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October 27, 2021

AHA Blog: The All-Girl Advantage

“The All-Girl Advantage” is fueling the success of current Holy Angels students and alumnae. At a recent webinar hosted by Assistant Admissions Director Jennifer Bullis, high-achieving alumnae and motivated members of the Class of 2021 discussed how AHA’s all-girl atmosphere helped them be confident in educational settings and beyond.


AHA Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Danielle Holmes (AHA ’03) pointed out that AHA’s foundresses and sponsors, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, are pioneers in women’s education. Holmes said an all-girl atmosphere is empowering in terms of academic culture, well-being, leadership, sports, and more. She noted that, according to the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools, students who attend all-girls’ schools are more likely to study math and chemistry, explore unfamiliar subjects, and take on challenges. In addition, over 80% of students in all-girls’ schools say they are encouraged to reach their full potential.


In addition, all-girls’ schools specifically consider gender and tailor-make programs for girls. The result is an increase in self-esteem and well-being. Holmes noted that there is greater pressure on girls in the coed environment, where there is greater concern about destructive criticism.


Girls’ schools also prevent young women from being locked out of leadership opportunities because, in the coed environment, some roles must go to boys.


Holmes noted that Angels still have opportunities to interact with boys through school activities, including theater, track meets, and cheer teams that support sports programs at local all-boys’ schools.


Sesink-Clee (AHA ’13), a senior engineer at Stryker, acknowledged that she benefitted from AHA’s all-girl atmosphere. At AHA, she enjoyed mentoring relationships with her math and science teachers. In fact, one AHA teacher helped Sesink-Clee get into her current profession: designing orthopedic implants and related surgical implements.


She added that there is a documented drop in confidence among high school girls. However, participation in Division 1 track helped insulate her from that unwanted change.


“AHA challenges you a lot,” Sesink-Clee said. “I did not feel judged for answering questions in class, and learned it is OK to ask for help from friends and teachers.”


Although engineering has been a male-dominated field, Sesink-Clee says she now sees more women being hired and beginning their ascent to top posts.


“In college, the girls did not raise their hands. I was not afraid to,” she said, when asked how the all-girl atmosphere had helped her.


AHA senior Samantha Demartino is an Angel Ambassador. She is president of the Italian Club and has studied in Siena, Italy. Her activities include jazz band and orchestra, varsity cross-country and track, National Honor Society, and the Animal Rights Club. She has received the Boston University Book Award for education and social justice. After graduation, she plans to study bilingual speech pathology.


Samantha started her secondary education in a coed school, and said the switch to an all-girl atmosphere was an adjustment. She says the change allowed her to focus on academics. Samantha described AHA as a school that cares about the whole person and encourages friendly competition, while putting academics first.


Maya Paul, who is also about to graduate from the Academy, is a member of the Operation Smile Club Executive Board. She is yearbook editor, a sound crew member, and a member of Aca Angels, a club for a cappella singers. She is also involved in Angels in Anatomy. She has represented AHA at international student leadership conferences in Seattle and North Carolina. Maya is a volunteer at Camp Acorn, and is involved in a special needs awareness program. She will attend

Hofstra University’s five-year dual degree physician’s assistant program.


“AHA taught me how to be a leader,” Maya said.


She commented on the Academy’s sisterhood, adding that she and her peers are excited for each other when they talk about their plans for college and the future. She says she feels confident and prepared to study medicine.


Like Sesink-Clee, Maya said she is not afraid to participate in a mostly-male classroom or compete against male peers. She added that AHA’s all-girl environment allows young women to take on leadership posts in clubs and student council that tend to be dominated by boys in coed schools.


Maya said it’s difficult to go through the college search process now (during the pandemic), but the Office of Academic and College Counseling has been very helpful.


“I got into my dream program,” she said. “The teachers and counselors keep your interests in mind.” Samantha noted that she has a friend who tended to be shy until she joined AHA’s gymnastics team. “We are all here to help and support each other. Get involved and push yourself in different ways,” Samantha added.


This Angel also noted that AHA is much more challenging than the public, coed high school she had originally attended. She called AHA’s rigorous atmosphere a wakeup call, adding that she would not necessarily be on the same path if she had not come to AHA.


Is there a disadvantage to an all-girl environment? Maya says she misses the comic relief provided by the boys she met in her coed middle school.