First of its kind, all-girls STEM charter school to serve minority students | St. Louis Public Radio

First of its kind, all-girls STEM charter school to serve minority students

Jun 15, 2015

Mary Stillman (left) and Robyn Wiens (right)
Credit Alex Heuer

According to studies, minorities are the most underrepresented when it comes to careers in science, technology, engineering and math. Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls, a STEM college preparatory school set to open in the fall of 2015, hopes to change the course of that statistic by preparing minority students for STEM careers while providing a single gender school setting.

Mary Stillman, the schools’ founder and executive director and a graduate of an all-girls school, decided to open the school after hearing about the success rate of an all-girls public school in New York.

“As a graduate of an all-girls school, I know the special qualities of an all-girls school,” Stillman said. “And I wanted to [bring] that model to St. Louis.”

Ann Tisch, founder of the Young Women’s Leadership Network upon which the Hawthorn school is modeled, explained that the school will focus on the following core values:

  • Health and Wellness
  • STEM
  • College Access
  • Summer Programing

“My original vision was to program the school year-round,” Tisch said. “But, I couldn’t pull it off politically or financially. So, to reduce the ‘summer melt’- the losing of knowledge over the summer- we try to [place students in summer programs].”

Robyn Wiens, principal of Hawthorn, said that although classes won’t be held year-round, one summer program the school will provide called the “Summer Bridge Program” will cater to incoming sixth and seventh grade students.

More important than the school’s curriculum is the opportunity it will provide for an inner-city neighborhood that has seen school closings and a continuous educational opportunity gap. The building that will house the school located at 1901 N. Kingshighway Blvd. once operated as a Catholic school for boys, but has been vacant for years.

“Our commitment to the neighborhood is one that is permanent,” Stillman declared. “Being in north city, there is a pronounced need for children to have excellent educational opportunities. There are studies showing the gap between students and quality [education], and there’s a very large gap in the northern part of St. Louis.”

“Math and science fields are grossly underrepresented by women,” Tisch added, “and it’s a trend that we’d like to buck. The key to unlocking a scientific mind is often a fabulous science teacher and access to science opportunities off campus.”

Related Event

Hawthorn School Open House

  • When: Saturday, June 20, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Where: Hawthorne School 1901 N. Kingshighway, St. Louis, MO 63113
  • More information

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.