Making the Best of Her Opportunities: Caitlin Casey


Saint Joseph graduate Caitlin Casey isn’t “home for winter break” as every other college student is right now. Her break unfortunately began last spring when the pandemic first hit and will last for the entirety of 2020-2021 school year. Stanford junior Caitlin Casey is taking a gap year from Stanford in order to pursue her best interests considering her strange and difficult circumstances.  

Many college students have different opinions on how Saint Joe prepared them for college. As a Stanford student, Casey emphasized that she experienced a significant wake-up call when she first stepped foot on campus. She faced many challenges adjusting to Stanford but expressed that the variety of options at Stanford with little guidance was very hard for her. “The biggest challenge coming from Saint Joe to Stanford was the freedom.”

“The biggest challenge coming from Saint Joe to Stanford was the freedom.”

— Caitlin Casey

She went on to say that there was a much wider variety of opportunities at Stanford including the pathways for education, which made her academic exploration very challenging. Casey’s challenges at Stanford stemmed from a major difference that she noticed between Stanford and St. Joe. When reflecting on the biggest difference for her, Casey said, “At St. Joe, while there were a number of classes I could choose from, my academic path was more or less laid out for me with the only choice really being what AP classes I wanted to take, but even then my parents mostly decided that. At Stanford, I went from having around 15 classes to choose from to having over 500 classes I could take. It was really daunting to have so much choice when it came to what classes I wanted to take and what majors I wanted to pursue (over 150) so I was nervous I wouldn’t pick the right one.”

Another challenge Casey endured transitioning as a freshman at Stanford was the large class sizes. She said she lacked the close relationships she had with her teachers at Saint Joe and had realized quickly that since there were hundreds of students in a lecture, they were not going to reach out to you, it was you who would have to make the effort. Stanford was a big adjustment for Casey, and she described her freshman year simply as “figuring it out as she went”, because as a student at such a prestigious school, not much can prepare you for what you are about to embark on. 

One specific aspect of Casey’s high school experience that she carried with her to Stanford that helped her immensely was what she learned as part of the girls soccer program. Casey touches more on this subject in the quote, “St. Joe girls soccer taught me how to push through tough times and how to lean on my friends to get through anything. It was so much fun and I’ve taken that ability to make family in new places which has been very valuable.” Casey experienced the worst when she tore her ACL her junior year of high school while playing soccer, but when she conquered that immense challenge, it opened her eyes to the wide variety of things she was and is still able to get through. Having learned that lesson in high school became very useful as she entered a whole different set of challenges at Stanford. Something stuck with her from the program that she couldn’t shake when she received her high school diploma. Casey had many close friends that were still in the program and eventually were the reason she came back to coach until she left for Stanford in late September. Yes, it was logical being there was no defensive coach, and she needed to occupy herself with something to do while she waited to go to Stanford, but the logic of it all was not truly what drew her back, it was the friendships. New and unexpected friendships were also made when she continued to come back and coach these past three years, and the impact she had on the players was an extra bonus to all the fun she had coaching the girls. 

Coming back to help coach the girls soccer team was one of the few things that remained consistent heading into the fall of 2020. Having been sent home from college in March, the upcoming school year was filled with uncertainty. Stanford chose a unique solution and decided to allow juniors back onto campus until the spring quarter. Casey was faced with a choice she had to make: take all online courses until spring quarter when she returns to campus, or take a gap year and return to campus next fall. The pros and cons of her decision lingered in the back of her mind all spring into summer until she finally decided to take a gap year.

Caitlin explained her reasoning, “I chose to take a gap year because Stanford wasn’t going to let juniors back until spring quarter and having taken a full course load of classes spring 2019, I knew with my learning disabilities and the classes I was going to take which were going to be the foundation of any career choice I had to take, it would not be ideal to take online courses for the majority of the semester. Instead, I chose to pursue other educational activities outside of the classical classroom experience.”

Other than coaching her high school soccer team, Caitlin pursued a job opportunity. In specific, her job in her own words was described as, “I worked as a campaign organizer for Dr. Al Gross for Senate campaign in Alaska. I mainly helped coordinate canvassing efforts in the lower half of the state, lead phonebanks, and train local volunteers.” This job, along with an internship in January are the main pursuits during her gap year. Her internship is out of Washington D.C for public relations for the state department of human rights. She will write speeches, coordinate events, and run the social media account for democracy and labor. In conclusion, Caitlin has made the best out of the unfortunate circumstances of not being on campus this school year through her pursuits outside of the classroom. This gave her a taste of the world outside of college in preparation for her future.

Despite being the prestigious student she was at St. Joe and continues to be at Stanford, Caitlin has shown repeatedly that she is more than a student. Her extracurriculars at St. Joe which then led to her becoming a soccer coach, and her pursuits outside of the classroom this semester, are all testaments to her character. The vibrant personality that she grew into during her high school years has done nothing but benefit her as she moved on from St. Joe. She has St. Joe to thank for breaking her out of her shell and shaping her into the person she is today. A person who is able to adjust to such challenges as taking a gap year, and someone who makes such profound impacts on teenage girls.