Students, staff and parents are preparing for the departure of 20 year Palo Alto High School Principal’s Secretary Carolyn Benfield who will retire this December.

Benfield has done much more than answer calls and organize meetings for the countless principals she has worked with over the years.

“We see so much of the best of kids here … in the office here [because] it’s complete unconditional love,” she said. “We’re not their age, we don’t care what we’re wearing or what their hair looks like so what we get is the real thing, the real people.”

Despite being just after the departure of former Paly Principal Kim Diorio, Benfield said her retirement is unrelated. After her dedication to the Queer-Straight Alliance and experience with foster students, she has plans to volunteer with nonprofits serving local youth.

REMINISCING 20 YEARS LATER For many students, Principal’s Secretary Carolyn Benfield serves as a friendly face and confidant. Under her desk sits an overflowing cardboard memory box full of signed photographs, art projects and gratitude cards from students and staff, many depicting personal struggles and achievements. Benfield pointed to a faded school portrait of a smiling girl wearing a large afro. “[Here is] a senior that did that before she got caught. I think the photographer didn’t realize it was [a wig] so she got away with it,” she said. Photo by Sasha Poor.