As a young, thriving middle-schooler growing up in Southern California, Jermain Gross ’08 needed a challenge. Looking for a rigorous academic environment, with his sights set on success, Jermain sought out Cate School and ultimately persuaded his parents to let him attend. His time on the Mesa, while he admits it had its ups and downs, charted him on a path not only to success but one that led him across the globe.
“I had no idea what to expect, except that I was bound for growth, and Cate taught me a lot about resilience,” he said. “Failure and success go hand in hand. If you are always succeeding, you don’t learn the tougher life lessons, and Cate provided a lot of those for me.”
Along with life lessons, Cate also provided opportunities to give back to others. Some of Jermain’s fondest memories came from the Los Niños service learning trip and tutoring students in Carpinteria. His time on Los Niños, and around the Harkness table, kindled his passion for Spanish and catapulted him to further his language opportunities.
“I think language is the doorway to modern civilization. You can’t progress without communication, so having those tools opens doors in parts of the world that require more communication and more engagement with one another.”
While studying international business at Pepperdine, Jermain took advantage of summer abroad opportunities in Spain and London. He learned Mandarin and spent a year teaching English and international business in Hangzhou, China. After working as a Sales Analyst at Google and gaining experience in the finance industry as an underwriter for Earnest Inc., Jermain made his way back to London to complete his MBA.
“Cate was an enriching experience for many different reasons, but the most powerful being is that it is an environment of multiculturalism,” he said. “Having my next-door neighbor be from Korea, or South Africa, or from London, or Saudia Arabia – all different parts of the globe – and normalizing that as a teenager is something that influenced me to want to live abroad and soak in different cultures. It gives you access to how the world operates from a fundamental perspective, and I think that lock was opened for me.”
Continuing to learn and grow from each new experience, Jermain is currently working as the Revenue Strategy and Operations Manager at Twitter and has hopes to launch his own tech company in the future.
When nostalgia strikes, you can find Peter Given ’99 reading his old journal from Paul Denison ’79’s American Wildnerness class. As a senior, the 84-mile trip down the San Juan River left a lasting impact on him, as did the entire Outdoors Program and the many unique experiences he came away with from his time on the Mesa.
“I have some of the most amazing memories from that trip, and it was just an incredible experience that I will never forget,” Peter said. “My appreciation for the outdoors today, and nature in general, was enriched while I was at Cate, and I’m very thankful to have had the privilege to experience that time in my life.”
The transformative time at Cate helped Peter develop as an individual and bolstered his sense of independence, self-awareness, and resourcefulness. He learned about process and discipline, and while the academics were challenging in their own right, it was the life experiences that were instrumental in shaping who he is today.
“The part that you play in a community – in today’s world where collaboration and relying on each other as a way to grow and excel in all things we endeavor to do – I think that was really instilled in me during my time at Cate,” he said. “It is a small community, and it provided me with a lot of confidence to pursue my goals with the help of others.”
Upon graduating from Cate, Peter went to the University of Southern California, where he majored in political science with a minor in business and sociology. He moved to the Bay Area, where he dove head first into commercial real estate and has since seen all sides of the industry throughout his career. He currently works as a Project Manager at Sares Regis Group, a real estate development company.
Peter is married to his wife, Kelly, and they have three children, Brooks (7), Declan (4), and Emerson (4). While busy with his family and career, Peter has always stayed connected to Cate, serving as a Trustee, Class Agent, and Alumni Leadership Council President from 2017-2020.
“I consider my time at Cate to be something that I am very proud of, and I’ve always tried to do whatever I can to give back to the School for what it did for me.”
Coming to Cate was “an absolute dream” for Yansy Salmerón. “I was very excited about Cate from the beginning and from the moment I stepped foot on campus, I felt so welcomed. Seeing how kind the faculty was to my parents who didn’t speak English was uplifting, and we immediately felt accepted.” Yansy went to a KIPP Charter Middle School in Houston,Texas, and met the magnetic Kyle Mason, Director of Outreach and Recruitment, who sparked her interest in Cate.
“My curiosity and love of learning was certainly nurtured at Cate. I took Advanced Biology and Genetics and these courses were amazing! I loved everything about them.” Yansy continued her education at Brown University and earned a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience. She taught mathematics to 6th grade students at KIPP Houston Public Schools for two years and then worked at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia with the Violence Intervention Program. Yansy is immersed in her second year of medical school at Drexel University and is interested in Otolaryngology, a medical specialty focused on the ears, nose, and throat.
Cate provided Yansy with access to wonderful educational opportunities at great colleges. “Brown University was looking for students who were curious and service oriented, and this is the type of student that Cate nurtures and develops, so this background prepared me to be the type of student that Brown was seeking when I applied. I think there is a level of trust that universities have in knowing the kind of student that comes from Cate.”
