This month’s blog post is going to be a bit different. Saint Basil Academy, the all-girls high school I attended, unfortunately closed earlier this month. Therefore, I am dedicating this month’s post to how attending this school shaped me into the woman I am today.
Saint Basil Academy high school was established in Jenkintown in 1931 by nuns from the Ukrainian Catholic Sisters of Basil the Great . For 90 years, young women could attend grades 9th through 12th here. There was an entrance admission exam to be accepted since this is a college preparatory school and included annual tuition. This exam also helped the leaders decide who would be receiving a scholarship to attend and I am very fortunate to say that I scored well enough to receive one of these scholarships.
This was a small school: my graduation class was 93 students and this last senior class was only 60 students. Basil’s was definitely unique in other ways as well: everyone had to study Ukrainian as well as several classes on music theory. We also had annual traditions including Forgiveness Day to the Community Day where the seniors would construct a Slip N’ Slide out of tarps, water and soap. Throughout these four years, I really learned what it meant to be my authentic weird self and like myself for who I am. Plus some of my closest friends are my former classmates from Basil’s!
In the classroom, I was inspired particularly by my science teachers and their passion for the topics that they taught. I particularly credit my AP Bio Teacher, Mrs. Soley, for starting my engineering career path as she was the one who suggested that I attend the Engineering Girls Camp at a local college during my senior year. The academics at Basil’s challenged me and taught me crucial skills that I took into college, particularly studying engineering.
The school’s mission was to leave things better than you found them through service and compassion, and I have definitely taken that into my professional and personal life. One of my favorite volunteering experiences in high school was being a counselor for Camp Ophelia. Camp Ophelia is a week-long program for girls in middle school to teach them about relational aggression especially between girls, how to better relate to each other and be a better friend, and provide them with skills to overcome relational aggression whether they’re the aggressor (bully), the victim (target), or the bystander.
Basil’s taught me so much beyond the classroom as well! Through playing Soccer my first year and Tennis my remaining three, I learned time management skills that I needed to balance weekly practices and games with homework and other assignments. I also worked on developing teamwork skills and playing to the strengths of my teammates (or doubles partner for tennis) which has helped me both in college and now as an early career professional.
Basil’s also gave me the opportunity to continue my love of performing arts as I was a cast member for all the Fall Plays and Spring Musicals throughout my four years. My senior year was also 100 years since the Titanic sank, so for our Fall Play honored their stories and the lives that were lost. We even got to write our own short monologues that we could base off historical passengers of this ship. Our senior year, we did the musical “Bye Bye Birdie” (hence the blog title) where I played larger than life Gloria Rasputin and really had to get out of my comfort zone to play her.
Thank you to those who contributed to making my high school experience positive, helping me apply to colleges, and prepare for my associated interview. I am grateful for the teachers who encouraged me to choose engineering as my college major as well as those who saw my potential when I didn’t see it myself.
While the physical school building on Fox Chase Road will be no longer, the memories and friendships I had made there will be with me forever. I hope to continue the legacy of Basil’s by leaving things better than I found them and particularly help others on their STEM journey!