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A Winsor education means the world to girls

10/11/2013, 6 a.m.
Winsor’s small size lets each girl build deep friendships and feel a bond with everyone at her grade level. From fifth-graders to seniors, girls develop unity and spirit as a class through retreats, trips and traditions. Margaret Lampert photo

“Just think about the different cultures, languages and neighborhoods of our city,” reflects 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. “In many ways, we don’t have to go far for a global experience.”

In its mission of preparing girls to “contribute to the world,” Winsor opens girls’ eyes in countless ways. Students build global competencies at every level of the curriculum, including in cutting-edge nonwestern courses. Learning opportunities extend into many aspects of school life, from global speaker assemblies to lunchtime cultural celebrations to international trips and exchanges that take girls as far away as China and India.

“In a world that is so global, where the possibilities for connection are endless, being grounded is more important than ever,” says Claire Pasternack Goldsmith, a 2001 Winsor graduate, at a September celebration of the 21st-century building and learning plans unfolding at the school. “One must be grounded to be groundbreaking.”

Winsor alumnae such as Goldsmith have been breaking new ground in their fields for more than a century. This year, Winsor broke ground itself on a transformative building project. Opening in 2015, the new building will double the school’s educational space with extensive arts, wellness and athletic facilities and state-of-the-art classrooms.

Every space will focus on skills that promising girls will need to thrive in the future.

The campus plans will anchor Winsor in its dynamic neighborhood, the Longwood medical area of Boston. Winsor draws its 435 students from the city and more than 50 surrounding communities.

The school strives to be “a place where everyone feels welcome,” Braxton adds. Affinity groups are a 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.

The evening puts the spotlight on Winsor girls. Presenters include students involved in Sharing Individual Stories Through Everyone’s RootS, or SISTERS, 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,” explains one Winsor student, “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.”

Through a Big Sister Program, older girls are matched as mentors to younger girls. From the start, “we try to teach girls the importance of actively and positively defining yourself,” Mr. Braxton adds.

Each fall, the school’s Parent Network for Diversity also sponsors a welcoming event, helping girls and families feel at home at Winsor.

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

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, Boston College, Vanderbilt, Yale, Brown, Dartmouth, George Washington University and MIT. While college is in girls’ immediate futures, Winsor truly prepares them for life.

“We’re excited to share why Winsor is such a special place,” says 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. Intellectual curiosity, academic ability, motivation, a generous spirit and a respect for difference are all part of what Winsor seeks.

On Nov. 8, the school’s annual Admission Open House will offer interested families a firsthand glimpse of Winsor girls and teachers in action on a typical day.