Testimonials: What it's like an all-girls school
Students share what they love most about their experience
"I have never seen a group of young women more sure of themselves."
Our Kids Media traveled to several all-girls' schools to chat with some of the young women about their school life and they took a few minutes out of their day to highlight the benefits of education in a single-sex learning environment. Check out the video to hear more!
Other current students and alumni also shared their experiences at an all-girls school, including how this type of environment shaped their success. Read their stories below.
Plenty of extracurricular activities
Six years ago, her parents were down to two choices: a coed option or the all-girls’ environment of St. Mildred’s-Lightbourn School (which is also a Reggio Emilia and gifted school in Oakville, Ontario). And as she finished up Grade 12 as head girl at St. Mildred’s, Alexa Vogel was more than satisfied with the decision her parents ultimately made.
“Personally, I love it,” says Alexa, 18. “The girls aren’t afraid to voice their opinion, because they aren’t second guessing and thinking ‘will a guy think this?’”
Not that contact with the opposite sex is completely lacking. The school arranges mixed social events, while Alexa has several male friends from her extracurricular activities, such as travels that have included work at a hospital in Africa and a semester studying in Australia. In fact, she’s quick to suggest that outside activities for all-girls’ school students are important for getting them used to socializing in mixed environments. “If there are clubs and sports or something that a child in a single-gender school can get involved with that’s in a coed environment, I think that makes a big difference,” she says.
Inspired by a “be yourself” environment
Ask Jacqueline Nivet how she went from student council president to helping to save the world, and she’ll point back to her education for the answer.
Nivet currently works for the United Nations World Food Programme, which comes to the rescue of millions after their darkest hours. She says that a focus on helping others was instilled in her during her years at an all-girls school, which places an emphasis on character education.
“If I had stayed at my old school, I would be a completely different person today,” she says.
The school she attended changed everything about her life, she says—her interest in school activities, her academic capabilities, her sense of belonging, her confidence in the contributions she could make, and above all, her friends, who constantly challenge and push her to be a better person.
“I know I would never have achieved even half of what I have without them or without all that the school has given me over the years,” says Nivet.
While she attended Hawthorn School for Girls (a Catholic school in Toronto, Ontario), from Grade 5 to OAC, she became student council president, as well as co-developer and co-editor of the first student publication.
“I think those two activities were most influential for my later career choices: acting as a leader, serving others and writing,” she says.
It’s been a decade since she graduated, and Nivet has travelled and lived abroad in a number of countries. Despite the distance however, her closest friends are still from her school days.
“It’s not a coincidence,” she says. “Students could really be themselves without the peer pressure we heard about in other middle and high schools.”
Nivet will always value the friendships she made at school.
“No matter what our career choices or countries we live in now, we are all still Hawthorn girls at heart,” she says. “We have so many memories and experiences that we still share.”
You can take chances
In an all-girls school, there is one less variable in teaching. “Research shows that girls really like a more communicative, collaborative approach to learning,” says Elizabeth Falco, head of school at The Study, in Westmount, Quebec. “As a teacher in an all-girls classroom, you can cater to that.” Confidence often blooms as a result.
“Girls change when boys are out of the picture and opportunities that might not have existed in a coed environment are suddenly available. Possibilities seem infinite. There are no limits in their imagination about what they can do.”
At Trafalgar Castle School in Whitby, Ontario, Amy, 18, agrees. There, most of the teachers and all of the students are female. “You can be more yourself instead of trying to impress the boys. You can take chances. You can try anything and not be afraid.”
“We both said, that’s the school!”
“We were trying out different schools. My mom wanted me to go to an all-girls school. We came to an open house (at Trafalgar School for Girls in Montreal, Quebec), and as we were walking out, we both said, that’s the school! Because it’s so homey, you feel comfortable there.”
First impressions turned out to be accurate for Jenna, 13, who has just finished Grade 7. “I enjoy going there every day to see my friends—and the teachers. I’ve tried all different things, soccer, and I was manager of the basketball team. I was in the junior drama production and I am in the choir. Some days I get to school at 7:30 and don’t come home until 5:30. I see Mr. Dowd (principal Geoff Dowd) more than I see my parents.”
Her mother’s preference for an all-girl school? “At first I thought it would be weird because I had gone to a coed elementary school. But it’s actually nice because everyone is so comfortable, everyone can say things freely without feeling embarrassed.”
Additional Notable Alumni
Girls school alumni include women leaders who testify about the value of single gender education in video and testimonial, including:
- Anne Rohmer, TV host and Branksome Hall graduate
- Dr. Susan Quaggin, professor of Medicine at the U of T and Branksome Hall graduate
- Jane Lockhart, Interior designer, TV host and Branksome Hall graduate
- Claudia Dey, Author, playwright, and St. Clement's School alumnus
- Karolyn Smardz Frost, Historian, archeologist, Governor General's Award-winning author and St. Mildred's graduate
- Dr. Carolyn Bennett, a Liberal Member of Parliament and Havergal College graduate
- Gillian Apps, a two-time Canadian Olympic gold medalist in women’s hockey and Havergal College graduate
- Emily Murphy, Canada’s first female judge and Bishop Strachan School graduate
Research provided by the National Association for Choice in Education shows that 82 percent of recent girl’s school graduates are satisfied or extremely satisfied with the how well their schools instilled self-confidence and that 84 percent give their schools top marks for providing leadership opportunities.