Access to nature and the outdoors were among the most memorable and impactful for Yansy. “Being in an environment where you are constantly outdoors and not always sitting and studying at your desk is really eye opening.” She loved Cate Outings Week and her trip to Tahiti, where she stayed with a host family and learned French. “Because of the financial aid my family received, many of the expenses associated with trips were covered, which was incredible. I urge Cate to keep finding ways to make the school more accessible to students like me.”
To students with a similar background, Yansy advises, “Trust where you come from, trust who you are, and all of the lessons that you learn. Don’t be ashamed of them. These are the values that enrich the experience of everybody at Cate.”
Kate misses Cate in many ways, yet she is comforted by the long lasting memories of the Mesa. As she shared in her Servons speech before graduating: “I will always be transported to being surrounded by you, by blue jays and woodpeckers against the Eucalyptus trees, the glossy Harkness tables facing the Pacific blue, my heart filled with Cate Blue.”
“My most beautiful memories are rolled into bits and pieces. I miss the way the sunlight hit the eucalyptus trees at golden hour and it was so beautiful. I miss the comfort of leaving my laptop on the lawn and knowing it’s going to be there when I come back for it. I miss knowing exactly where I am going and at what time. Simply, I miss the ritualistic life of a boarding school.” Kate Bradley is currently attending Stanford University and is simultaneously pursuing two undergraduate degrees in Earth Science and International Relations. With a hefty course load of 20 units this quarter, she joyfully reminisces about Cate and credits her endurance and growth mindset to Cate. “Early on, I applied this mindset to literally everything and I quickly bought into the ethos and idealism that comes with being an engaged student at Cate.”
The people from Cate have been among the most influential for Kate as she had access to remarkable faculty including: Head of School Ben Williams, Ivan Barry, and Patrick Collins. “Mr. Williams is a great orator and every time he delivered a speech, I would take so much meaning and purpose from it, often finding a sense of renewal in what I was doing. Mr. Barry filled me with a huge sense of inquiry and thus, I fell in love with the Humanities and read a million history books. Mr. Collins was the funniest person on campus and taught his class very well, always rewarding every type of thinking under the sun.” Kate describes her Cate education as an elevated platform and a gift that keeps on giving, affording her the opportunity to try new things and surround herself with people with similar values and ideals. If it wasn’t for Cate, she is not sure that she would be at Stanford.
Access to service learning and leadership development opportunities have been invaluable skills that Kate merits to her time on the Mesa. While at Cate, Kate received The Mark Metherell ’87 Service Challenge grant and she led a project to support the Shan people in Thailand. Kate feels that leadership opportunities are unparalleled at Cate, “whether you want to be an intellectual leader, a social or community leader, or are learning to liaise with faculty and students, leadership is a fantastic life long skill to build upon.”
“Why is it so hot here?” Nate remembers asking his mother when they arrived in Carpinteria from Philadelphia for Cate’s revisit day. It had been snowing in Philadelphia before they left so when they arrived at Cate, they still had their parkas on in 90 degree weather. Fortunately, the warmth mirrored the friendly nature of the Mesa and its people, which instantly drew Nate in.
Cate provided Nate with access to people who championed and challenged him while igniting his intellectual curiosity. “When I got to Cate, I had a pretty strong conviction that I wanted to study astrophysics as I had a huge obsession with rocks and thought they were the coolest thing on earth,” said Nate. He enjoyed Mr. Bonnings’ fun physics class and recalls helping Dr. Kellogg coordinate the student viewing of the lunar eclipses during his junior and senior years. Nate ran with that interest, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Physics from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Science in Physics from DePaul University. He has future plans to pursue a Ph.D.
Nate values the manner in which teachers support student individual interests and he fondly remembers Mr. Wood, “He immediately started class speaking Japanese and was always willing to help me review material when I was struggling. When I went to Penn and took Japanese, I was able to place out of the language requirement because of the support I received from the amazing faculty at Cate.”
In addition to Cate providing Nate with access to exemplary people and meaningful friendships, he is grateful for the guidance and advice he received from Cate’s college counseling office. “The office was amazing and guided me towards scholarships, which made college a lot more affordable for my family and me.” Upon reflecting on a stellar education and numerous resources that Cate offers students, including a plethora of activities, clubs, and outdoor adventures, Nate holds a small regret. He wishes he would have taken advantage of the SCUBA certification program. He chuckles and advises students, “Try all new things that interest you at Cate, because once you go to college, it’s not free!”
Derek’s vision of a high school was concrete buildings, blacktop and chain-link fences, so when he came to Cate School it was an incredible eye-opening experience. Upon arriving at Cate, he immediately felt a sense of openness and connection to the history of the school. He walked around the Mesa and through the iconic Raymond Commons, seeing multiple pictures of former faculty and ultimately understanding that Cate had been around for a very long time.
