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I'm writing an overdue review of Santa Catalina School - an all-girls day and boarding school in Monterey. This review is for the Upper School (grades 9-12.) My daughter attended all four years as a boarding student and is now in college (attending a prestigious, competitive east coast university.) When I was considering boarding schools, I really couldn't find many reviews so I am hoping that my review gives some helpful insight.
To start, we knew we wanted a private school for our daughter because we didn't feel the public schools in our area offered the academic curriculum we were looking for in a high school. We looked at private schools and had heard of Santa Catalina so we decided to visit. It was love at first sight! The school campus is gorgeous and has incredible facilities for academics, athletics, the arts and more. Everything about the school is incredible - in addition, it is warm and welcoming. The first thing you notice about visiting the school is how poised, articulate, friendly and diverse the students are at Santa Catalina. You also feel warmly welcomed by the staff, teachers and parents. I was a little worried it might be ''snobby'' due to the affluence of many students, however this was not my experience not once, ever. My daughter made the friends of a lifetime and in addition to a world class education - she came away with more than I could have expected - a unique strength, poise, character and grace. Not to say that every moment was easy... there are some hard parts to be aware of -- your daughter will have friendship issues wherever she goes to school... it wasn't always easy to be on the receiving end of a phone call listening to your daughters problems and not being able to rescue, resolve or provide immediate comfort. Many a time my daughter had typical issues but they were minor in the overall scheme and she learned to overcome obstacles and solve problems independently.
The other thing to be prepared for with boarding school is that pretty much everyone you know will ask either ''what did she do wrong?'' or ''HOW can you send your child away - I could never do that!'' It gets a little annoying because each child/family is different and you do face some judging but if you feel it is the best option for your daughter then you will be fine. The only other thing that is hard is when your daughter gets sick and you of course want to be there - but it's not always possible so that is hard.
I personally felt the all-girls education was the absolute best for my daughter because she said she really focused in school on her class work. She wasn't worried about boys, getting ready, looking good, etc.. She had so much fun with her friends and was so busy with her athletics and performing arts that she never seemed to miss boys. Of course coming home during summer and breaks, she socialized with boys/girls and now in college has many opportunities to date. It just wasn't an issue at all - in fact is was preferable. In addition, for me personally, I felt ''safer'' sending my daughter to an all-girls boarding school rather than co-ed.
During her four years, she never had any issue with being exposed to drinking or drugs. The school has a zero tolerance policy and during her four years, there was one time 2 girls were expelled but that is it. It was very, very uncommon and the whole time she was there she mentioned one girl who ''smoked pot'' but it was the one time. The school attracts wholesome girls, committed to academics and learning and since the school has zero tolerance, it is totally not acceptable.
Regarding comparing Santa Catalina to other boarding schools - the faculty and learning environment are superior and it is one of the only all-girls schools in CA. When my son was getting ready to start high school, he interviewed at Thatcher, Cait School and RLS (Robert Louis Stevenson.) He did not get accepted into Thatcher as it is very competitive but if he had, I would have enrolled him absolutely. This seemed like another amazing school (co-ed.) I wasn't sure about Cait or Stevenson so he ended up going to our public school and it has been okay. You just have to visit, tour and meet the students, faculty to know what feels right.
I should also comment regarding Santa Catalina being a Catholic School. We are not Catholic and it was not an issue whatsoever. The education was phenomenal and my daughter actually enjoyed some of the religious classes and only complained sometimes about ''chapel singing'' but overall really enjoyed the experience. The majority of students are not Catholic and the school seems to embrace diversity in religious views.
My overall strongest reason for sending my daughter to boarding school was to give her a high quality education - what I didn't realize at the time, is how this experience would change her life and give her inner qualities of refinement, confidence and independence which are essential to her ongoing success. I love the school so much, I have another daughter with plans to attend in the future. It is a sacrifice for me and her Dad to not have her bright smile every day and attend every sporting event - but there is no way I would want to trade my loss of these things for the world-class education and experience she received at Santa Catalina. It is a truly amazing school and it is really an opportunity to be part of the Santa Catalina family for life. Boarding School Mom
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