In December 2022, Samantha ’94 and Charles Wykoff ’94 made a $1 million gift that will have a lasting impact on Cate’s future. The Wykoff Library will become the heart of the new Inquiry Collaborative, set to open in the spring of 2024.
“We are excited and humbled to be able to play a part in the creation of the new library in the Inquiry Collaborative.”
Samantha Chang Wykoff ’94
While Samantha and Charlie met on the Mesa and went to senior prom together, their connection to Cate goes deeper. “Cate changed our trajectories,” Charlie says, “and more than just because we’re married with three kids!”
On the Mesa, both found new perspectives that have impacted their lives ever since. “Cate broadened our horizons in ways that we didn’t anticipate. We are so fortunate and blessed to have had those experiences,” Charlie says.
Samantha and Charlie came to the Mesa from large public schools. Samantha shares, “I grew up in a small, racially homogenous town outside of Cleveland, Ohio. My high school had 1,000 students in each grade, and I could count the number of minorities on one hand. As a first-generation Asian, life was meant to be centered around academics, but my school was unmotivating and full of distractions.” At the time, Samantha found respite and new horizons in her library. “Fortunately, my parents had the foresight to believe that I could flourish in a different environment, so they spent hours in the local library searching for other options. That’s how they discovered Cate.” Soon after, Samantha headed across the country to dive into life on the Mesa.
The shift was transformative. “I connected instantly with my roommate,” she recalls. “I loved the community, my teachers, the library, and the sunsets. I was surrounded by motivated, positive role models and classmates who didn’t limit what I could accomplish, but instead inspired me.”
For Charlie, the transition was challenging. “It was a steep curve learning the basics of academics at Cate, especially grammar and study skills, but the process instilled an incredible desire to learn more.”
Charlie honed his academic skills in the library and recalls many memorable times there. “I remember laughing with friends in the newspaper section, reading comics before class started. Those friends were also with me in the library when I got my first “C.” We met to figure out how we could do better. Those were formative times for me – learning how to learn together.”
Science teacher Cheryl Powers drew Charlie into a lifelong passion for biology. “She motivated me to become a doctor,” he says. “I went to MIT, got a Ph.D. from Oxford, and then went to Harvard for medical school. Ms. Powers nurtured my love of science, and I never turned back.” Charlie is now a retina specialist extensively involved in clinical research developing new therapies for blinding eye diseases.
For Samantha, it was art teacher, Hillary Younglove, who shifted her perspective. “Growing up,” she says, “I remember not being able to get into art class because there were not enough resources.” At Cate, Samantha loved the art loft’s offerings but always felt like she was lagging behind. “Ms. Younglove supported me and my creativity. When I went to college, I majored in management with a minor in design, and I built on the confidence that she encouraged in me.”
“The opportunities that Cate provided us were tremendous,” says Charlie. “From academic, social, sports, community service, performing arts, and fine arts perspectives – all of it. Cate brought out our best and showed us that anything can be accomplished.”
The Wykoffs see their donation to the library as an opportunity to help Cate continue that important work, an endeavor made more compelling by the Emmett family’s matching grant. Charlie says, “Exacerbated by COVID, we’ve seen many forces driving our kids to be isolated. There’s social media, politics, false narratives and so many factors in between – all of it pulling people apart. We love the idea of creating a central point for the Cate community – a place where people can both focus independently and also engage with classmates. It’s so important to push your mind, learn to engage with others, and have thoughtful debates not only about academic topics, but also about what’s happening around us. Our world needs more collaborative teams working together, pushing each other to our greatest potential.”
With their generous gift, the Wykoffs look to foster both intellectual and social growth in the generations to come. “This gift is about looking forward,” Charlie says. “The library and Inquiry Collaborative are about bringing people together and inspiring the next generation of students to be the leaders our world needs.”
Written in impeccable cursive, Patrick Ko’s writing sample on his Cate application describes his 6th-grade year at public school in California. After attending a rigorous elementary school in Taiwan, his parents thought his English would improve by spending a year in California, immersed in American culture. “The year in the United States,” Patrick wrote, “changed my whole life. I was thinking more openly, I learned to get along with people, and I was able to express my feelings without hesitation.”