One aspect that Derek most values about Cate is that the school encourages students to be who they are. He recalls, “I wasn’t the best student, but I could always relate to people and had good analytical skills. Faculty members recognized that I had a lot of creativity, and they knew how to reach me and I believe that’s a really unique gift that Cate offers.” A vivid memory Derek recalls includes his impersonation of faculty voices and mannerisms in front of the entire school! This was just one of many anecdotes that Derek shared that revealed his willingness to always “put himself out there.” He lives by this motto and encourages students to do this while pursuing a career, “Network like crazy especially if you are not comfortable doing so. Go to career fairs, apply to internships, meet people in an area that intrigues you, and get in front of companies that spark your interest,” he said.
Derek joked that when he was a Cate student iPhones didn’t yet exist and now he works for Rivian, an electric adventure vehicle tech company and this has brought him full circle into the tech industry. At Rivian, he is the Manager of Talent Acquisition, a profession not known to many. The company focuses on the innovation, technology and progression of electric vehicles. A key part of this job involves understanding the business, knowing where it is going, and working with CEOs, Vice Presidents and Managers to hire the right people. Interestingly enough, out of 9,000 employees, two other Cate alumni have joined Rivian – Erik Nielsen ’87 and Kyle Hollister ’03.
Upon reflecting on a great high school experience, Derek believes Cate really prepared him to think creatively and taught him how to start over, which is important in a rapidly changing environment.
“I don’t know that I would’ve been the type of student that Cate touts as one of the smartest or brightest, but I do think that after Cate, we will all find a good path that works for us,” he said.
Fate – and a Cate experience – led Jessica Liou to launch MathXplorers, her passion project aimed to bring out the joy in learning math while addressing low levels of math proficiency for students in Guatemala. Jessica took a gap year after Cate in order to earn some money and then returned to Guatemala, the place she visited as a junior on a Cate service-learning trip. She spent her early career in Antigua Guatemala and taught English in Zone 3 of Guatemala City. She quickly became fascinated with the country’s indigenous visibility and fell in love with the culture and students. “Guatemala is incredibly impoverished and has gone through genocides and civil war. Yet, the country is gorgeous from its people to its natural setting. Forming relationships with kids that were not much younger than me was just so amazing that I couldn’t leave, I had work to do there,” she said.
In Guatemala, only 10.6% of 15-year-old students are achieving a minimum level of proficiency in mathematics, according to the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment. Recognizing the immense achievement gap and need for relevant programming, Jessica partnered with educator Gigi Carunungan to develop MathXplorers ( https://www.mathxplorers.com/). She proudly shares that the vision for this program is to create a world that celebrates all children and that offers equitable learning opportunities so that students can achieve their full potential. The program accomplishes this through storytelling rather than the traditional method of equations or memorization that many of us grew up with. “Stories are a big part of who we are so we designed a math program which introduces diverse characters and names that students follow through different scenarios and growth experiences. Kids really connect to that.” MathXplorers is currently marketed to parents and has a growing presence in afterschool boys and girls clubs.
Jessica is glad to have taken a non-traditional path. She encourages Cate students to take a gap year if they have the time and resources, as this allowed her to explore her passions and interests. She currently lives in San Jose, CA and is a student in the Harvard Extension Program where she is pursuing a psychology degree while simultaneously developing and marketing the MathXplorers program. “My advice to Cate students is that it’s okay to deviate from the norm because people will always respect that you are pursuing a dream.” Jessica is living proof that with hard work and a desire to make a difference, everyone can make an impact in the world.
It was not in Sal’s plans to go to Cate School, his dream was to play football at his local Carpinteria High School and to be featured on the big screen at Rusty’s Pizza Parlor on Friday nights. His older brother advised him to look beyond football and consider applying to Cate. In the eighties, Cate did not have a football team so Sal took his brother’s advice to heart and applied. He was accepted and quickly recognized that everyone was on the same path to go to college. “I went along for the ride. At times, I felt I was not smart enough since many students came from a private school background. Ultimately that did not matter, I had the experience of learning and meeting really great people.”
Once at Cate, Sal made a commitment to try things that were new to him including volleyball and lacrosse. He fondly remembers Mr. Woodworth, a kind man who helped him sharpen his writing skills over the summer before starting at Cate. “I was fortunate to have the right people guiding me and making sure that I had what I needed to be successful. Cate put me on a trajectory to a different career and life path that I did not foresee.” Sal holds that Cate’s Servons motto clearly steered his career and he has attained much fulfillment in serving others through various public-serving jobs.
For 11 years, Sal worked for Denver Public Schools helping immigrants and refugees navigate the U.S. system. His job was to ensure that families knew what resources were available to them in terms of food, shelter, and healthcare. According to Sal, at that time, Denver, Colorado, had the most diverse language district representing 281 languages. Sal now works at Vegas PBS as Director of Development and his work focuses on raising philanthropic funds to support broadcasting educational media services.
Sal’s passion for people is remarkable: “People are the most important, it’s always about helping and appreciating people – treating them with dignity. When you treat people with dignity, you develop strong relationships,” he said. And that is exactly what Sal does.
