Alumni News

Celebrating 20 Years of Cultural Immersion and Lasting Inspiration
Stacy Rollo

For Nueva students studying Japanese, “Doshisha” has a special meaning. This is especially true for the more than 500 students who over the years have participated in the exchange program that has grown from one high school to four middle and high schools in and around Kyoto. 

It is there that Nueva students and their Japanese counterparts have experienced one-of-a-kind homestays, immersive classroom experiences, and amazing cultural activities.

“The relationships we have established between our two schools has allowed us to create a curriculum to make this part of the fabric of Nueva,” said Cynthia Kosut, beloved humanities teacher and program organizer who joined the very first trip in 1999. “This epitomizes learning by caring and learning by doing.”

Doshisha anniversary

Commemorating a Special Anniversary 
We celebrated an amazing 20 years with students from Doshisha and Nueva last spring with an intimate dinner at the Hillsborough campus — complete with stories, laughter and memories, According to Nueva’s leadership, it was a poignant and memorable moment for the Nueva School.

A One-of-a-Kind Program
For eight days and nights, Nueva students stay with their Japanese host family, whose son or daughter attends one of the four Doshisha schools. Here, they experience intensive language study and cultural immersion. Earlier each year, these students have hosted their Japanese friends from the Doshisha Schools in their own homes here in the Bay Area.

The program is one of the longest and most successful exchange programs of its kind.

This year marked two decades of this extraordinary partnership for our middle school students, and the five-year anniversary for our upper school students. According to upper school Japanese language and culture teacher Christopher D. Scott, he was inspired to offer the same opportunity to upper school students after witnessing the joy and inspiration he saw in the middle school. He wasn’t alone. These Nueva teachers and alumni were more than happy to share their experiences:


  • “I loved witnessing the memories of families passed on, generation to generation. This is where my love of travel started.” (Liza Raynal, Middle School Head and alum) 
  • “I am still friends with my homestay family and have so many good memories — doing kendo practice and learning how many pieces of bamboo went into the kendo stick.” (Colin Tribble, Nueva seventh-grade humanities teacher and alum)
  • “Adults get just as much out of this trip as the students do.” (Hillary Freeman, Dean of Student Life) 
  • “I remember clearly making dinner with my homestay family. Everyone was helping — my homestay sisters, their parents, and their grandparents. They welcomed me in, and it could have been my family. (Marissa Maimone, Middle School Associate Teacher and alum) 
  • “I had a huge amount of independence … and I remember going into gardens and having hours to explore. Japan stays with me” (Gemma Ross, eighth-grade Class of ’00)

Read More

Nueva Connection Challenge!

Chris Garber, eighth-grade Class of ’08, has launched the Nueva Connection Challenge! — a friendly competition to see which class can create the most new alumni connections. 

Doshisha anniversary

For Nueva students studying Japanese, “Doshisha” has a special meaning. This is especially true for the more than 500 students who over the years have participated in the exchange program that has grown from one high school to four middle and high schools in and around Kyoto.

Laena Wilder

When Laena Wilder was 10 years old, a walk down San Francisco’s Market Street with her Nueva art teacher Barbara Marino and her best friend set fire to a passion that would drive the rest of her life.

Alumni Lee Holtzman poses with a lemur

“My years at Nueva were the best three years of my intellectual life,” upper school teacher and eighth-grade class of 2001 alum Lee Holtzman said. “Ever since I left Nueva, it was always the biggest part of me. Which is odd because I was only here for three years.” After only one week at the school, Lee identified the need for Nueva to expand from a PreK–8 school to PreK–12. “The end of my first week at Nueva (I started in sixth grade, so I was eleven), I went into the Head of School’s office, sat down, and said ‘You need to start a high school, because I need to go there!’”

Judee Brasesco and her two grandsons

Judee Brasesco has the unique perspective of seeing how Nueva shaped two generations of students in her family. When she learned about the Nueva School in the 1970s, she had two school-aged children, Jill Brasesco Thomsen (’77 sixth-grade graduate) and J.D. Brasesco (’80 sixth-grade graduate). Last spring, Judee’s oldest grandsons, Scott Brasesco ’18 and Chip Thomsen ’18, graduated from Nueva, and her youngest grandson, Jack B., is now an eleventh grader at Nueva.  

 Andrew Lam and his parents in a city

When Andrew Lam (eighth grade,’01) visited the Upper School with his father last year, he was thrilled to see learning in progress. “There was stuff all over the floor,” he said. “An intentional mess of art and science projects where kids were learning and exploring.” He was happy to see that the culture of exploration and the freedom to make and learn from mistakes were still part of the school he loved so much.