Patrick returned to the U.S. for junior boarding school and came to Cateas a new 10th grader. He made friends quickly, spent hours in the physics lab, babysat faculty kids, and was a beloved and respected member of the community. David Wood, Patrick’s advisor, noted, “He pursued excellence with natural curiosity, human fallibility, and tireless dedication.” His Long House dorm parent Karl Weis commented, “Popular, especially with the girls.” Cate helped him crystallize a personal connection with teachers, including Mama Ellis, Mr. Bergman, Ms. Jared, Mr. Plummer, and Dr. Bailard. Per Mr. Wood, “Patrick always acted with dignity and grace and without the pretentiousness that his kindness simply would not allow.”
After Cate, Patrick went to University of Pennsylvania and spent a semester in Nepal as a volunteer teacher. There, he applied all of the gifts he received at Cate: Servons, leadership, outdoors, and inquiry. A double major in economics and engineering, he started his career in the software industry, but felt a calling back to boarding school education. He returned to The FaySchool as a teaching intern and eventually a full-time faculty member. In 2006, when packing up to return to Taipei, Patrick recalls making a conscious decision to always support Cate. He remained connected while in Taiwan, attending Camp Cate, the Asia Summit, traveling to Shanghai and Beijing for Cate, and hosting a prospective student reception in Taipei, where he engaged with attendees in the most authentic way. He has always maintained friendships with Cate peers.
In an incredible gesture of loyalty and generosity, Patrick and his family made a major gift to Cate for the Inquiry Collaborative in 2022, specifically to support an active learning classroom. Always motivated by student leadership, the Human Development program, and active learning, Patrick pays attention to how teens anchor themselves, wrestle with morality, and deal with their personal experience of rapid growth. He believes the non-cognitive skills taught at Cate have a lasting impact. They help teach students how to see themselves, lead their lives, and lead others. At Cate, Patrick learned what it was like to want to learn.
Patrick’s enthusiasm for the Inquiry Collaborative and the active learning environment that it will inspire is palpable. On a tour of the construction site, Patrick envisioned students in every space he saw. He imagined kids finding their “nook,” delving deeply into what motivates them. He describes giving to Cate as an investment in the future; indeed, the students who will learn and study in the Inquiry Collaborative will potentially save the world. The gifts Patrick gathered and shared at Cate – natural curiosity, student leadership, and active learning – are gifts he is now sharing with future generations of Cate students…the embodiment of Servons.
When Richard Rojas ’98 came to Cate, he first felt like a fish out of water, but gradually new opportunities unfolded for him. As a child, his family moved often since his father was a California State Park Ranger. Their home was located in various campgrounds tucked into the natural landscape surrounded by majestic park scenes and vistas – his upbringing was simple and wonderful. The Mesa had similar gorgeous backdrops with marvelous views, yet the School introduced new challenges, and academic communication was one of them.
While at Cate, Richard had to learn how to write well. It took him some time to learn this critical and foundational skill, which is now core to his profession. Richard is currently the Deputy City Manager for the City of Norwalk in California, and he is responsible for addressing community needs, public safety, and manages finances and communications. Now he writes all the time – from memos to lengthy detailed analysis reports. A crucial part of his job is writing succinctly and conveying complex material in ways that are easy to understand and that inform decision-making.
Richard values his exposure to different perspectives and volunteer opportunities at Cate. As a student, he gravitated towards service programs that challenged him to help community members with the greatest needs. He shared, “Our weekly visits to the transitional housing facility serving families experiencing homelessness helped me see how coordinated efforts could have significant positive impacts on people.” In his career, Richard is committed to addressing challenges such as homelessness, affordable housing, and climate change.
As an alumnus, Richard has been giving generously to the school for 25 consecutive years, and Cate is grateful for this long-lasting commitment and confidence in the School. When asked why he gives to Cate, Richard replied, “As a leader in local government, I see the need to inspire and attract creative and dedicated professionals capable of addressing complex issues. I hope my annual contribution enables Cate to maintain service programs so that current and future students can serve others.”