A slight detour on the way to dinner at Raymond Commons would ultimately change the course of history for Verena Chu. During a College Night event on campus, Verena noticed an empty booth with a lonely representative and made her way over to make conversation. The college booth in question? The University of St Andrews. With plans to study medicine at UC Berkeley all but confirmed, the meeting brought some enticing advantages of a school like St Andrews to Verena’s attention. Primarily the ability to start in the medical field right away as opposed to years down the road in the United States.
Verena heard all she needed to hear. She applied shortly after, and the rest is history. “It was fate,” she said. “That is one of the things I have always believed in. I believe everything happens for a reason.”
After completing her medical degree from St Andrews, Verena has remained in the United Kingdom, completing her surgical training in Manchester and working all over England. Following an intensive period of time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Verena has a new outlook on life and made the decision to transition from surgery to family medicine.
“This was a decision I made when I had my own personal clarity on what I constituted as happiness and joy,” she said. “I have learned to appreciate everything. I had to take a step back and ask myself if I was truly happy.”
She credits much of her fortitude to her time at Cate and her experiences from Outings Week that she draws on to this day.
“Cate really helped me transition to the real world,” she said. “I always tell people my experience of Outings Week – it was snowing when we went to Yosemite, and we didn’t have showers and had to dig our own toilets, etc. It was such a humbling experience that made me a more flexible person. Cate taught me to be independent, flexible, and adaptable to anything that comes my way.”
Verena still keeps in touch with her advisor, Cheryl Powers, who she considers an honorary mom/grandma/confidante, but more importantly, her friend. She is also very grateful to have received Mrs. Powers’ signature banana bread recipe, a staple during advisory meetings.
One of her all-time favorite Cate memories was attending her 10-year reunion at Camp Cate in 2017. “It was really wonderful to see all of my old classmates and connect with them,” she said. “In many ways, it was like we had never left.”
With most of her family living in Hong Kong, Verena finds joy in the day-to-day as a dog and cat mom, cherishing her small family unit in the UK.
JunJun (Rainbow) Wang ’15 knew what she wanted to do with her life from the moment she stepped foot on the Mesa. It was the relationships she built and the experiences she had at Cate that ultimately gave her the confidence to pursue her dream of becoming an architect.
Described as an “imaginative,” “terrific,” and “tremendous” artist in her senior citation, Rainbow recalls impressing Mr. [John] Swain in ceramics class and realizing that she might have a knack for art after all. That same senior citation, or rather prognostication, went on to say, “…Rainbow has moved appropriately from an interest in two-dimensional work to three dimensions and a growing facility in architecture.”
“I always loved art and knew I wanted to have a stable career, so architecture was one of the only things I considered,” she said. “I knew I wanted to be in design and not be a starving artist. I always liked physics and mechanics too, so architecture was a great intersection of all of those things.”
Upon graduating from Cate, Rainbow completed the five-year bachelor of architecture program at the University of Southern California and now works in hospitality design architecture for Soho House – a group of private hotels, bars, and clubs aimed at artists and creatives. Thus far, she has worked on hotel design projects in Los Angeles, Mexico City, and Cabo San Lucas and looks forward to going to work each day.
“I am fortunate to be doing what I am doing,” she said. “I love the design team and all of my coworkers. I love working, and it doesn’t seem like it is work. I am lucky that I pursued a career that I really enjoy.”
The Tony Hooker ’56 Sculpture Award recipient as a senior, Rainbow can thank Patrick Collins’ famed Art History class (she still has the textbook) for making college a bit easier, and she is grateful for the support she received from faculty, including Bill Anderson, who helped set her down the architecture career path. Some of her fondest memories include spontaneous outdoor trips from sunrise paddleboarding to kayaking along the central coast and her experiences from Ned Bowler and Paul Denison ’79’s American Wilderness Class. A cross country standout during her time on the Mesa, Rainbow continues to run to this day.
“I look back on my time at Cate very fondly, and the experiences that I had are very unique; it is hard to even describe to people,” she said. “My time at Cate made me a better person and in many ways got me to where I am today.”
Dr. Caroline Stackhouse (Mosley) ’85 is Cate’s first Black alumna who took part in the School’s first co-ed class. She is currently an Emergency Care Physician in Macon, Georgia and has worked in the medical field for more than 25 years following her undergraduate studies at Stanford University and completing medical school at the University of California, Los Angeles. Caroline’s father was a doctor committed to providing services for the black community and this had a major impact on her growing up.
Although the transition to Cate from her home in Fresno, Calif., was difficult in the beginning, Caroline has wonderful memories of the School. “Mr. Watson, Linette Couturier, and Gaby Edwards were like surrogate parents to me as they were extremely loving and kind,” she recalls. Caroline loved the different experiences she was exposed to, including soccer, Chorale, biking to Santa Barbara, Yosemite and Los Niños trips, and the 24-hour class prom that included dinner, bowling in gowns, and breakfast the next morning. Having her champion and brother, Chris Mosley ’84, at Cate during the same time she was here made it more memorable and special. “It was such a fun time living with a bunch of kids!”
