Earlier this year we shared a post on “Why (and How) Girls Thrive in Girls-Only Schools.” Among a host of benefits attributed to single sex education, leadership opportunities were high on the list. Simply put, girls' schools provide a unique environment that can inspire and encourage young women to pursue leadership roles. This is achieved through:
Positive Role Models: Girls' schools provide a space where girls can see women in leadership roles, including school administrators, teachers, and alumnae who have gone on to achieve success in various fields. Also, research has shown that at all girls’ schools, girls demonstrate great confidence in female leadership. Seeing successful women in leadership positions can inspire young women to pursue their own leadership goals.
Meanwhile, data from coed schools suggests that girls become less interested in leadership positions with age1.
Focus on Women's Issues: “Women” are one of the Critical Concerns of the Sisters of Mercy. Through schools, colleges, health-care institutions and spirituality centers, and through legislative advocacy, the Sisters of Mercy—and Merion Mercy Academy—give special attention to women’s education, health and spirituality. This focus on women's issues helps girls develop a strong sense of self, a sense of purpose, and a desire to advocate for themselves and others
Empowerment: Girls' schools provide an environment that is designed to empower young women to be confident, independent, and assertive. The majority—60%—of girls’ school grads report higher self-confidence over their coeducated peers (54%). This empowerment can translate into leadership skills that can benefit girls throughout their lives2.
Leadership Opportunities: Girls' schools offer numerous leadership opportunities, such as student government, sports teams, clubs, and community service programs. In fact, 93% of girls’ school grads say they were offered greater leadership opportunities than peers at coed schools and 80% have held leadership positions since graduating from high school3. By participating in these activities, girls can develop leadership skills and gain confidence in their ability to lead.
Leadership at Merion Mercy Academy
Merion Mercy Academy educates young women to “lead, learn and serve” and this is evident throughout the school where students demonstrate leadership daily in a variety of ways. One senior who has made a name for herself as an exemplary leader is Student Council President Kathryn Wert '23. In MMA’s online student newspaper Ricordia, staff member Justine Weng '25 interviewed Wert about Merion Mercy, planning events, difficulties she has encountered, and more! Here is that interview:
Justine Weng: What is your favorite Merion tradition?
Kathryn Wert: “It’s hard to narrow it down to just one… I’ll say Weenie Roast.”
JW: What is your favorite part of being Stuco President?
KW: “I enjoy having a hand in planning and executing a lot of events/activities that students really enjoy and that showcase who we are at Merion.”
JW: What is your favorite event that you took part in planning?
KW: “Most recently, Pack the Cave was my favorite event because it was really great to bring it back after not having it for a few years. It was just incredible seeing the great turnout from not only students but also teachers, staff members, administrators, family members, friends from other schools, and even incoming students. It was great for our basketball team to have a full house, and StuCo was also happy that we were able to involve some students/student groups (Pep Squad, Ollie Currier, and the students who participated in the knockout) in it, too. My other favorite event was/is the Back-to-School Mixer because mixers are always fun, it’s very fun choosing a theme related to the Mercy Girl Effect Project, and it’s a great way to kick off the school year, especially for the freshmen, and allow them to see and experience the mercy spirit.”
JW: What is the planning process like for school events such as Mission Week?
KW: “It’s easier with events that have occurred in years past because it helps when adults in the building have familiarity with what we’re planning. For any event, we start by working with the Executive Board and our StuCo moderators to draft up a formal proposal and run it by our StuCo representatives. Then we share that document with the necessary administrators; for example, for Pack the Cave, we worked closely with Ms. Fisher since it was an athletics event. Pretty much everything Student Council plans go through Student Life, with Mr. Clementi and Ms. Dougherty. So, most of the time, we share things and meet with them. Once they’ve had the chance to look over our proposal, we have a meeting to discuss what works and what doesn’t. Then, we edit or reimagine some aspects of our proposal (if necessary), and then we really finalize logistical things, like who is in charge of getting the necessary materials for the Galentine’s bracelets or what time students need to arrive at the Mission Week Mixer.”
JW: Are there any difficulties you come across during this process?
KW: Within any leadership role, there will be difficulties and challenges within the planning process of events or other things, but a big part of leadership is learning to be flexible! Luckily, this is a rarity for our Student Council team because the administrators at Merion are very accommodating and want to help us execute things we are passionate about.”
JW: What, if any, complications have you come across with being StuCo President?
KW: Something I’ve learned while on StuCo is the importance of clearly articulating your vision/request/proposal/etc. So, effective communication, basically. When I first started out on StuCo freshman year, this was not one of my strengths, so I am glad that I have been able to grow in this area.”
JW: What/Who brings you joy on a difficult or tiring day?
KW: “I really love the Senior Lounge because I never know who’s going to be in there. It’s fun connecting with different people every day. I also like my advisory because there are only 8 of us there, and Mr. York is a great advisor. Sister Danielle also brings me joy because she’s easy to talk with and she’s a refreshing presence.”
JW: What is something that you do to relax on a stressful day?
KW: “I try to spend time outside, and I also enjoy watching old SNL episodes. And, of course, I’m a big fan of naps!”
JW: How do you manage your time with all the activities and planning you have to do?
KW: “I really utilize the time I’m in school to get stuff done. Things like meeting with people to go over upcoming StuCo events, going to the senior lounge to do homework, or helping with hands-on projects for StuCo. I think that during the time in school, I’m the most productive. When I get home, I like to give myself a few hours after school. Then, I jump into my homework and other work I need to complete for StuCo. (I try to complete my homework first, but it’s sometimes hard to do when I’m eager to work on StuCo things!)”
JW: What events were you excited to plan? Any future events?
KW: Mission Week! I am also excited for more Movie Nights, like the Galentine’s Movie Night. We are hoping to plan another one in the spring. Something that is special about Movie Nights is the calm/cozy environment (which is different from dances/Mixers). I also love the fact that you can hang out with people who you usually don’t hang out with outside of school.”
JW: What is your favorite part about Merion?
KW: “The people! Beyond my friends and classmates, I appreciate my teachers because they make me want to come to school! Everyone at Merion is really wonderful and contributes something to the Sisterhood and our community!”
JW: Lastly, How do you feel about graduating soon?
KW: “I’m sad to leave, but I’m looking forward to college. I’m super grateful for my time at Merion, and I have no doubt that all I’ve been taught here (both in and out of the classroom) will continue to benefit me in the future.”
1 Dr. Katherine Kinzler, Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago and Visiting Professor in the Department of Psychology at Cornell University
2 Dr. Linda Sax, UCLA, Women Graduates of Single-Sex and Coeducational High Schools: Differences in their Characteristics and the Transition to College
3 Goodman Research Group, The Girls’ School Experience: A Survey of Young Alumnae of Single-Sex Schools