Maliha Hollis ’16 never thought her life would change when she first saw Kyle Mason, then Cate’s Director of Outreach & Recruitment and current Interim Director of Admission. She was, after all, a student from Chief Joseph in Bozeman, Montana, who spent her time taking care of her younger siblings outside of school. Maliha had grown up reading about boarding schools but thought they were not for people like her. Nonetheless, she figured there was no harm in listening to Kyle’s presentation about Cate School in the Bozeman Public Library after school; it was something cool to dream about. She knew that going to a boarding school would provide her with an education and future that she would not obtain in Bozeman, but she also knew her family could not afford schools like Cate. Regardless, Maliha shared what she learned in the library with her grandparents later that week.
To Maliha’s surprise, she received a phone call from her grandpa one day. He had mentioned Maliha’s interest in going to a boarding school to a friend while on a ski lift. The next thing she knew, Maliha was introduced to her grandpa’s friends, Marc and Cecile Noel. The goal was to get to know each other and create a plan to apply to schools outside Bozeman. It was clear to Maliha and her family that the Noels were willing to provide financial support as long as Maliha was willing to put in the work and effort. Going to boarding school no longer felt like a dream.
Maliha spent her freshman year at Bozeman High School, keeping her grades up and updating Marc and Cecile on her progress. The plan was to apply to Cate as a new sophomore. She did everything she needed to, including driving through a Montana snowstorm with her mom to complete the SSAT. Maliha kept in mind the possibility that she might still return to Bozeman High School, but that changed when she received a voicemail from Kyle Mason congratulating her on her acceptance to Cate.
From the moment Maliha first set foot on the Mesa, her life began to shift. Cate provided a sense of stability she rarely experienced growing up. For the first time, Maliha could focus on herself. She had time to explore new interests while forming long-lasting relationships, including the very special one with the Noels. Cate allowed Maliha to discover who she really was, an opportunity she did not have at home.
Today, Maliha gives back to Cate to honor the philanthropic spirit that her supporters provided and because Cate made an essential impact in her life. Maliha is now pursuing graduate-level studies (possibly medical school!) and more importantly, she is able to provide her family with a brighter future.
Allegra Roth distinctly recalls the striking scenery of avocado, orange, and lemon orchards on her picturesque daily commute on Highway 150 from Ojai to Carpinteria. It was this beautiful landscape and the changing seasons that galvanized her interest in agriculture, climate change, and land use. After graduating from Cate, Allegra attended University of California, Davis and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Community and Regional Development. She is currently completing her Masters degree in Public Policy at UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy. Between academic pursuits, Allegra worked at the California State Legislature on water and climate policy and became interested in “on the ground” environmental issues. She left the capitol to work with then Assembly Members Das WIlliams and Monique Limón, and became intrigued with carbon sequestration, soil health, and water and food security.
Through Allegra’s connections to farmers, ranchers, social sector agencies, and policy makers, she has been engaged in bringing to light the gap that exists between implementing sustainable projects and environment regulations. According to Allegra, many farmers are interested in climate beneficial projects including composting, cob homes, and water retention ponds and there are many State incentives to develop these projects. She holds, “However, there are regulatory barriers when it comes down to permitting these projects and getting legal support from the County permitting agency. There is either no permitting pathway, or it’s too onerous for people.” By pursuing public policy, Allegra intends to address this disparity to ensure that policy, governance, and decision-making are more transparent.
In order to understand policy and land use issues, Allegra has to ask tough questions – a skill she learned at Cate. “Cate gave me a lot of confidence to talk to people who are different from me and this really helped me put myself out there.” She encourages students to take chances: “There is no wrong decision in terms of your career when you are young. Every door that you walk through is going to teach you something valuable. Just walk through the door!”