Soccer was her passion and Caroline was quite the athlete, earning nine varsity letters – four in soccer, four in softball, and one in tennis. As a freshman, Caroline set Cate’s all time single season scoring record with thirty-three goals. That included scoring the first ten goals for the inaugural girls soccer team in 1981. She scored her 100th and 101th goals during the last game of the season against Thatcher. Caroline continued to play soccer after medical school and made the Louisiana state women’s soccer team. She continued to play well into her forties. In addition to sports, she participated in the Cate choir and was a very talented harpist and pianist.C aroline sleeps in the day and works the evening shift. She feels so much support from her husband Ken, who drives her to work in Macon and back home – a 1.5 hour commute each way. In her early years, she always knew she wanted to become a physician. What Caroline now loves most about her profession is helping patients understand their concerns and finding a way to address them. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, she has a deep appreciation for the hospital ICU and floor workers. “I typically only meet with patients for a couple of hours; they are truly the ones who care for patients on a daily basis and carry the brunt of this horrible virus.”
“I must have done a really good job to have such good and accomplished kids,” Caroline proudly and humbly laughs. She has two adult kids and two step-children, and has always emphasized education in her family, but never pushed them in the medical direction. Yet, they are following her footsteps and she feels honored that they want to be like her. Her advice to Cate students is the same advice she gave her kids: “College is the last opportunity to have fun and try new things without serious responsibilities. Once you leave college, things will never be the same. Work hard and have fun.”
Isaiah credits Cate with gifting him the academic fortitude and ability to think long term, to be productive, and to experience what working hard really looks like. Isaiah’s excitement toward people, technology, and computer science led to his current role as a Venture Capital Investor at Insight Partners, a global venture capital and private equity firm investing in high-growth technology and software scaleup companies such as Facebook, Zoom, and Google Drive. During his early years, he started a dog walking business when he was in seventh grade, worked as a product specialist at Facebook, and co-founded Boost Scooters, Inc.
His interest in technology and computer science was sparked by science teacher Dr. Jamie Kellogg’s class and he recounts the tremendous support he received from Coach Ben Soto and Athletic Director Wade Ransom, two of his top influencers, mentors, and father figures. Jose Powell, former Director of Multiculturalism and Kyle Mason, Director of Outreach and Recruitment, also made an important mark during his time at Cate. Isaiah recalls fond memories as the High House prefect, being part of the football team that almost made it to CIF, Camerata, Chorale, basketball, and lacrosse. He says he now understands why Cate forces you to “do it all” and encourages students to “try as many things as possible because you really never know what you like until you do it.”
While participating in the arts program, Isaiah appreciated the vision of the department. “Our theater director, Jessica Block, understood the importance of introducing the play Ragtime to Cate as it addressed racial issues in America.” Isaiah proudly recounts establishing Cate’s Black History Month Initiative with his fellow classmates Ajibola Bodunrin ’16 and Hannah Jorgensen ’16. The purpose of the initiative was to bring diverse panelists to present at Convocation. “Black History Month is a great way to acknowledge history and bring it to the forefront and this should happen throughout the year,” he said.
Isaiah is committed to uplifting his community and family and feels it is imperative to transfer his learnings to others, and that is what he has done with his education in entrepreneurship and management from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He is most proud of the legacy he left at his alma mater as Co-Founder and Director of Black Wharton Consulting, a non-profit organization that offers management consulting services to minority-owned businesses in Philadelphia. The organization currently has over 50 consultants on the team and serves as a direct pipeline to many influential businesses and institutions. Isaiah loves his work and his community. “I am so fortunate to be doing something I am interested in and passionate about and that is something I thank God for every day.”
“Happy to Know He was Helping People”: The Inventor
Caroline New ’00 remembers her father Bill New ’59
Caroline was born in 1983, two years after her electrical engineer-turned-medical doctor father Bill launched Nellcor, Inc., the first of his two successful medical device companies. Growing up, Caroline says:
“We knew he had this invention; that it was something being developed and marketed. Then, we were aware that it was in every hospital.”
That invention? The pulse oximeter – a device that uses infrared light refraction to measure how well oxygen is binding to red blood cells. It’s an efficient and safe way to know who is -and isn’t – receiving enough oxygen into their body. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the pulse oximeter has been a major player in the timely identification and treatment of sick people.
“My Dad would have been terribly saddened but intrigued,” by the emergence of the novel coronavirus, Caroline says. “I can picture him following the pandemic really closely – he was fond of taking napkins and drawing line graphs or charts to illustrate any topic that interested him. I can see him marking trends and predictions of pandemic; I can see him making little arrows to illustrate how interventions would impact the course of the disease.
“He loved where technology and medicine intersect,” Caroline remembers. “Endlessly curious, he was always thinking of new ways to improve people’s lives.”
Caroline New believes her father would have been proud of the positive impact of his work on the treatment of COVID-19, and wishes he were still around to unleash his boundless intellect further on the problem.
