Priyanka Jhala, Class of 2030 Parent

The stories Priyanka Jhala heard about The Ellis School from other families in her community stood out to her as she considered where to send her daughter, Saira, to pre-kindergarten. After speaking with Ellis parents and the Enrollment Management team, Priyanka and her husband, Sameer, decided Ellis was the right place for Saira. It was Ellis’ global focus, nurturing faculty members, and commitment to celebrating each individual girl that drove their investment—and they haven’t looked back since.
Daughter:Saira, Class of 2030
Years at Ellis:3
Occupations:Priyanka, Interpreter, Nonprofit Consultant | Sameer Sharma, Procurement Strategy and Services at Denali


Why did your family and your daughter choose Ellis?
We had done some research about schools in the area, but Ellis was top of mind from the beginning because we can see the Ellis field from our home. Also, Susan Bellville—who has two daughters at Ellis––has been a friend of mine for years and she had nothing but wonderful things to say about the School. After I spoke with the Enrollment Management Office, I was quite sold on sending Saira here—I loved the School itself and thought it was beautiful. I’ve also spoken with people in the neighborhood, including mothers of lifers, and they all said how happy they and their daughters were with Ellis. So, I really made the decision based on Ellis’ wonderful reputation and the proximity to our home. Priyanka started at Ellis in pre-kindergarten and now she’s in first grade and absolutely loves it.

What stood out about Ellis?
The Ellis community stood out to me from the start. The parents and children are all very down-to-earth. Ellis doesn’t feel elitist or snobby; it feels like a community. From the annual Fall Fun Fest to the Lower School dance parties, I love how Ellis makes including the parents and kids a priority.

Why do you stay at Ellis?
I find Ellis very cozy. I remember growing up in the public school system, cafeterias were really frightening to me. They’re often places of massive segregation, whether that’s boys and girls, race, sports, etc. I find Ellis parents and girls know each other better and have a stronger sense of community. One of the first times I heard Head of School Macon Finley speak, I remember her saying that she really loves Ellis because each and every girl is unique and celebrated as an individual, and I really identified with that. Ellis is such a broadminded place—I’ve even learned from my daughter since she’s been in school here. I love Ellis’ international focus across grades—they really teach girls that they are part of a global community. Ellis girls are becoming world citizens at a young age.

What does your daughter love about Ellis? What do you love about Ellis?
Saira loves her friends at Ellis; she’s known some of them since pre-kindergarten, which has been really nice for her. She’s a really bright and perceptive girl, and I truly think she is learning a lot. She comes home and she speaks Spanish! I love her teachers and how patient they are. They are truly wonderful. They’ll stop me at afternoon pick-up and give me little bits of feedback about Saira, and I appreciate that so much. Not only is Saira excited about coming to school every day, but it feels like the teachers are as well. As a parent, I feel they are genuinely invested in my daughter and her education.

What do you value in education for your daughter?
I want her education to give her the foundation to pursue whatever she wants to in life. I want her to have the confidence and capacity to make wise decisions, do well, and thrive.

Why has your family prioritized and invested in an all-girls school?
Our family decided it was important to invest in education now because it will help Saira realize her full potential from a much younger age. Kids in today’s world are only getting smarter and smarter—they need to be prepared so they can exercise and use that potential from a young age. It’s an expensive decision and a massive investment, but I really feel like she’s well-suited at Ellis and that we made the right decision.

What do you hope your daughter will get out of an Ellis education?
I hope that she gets a ton of confidence and that she makes lifelong friends. At Ellis, I know Saira is getting the attention she needs and being encouraged to break out of her shell. In the future, I hope she’ll learn to play a musical instrument, get into sports, and continue to try new things. Right now Saira loves art and she’s not only making art, but she’s also learning about Georgia O’Keeffe and Picasso! I love how Ellis exposes her to so much in a very nurturing environment.

What is the biggest difference or change you have seen in your daughter since she started at Ellis?
Just a huge change in her level of confidence. We have no misgivings about sending Saira to Ellis; we’re really happy that she’s happy here. She’s more vocal, she’s reading really well, and she’s getting smarter every single day.

If you had to describe your daughter in three words, what would they be?
Sensitive. Kind. Intelligent.
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