Allegra is passionate about her work and we will continue to hear more about her focus on state incentives, regulatory barriers, sustainable land use, and ultimately, climate resilience. Allegra remembers, “When I was at Cate, I was definitely considered the hippie environmentalist and I didn’t know if that was going to be part of my identity forever. Now that I’m 31, I’m still talking about the same things.” She joyfully adds, “I guess I want people to know that Allegra is still at it. She hasn’t stopped.”
One of the factors that attracted Yen to Cate School was the fact that there was no commute! The thought of living at a boarding school with ample time to participate in extracurricular activities was compelling. However, as enticing as Cate was initially, her first year on the Mesa was challenging. Yen missed her daily meals and weekend time with her large, tight-knit Vietnamese family. Yen recalls, “Although I wanted to transfer back home, I ended up sticking through my first year at Cate, and am so glad that I did because it opened up lots of opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
Yen was involved in almost every extracurricular activity at Cate. In mock trial, she was selected to be the pretrial motion attorney and recalls going to the Santa Barbara Courthouse – after being coached on appropriate professional attire and how to communicate with the judge. Yen believes that it was this practical experience, along with reasoning and critical thinking skills developed at Cate, that ignited her passion in history and politics.
As an underrepresented student at Cate, Ms. Salcedo was inspirational for Yen as she had never had a teacher who looked like her before. Ms. Salcedo went to Yale, and when Yen was accepted to the same university, she was thrilled to reach out to her to ask about her alma mater. In addition to Ms. Salcedo, Mrs. Holmes and Mr. Weis were supportive figures for her. Yen strives to be that type of teacher and role model for her students, who are mostly from marginalized communities. “The more I have delved into the humanities and understanding race and the history of our nation, the more aware I have become that many communities of color have not had the same opportunities that I did.” Yen attests that Cate provided her with privileges that many students of color do not have and therefore she has an unwavering commitment to give back.
Yen is currently an 11th grade AP U.S. History teacher and Department Lead at the Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago, Illinois. Prior to that, she was a special education teacher and also taught for Teach for America. According to Yen, one of the challenges that students at the Noble Network of Charter Schools faced was related to access. Before she arrived, only 36 students were enrolled in AP U.S. History. Now, the course has 115 students. Yen is proud to have helped restructure the department to open its doors to many African American and Latino students who have been historically excluded from AP courses. Yen’s commitment to bring equity and access to students and to share the gifts she was given reflects the true spirit of Servons.
“Cate is a beautiful place that allows you to have some space, learn new things, and just enjoy the world for a while.” Larry’s favorite Cate memory involved getting up early on the weekend, looking off the edge of the Mesa to see if the reef was breaking, and then trying to find a ride to Rincon Point to surf. Larry enjoyed everything related to water at Cate – surfing, Outings Week, water polo, and starting a swim team. It may have been his love of sunshine and the outdoors that planted a seed for his future career path.
Following his Cate graduation, Larry attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University Graduate School of Business. After business school, Larry worked in a private equity firm and ultimately decided that was not for him. He joined a residential energy efficiency company conducting home energy assessments for houses across New England, helping owners put solar on their roofs. This led to his current position as Managing Director at BlueWave Solar, where he leads strategy to develop, build, and operate solar and energy storage projects.
BlueWave Solar primarily focuses on community solar, a solar project and purchasing program that allows customers to benefit from shares of energy that are generated by solar panels at an off-site location, such as farmland. “This helps the farmer not have to sell his property to a housing developer since the energy is allocated to members of the community who get credit and financial benefit.” At his core, Larry is passionate about his work in the Northeast. “I think there’s great value to serving where you are and doing what you can locally,” he said.
Through his experience in navigating careers, Larry advises students to find their core values. In his early to mid-twenties, Larry came across the fixed vs. growth mindset concept in a book by Carol Dweck. “I realized that I lived most of my life with a fixed mindset and this created a sense of expectation that I needed to be doing things and showing that I could do things a certain way, and I hadn’t taken many risks.” This changed Larry’s approach to life and helped him pursue the type of work enjoys. He suggests, “Give yourself the freedom to do things that you are going to fail at and be okay that it isn’t going to define your identity. You will be a much happier person.”
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!”