Seattle Girls’ School isn’t just made up of students and teachers – parents play an immensely important role in the SGS community, too. Janet Ceballos and Nitin Baliga are the proud parents of an SGS alum and a rising seventh grader – Anya and Camila. A social worker and a scientist/educator, Janet and Nitin share their experiences with the school – from their first tours of the campus to witnessing confidence and self-advocacy skills develop in their girls and applied in incredible ways.
How did you hear about Seattle Girls’ School?
Janet: It was several years ago when our oldest daughter was in fourth grade. We attended an event hosted by the Northwest Association of Independent Schools (NWAIS), and Seattle Girls’ School gave a presentation. As we walked in, several of the SGS students were serving as docents, and they were so great at welcoming people and so eloquent, and I was blown away by the way they interacted with adults and how comfortable they were with each other. Listening to the presentation, we immediately connected to the mission of the school.
Why did you decide to send your children to SGS? What were the deciding factors for you?
Nitin: I’m a scientist and an educator, and I recognize the value of hands-on activities and project-based learning. When I saw that SGS offered those things, I felt this would be fantastic for my daughter.
We took our oldest daughter for a tour so she could experience firsthand what the school was all about. She was hesitant about the switch, and so she brought a stuffy to hold for comfort. They took us into various classrooms, including a robotics class where there were kids building robots. It was at that point she gave the stuffy to us and ran over to start playing. That was the moment it just clicked – the hands-on learning and experience was strong here.
Also, we learned that girls go through a really difficult time in those years – especially when going through puberty – and being in an all-girls school really helps them develop their own identity. We did some reading on that, and I came to appreciate the facts behind it.
What has your experience been like with the school?
Janet: Teenage girls can be challenging. One day they might come home upset and saying they don’t have any friends, and the next day they’re all best friends. There is a constant emotional rollercoaster that they’re on, and I remember reaching out to staff about what we were experiencing, and they were all very supportive.
Another thing that was really good was the SGS Family Association – how parents come together and learn from each other. We read this book together about parenting middle school girls, and it blew our minds away. The community really embraced us, and they always met our expectations. I’m not saying I was always happy with every response, but I was always able to reach out to someone and get help and support, and it was resolved in a wonderful way each time. There were ups and downs, as with anything, but always clear communication.
Are there any memories that stand out to you during your time as SGS parents?
Nitin: For one culmination project, the students undertook mock medical rounds, and this experience actually led my daughter to self-diagnose herself. Her topic was on meningitis, and she had to learn all about it for the medical boards. Much later after the culmination she was complaining of a headache. We gave her Tylenol and thought “she’ll be fine.” And she insisted, “no I have meningitis, and we need to go see the doctor.” And sure enough, she did. It was viral meningitis, which passes, and everything was fine, but for her to be able to connect the dots, self-diagnose, and then advocate for herself was very impressive.
What would you say SGS does really well as a school?
Nitin: They have a really good mentoring program. Anya and Camila had mentors from similar backgrounds and ethnicity. It really matters at that young age to have role models. Otherwise, you don’t see yourself in professional careers. They also have a good arts program – woodworking, ceramics, and a few others. Both of our kids are very artistic.
Janet: SGS partners with a local organization that brings programs to the school, and I think that partnership is crucial. They transport the kids and bring them back, and they’re just constantly working at making sure that the kids get a very well-rounded education.
They also really encourage confidence and self-advocacy. We see that in our sixth grader now, and we didn’t really see that piece until our older daughter went into a much larger school. Once she was in high school, my oldest told me that she got a test back and got a C. She said, “I don’t understand because all of my answers are correct.” I was ready to jump in and call the teacher, but she said, “no, I got it.” She met with her teacher and had a great conversation. She explained why she thought her answers were correct, and the teacher re-evaluated her exam. She didn’t need me to get involved because she wants to do it by herself. That is a level of self-advocacy that I learned in my 30s, and she does it consistently.
What other impacts has SGS had on your children? What have you seen?
Nitin: I think they’re impressive young women who are confident and proud of who they are. There are always some struggles, but our younger daughter especially is exceptionally confident about what she likes and doesn’t like, and she’s OK when things don’t go her way. Which, for someone who is just turning 13, is quite remarkable.
What are your hopes for SGS in the next 20 years?
Nitin: My hope is that they maintain their identity and their core values and principles. I hope that they continue to grow with the times as they always have, and that they’re able to do this for more students. I also hope they can one day expand their sports programs, although they did a lot despite limited resources.
Janet: I would say my hope is that they stay true to themselves, because they have a fantastic program, and their core programming is exceptional. We’ve seen it once with our eldest, and now we’re seeing it again.