First Day in the Priory


Eric Duarte

Woodside Priory in Portola Valley, CA.

Waking up in densely wooded Portola Valley is unlike a morning in New Jersey. Akhir and I share a room in the monastery while Daniel and Damon share a room in the guest house. The guest house is far from the monastery, and is located near the Fr. Christopher Field where soccer games and track meets are held. The guest house is newer in sense of style and interior design. The monastery has a 1950s vibe, which is tolerable when you get such an amazing view of the valley! 

Eric Duarte
View from a monastery bedroom.

The sliding glass doors were dark when it was night, and when the curtains were pulled back in the morning, I was in shock at what an amazing view the monastery has of the surrounding mountains that makes this school’s location a valley. 


We were all assigned to a student advisor, where one would shadow a student through his or her school day. The schedule at Woodside Priory identifies classes as A through G. Each student takes four classes and a break time. Tuesdays, the students have break, chapel, then advisory, and Thursdays they have a “flex” period where the students either study or will have a guest speaker. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, the students only have break, not flex. “Break” is a period of twenty minutes that the students primarily hang out in the “Schilling Square” which is an open outdoor area in the middle of campus. 


SBP has “group” period after lunch. Woodside Priory has “break” after the second class. My advisor was not available for his last class due to a soccer game, so I went over to Franklin Garden where the school farms several vegetables that are provided as food in the Dining Hall. They keep chickens in the fenced area of the garden and a couple of ducks. 


Atop a hill near the garden, sits a bench in a spot meant to view the valley and see over the school grounds. This school is based in a natural setting, in the middle of the woods, and looking outside any window or door, trees, shrubs, flowers, and hills are visible. I shadowed through US History, Chemistry, AP Psychology, and AP Microeconomics. 


My favorite part of the day was strolling around a small trail that leads to the monastery and connects to the bench atop a hill near the garden. The view of the valley was unlike any I have seen before, and it was another moment of bliss along with walking along the Golden Gate Bridge.