The United Nations declared October 11th as International Day of the Girl Child, an internationally recognized annual observance designed to “amplify the voices and rights of girls everywhere.” As a coalition of NativityMiguel-modeled, independent middle schools from across the country, we are united in the common purpose of educating girls in communities that have largely been excluded from economic resources and empowering them to become their best, most authentic selves. We recognize the vast potential of our female scholars, and embrace this and every opportunity to lift their voices for the good of their own, their communities, and their world’s future.
In the pursuit of solutions to educational inequity and the rising political debate over school choice, the work of small, gender-specific schools can be easy to overlook. Unfortunately, the opportunity to choose a small school with small classes and individualized attention, something we know as essential to optimize learning among middle school girls, is nonexistent for those families who do not have the financial resources to afford it. Our coalition of all-girl schools, which provides this exceptional education to our scholars tuition-free, are often the only option provided to those who have been excluded from such access.
Today, on this auspicious occasion hailed around the world, our coalition of 10 schools stand in solidarity with, and advocate on behalf of girls everywhere who hunger for a better education, one where they are seen, heard and can grow to be their full selves. We see you, we hear you; you can grow here.
Daniella* was enrolled in a local public school where she quickly learned the best place for her was in the back of the room, not to be noticed, picked on, harassed, etc.. Daniella has power within her that goes untapped and unrecognized in environments that cannot make space for cultural, social, and economic differences.
We all know Daniella’s story. It is the story of many students who enter our schools year after year. Daniella and her sisters from across this nation inspire us every day with their desire to learn and drive to lead. In response, devoted teachers and staff, tireless volunteers, and dedicated mentors work hard every day to earn students’ trust and empower them to take agency for their own education. Within days or weeks of attending Cornelia Connelly Center, our students express relief at feeling safe and respected at school, renewed excitement to learn, and gratitude for the deep bonds of sisterhood they share with their schoolmates. The transformation is palpable.
Our coalition of all-girl independent middle schools serving over 3000 students remains deeply committed to providing girls in our communities with access to education and enrichment opportunities that they might not otherwise have. Because of this educational model, our schools boast a 99% high school graduation rate among our alumnae, far beyond that of the nation or any local municipality. We enthusiastically embrace this part of their journey, successfully carrying the educational baton through the vital middle school years while under our roof, and through high school where we support them readily but with some distance, watching them grow into their power. Their journey continues long past high school, taking many far from their New York City home, as do the challenges. As a coalition of schools dedicated to seeing our scholars succeed, we are growing into a national alumnae network that will connect these young women with their alumnae sisters anywhere and everywhere, as well as to the resources and opportunities that will help them succeed beyond their wildest dreams.
The International Day of the Girl will most often conjure up images of girls in need across the globe. As we cast our gaze abroad, we cannot forget that many girls here in the US are vulnerable to the trauma of poverty, racism, and systemic oppression. This year, join us in recognizing and supporting our girls and celebrating their vast potential, as we do for those abroad. Cast your eyes on the girls in our New York City community that they too may be seen, heard, and grow.
*Daniella is not the name of any particular student. This name and the story that follows represent the general experience of our students.
Caroline Erisman, Executive Director, Cornelia Connelly Center, New York, NY
Sister Yliana Hernández, PVBM, Principal, Nora Cronin Presentation Academy, Newburgh, NY
Peggy Prevoznik Heins, President, Serviam Girls Academy, Wilmington, DE
Annmarie Quezada, Head of School, Mother Caroline Academy & Education Center, Boston, MA
Dr. Beth Reaves, President, Washington School for Girls, Washington, DC
Mary Elizabeth Grimes, President, Marian Middle School, St. Louis, MO
Delia M. Dowling, SSND, President, Sisters Academy of Baltimore, Baltimore, MD
Matthew Fitzsimmons, President, Grace Academy, Hartford, CT
Nancy Langer, President, NativityMiguel Middle School, Buffalo, NY
Jadihel Taveras, Head of School, Esperanza Academy, Lawrence, MA
Daniel Perez, Executive Director, NativityMiguel Coalition, New York, NY