Why did you choose The Ellis School for your daughters?
JS: When I started at Ellis as a part-time teacher, I was immediately impressed by both the quality of the faculty and the education students received. Ellis was a school that had a challenging, highly academic curriculum and a warm, nurturing community environment. It was really that unique combination that made me want to send our daughters here.
BS: We both went to public school, so we had long conversations about what it would be like to send our daughters to a private, all-girls school. But once Jeri started working at Ellis, we quickly saw what Ellis graduates were like as we interacted with them as babysitters, and that helped us make our decision. We watched these young women mature and grow at Ellis, and they were just so darn impressive—academically, athletically, the works. The way I describe Ellis girls to folks is that these girls know no limits, no boundaries—there are no preconceived notions about what they can and cannot do. They know their value and their worth.
What do you value in an education for your daughters?
BS: A space that tests their limits. Our daughters are more creative souls and Ellis has really challenged both sides of their brain—they reward that and afford the opportunity for girls to be both scholars and artists. Because of that, the girls are more well-rounded individuals. I was also looking for a school that fostered skills you can’t necessarily teach, things like effort, persistence, resilience.
JS: An education that appropriately challenges them. I wanted our daughters to learn how to recover from failures and setbacks. Some girls get to college and have never experienced a bad grade—so when they finally do encounter adversity, they have no idea how to bounce back. At Ellis, girls have room to fail and recover from that failure while still succeeding academically.
What do you think the advantages are to Ellis’ all-girls environment?
JS: Our daughters learn they can do whatever they set their mind to—there’s no such thing as things that boys are good at and things that girls are good at—they aren’t met with those limitations. Instead, they learn to stand up for themselves and others. They learn about women’s issues and how to voice their opinions so they are very intolerant of misogyny and chauvinism. Had they not gone to an all-girls school, they may be more susceptible to accommodating a man or a boyfriend because of peer pressure or popularity—all of those things that come into play in adolescence. At Ellis, they don’t have to be anything other than themselves, because there’s no one else they are trying to impress.
BS: If I were to distill the experience, it comes down to a question: what values do you want for your daughter? Do you want her to be a self-sufficient and confident future leader who can think for herself? Or do you want her to potentially be sidetracked by the peer pressure and stigma that invariably happens at the most impressionable stage of her life? Because in an all-girls environment, she’s going to establish those skill sets that make her a strong, confident, and self-sufficient young woman.
What do your daughters love about Ellis?
BS: The access to the teachers, the nurturing atmosphere, the opportunities that are afforded to them. Particularly Olivia, she talks a lot her Ellis family—her field hockey family, her lacrosse family, and the Ellis community as a family—she feels very much apart of the broader Ellis culture and community.
JS: They both have loved the opportunity to have close friends in other grades. Because some of the classes are mixed, like photography or math, the girls have had the opportunity to form strong friendships outside of their class. Of course, this also happens through sports, but I think that’s something really unique to Ellis.
What do you hope your daughters will get out of their Ellis experience?
BS: It’s those unteachable skills—confidence, persistence, work ethic—that they will need most when they leave the nest. They’ve learned a lot through not only academics, but athletics. Sports have taught them how to manage a rigorous workload and balance their tasks successfully, which is something they’ll need to do in their careers someday.
How have you seen your daughters grow at Ellis?
JS: I still remember when Olivia was in the kindergarten play and she ran off the stage crying because she was so nervous to be up there. By the time she was in fourth grade, she was one of the leads in the Lower School musical. In just a few years, she went from that girl who was incredibly scared and vulnerable to a confident and thoughtful young performer. That was just one experience that showed us she has the poise, wherewithal, and self-awareness to navigate difficult circumstances and come out on the other side.