Alumni Highlight: Cyrene Puno

Kim Parks recently caught up with Saklan Alumna, Cyrene Puno. Cyrene graduated from Saklan in 2017, and then attended Campolindo High School. Following graduation from Campolindo in 2021, she began my her semester at Diablo Valley College (DVC), majoring in Film, Television, and Electronic Media. Cyrene has enjoyed taking many film courses, and has a real passion for film making.

Cyrene with her Parents during her Saklan Graduation in 2017

During the fall 2022 semester, Cyrene began tutoring DVC students in English, helping them with essays and other writing assignments. This past semester (Spring 2023) she interned in DVC’s Film and Digital Media department. As an intern, she helped students check out equipment and produce promotional videos commissioned by departments around campus. She was especially excited to get to work in the new art building. A ribbon cutting ceremony took place to celebrate the opening of the building, and Cyrene was honored to speak about her experience in the building, as well as invited to cut the ribbon alongside the president of DVC!

Cyrene is Honored to Participate in the DVC Art Building Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Cyrene is graduating with Honors from DVC and transferring to California State University, Long Beach in fall 2023. She has been accepted into the Narrative Production program at Long Beach State, where she plans to continue studying and creating films to earn a BA in Film and Electronic Arts.

Thank you, Cyrene, for sharing your experience with the Saklan community. Best of luck at CSU Long Beach!


Alumni Reunion

Calling all Saklan alums, alumni families, and Saklan staff members (current and past)! You are invited to join us for our Alumni Reunion on Saturday, June 17th at Saklan.

Please RSVP here to let us know if you will be joining us.

We are excited to welcome our past students and their families back to campus!

Excited to catch up with fellow alumni and their families? Join the Saklan School Alumni Facebook Page to start connecting today!


Head’s Corner

Alumni Highlight: Levi Kim (Part 2)

Before the Winter Break, I interviewed recent Saklan graduate and current Athenian student, Levi Kim. Previously, I shared our conversation about his ballet experience and role in The Nutcracker. Below is the second part of our interview, discussing Levi’s transition from Saklan to Athenian.

Why did you choose Athenian as the high school to attend?

While researching different high schools, there were many things I was considering. Some of them included: general academics, arts programs, class sizes, and diversity, among others. Along with being the school my older sister currently attended, Athenian had all of that and so much more to offer. Athenian has a wide range of academic classes and semesters offered, something that made me very excited. While freshman year your classes are more scheduled, sophomore year and up you can pick classes that interest you. In particular, juniors and seniors can take semester-long classes on subjects ranging from women in Greek mythology to analyzing comedy writing. Athenian has a great arts program that I’ve been very fortunate to get to experience these past few months, with classes such as choir, theatre, and dance, all of which I learned so much from. Besides classes and schedules, an aspect that drew me to Athenian was their focus on the environment. One of their graduation requirements is a twenty-six day backpacking trip that many students I talked to described as life changing. This seems like an amazing opportunity to experience nature firsthand and was just one of the reasons I decided to go to Athenian for high school.

Tell me a little about the transition from Saklan to Athenian?

Going from Saklan, a very small school, to Athenian, a slightly larger school, was quite the adjustment. Being a naturally quiet person, I thought I would have a hard time talking to people. However, when entering high school, I met more people on the first day than I had in a long time. Needless to say, I was quite overwhelmed at first, but grateful for all of the kindness people were showing new students who didn’t attend Athenian’s middle school. Over time I met more new people and settled into a friend group. I made connections with my teachers and often asked them for help on assignments or for extensions when I needed more time. All of these things reminded me of Saklan’s environment when I first came in sixth grade; warm, friendly, and welcoming. That was one of the main things that made my transition from middle to high school go so smoothly.

Now that you are halfway through your first year, what advice might you give to a Saklan student going to Athenian?

For any Saklan students coming to Athenian next year, try to meet lots of people and get the most out of your experience at Athenian. Also don’t be afraid to ask for help from your teachers, as they want to support you in your learning journey.

Thank you very much, Levi, for sharing your experience with me and the Saklan community.


Why We Give

We joined Saklan in 2007 when our oldest, Finn, started Kindergarten. Saklan has gone through many changes since then, but it has remained constant as a source of support for our family. It has helped shape our children–Finn (class of ’17), Evy (8th), and Lilah (5th)–into the people they are today. 

Finn is now a senior at Athenian and is doing virtual college interviews. I overheard him during a recent one talking about how his role in the middle school musical back in 8th grade–he was “The Man in the Chair” in The Drowsy Chaperone–was an experience that truly changed his life. To hear how he still considers playing that role as such a pivotal experience three and a half years later was a poignant reminder of what an impact Saklan had on him. 

He was never interested in theater, but Mrs. Chaffey encouraged him to take on increasingly challenging roles. Learning how to memorize pages of monologues and portray this character and dance on stage took a ton of courage and emotional vulnerability. The unwavering support and guidance he received made it possible for him to do something he never knew he could do. It not only helped him build confidence; it allowed him to learn to understand the life of a character’s emotions, as well his own. It gave him a new passion. 

Saklan also gave Finn an incredible academic foundation for high school. He is leaning towards continuing in science in college, but he is just as interested in the humanities and is still passionate about theater and poetry. We credit this wide range of interests to the inspiring teachers at Saklan. They encouraged him to dive into new things and supported him to strive to do his best even when he didn’t think he was good at something. 