“… and take us all along for the ride.”
Behind the Scenes: The Medical Researcher
With degrees in chemical and biomedical engineering, Zack was happily working toward the discovery and development of various biotherapeutics at AstraZeneca in Gaithersburg, Maryland when, suddenly:
“In March 2020, I was pulled off my other pipeline and technology projects to work exclusively on the isolation of neutralizing antibodies – those antibodies that bind and block the SARS-CoV-2 virus from infecting host cells.”
Zack’s company – like others around the world – was in the race to find an effective vaccine against COVID-19.
“Working throughout the pandemic has been incredibly stressful,” Zack says. “Only those individuals actively working on COVID-19 or high priority projects were permitted to come to work. Like many schools and businesses, we had to use Zoom and Microsoft Teams in lieu of in-person meetings.”
While some PPE has always been standard in Zack’s labs, new and even more protective protocols had to be put in place.
Life at home was similarly impacted. Under isolation orders including the closure of schools and daycare centers, Zack and his wife, whose work-from-home schedule requires her full attention throughout the day, had to make new plans for their children, ages 3 and 6.
“Therefore, I cared for our two children during the day and put in long hours overnight,” Zack recalls. Although he looks forward to the return of some normalcy, Zack neither resents nor regrets the sacrifices he and his family have made, because his work right now … “ is to save lives.”
In for the Long Haul: The Rehabilitation Therapist
Last year Ellie decided to take time off from her pursuit of a doctorate degree in physical therapy to accept a position at an area Long Term Acute Care Hospital (LTAC). Expecting to work with oncology and transplant patients, Ellie suddenly found herself shifting gears – fast.
“Just as I was getting the hang of things, our hospital was transitioned to a COVID-only unit to accommodate the influx of patients.”
Ellie describes a “hectic” transition period, in which the logistics of patient transport and facility preparation were overlaid with a strong current of anxiety and confusion among staff, patients, and their families.
Soon, Ellie’s entire unit was full of COVID-positive and COVID-recovering patients. In a time when most healthcare providers try to limit the amount of time spent in patient rooms to reduce the risk of exposure, Ellie and her colleagues had no such option.
“Our sessions usually last 45 minutes- 1 hour,” Ellie says. “And due to restrictions, patients needed to be seen in their own rooms.”
Ellie describes a ritual of “… donning PPE from head to toe—gown, N-95 mask, goggles, face shield, and hair cover …” and then going through the often physically arduous process of assisting convalescent patients perform their critical exercises. “There were days all we could do after finishing work was go home and stare at the ceiling.”
Despite her own risks and exhaustion, Ellie worried more for her patients than she did for herself. Describing them as “ … scared, alone, confused, and weak,” Ellie empathized deeply with people who were one day healthy and active, like herself, and the next completely dependent on others for even the most mundane tasks.
She also noted with concern the mental state of her patients, who were often confused and delirious.
“Sometimes, I would gown up and sit with patients in their rooms whenever I had free time, just to listen to them or hold their hand.”
Although this was not “technically allowed,” says Ellie, “I did it because that is what I would have wanted. Someone to just be with me in the middle of chaos.”
Compassion in Crisis: The ICU Nurse
Two things happened to Shelley last Spring. One was the novel coronavirus. As an acute care nurse practitioner, Shelley sees the sickest of the sick who come through her hospital. In her ICU, she cares for patients hit with the most devastating physical impacts of COVID-19: the ravaged lungs, the mysterious and sometimes fatal blood clots, the delirium.
“We throw everything at them,” Shelley explains, detailing the exhaustive list of interventions currently available to seriously ill COVID-19 patients. “I’ve had some really good turnarounds. Most people get better and go home. ”
That’s the good news. The harder truth – that many patients do die – weighs more heavily on Shelley. So does her growing certainty that there are disturbing reasons some people survive and others do not. Shelley explains in a single word:
“Privilege. I live in a prosperous community. Most people have really good health care, so we have low infection and death rates here. In fact, there were times when I felt guilty about not being on the frontlines, someplace like New York City.”
In the early days of the pandemic, Shelley began to question the very existence of those frontlines. Why the difference between hospitalization and mortality in places like New York, where people were getting sick and dying in record numbers, and her own hometown of Napa, California, where they were not? And those in wealthier wine country who were dying?
“All of my patients who have died have been LatinX,” Shelley states quietly.
“The first national numbers released in April indicated a disproportionate impact on immigrant communities,” she points out. These statistics reflected her own observations in the Intensive Care Unit. “The vast majority of my ICU patients have been first-or-second generation immigrants.”
Shelley points to a variety of reasons for this disparity; most of these have been well documented in national media.
“Immigrants and communities of color experience disproportionate poverty. Poorer people get sicker. The privileged will still get the disease, but they will recover.”
So Shelley’s takeaways from her ongoing experience with COVID-19?
