After reaching the top of the Odyssey at Camp Erdman, a group of seventh graders work together to navigate along the Tandem Zip Lines before decending.
Nestled in the heart of Kaimuki, Sacred Hearts Academy has been serving Oahu’s wahine population for more than 100 years. Founded by the Sacred Hearts Sisters in 1909, the Academy has gone beyond giving a quality education to empowering the minds and hearts of young women.
“When I think of Sacred Hearts, I think of girls with a voice,” says Head of School Betty White. “They are articulate … if called on, they can express themselves and are not afraid to speak up.”
Like other single-sex schools, the Academy did not begin with activism in mind. Development Director Andrea Hamilton, an alumna of the school, and White, an alumna of University of Mary Washington, previously an all-women’s college, said that single-sex education didn’t start as a political statement.
“Girls went here; boys went there,” says White. “But now, with women’s rights movement and feminism, the stars have aligned for all-girls schools.”
Sacred Hearts promotes a safe and open place for the students to express and challenge themselves. “Parents of today are in the position to make decisions giving their daughters the advantages single-sex education offers. It’s purposeful; it’s by design,” said Hamil-ton. The Academy believes that, without worrying about gender competition, the curriculum allows its students to gain confidence, promote advancements in STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and become lifelong learners and leaders. At the Academy, extracurricular opportunities like clubs, student government, volunteer work and campus ministry are available to students. “Our girls have all sorts of opportunities,” says Director of Student Activities Toni Normand. “They can shine in performing arts, design, robots, STEM, and they build a sisterhood among each other.”
About 50 percent of the student population is Catholic, but the morals the school’s Christian education instills in a young person draws students from all economic and cultural backgrounds to the Academy. “Sacred Hearts is not the real world, and it has little to do with it being single-gender,” says White. “We expect the girls to be kind to each other, to care for each other and for the community. It seems like a little utopia sometimes because the values that we try to instill, we attempt to live every day.”
“We’re trying to create the world we’d like it to be,” adds Hamilton.
With a 100 percent college rate, the Academy has become a pioneer for single-sex education. “We can teach them to be confident,” says White.
“We can teach them to be articulate; we can teach them to stand tall, with confidence. But the most important thing is they must be competent and compassionate, and that’s where our students are being noticed and making an impact.”