Before I could have a say in my education or know what was best for me, my parents made the decision to send me to an independent all-girls school. Looking back, my seven-year-old self had no idea of all the memories, knowledge, and close friendships that I would gain over the next thirteen years because of that decision.
I found my all-girls school, The Ellis School in Pittsburgh, to be a place filled with community, opportunity, and encouragement. Far too often, girls’ schools are seen as teeming with drama, but the reality is very different from the preconceived idea that many outsiders have. I’m writing this because I want to set the record straight.
Take, for example, the elementary school girls I had the chance to babysit and spend time with—the curiosity that sparkles in their eyes is so authentically Ellis. Each of the girls presents a boldness about herself that allows her to shine in her most genuine light. Their keen awareness of their ability to teach me something, despite our difference in age, is a trait that is veritable to an all-girls environment. They take every opportunity to showcase their passions and talents. Furthermore, there is no hesitation to take on the role of a leader or educator because, at a young age, they are instilled with the idea that their capabilities are limitless. They are able to fabricate scavenger hunt lists, choreograph complex handshakes, play the steel-pan drum, draw lifelike illustrations, blissfully enjoy many books, and much more.
These bold, young Ellisians already possess the traits of a leader, and they demonstrate that by simply being themselves. This quality not only withstands time but certainly grows stronger as they age. I have watched this same glimmer in my friends’ eyes transform into a spark that ignites curious students, dedicated athletes, passionate artists, and fearless leaders.
As I look back on my time at an all-girls school, I am struck by how much my peers and teachers genuinely wanted to see me, and my classmates, succeed. It is inspiring when everyone around you is deeply invested in your personal success and growth. For example, in my sophomore year, I really wanted to join the data science club, Data Jam, but the first meeting only consisted of me and one other student in attendance. Once I expressed my interest in this club and my disappointment that there likely would not be enough participation to see the club run this year, many of my friends gladly joined. They joined because they knew how much I wanted to see this club flourish—my friends wanted to see me flourish. From pep rallies to performances, my all-girls community consistently supported, showed up for, and shared their love with me and each other.
Our teachers fostered an open, accepting classroom, facilitated conversations, and encouraged us to be vocal about our ideas and opinions. We were emboldened to raise our voices and speak up against things we disagreed with. Classroom discussions sometimes transformed into a debate, often by one student countering another’s statement. This was never meant maliciously, but rather provided space for us to expand the conversation and taught us to craft our own perspectives while being respectful and mindful of others. One defining quality of an all-girls education is that each girl truly learns to respect herself and her voice; she knows that her voice valid and her most authentic self is deserving of space. Even outside of the classroom and in the “real-world”, an Ellis girl’s potential is plentiful and impact is ubiquitous.
As I gathered my things to move across the country for college, I realized that, for the first time in my life, I would soon share a classroom with not just girls. I promised myself before I arrived on campus that I would still take the same risks, ask probing questions, and participate in class discussions. Why? My time in an all-girls setting taught me to be bold and daring, and to never shy away from using my voice.
This post was written by Alison Lee Taylor, a 2019 graduate of The Ellis School in Pittsburgh, PA. Alison attended Ellis for her entire educational experience and is currently a freshman at Chapman University in Orange, California.