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Julia Morgan Opens at New Location on the Mills Campus

Christina Kwong

Writing the words “happy,” “knowledgeable,” “responsible,”
“capable” and “accomplished” with colored markers on large sheets
of paper, a classroom full of students at the Julia Morgan School
for Girls descried the qualities of an ideal student.

Julia Morgan officially opened on Mills campus on Sept. 8. The
all-girls middle school, the first of its kind in the East Bay,
signed a 25-year lease with Mills and spent $ 2.5 million
renovating Alderwood Hall, a 1924 building designed by renowned Bay
Area architect Julia Morgan, the school’s nameskake.

The school is currently home to 160 girls in grades six through
eight and plans to expand enrollment to 180. Forty-six percent are
girls of color and thirty percent are girls of color and thirty
percent are there on financial aid, all coming together to form a
racially and socio-economically diverse student body. The girls
come from over 60 different elementary schools throughout the Bay
Area and go on to many of the best private and public high schools
in the region.

Director Ann Clarke is thrilled about the move to Mills.

“The reputation of the College is so strong, when you come onto
campus you feel the attention to detail and the culture of
excellence that exists here,” she said.

Clarke hopes to eventually have interns or teacher’s aides
from the Mills education program.

“It’s amazing how much the philosophy of [Julia Morgan] is in
line with the education department [at Mills], both are very
focused on project based learning,” Clarke said.

Julia Morgan students are also excited about their new

“It’s much more beautiful and big, and everything is much more
put together,” said eighth grader Sarah Bolk.

Monica Gamble, a fellow eighth grader, added, “I like it a lot,
it’s really welcoming and a place to relax and be with all your

The school had been renting space from Holy Names College for
the past five years, a situation that some students found less than

“We use to always hear the [Holy Names College] students say
things like ‘Don’t worry, they’re leaving next year’ when we
would pass them or be loud,” said Maya Aguayo, a seventh

“Now we have our own place that’s actually Julia Morgan School
for Girls,” said Tina Barone, a seventh grader.

As for going to an all-girls school, most of the students love

“Since I cam here, I’m more willing to take risks,” said seventh
grader Hannah Ochs.

“It’s not so likely I’ll get criticized, so I like trying new
things more.”

Students also feel that the school strengthens their friendships
with other girls.

“Being at an all-girls school brings us all closer together, we
don’t worry about impressing boys and it lets us be freer in making
friends,” said Rosie Imler, a seventh grader.

Most of the girls agreed that being in an all-girls environment
has made them more confident and outgoing, although Barone said, “I
kind of miss them at lunch. A good solution would be to have an
all-boys school next door.”

The school is beginning to stand out among Bay Area middle
schools for the quality of the teaching and the curriculum.

After attending a math competition last year where Julia Morgan
students were virtually the only girls competing, the school has
decided to host its own all-girls math competition this year.
Students also participate in a financial education program starting
in grade six, learning about everything from credit cards to how to
create business plans.

While the school is reacting to what it sees as a bias in
education, which steers girls away from math and science, arts and
creativity are thoroughly infused into the curriculum.

On the first day of school, the incoming sixth graders were in
the courtyard, painting their own chairs, which will remain in the
school during their stay there. Each chair symbolizes that
particular girl’s place at the school.