Story and photos by Floyd Alvin Galloway
Gender specific schools have been around for a number of years. Usually they are associated with a religious institution. Over the years they have been on the decline. Even some gender specific colleges have found it difficult to keep its doors open.
The Girls Leadership Academy of Arizona located in north-central Phoenix, is bucking that trend and is making a difference in the lives of many girls. As the only free, all girls preparatory high school in the state, GLAAZ gives a private school quality education without the huge expense.
It’s an education that Sakilae White, a GLAAZ senior, speaks highly of. She recommends other girls attend the school. “Yes I would recommend the Leadership Academy. Mainly if you are focused and if you really want to learn how to obtain leadership skills,” the active student said.
“I know a lot of girls come in thinking the school is something that it’s not. So just make sure you come in with a mindset of learning and obtaining all the information you can,” says White, who will be a senior this year.
White is excelling in the school, while participating in several school clubs and was the captain of the volleyball team last year. “I think I’m able to maintain my focus and voice my opinions without being ridiculed or laughed at. It’s really comfortable going to an all girls school and I don’t think any other high school has that,” concludes White.
“Our goal is to reach more girls and assist them in excelling academically,” says Dr. Kellie Warren, CEO of Florence Crittenton Services, a non-profit organization that has served Arizona’s girls and their families for over 100 years. Crittenton is the parent organization of GLAAZ.
Race should not be a barrier for all girls to receive a quality education,” she explained. Last year 33 girls graduated from the school and 100 percent were accepted to colleges. Dr. Warren noted, “I’m concerned with the graduation rate and drop-out rate in Arizona, which is one of the highest in the country.”
Education is the key to success in today’s world. It gives you options and opportunities you would not normally have. “It worked for my life,” Dr. Warren explained. All the girls take college credit courses at the academy. Some have ended up with 20 hours of college credits, giving them a big jump on their college career.
White’s goal is to be a pediatrician. She is looking to attend one of three Historically Black Colleges and Universities to study biochemistry then go on to med school. She has narrowed her choices down to three, North Carolina A&T, Spelman or Hampton.
According to the National Coalition of Girls Schools (NCGS), there are many benefits to single gender education, including high academic achievement, improved self-confidence, and increased college enrollment. The NGCS Young Alumnae Survey characterizes an all girls’ school as a place where academics come first in culture of achievement.
GLA’s mission is to provide young women an opportunity to achieve high school and college academic success simultaneously while nurturing self-confidence and developing leadership skills in an academically rigorous environment.
Pleased with the academy’s system, Sakilae’s parents are actively involved in the school activities, serving and volunteering in various capacities.
“They offer an academically challenging curriculum and get the most out of the students,” noted Danny White, her father, who is also an educator. “The teachers are very positive and supportive,” he said.
Her parents stated she chose GLAAZ. “She did her research on the school, then on two occasions went to shadow students and attend classes to determine if the curriculum was academically challenging for her,” her dad explained.
Impressed by the low student-to-teacher ratio, he continued, “In addition to the excellent learning environment, Girls Leadership Academy, as the name implies, allows and encourages girls to become leaders and positive social change agents. They really do promote ‘girl power’.”
In a short time span the school has accomplished a lot. Two years ago, six students participated in a STEM program that had them traveling to the prestigious MIT for a hands-on problem solving science invention competition.
To learn more about the Girls Leadership Academy of Arizona visit website www.glaaz.org