Meet the President: Holly Elkins

Meet+the+President%3A+Holly+Elkins

Zoey Towner, co-managing editor, staff writer

We’ve all heard the story of Nano Nagle. Our foundress who served the poor and risked her life to educate the children of Ireland who were denied an education. The Lady with the Lantern. She serves as a role model to all of us for her acts of bravery, and especially to the new President of Presentation High School, Holly Elkins.

Elkins sees Nagle’s work as not only educating the children, but also working to change the system that barred them from being educated, as well as a model of her own work at Presentation. 

“In this role, I am focused on securing the resources to ensure you have an incredible educational experience that empowers you to set ambitious personal goals. But I also want to make sure we’re doing all we can to inspire you to fight for social justice and fix the underlying systems of inequity,” says Elkins.

As president, Elkins is tasked with creating a new vision of Presentation. Inspired by Nagle’s mission and her enthusiasm for her high school experience, Elkins is just the woman to combine the love of community and commitment in an amazing education as one beautiful concept.

Elkins is a Willow Glen native and mother of 8-year-old Jack and 5-year-old Millie. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, doing crafts with her daughter, reading “Harry Potter” to her son or entertaining at her home.

Growing up in Willow Glen, she is no stranger to the neighborhood that Presentation is located in. She attended local public schools such as Booksin Elementary, Hoover Middle School and San Jose High School.

After attending San Jose High School for one year, Elkins transferred to Saint Francis High School. 

“It was one of the hardest things that I’ve ever done,” said Elkins.

She explains that it was very emotionally tolling experience as a transfer student during her sophomore year, but once she started making friends through activities like cheerleading and volunteer groups, she felt immersed in the community and enjoyed her experience. 

“Looking back, I loved high school; it was amazing,” she says.

Elkins carries this enthusiasm for high school to her current role at Presentation, viewing it as a pivotal time for Presentation students.

“I think it’s the most important time to empower young women,” she says.

“I see high school as this magical four years where you all come together, emerging in your independence and with a growing sense of personal identity…and then you get to take risks and try new things and push yourself. It’s designed to be a safe place to try something, shed it and then reinvent yourself. There’s constant growth and change in high school. Especially for young women, it’s a transformational time and an opportunity to find your voice and shape your future.”

Elkins returned to Saint Francis in 2001 and served as the Executive Director for Institutional Advancement for the past six years. In this role, she oversaw a team that worked on fundraising, marketing and community engagement for the school and worked closely alongside three presidents. 

Elkins credits these presidents with helping her to prepare for her current role as president and giving her insight into how to lead. 

“The best leaders see the gifts in others and figure out how to orchestrate them to work together as a beautiful symphony,” she said.

Elkins’ work as president right now focuses on building relationships with the community with a listening ear as she shapes the future of Presentation.

“For me, I know I have the skills and expertise to do this work. But I also know I don’t yet have an inherent understanding of this community and this unique place to be able to make sure that we’re doing right by [the] community. This is not about coming in and telling everybody what to do. This is about listening and understanding, ” says Elkins.

Part of understanding the community is understanding the struggles that Presentation has gone through in the past few years. While she is proud of the new measures that have been put in place to ensure the safety of students, Elkins has a commitment to all Presentation students, past, present and future. 

“I also want to make sure that we’re doing right by our alums, and that we are able to look back and take responsibility for any harm we may have caused and help everybody heal so that we can come together and move forward. I am here today because I believe Pres is an extraordinary school, and I believe that it has an incredibly bright future,” she says.

Through her mission, her actions, and her words, President Elkins’ message to students reads clearly: “I want you to love high school. Of course, you may not love it everyday, but when you look back at your overall experience I want your heart to sing.”