To the Prospective Families of Trinity Hall:
There is so much to consider when making the decision to send a young girl to a single gender school. Trust me, I know. I was once that young student having the conversation with my mother about the changes I could expect when I entered the ninth grade. This major move of transitioning from a public, coed environment to a private, all-girls school shook my world in ways that I could not imagine at the time. As a student, my transition was sometimes difficult, as to be expected. As an adult, my advocacy for girls’ schools is fueled by my own experiences as an inaugural student at a new girls’ high school in Atlanta. With that passion, I am honored to now share with you my story in hopes that it will encourage you to make the best decision for your daughter and her future.
In the summer of 2000, I had no say in the matter. The busing system that had transported me to a suburban public school was petitioned against and I was left without a school to attend for my first year of high school. The neighborhood schools, in my mother’s opinion, did not meet her standards and were obviously not an option for her daughter who was a solid student and budding athlete. My mother found out about the Atlanta Girls’ School when she thought all doors were closed. After applying and interviewing, I was accepted to be a student in the inaugural year as the school was opening its doors for the first time to girls in grades six through nine. The school promised an education within a safe community that builds strong young women who would go forth into the world – and likely change it. Between that first day and the day I graduated in the inaugural class of 2004, so much more occurred that has shaped the woman I am today.
In an all-girls school, the administration, faculty and staff are all committed to promoting the growth of young women through researched and tested training tools with custom built curriculums within an embracing and encouraging environment. In these spaces, girls can truly blossom into their true selves as they have the opportunity to follow their dreams and passions without being automatically considered second place by gender standards. In these spaces, girls build friendships that turn into lifelong relationships without the pressures of popularity that exist in coed environments. In these spaces, girls work to make their own selves proud, which above all else, is critical to setting and attaining goals in life. Women who attend girls’ schools sculpt either their overflowing or underdeveloped confidence as they matriculate. By graduation, all heads are held high and all voices carry conviction. Girls’ schools do not promise that each girl will graduate and become a lawyer or a doctor, but they ensure that she will go forth without fear and follow her dreams. She is the girl who speaks up the first day in a college lecture because she is comfortable not only forming critical thoughts but also sharing them with her peers – and is unafraid of making mistakes. She is the leader of student-based organizations that align with her passions. She is an advocate for change and for the unheard communities. She is the athlete whose mother never knew she liked a sport – but got a scholarship as a result of her commitment. At girls’ schools, girls amaze!
The world is her oyster in an all-girls’ school environment. It is proven that girls curb their educational enthusiasm or invert their interests in the presence of boys. Adolescent males, in coed environments, can so easily dictate the climate of the classroom and thus affect girls by distracting, pressuring and requiring of them attributes that might not be present. Are boys bad? No! But they do learn differently. Young boys and men require a different type of attention than girls, and in coed environments there is easily more male focused attention than female. This is of no fault of the teachers, but more a fact of life that boys are usually bigger, louder and more blatantly commanding – calling the teachers to focus unintentionally on their needs. Your daughter is worthy of her own brand of attention that ensures her mind’s curiosity is fed properly. Many parents are concerned that a girls’ school is not reflective of the real world, assuming that the presence of boys creates a microcosm of society. This is untrue. As child psychologist and single gender expert Leonard Sax explains “you build a ship in dry dock and not in the middle of the ocean.” By this he informs that in order to truly strengthen your young girl, she should be attended to in an environment custom built for her so that when emerged into any other world, she is confident in her own beliefs, morals and abilities.
I remember my first day in 2000, the day I met my best friend. We both had wobbly knees and lost eyes as we embarked on a journey unknown. The bond we created was so strong that we remain close despite my move to New York City. Girls’ schools are not just for the shy girls who might need some nudging from their shells. For me, this environment helped to sculpt the confidence and academic curiosity that I already possessed. I was not the shy girl, but at AGS I learned to use my voice to speak confidently in support of my arguments. At AGS, I tried new things – for no reason at all. A soccer player, I was asked to join the basketball team for my speed and leadership. Fairly new to the sport in an organized way, I went on to captain the team in my senior year. As founding students, we had the pleasure of creating student groups that were of our interest. So I can now report having started a Yearbook staff, Literary Magazine and the Student Government. To this day, events that I brought one day as an idea still occur as annual traditions of the school. Not only is that rewarding as an alumna and former staff member, but it also reinforces the support and power I received in my days as a student. I cannot paint a lopsided picture; there were definitely days of challenge- days when I struggled to embrace the effectiveness that hung in the halls and on the words of my teachers.
Though AGS is an intentionally diverse community (culturally, socially, fiscally), I spent my junior and senior years as the only student of color in my own class. This was not easy, but it affirmed the friends and community that surrounded me. Though I looked different than my classmates, at the end of the day we were still sharing a new and groundbreaking experience that would forever link us. To this day, I still speak to each of my classmates. I have attended their weddings, played with their children and still sincerely encourage their success in their life endeavors. As I witness adult female relationships struggle, I can thank Atlanta Girls’ School for those unbreakable bonds. After four years of more ups and then downs, I went on to hold the role of the first ever student commencement speaker among other accolades and entered the world a bold and fearless college student prepared to grow even more.
At fourteen years old, I would not have predicted the strength of my advocacy. At twenty-seven, I have graduated from both Atlanta Girls’ School and Smith College (another strong institution for women), returned as a staff member at AGS and now can report a recent move from Atlanta to New York City where I am a masters student at New York University in Educational Leadership, Politics and Advocacy. I feel so strongly about the work done in girls’ education that I am determined to remain committed to helping any and all girls reach their true potential by using and sharing the talents and awareness I have gained through my unique experiences. I truly hope that you consider Trinity Hall as the next phase for your daughter – and that you can reflect on my humble experiences to understand how crucial this decision is and how beneficial her time will be. As parents, I hope to enable you to do what is best for your daughters despite the difficulties – for success is best rewarded after the overcoming of challenges – and as a family, you can do this. I wish you the best as you go forward.
Afiya S. Williams
Atlanta Girls’ School Class of 2004
Smith College 2008