From an early age, children thrive when their intellectual, spiritual, emotional, social and community needs are nurtured. As they grow, these critical components support their adolescent and young adult discoveries of who they are as individuals. At Academy of the Sacred Heart in Bloomfield Hills, students in the Upper School are immersed in just such an environment.
At Academy of the Sacred Heart, students of many cultures and faiths gain a Catholic, college-preparatory education for girls (infant-grade 12) and boys (infant-grade 8). To educate the whole child, Sacred Heart’s five goals build a foundation of academic, spiritual and social life.
Through personal and active faith in God, respect for intellectual values, social awareness that impels to action, building of community as a Christian value and personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom, young women in the Upper School (Grades 9-12) benefit from a holistic framework for their world, their communities, their choices and their lives.
“Through our school’s five fundamental goals, our small-by-design classes, experiential learning and immersive programming, our young women are better able to know themselves,” says Linda Kozler, Upper School director and director of girls education at Sacred Heart. “Our community enables students to really understand one another in a way that is much deeper and richer than anything I have ever seen. There’s a strong sense of connection.”
Reflecting the five goals daily
In a video that introduces the relevance of these five goals, Upper School students at Sacred Heart speak eloquently about how they listen to and value one another, why a strong sisterhood sustains their academic and spiritual goals and how they’re challenged to think critically and serve in leadership roles. They explain how their voices are heard in the small, connected community. And they share stories of their own personal growth when they are trusted to make responsible decisions.
The students accurately describe life in the Upper School, Kozler says, where young women thrive in a unique environment of trust. “I’m completely sold on single-gender education,” she says. “Here, girls trust one another. They build each other up rather than vying with each other. I’ve taught at three all-girls schools and Sacred Heart is the pinnacle. Here, students learn to see through a lens the value and importance of women leaders and how we need to help one another.”
Through this lens, Kozler says students build authentic relationships that benefit the whole community. “Because they deeply know one another and trust and work collaboratively with each other, all competition falls away. They genuinely care,” she says. “It’s quite stunning to watch how they all work extra hard to bring everyone up to speed if someone falls behind. It’s deeply inspiring.”
And, because Sacred Heart’s Upper School is single-gender, young women represent every student leadership role, from student body president, to class president, to best math student, best athlete, best writer and on and on. “To have female role models among your peers is a huge thing and teaches students a lot about how to celebrate each other,” Kozler says, adding that students also see many women in leadership roles among the faculty, administration and larger Sacred Heart Network. “It’s so critical in this day and age for adolescent girls to see role models represented in many areas of leadership.”
Fostering spiritual life
Each student at Sacred Heart’s Upper School is encouraged to grow a personal faith, whether that means following Catholic tradition or not. Classes that focus on Catholic history, for instance, broaden to a larger theology that invites students to recognize spiritual moments through an individual filter, Kozler explains.
“We create an environment where there is room every day for spirituality to be addressed and fed and nourished and grown,” Kozler says. “We want to be a place where any student who is searching and interacting with that part of her life can ask questions and explore safely so we guide and mentor and encourage that searching.”
As part of a worldwide network of Sacred Heart schools, Upper School students at Academy of the Sacred Heart share the same educational mission with peers from Uganda to Australia to Peru — more than 150 schools in 41 countries. “One of the gems about our schools is that our students have global opportunities. During sophomore year they can do an exchange and live with a family to experience a different expression of the same Sacred Heart core,” Kozler explains.
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, students have been able to connect virtually with students across the country, and, as time differences allow, across the world. Conversations have a common theme, says Kozler. “They talk about social action and ask each other how they are living this at their school,” she says. “They share ideas and get excited. They really love meeting girls from other Sacred Heart schools because it broadens their view. They are able to touch the world in a way that others don’t.”
Learn more about the Upper School at Academy of the Sacred Heart, Michigan’s oldest independent school. Visit www.ashmi.org.