In the 1700s, a woman named Nano Nagle, the daughter of wealthy Irish parents, risked imprisonment and disgrace by fighting the oppression of children in her country. The penal code at the time prohibited the education of Irish Catholic children, but Nano made the courageous decision to defy the rule.
She secretly rented rooms in the city of Cork and began holding classes. Soon she had seven schools containing 400 children – five schools for girls and two for boys. Nano’s dedication to the poor reached far beyond school walls. At night, she traveled the narrow streets and visited the sick and destitute to share with them God’s love. Because she used a lantern to light her way, she became known as “The Lady of the Lamp.”
In 1775, Nano joined several other women in founding a new society, the Sisters of Charitable Instruction of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, that was dedicated to the service of the poor. The community was elevated to a religious order by the Pope in 1800 called the Union of Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary – otherwise known as The Presentation Sisters. The Sisters carried this vision and ministry to California in 1854.
Strengthened and challenged by Nano’s dedication to the ministry of secondary education, the Sisters of the Presentation responded to the needs of the rapidly growing Santa Clara Valley. In 1962, they built Presentation High School, a four-year Catholic school for young women in the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose. The first 70 students graduated in 1966. Since then, nearly 4,000 young women have benefitted from the excellent education provided at Presentation High School, and they have become productive, ethical and vital members of their families, workplaces and communities.
These graduates are the real history of Presentation High School. They are women who took advantage of a unique opportunity to develop their minds and skills, explore their interests and talents, open their hearts to those less fortunate than themselves, nurture their faith, and discover their self-confidence and individuality. Providing an environment where this can happen is the proud legacy of the Sisters of the Presentation.
Among Presentation High School’s unique qualities, perhaps most apparent is that it is a school devoted to educating young women. Research verifies – and our experience affirms – that girls in a single-sex environment succeed well above their counterparts across the nation. The success of Presentation students stems from the quality of instruction and personal attention each student receives.