Over the last few weeks, store windows have displayed back-to-school essentials and my Facebook feed has been full of first day photos.
As summer winds down, I’ve found myself reflecting on my own thirteen years of education at an all-girls’ school — thirteen years that transformed my sense of self and have continued to impact my life. In college was the first time I started to understand all of the ways my all-girls’ school had laid the groundwork for my success outside of its walls. I saw how well it had equipped me to write a research paper, to speak up in class, to find my footing away from home.
Here are just some of the ways my all-girls’ school set me up for success.
It showed me that girls really can do anything.
In an all-girls’ school, you don’t just hear that girls can do anything they set their minds to, you see it in practice and live it every day. Girls fill all roles — they are presidents of their class, captains of their teams, and leads in the school play, and sit in the front row of every class. They found organizations, exhibit their art, and are the stars on their debate teams. When you spend your education in an environment in which girls fill every leadership position, participate in every activity, and win every award, you never, not even for a second, imagine a world in which girls would or should do anything less.
It taught me to move at my own pace.
New things have never come easily to me. My school, and its remarkable teachers taught us we could be supported without being rushed, and, in doing so, helped me understand that individuals adjust differently to new situations. I’ve returned to this idea — that I can approach things at my own speed and in my own way — as I’ve acclimated to life in a new city and in a variety of post-grad jobs.
It taught me the importance of self-care.
Throughout my education, I was valued not only for who I was in the classroom, but also as a human being with a life outside of academia. I learned how important it is to make my physical and mental health a priority and how, who, and when to ask for help. My school provided me with a network of adults who made certain I felt supported, nurtured, and wholly cared about. Because of my school, I value bosses who foster self-care in the workplace, and I understand how critical it is that I take care of myself.
It armed me with growth mindset and resilience.
Girls invented, researched, taught, blogged, designed, and so much more — but, no matter the topic, each of us came up against a difficult moment in which we fell out of love with our topic or reached an unexpected roadblock. Our advisors, with a deft hand, helped us navigate the obstacle and soldier on; without even knowing it, we were being exposed to a stick-to-itiveness that would prove beneficial for the rest of our lives.
I learned the value of my own voice.
In my sophomore year history classroom, I sat beside a bulletin board that told us the phrases “um” and “like” and “you know” were off-limits. My seventh grade science teacher was the first to point out our habitual apologizing and challenge us to voice our ideas without qualifying them first. We were encouraged to claim our voices. We learned to enunciate, to project, to articulate, to make ourselves heard and understood. In every aspect of our educations, we were encouraged to have something to say.
My thirteen years of all-girls’ education taught me, among so many lessons that continue to shape who I am and how I navigate adulthood, to be unapologetic — unapologetically passionate, unapologetically feminist, unapologetically vocal, and unapologetically myself. In a world that makes women feel they have so much to say sorry for, that gift is powerful beyond measure.