Our girls–Evy in 8th and Lilah in 5th–have literally grown up at Saklan. Like Finn, they have also had many experiences since their preschool days where they were challenged and were able to shine, and they’ve grown tremendously academically and creatively. The enriching experiences outside of the classroom, along with the Saklan teachers’ support, have been transformative and inspired them to love to learn. 

We are grateful that Saklan has helped all three of them to become respectful, compassionate, and engaged students and people. They are aware of themselves, have the confidence to contribute, and want to understand the world.

We are not sure we are ready to have a child move onto college and another on to high school this next year, but we are confident that they are ready and have an incredible foundation. What the Saklan teachers and community have given our kids is hard to measure.  To quote Finn’s Saklan graduation speech, ‘Saklan will always be home.‘”

Lori and Eric Anders

Finn (Class of ’17), Evy (8th), and Lilah (5th)

#SaklanGiving #SaklanAlum

Alumni Corner

Jacob Martin (Class of 2014) is happily ensconced as a sophomore at Skidmore College in New York. He is double majoring in  Political Science (inspired by Mr. P) and Music (thanks to the spark lit by Mrs. Chaffey).

For fun, Jacob sings in 2 classical choirs as well as the oldest and best (and only) all male cappella group on campus – The Bandersnatchers (named after the Bandersnatch from Lewis Carroll’s “The Jabberwocky”). He has been arranging music for the Bandersnatchers and was asked to be their Music Director for next year.

The Adirondacks area is a favorite hiking destination for Jacob and his friends. During Freshman year, he went sledding for the first time. His first ice skating was sophomore year. His friends from New England love to watch him try things that they forgot could be new because they have lived in the Northeast for so long.  He is a great source of entertainment for them.

During the summer, Jacob was a cashier at Safeway, where he enjoyed making people’s days throughout his shifts. He even sang to them! He also got together with high school friends and played at the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse in Berkeley. If you’d like to see one of their performances, here’s a video:

Thinking back on Jacob’s Saklan experience, it’s no surprise he is where he is now. But believe it or not, in second grade, he hid behind the bigger kids during his class’s recitation of the mammal poem made famous by former second grade teacher Carol Schofield. In 6th grade, Mr. Javier and Mr. P helped him overcome his seemingly insurmountable fear of the ropes course. This was a key turning point for building his self-confidence.

Ms. Chaffey nurtured his growth further by nearly forcing him to take a small role in the Middle School musical. By 8th grade, Jacob eagerly volunteered to be emcee for the first Friday flag (and was courageous enough to be extremely silly in front of everyone). He happily played one of the lead roles in The Wizard of Oz Middle School musical.

Jacob’s connections to Saklan remain strong. He comes to visit the school whenever he’s home on school breaks. And during the last winter break, he invited his whole Saklan class for a reunion at his house. It was wonderful to see those kids again and hear about their adventures.

Jacob Martin

Here’s a photo of Jacob singing a solo with the Bandersnatchers at a recent college a cappella competition. The group took first prize!


Alumni Corner

James Rokas started playing guitar the summer before 5th grade when he began taking lessons from Mr. Prestianni. It has been a passion of his ever since!

After graduating from Saklan in 2012, James went to San Ramon Valley High School where he continued playing guitar in Jazz Band all four years. He also broadened his musical interests by playing cello in Orchestra (recommended to him by Mrs. Chaffey) and playing percussion in the Marching Band.

After high school, James decided to follow his passion for guitar and music by pursuing a degree from the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California. As a jazz performance major at Thornton, James has enjoyed performing in multiple ensembles including jazz combo, big band and Afro-Latin jazz. He has also written many jazz big band arrangements.

James R

Another big part of his experience as a student at USC has been as a member of the Trojan Knights, an organization known as the official hosts and guardians of traditions at USC. If you watch college football you may have seen James on the sidelines in body paint cheering on the Trojans!


He is currently getting ready to graduate in May with a degree in Jazz Guitar Performance and a minor in Music Industry. After graduation, James is planning to pursue graduate studies at UCLA for Film Scoring and working in the music industry.


Alumni Corner


This past weekend, Saklan Alum Finn Anders and Sarah Zemmelman performed in Night of January 16th at The Athenian School. Saklan Alum Ada Martin was the production manager for the show and (literally) built the set. What a gift to have their MS teachers there to cheer them on and to reconnect.

We are proud of our alumni and love seeing what they are up to, whether it be in HS, college, or beyond. Follow us on IG, and send us updates or pictures!


Alumni Corner

Earlier this month, 2010 Saklan graduate Nick Barendregt stopped by to visit some of his former teachers. During his visit he connected with Miss Obenchain, Miss Kim and Mr. P, all teachers who could share great stories of how Nick’s curiosity, creativity and courage set him up for success in life. Nick, who started at Saklan as a preschooler in 1999, graduated from Saklan to go on to The College Preparatory School in Oakland. He then went on to complete  his undergraduate work in Applied Mathematics from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. Nick has now started his full scholarship doctoral program in Applied Mathematics at the University of Colorado.


Nick’s current research at the University of Colorado revolves around creating mathematical models to explain how the brain accumulates and weighs evidence when making decisions. Nick “happened” upon this course of study in a typical Saklan student way. He was driven by curiosity and encouragement from his teachers to further explore questions and wonderings he had about how math might apply to the brain.

Nick’s visit is not only a testament to the power of  the Saklan approach to learning, but also highlights that strong relationships and passion are key to creating lifelong learners. We look forward to hearing more from Nick in the not too distant future. #SaklanConnected #SaklanConfident

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