“An increased commitment to antiracist work,” she states. Always an advocate for critical thinking and social justice – traits she says were established and nurtured at Cate – the pandemic has opened her eyes even wider to the greater social ills of racism.
“Wear your mask,” she adds. “Show you care for other people.”
Call 911: The First Responder
Carlos’ stint as part of an ambulance crew was meant to be a quick step en route to his current graduate studies into firefighting and Emergency Services Administration.
He never expected a pandemic to break out along the way.
“It’s been interesting,” Carlos understates, describing community response to the emergence of SARS-CoV-2, better known as COVID-19. As part of the team first to arrive on the scene of a 911 call, Carlos has observed the gamut of human reaction to the presence of a novel coronavirus in their midst.
Some people, not actually ill but panicked by possible exposure or COVID-19 symptoms, bypass their physician or even the emergency room and call straight for an ambulance. These folks need “talking down” as much as medical examination. Carlos tries to reassure them, recommending basic precautions and testing as their first and best defense.
Other patients become seriously and sometimes gravely ill with the disease, spending critical days and even weeks at home in denial or fear until immediate, on-site intervention is required to save their lives. Some cannot be saved.
Then there are the sick people who need transport from hospitals to long-term, dedicated COVID-19 facilities elsewhere in California. These ambulance trips, which can last hours, impact Carlos as deeply as the more fleeting and urgent patient interactions he has.
“The common thread is fear,” he says. “Sometimes, ‘not knowing’ can be more terrifying than a more certain outcome.”
Carlos does his best to respond to his patients’ medical needs and assuage their fear, even though first responders often can’t offer many answers and in fact must face their own set of concerns.
“Of course I’m exposed,” Carlos admits, despite taking extensive and often onerous precautions. “I can’t let myself think about it. I have other people to take care of.”
Sohee Lee ’08 fell in love with lifting weights during her senior year at Cate. Now, she runs her own online personal training business and boasts nearly 300,000 followers on social media. The creator of SoheeFit and author of the book Eat. Lift. Thrive., Sohee provides training and nutrition advice through the lens of behavioral psychology.
Her early interest in health and exercise led her to Stanford University, where she graduated with a degree in human biology after dabbling in premed and spending time as a student athletic trainer. “It took me about a year and a half to realize that I wasn’t passionate about sports,” Sohee recalls. Thanks to her AP English courses at Cate, Sohee was able to use her writing ability to start blogging and eventually received a job offer from BodyBuilding.com. With an interest in the psychology of fitness, she carved her own path and found a niche in the market to pursue online fitness training full-time.
Founder of the #EatLiftThrive movement, Sohee is focused on helping her clients “establish healthy relationships with food and exercise for long-term results.” Her book, which she penned in 2017, is broken up into three parts: mindset, nutrition, and training. “A lot of what I write about is, in my mind, information that I wish would have helped me in the beginning of my fitness journey.”
When it comes to wellness, Sohee emphasizes that having the right mindset is key – so much in fact, that she made it the first chapter in her book. “I’ve always believed that if you can get your mindset in the right place, everything else becomes so much easier,” she says. “It doesn’t matter what training program you’re on, if you are harboring the wrong attitude, you’re not going to be happy. I always try to think of ways to get people to understand that this is a lifelong journey, and it all starts with your mindset.”
In addition to the mental approach, Sohee maintains that ensuring adequate sleep is paramount, but ultimately it comes down to enjoyment – not to worry about measurements or results at first, but to simply have fun. She wants her clients to love what they are doing and asks, “Are they enjoying the process?”
For Sohee, that is the easiest question of them all. “I absolutely love what I do, and I don’t see myself stopping any time soon.”
Health education is a vital part of wellness. Rey Canseco ’10 works for Peer Health Exchange (PHE), an organization that seeks health equity for all. With PHE branches spread across the country, Rey is based in the Los Angeles office where he serves as the Director of Development.
According to PHE, fewer than 38% of adolescents in low-income communities had a preventative health care visit last year. These preventable health concerns contribute to the fact that more than one million students drop out of high school each year. Due to this, Rey believes that health education is imperative, because it improves young people’s health outcomes, high school graduation rates, and life opportunities.
PHE utilizes a peer-to-peer model where college student “health educators” from the University of Southern California, Occidental College, CSU Northridge, and CSU Dominguez Hills provide a health curriculum on the subjects of mental health, sexual health, and substance misuse prevention to 9th grade students at Title I High Schools. Title I designation is given to schools with large concentrations of low-income students that receive supplemental funds to assist in meeting educational goals.
“What makes PHE unique is that it focuses on information sharing, skill development, trust building, and honest conversations,” Rey said. He is proud of the direct impact PHE has on teens, adding that, “Program participants are more likely to talk to a trusted adult about their feelings, twice as likely to use a health center, and are better prepared to identify early mental health warning signs at an earlier stage in life.” This awareness is especially valuable prior to students heading off to college.
