Presentation High still changing with the times after 60 years – The Mercury News

Presentation High School may be turning 60 next month, but the Willow Glen private school has changed with the times.

“We’re definitely not your grandmother’s all-girls Catholic high school,” says director Holly Elkins with a laugh. “The sewing classroom is now the leadership room, and our uniform now includes pants. There are, however, fewer all-girl schools in our region than there were 60 years ago.”

Kristina Luscher, Presentation’s new principal, says girls schools are more important than ever when it comes to empowering young women. She says research shows that girls at single-gender high schools perform better and gain greater self-confidence; they become more involved in activities, develop higher self-esteem and assume more leadership positions.

“The other day, I ran into a man whose daughter had attended Presentation,” Luscher adds. “He observed that women who attended all-girls schools were better co-workers and bosses.”

Focusing on a well-rounded education, Presentation emphasizes both the sciences and the arts, and students have won accolades in both areas. Presentation won the 2022 Outstanding School Award at the Synopsys Science & Technology Championship, the first all-girls school to do so. One teacher and nine students also won awards at the competition.

The school’s robotics team won the 2021 CalGames and competes at the national level. Their dance team has won 32 national titles, including the 2021 National Grand Championship.

The school offers a variety of art classes including ceramics, painting, photography and digital art. Foreign languages are also taught.

The school embodies the spirit of service that inspired its founder, Nano Nagle. Born to a wealthy family in Ireland, Nagle was educated in France, where she later entered a religious order. Eventually, she returned to her homeland, where she devoted her time to helping the destitute and infirm. She founded the first Presentation Convent in Cork, Ireland, in 1775.

“We emphasize showing compassion to the poor and vulnerable,” says Grace Bernal, the teacher in charge of service and immersion at Presentation.

Every holiday season, Presentation students and their families support Sacred Heart Community Service by providing food items, coats, blankets, hygiene products, toys and diapers for clients served by the downtown San Jose nonprofit.

“We collected 888 Thanksgiving turkeys last year alone,” Bernal says.

The bonds formed at Presentation extend beyond graduation.

“The most important thing I gained from Presentation is the sisterhood,” says alumna Ellen Kamei, a Mountain View City Council member. “We formed a strong network, and I still stay in touch with my classmates.”

Soma Sengupta recalls that her daughter Shrobana, currently a student at UC Berkeley, thrived at Presentation. “She loved the emphasis on creativity and the opportunities for leadership. She found the teachers and college counselors to be very supportive.”

To celebrate its 60th anniversary, Presentation is holding a free community carnival on Sunday, Oct. 2, 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m., on the campus at 2281 Plummer Ave., San Jose. For more information and to RSVP, visit

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