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News from the Principal's Desk-August 2017

Welcome St. Mary's Academy students, families, faculty, and staff to a new school year. This is the first of several "News from the Principal's Desk" blog posts that I plan to post during the school year. Of course, we will have many opportunities to communicate throughout the year including the upcoming Back to School Night on September 14th. In my first post, though, I want to share some of the powerful stories from the past few months—stories that define who we are as women and a school dedicated to teaching young women.

As a former English teacher, I believe in the power of stories, and this has been a summer of stories for me—stories of women who are making a difference in both great and small ways. I spent four days in Washington, D.C., at the National Coalition of Girls' Schools annual conference where I met with heads of girls' schools from around the world. The topic of this year's conference was innovation: innovation in the fields of Science and Technology, and also innovation in how we creatively problem solve in all disciplines. We examined what it means to be college preparatory schools and the inherent tension between rigor and living a life of mindfulness and balance. While our schools have many differences, there are far more similarities in our shared experiences about how best to serve our talented, curious, and strong young women.

From D.C., I took the train up to New York to visit my daughter, class of 2012. We laughed, walked Central Park, and ate NY pizza while sitting on the curb. We took in a few plays including Oslo, A Doll's House, Part 2, and Hello Dolly!—each of which highlighted the power of women on very different journeys from diplomacy, to reclaiming one's identity, to surviving the loss of a loved one. At the end of my visit, we saw Wonder Woman, a mythical story where a young woman who is trained as a warrior discovers her strength and uses it for the good of the world, sadly a cynical world of which she is unaccustomed.

I next spent a week in Montreal—Longueuil, to be exact—where SMA Foundress Mother Marie Rose Durocher grew up and dedicated her life to educating young women. The Sisters crafted a week where women from all nine SNJM schools located around the country and Canada came together to learn about our rich history. The Sisters shared stories of the foundresses and their sacrifices to make a difference in the world. With their humility, grace, and radical hospitality, the Sisters showed us their dedication to the importance of all-girls' education.

Then, just two weeks ago, I visited my neighbor's yard sale where a group of 5th grade girls was raising money for their Girl Scout troop. They had gathered and sorted their merchandise, priced each item, and ran the checkout. I purchased two paperbacks, one titled #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso and the other, Runaway, by Alice Munro. More interesting stories about and by successful women who are uniquely powerful—one a self-made millionaire and the other a Nobel Prize winning novelist—and sold to me by the next generation of creative, hard-working leaders.

But while many stories have something to teach us, some leave us questioning. As many of you know, two lives recently were cut short way before their time. Emily Lang and Emma Place were once girls just like my 5th-grade neighbors. They were destined to be remarkable women—#Girlbosses, Nobel Prize winners, Wonder Women. The pain and loss are inexplicable, unimaginable. At their memorial services, loved ones, friends, coaches, and teachers shared experiences and memories of these incredible young women. Through the tears, there was laughter. And, once again, we witness the power of stories, which, in this case, helped bring some peace and helped begin the healing process. Emily and Emma, you are forever a part of us, and we will never forget you.

One of the most powerful aspects of St. Mary's Academy is that we make room for so many varied narratives. There are those who love Harry Potter, those who love fashion, those who lose themselves in a book, those who are athletes, those who are actors and musicians, and those who are gamers. The late Sister Shawn Marie Barry, a Sister of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary who served in many roles at St. Mary's throughout the years, described St. Mary's as a school that admits ordinary girls and graduates extraordinary young women. This is our students' time to be extraordinary.

I encourage each of our girls to make the most of her SMA story. Whether it's joining a new club, learning a new language, sitting and reading an assigned novel with patience and passion, coding, programming, or renewing a commitment to balance and mindfulness. I look forward to sharing this chapter in each of their narratives with them this year. There's no better time to be at an all girls' school. We have profound and powerful stories in our halls. It's going to be a great year, so hang on to your capes—here we go!

Kathy, Nicole, Alyssa at Foundation House in Longueuil 2
Nicole (center) and faculty members Kathy (left) and Alyssa (right) at Foundation House in Longueuil