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Winsor welcomes girls to imagine lives of possibility

10/12/2011, 2:08 a.m.
(Gustav Freedman photo) ...

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“Winsor is a place where everyone feels welcome,” said Julian Braxton, director of community and multicultural affairs at the Winsor School in Boston, a leading independent school for academically promising girls in grades 5-12. “It is a place where every girl can live out her possibility.”  

At Winsor, affinity groups are one powerful way in which the school lives out its ideals of welcome and support for girls from diverse backgrounds. Every spring, at Winsor’s end-of-year celebration of affinity groups, students gather with their families and teachers to reflect on how meaningful the groups are to them. “As we celebrate, we remember we are celebrating community,” Braxton said.

The evening puts the spotlight on Winsor girls. Presenters include students involved in SISTERS, short for Sharing Individual Stories Through Everyone’s RootS, a support system for girls of African American, Afro-Caribbean, Cape Verdean and Latina descent, and in AsIAm, a group for students of Asian descent.

“The best part,” explained Winsor sophomore Dorie Gordon, “is knowing that everyone is coming into the group with an open attitude and a willingness to understand each other. We bond with one another and share parts of ourselves and honestly become each other’s sisters.”

A Big Sister Program, a key part of SISTERS, kicks off each fall at an Inspiration Evening where older girls are matched as mentors to younger girls. From the start, “we try to teach girls how important it is to actively and positively define yourself,” Braxton added.

Each fall, the school’s Parent Network for Diversity (PND) also sponsors a “welcome” event of its own, helping new girls and their families feel at home at Winsor. Throughout the year, PND encourages dialogue in order to better understand and celebrate the rich cultural, racial, ethnic and economic diversity within the school.

Every day at Winsor, the school’s faculty and programs foster girls’ confidence and sense of “possibility.” At one year-end celebration, Tanya Lindsay ’03 returned to speak. President of her Winsor class, Tanya went on to become president of the Black Students’ Organization at Columbia University. “It is in this community I learned to speak up and speak out,” she reflected. “It is in this community I learned to be confident in myself.”

At Winsor’s graduation this past June, senior speaker Lisa Luo ’11 echoed that point. Now at Dartmouth College, she spoke of the empowering sense of being “at home” at Winsor and her own deep confidence in her classmates. “You are more amazing than you know,” she assured them. “I know in my bones that you will achieve greatness.”

Winsor’s lessons — and friendships — stay with girls for their lifetimes. The college choices of Winsor graduates reflect the strength of the school and its students. In the last five years, the colleges attracting the largest number of Winsor alumnae were Harvard, BC, Vanderbilt, Yale, Brown, Dartmouth, George Washington University and MIT. While college is in girls’ immediate futures, Winsor truly prepares them for life.

At Winsor, “what matters is what kind of women our students will become and that their futures are open to boundless possibilities,” explained Rachel Friis Stettler, the school’s director.

Located in Boston’s Longwood medical area, Winsor draws its 430 students from more than 50 communities. “We’re excited to share why Winsor is such a special place,” said Pamela Parks McLaurin, director of admission and financial aid and a Winsor graduate herself. When she talks to girls, she weaves a simple invitation into her conversations: “Challenge yourself. Enjoy yourself. Be yourself.”

The admission team looks carefully at every girl who applies, and seeks girls who will thrive here. Intellectual curiosity, academic ability, motivation, a generous spirit and a respect for difference are all part of what Winsor seeks.

SISTERS and AsIAm are two of many examples of community efforts at Winsor, each guided by the school’s Principles of Diversity. Those principles go hand and hand with Principles of Global Responsibility. Importantly, “Winsor acknowledges, supports and values the visible and not so visible areas of diversity,” added McLaurin.

To learn more, please call the Admission Office at 617-735-9503 or visit www.winsor.edu.