Catholic girls’ high schools unite at new fest

They hailed from St. Scholastica, St. Mary’s Academy, the Academy of the Sacred Heart, Academy of Our Lady, Ursuline Academy, St. Mary’s Dominican, Mount Carmel Academy and Xavier University Preparatory School. Their common bond: womanhood.
    Students from these schools shared three hours March 23 “Celebrating Yesterday, Growing from Today and Coming Together for Tomorrow” at the inaugural Young Women’s Fest held at Mount Carmel Academy.

Representatives from each school gave a brief presentation detailing the school’s history, motto, school spirit and what’s enjoyable about the school.
    Everyone discovered the unity in the diversity of the schools as similarities began appearing in activities such as gym day, faith opportunities, the strength of education and closeness of students.
    “The schools and the environments are not that much different as people might think,” Xavier Prep junior Ashley Sutton said. “Everyone has the same teenage feelings.”
    Promoting power and unity was the goal, said committee member and Mount Carmel senior Collette Tilly.
    “We’re coming together learning about each other’s heritage, the history of the schools and learning about present issues we have in our history and society and using them to impact our future.”

Guest speaker Robin Pittman, a lawyer and Orleans Parish Criminal Court judge who is a Mount Carmel Academy alumna, spoke to the girls about determination and belief in oneself even against seemingly insurmountable odds. She told them to work hard at whatever they do, never give up and hold on to their faith.
    “There are so many things that you are capable of doing as females, whether you are Caucasian or African American. … We (women) have come a long way,” she said. “We are still paving the way for you. We could have 12 female judges if you just put your mind to it. … Once you decide whatever it is you want to do, be prepared. There are going to be setbacks. … You have to work hard and convince yourself you have the capabilities to work beyond your limitations.”
    Students participated in breakout sessions where they shared their joys and struggles in and out of school as teenage girls, their goals and dreams in life and how they can make a difference. They came up with the target words  –  fearless, positivity, be proud, have hope, stand out – to empower them to make a change.
    The fest goal was to help young women realize their power to create positive change in the world. By working together with a common focus, change is possible.
    “We all have goals and will be challenged. I know we can accomplish our goals,” one student said. “Be who you are, don’t be scared; change the world by doing what we can,” another said.
How it started

Judith Carter, moderator of the Diversity Club and religion teacher at Xavier Prep, said the idea for the event materialized after her club members met several girls from Mount Carmel Academy’s Multi-Cultural Club at a diversity conference at the Jewish Community Center and a “Getting to Know You” event at Xavier Prep. The two clubs desired to do more together and formed committee.
    Thirteen girls began meeting on Saturdays and after school to plan an event that would be open to all Catholic girls’ high schools in the New Orleans area. The committee chose to hold the event during March, which is “National Women’s Month.”
    “What I hope and am already seeing is that there is unity in diversity,” Carter said. “When we look for the strength in one another and celebrate the gifts that each one brings to the table, all things are possible. … These activities give the girls the environment to grow by interacting with other schools and realizing that we all have the same things in common and the same hopes and dreams.” 
    “I was encouraged and empowered by girls from a variety of schools,” Xavier Prep senior Nia Foster said.

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