The Value of a Single-sex Education

I was primarily raised by my father, I have two brothers—one older, one younger—and I went away to a co-ed boarding school at the tender age of 11, where I discovered that I liked boys…A LOT.

So you can imagine my distress, when in my junior year of high school, I wound up at an all-girls boarding school in Middlebury, CT.

My first year there I was somewhat aloof and disengaged. By my second and final year, I became more involved, befriended more like-minded classmates and was beginning to see the benefits of attending an all-girls boarding school whilst having a mother that lived and taught at an all-boys boarding school an hour away (did I mention I had a car at school? And, though it was supposed to seat only five passengers, on a good day it could hold up to seven?)

Anyway, as is the case with boarding schools, where all of your friends live far away to begin with, at the end of our senior year, we all parted ways and went off to college.

Of my closest group of friends, I went the furthest, attending a liberal arts college in Memphis, TN and then afterward, moved to Japan for a few years. But, as time passed, so too did my misconceptions of the value and quality of a single-sex education.

Through the years I remained in touch with my good friends from high school but it wasn’t until I returned to the States and settled back in the Northeast that I got back in touch with the school itself.

It started off slowly at first and then built momentum. Seven years ago, I got invited to join the Alumnae Board of Governors for the school and quickly got swept up into chairing committees, co-hosting events, organizing activities for the school’s Centennial Celebration and interweaving my way into an incredible, multi-generational network of fellow Westover alumnae who have become my role models, my inspiration and my friends.

I like to joke that, even though I graduated from Westover, I didn’t learn to fully appreciate the  education I got there until much later. Now, I look back on my brief time there and each year, my appreciation for those two-years grows exponentially.

My graduating high school class had 37 students. If you’re reading this and attended public school, I’m sure you’re laughing and assume that we must have all been intimately good friends but that’s not the case.

As in any microcosm, we categorized ourselves the same way the rest of the world does: there were jocks, princesses, brainiacs, jokers, druggies and socialites.There were kids from privileged backgrounds and kids from underserved communities. There were kids from far, far away and kids from down the street. We didn’t all get along but we all learned to live, somewhat harmoniously together under one roof.

But, now that we are all 20 years out, most of those lines have blurred and we recognize that our uniting similarities far outweigh our sophomoric differences.

What I really learned from Westover, what I’m learning still, is that girls are social creatures. We have a pack mentality and we need one another to survive.

As a wife, when I have a bad day I have two options, I can either 1) turn to my husband who will inevitably try to solve all of my problems for me (God bless him) or, 2) I can turn to my girlfriends who will let me vent, empathize with me and possibly even throw me some life lines to get me through tomorrow (at the very least, one of them will pour me a drink).

DH and I joke that when men need to solve a problem, they go into their caves and do cave drawings. When women need to solve a problem, they go out and sit by the bonfire (of course this is directly cribbed from our cliff note reading of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus back when we first started dating but hey, the image works for us).

So though Westover may not have catapulted me into an Ivy League college, I nonetheless feel my education there was Ivy League-caliber. Of my closest friends, all of them are pursuing their dreams. They’ve risen in the fields of medicine, architecture, museum studies, advertising and law.

Some of them have opted out of those fields to pursue their next big adventure: kids. Others have opted out because their first path was a wrecking ball and now they’re finding a better way. In my opinion, our school succeeded in its goal:

Westover provided an environment that inspired the intellectual, artist, athlete, and philosopher in each student. Westover challenges young women to think independently, to embrace diversity, and to grow intellectually and spiritually. Westover encouraged in each student integrity, responsibility, and commitment to community.

I consider myself deeply fortunate and blessed to have been given an education like the one I had at Westover. I am doubly grateful that the school also had the god sense to remain all-girls, providing me with the valuable tools I would need to succeed out in the world: life-long friends.

What have been some of your most valuable school experiences? If you had it all to do over again, would you change anything?

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