Every Girl Can Be a Leader

Leadership holds a top spot among the Seattle Girls’ School’s cultural priorities, with opportunities galore and an extraordinary culture of participation. Each sixth grader must lead a community meeting, not just standing up and speaking, but choosing a topic and designing the agenda. Turning schools’ usual practice upside down, seventh graders lead both the younger and older students as elected school officers, leaving what school head Rafael del Castillo wryly calls the “wise and retired” eighth graders to concentrate on their final year’s classes and experience. “The best part is that ninety percent of the seventh graders run for office,” says del Castillo, giving rise to a culture of both participation and a resilience after a loss. “Girls need to be stretched, and sometimes it’s great when you fail,” del Castillo notes. Students have many opportunities to present and speak publicly. Girls take the role of admission ambassadors completely out of the hands of teachers, greeting visitors and answering questions even during classes, and each eighth grader leads the presentation of her culminating project. “We want to contradict the notion of the born leader,” says del Castillo. “We were founded on the proposition that every girl can learn to be a leader, whether in her family, her own life, her community, or in the world.”

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