try new things. That is what allows them to take on leadership roles. They’re not afraid of anything.

Dream a Little Dream

Kleaver Cruz '11
Kleaver Cruz '11

Kleaver Cruz ’11, dream director at Leadership Institute high school, Bronx, New York

Organization: The Future Project

Founded: 2011

Website: http://www.thefutureproject.org/

Mission: The Future Project is a national initiative that works to transform schools and inspire students. The program places “dream directors” in participating schools. to create and direct “dream teams,” made up of students, teachers, and coaches. The director and his/her team orchestrates student development and strengthens schools by creating clubs and campaigns, rethinking policies, and reimagining school spaces. Dream directors encourage leadership, community action, and social justice.

What do you enjoy about your job?

No two days are the same. I’m responsible for choreographing the development of a culture that will encourage students—and anyone that’s a part of that community— to take action around their dreams and their passions. One day I might talk to people who are planning on visiting the school and then have meetings with various people who work in the school. Then I might meet with my students in groups and also have one-on-ones with different students. It really depends. That makes it interesting.

What made you want to be a dream director?

It’s who I’ve always been—someone who encourages others to take action for what they want for their lives and to do that with positive thinking, affirmation, and action. Also, there is a clear discrepancy in education, particularly with black and Latinos in this country, and I wanted to be part of figuring out how to change that.

I’m committed to young people of color of the Bronx. Just because you’re from the Bronx, doesn’t mean you can’t achieve what you want. I get to really own that belief and see what it looks like in real time.

For a glimpse of Cruz’s role as a dream director, watch this video.