Email Correspondance Between a Prospective Mother and an SI Graduate
My daughter is applying to private high schools and we are considering St. Ignatius. However, the biggest drawback for us is the long commute from home and volleyball practices in the Menlo Park area. A friend suggested that I get in contact with you to find out what the commute is really like.
Our son went to Bellarmine, and we think that the Jesuit education is the finest that can be had. Our only wish is that St. Ignatius was closer.
If you have the time to comment on the commute (or anything else), we'd really appreciate. Were you able to juggle an outside sport such as volleyball? Did you use mass transportation?
It is so nice to hear from a prospective Wildcat and fellow commuter! Does your daughter go to La Entrada now? I had many friends from AY soccer and Burgess basketball from La Entrada. It seems like a very vibrant place.
Anyways, now to get down to business! I am so thrilled that your daughter is even considering SI. I realize how "out of the ordinary" that is for people from our area, and I think it is very courageous of her to even look that far north. That being said, once you get a glimpse of what SI is about, there is no looking back!
As you may or may not know, I live in Woodside. I attended St. Raymond's, right there in Menlo. I was the first and only student to even APPLY to St. Ignatius from my elementary school. To be completely honesty, my parents "made me," and I went through the process to make them happy but I had no intention of going there. I wanted to go to Sacred Heart Prep, right across Valparaiso and where my mother went and where all my friends would be going. It was comfortable, predictable, and what I always envisioned for my high school experience.
At the same time, as decision time neared and I was fortunate enough to be accepted to SI, I began to compare the schools more seriously. Unlike Sacred Heart, SI would push me out of my comfort zone. I would be forced to make an entirely new set of friends, learn the towns and cities of the Bay Area (critical when requesting rides and meeting places at certain highway exits!), and - MOST importantly - I would receive a Jesuit education. My brothers both graduated from Bellarmine, which both absolutely adored and would repeat all over again for anything in the world. After four years at SI, I feel the exact same way.
Sure, it was scary and there were no guarantees, but I soon realized that there were MANY students in the same situation and going through the same emotions as me. Not only was I was not alone, but the school itself fully welcomed me into an entirely new and exciting community. The freshman class at SI is 350 totally unique and passionate students from all over the Bay Area. There are students that drive far more than 45- 50 minutes simply to have access to such an education. I had friends from northern Marin County, east of Oakland, and into the center of downtown San Francisco. The peaceful drive up 280 was long but it was truly a piece of cake compared to these commuters!
As far as the logistics of getting there, you have a few options. First, you can take the school bus, which picks up students at Hillsdale Shopping Center at around 7:30 am. This is an awesome way to meet friends who live nearby, and you meet them right away - on the first day of school, even! Some of my best friends senior year were people I met on the Hillsdale bus in the first weeks of school. The return trip times at the end of the day at around 3:30 and then a later bus at 5:30 for athletes. Alternatively, it might also be a good idea to coordinate a carpool. This was not convenient for my family because with my brother still down at Bellarmine and my mother still working, our schedules were too unpredictable to organize and coordinate a carpool - but maybe your family has it more together! Finally, you CAN take CalTrains from Menlo or BART from Millbrae all the way to Market Street and then hop on the MUNI and take it out to the Taraval stop in the Sunset, which is located 2 blocks from SI. This is a very long process, but it is a way to meet students commuting from Peninsula (but still, I wouldn't recommend relying on CalTrains or BART, but it is nice to know that there is the option.)
I took the bus on-and-off the first semester of SI, and by the second semester, I was involved in so many activities that it was just more time efficient for my mother to drive me. Believe me, I realize how kind and what a huge sacrifice this was for her to do (and I am forever grateful!). At the time, it seemed like the best way for me to take advantage of everything - and there is so much! - SI had to offer, and I met so many incredible people along the way. By the beginning of sophomore year, I frequently carpooled with my best friend from San Mateo. We would meet at the 280-92 interchange and scoot on up north from there. Driving was not ideal, but I enjoyed that time in the morning thinking through my day, listening to NPR, or maybe doing a bit of last minute cramming!
The bottom line I would say is this: I would absolutely NOT consider SI any less strongly because of the commute. There will be frustratingly late nights and tiring early morning, there will be weekends that it will be upsetting for your daughter that her friends are having parties in Marin and she is "stuck" on the peninsula, and there will be sacrifices she will have to make with extracurricular activities in able to maintain her sanity! BUT - and this is a HUGE but - it will all be more than worth it and the education she receives will change the person she is today, offer her an education that will present endless opportunities in the future, and transform her paradigm and reshape the values she holds for her lifetime.