Rey believes it is important to destigmatize mental health. He encourages all students to empower themselves with information and to take advantage of Cate’s health resources so that they have every opportunity to live a healthy and happy life.
Ashlyn Clark McCague ’98 can directly relate her commitment to community and children as a result of her exposure to Cate’s spirit of Servons, the public service program, and the Los Niños trips she took to Mexico while a student at the School. These experiences formed Ashlyn’s career trajectory – from becoming a teacher, to her current role as Director of Development for Child Abuse Listening and Mediation (CALM). At CALM, she has the opportunity to share uplifting stories of the impactful work that the agency does in building lifelong resilience and helping children pull through life’s adversities successfully.
“Childhood trauma is the number one public health crisis and CALM is the only agency in Santa Barbara County with an emphasis on prevention,” said Ashlyn. CALM focuses on addressing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) or identified traumas that can impact a child’s health such as physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, physical or emotional neglect, substance misuse, domestic violence, mental illness of a parent, or death of a parent. CALM warns that if these traumas are left untreated, they can contribute to mental or physical health outcomes that pose a greater risk for cancer, heart disease, or pulmonary issues. Consequently, it is imperative to address childhood trauma early on.
In spite of adversities in life, Ashlyn acknowledges that, “risk is not destiny” because “small shifts that happen now can have transformative impact over time.” She attests that building resilience can combat adversity. CALM suggests the following ways to build resilience in children and adults alike: mindfulness, exercise, healthy relationships, healthy sleep, mental health, and nutrition.
On the topic of mental wellness, Ashlyn shared that it is critical to reduce the pressures on youth. “Cate students want to have it all figured out and it’s okay to not have it all figured out – whether you are 16, 23, or 32. Resilience is about navigating through life’s journey in times of uncertainty and being all right with that.”
“With the right information, tools and encouragement, we have the capacity for radical life transformation, whether that’s breaking free from painful patterns of living or building a life that sings.”
The core life philosophy of Dr. Scott Symington ’89 jumps off the screen to anyone that visits his website. A licensed clinical psychologist with his own private practice – specializing in treating anxiety and mood disorders, unhealthy relationship patterns, and life transitions – Scott has been helping people better themselves for more than 15 years. And when it comes to life transitions, he can speak from experience.
Once a successful broker of agricultural products, Scott was left unfulfilled and began to reevaluate his career path. With a previous long-term interest in psychology, he found a passion that aligned with his head and his heart. “I’ve always been drawn to things that felt meaningful,” he said. “What is meaningful to me is connecting with people on a deeper level, helping them really be free and fully express who they were wired to be.”
The author of Freedom from Anxious Thoughts and Feelings: A Two-Step Mindfulness Approach for Moving Beyond Fear and Worry, Scott utilizes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Psychodynamic Therapy, and Mindfulness-Based Treatments to help his patients regain control of their lives. Perhaps his most popular tool in recent years has been the Two-Screen Method – a user-friendly application of mindfulness that serves as a visual road map for living in the moment.
“A large theme, for me, is taking all of the tools we have in psychology and trying to package them in a way that is accessible and useful to people in their daily lives,” Scott said. “That way they can leverage information we know can be effective and helpful in cultivating an overall sense of well-being.”
His penchant for people can be traced back to his time at Cate, where he made lasting friendships and learned valuable life skills. “It was such a formative time to my identity,” he said. “Just being in that environment for four years was a special gift. Cate was a family to me, and I’ll never forget those relationships and experiences.”
Ari Sokolov ’19 fondly recalls her time at Cate, sitting on a tire and participating in varsity coding. For that, she is grateful to Craig Bouma, who helped her create a successful proposal to Cate’s administration so she could pursue her passion. Her participation in hackathons and technology competitions eventually led to the development of the Trill Project in 2018. Trill is a safe social network app that fosters tight-knit communities built on support rather than judgement. The app currently has more than 55,000 users.
Trill represents the combination of “true and real.” Its purpose is to create an inclusive environment for people who identify as LGBTQ, as many do not feel accepted even in their local progressive communities. “Research indicates that suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24, and LGBTQ youth have the highest rate of suicide attempts,” shared Ari.
Users can post anonymously on Trill, and more than 100 moderators – between the ages of 18 to 27 – offer support as needed. Moderators and “super users” receive training from advisors at the University of Michigan or from suicide hotline training programs. “Trill is unique because it was developed by younger users and the peer-to-peer support is very powerful in creating smaller virtual communities,” said Ari. Trill also provides valuable resources related to physical or sexual abuse, mental wellness, and health. It also has a content channel that highlights community influencers.
Ari believes that Cate’s public service program provided her with exposure to different people and perspectives. Her love for coding and helping others has led to a career path in social entrepreneurship as she intends to continue her work in technology to help others. This summer, Ari will be interning at Apple and her advice to students who are stressed is to under promise and over deliver, keep themselves healthy and reach out for help.
“Cate is an incredibly supportive environment, make sure you seek help if you need it.”