Academically, I am admittedly biased but I can confidently say that I believe that SI is the best school in the Bay Area. I had access to a wide variety of classes, all of which were small in size and the teachers were spectacular. There was not a single day - from Freshman Orientation to Graduation - that I didn't come gushing or telling some funny or inspiring story something a teacher, Jesuit, counselor, or administrator had done that day. The classrooms at SI are fully alive, and that excitement is something that I will never forget.
Regarding clubs and sports, I did have to make some sacrifices as a direct result of my living so far, BUT I still participated in many groups and enjoyed a number of formative experiences. I am happy to hear that your daughter is a volleyball player because I am to! My freshman and sophomore years, I played volleyball for SI's junior varsity team in the falls and soccer in the winter. Spring of my freshman year, I also chose to play club volleyball for my team in San Jose - City Beach. So, as you can imagine, my mother and I were far too familiar with every curve along 280. As a result, my sophomore year I switched to a club in San Francisco, which was much more convenient and I could access from school on the MUNI. Also, I got to know the city very well through playing on a team with girls from all over the city and in local gyms. In addition, I started yearbook my sophomore year, and I became very involved, very quickly. I was offered the position of Editor-in-Chief as a junior, and I would be able to hold the post for two years. It was a dream! For this reason, I decided to stop playing sports my junior year to be better able to manage my yearbook commitments. This was a VERY difficult decision because I had been a mutli-sport athelete my entire life and loved being a part of a team, but in the end, I found alternatives (intramurals, yoga at the local gym, dance class to fulfill my Fine Arts requirement!). Also, not that this is a reason to quit, but I realized that I probably wouldn't be a professional athlete, and yearbook (the writing, journalistic, editing, organizational and photographic skills it teaches) was something that I could see benefiting me in the long run. I missed spending time with my teammates from volleyball and soccer, but of course our friendships remained and grew, and I found my niche in the yearbook office. Over the course of four years, I was able to be involved in a wide range of other clubs and activities, and there was always more I wanted to do! My living far away from school did not limit any of these opportunities - the decisions to "draw back" on some activities were made purely by myself (no pressure from the school to do so - they could not have been more encouraging or accommodating) when I realized that, indeed, there are only 24 hours in any given day!
To fast forward – when I began college at Georgetown's School of Foreign Service last fall, I felt completely prepared for the academic rigor of my coursework here. It had been my dream school for years, and my college counselors and teachers could not have been more incredible in doing everything within their power to help me through the admissions and decision process. (All of my friends report the same and are excelling in their schools, which range from big Berkeley to the Ivy League to New England liberal arts colleges.) SI is truly a "college preparatory" of the highest caliber, and this has been proven by my experience at one of the nation's best schools, surrounded by students from around the world. I never doubt the quality of my SI educational foundation, and I am cognizant of the curiosity and creativity my experience there gave me as far as my approach to learning. There is no subject too "impractical" or "frivolous" so long as I love what I am doing. (For example, before writing to you, I just finished up my Swahili homework!)
In case I haven't made it clear, I strongly encourage your daughter to apply to SI with an open mind and an optimistic attitude about what the school has to offer her, as an individual person with unique gifts and talents to contribute to that community. If she has ANY questions, please have her email me. I would love to talk to her about anything more specific. Sorry to send you an essay on this topic, but SI changed my view of the world, of where I am come from, and what I want to do in my life - - as a result, I will leap at any opportunity to brag about the ol' Red and Blue!
I look forward to helping inform your family about SI and seeing if it is the right place your daughter as you all make this very difficult decision.
Wow, thank you so much for the wonderful write-up about St. Ignatius! We will certainly consider your comments and we appreciate your enthusiasm for the school. Our son went to Bellarmine and we are in 100% agreement about the quality of the education and the overall development of the individual that a Jesuit education offers.
Please know that we have paused and we are reconsidering how to make the commute and sports (Vision) work for Cassie at St. Ignatius. You are a very persuasive and a writer extraordinaire!
Thank you very much for your time and effort on our behalf. We appreciate your offer to contact your further if we have any questions.