Girls Leadership Academy of Arizona

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Arizona’s first all-girls public charter high school is set to open. Yvonne Watterson, Head of School, talks about its curriculum that focuses on developing female leaders through service learning and civic engagement.


José Cárdenas: The first all-girls public charter high school is set to open in August. The girls' leadership academy of Arizona will have a special curriculum focusing on developing female leaders through service learning and civic engagement. With me to talk about this is Yvonne Watterson, principal of the new school. It's good to have you back on "Horizonte."

Yvonne Watterson: Good to be here. Thanks, José.

José Cárdenas: You've always been doing education related matters, this is one of the more exciting education matters.

Yvonne Watterson: Yeah, it's really exciting because it gives us in the charter school movement, give parents another choice. The choice this time is a public girls' school. Until this time, families who wanted to send their daughters to a single gender school were limited to parochial schools which are cost prohibitive for many families. For example, Xavier is, I think, $14,000 a year. So Florence Crittenton services of Arizona spearheaded the Crittenton bill last year enabling us to open the first single gender school.

José Cárdenas: You had to have special legislation to do an all one gender school?

Yvonne Watterson: That's correct.

José Cárdenas: Is there a perceived need?

Yvonne Watterson: I think so, if you look at the girls who sign up to attend Xavier, there are waiting lists of girls who can't get in and there are families who is talk to us when we go out and say, I'd love to send my daughter it a single gender school but we just can't afford it. We've been targeting primarily eighth grade students at title I schools.

José Cárdenas: The reference being to certain levels of income.

Yvonne Watterson: Yes. So we're looking at bright girls who just don't have of the assess to private college prep education. How many girls do you intend to enroll? Ultimately, our capacity is about 200. So if we could get a healthy freshmen class, 80 to 100 kids to help us build a culture of learning and leadership. That would be great. Again, capacity is 200, but we're actively seeking out eighth graders looking for this option, which until now wasn't available to them. The other really exciting thing about it is that, we're focusing on leadership and so part of our curriculum, the socioemotional part is the same program chosen for Oprah Winfrey's for her girl's leadership school in Africa, teaches self-confidence and those things and partnering with Phoenix college so we can remove some of those obstacles to a clean education and get them involved in college classes pretty early on.

José Cárdenas: The curriculum as I understand it will also focus on civic engagement?

Yvonne Watterson: What we found -- one of the study that's came from the national coalition of girls' school system, they found that women who had attended girls' schools were more likely to be politically active and confident in terms of public speaking and we want to partner with organizations such as Mi Familia Vota, and teach these young women how to get registered to vote and get others to vote and be involved in community life and require service learning toward graduation and really ultimately to see Phoenix as the classroom where bill can job shadow and pursue careers.

José Cárdenas: We've been running pictures on the screen while you were talking. Those are pictures of the facilities that will be available.

Yvonne Watterson: Uh-huh.

José Cárdenas: What about the funding for this?

Yvonne Watterson: Well we're a public charter school so we're funded just like every other charter school and we also have the advantage of being supported by the Florence Crittenton Services of Arizona and we have a wonderful supportive board of governors who is ready to move mountains and do what's necessary to spread the word and raise money philanthropically as well.

José Cárdenas: What will be measure of success?

Yvonne Watterson: Well I think since we're a charter school, it has to be what our statutory purpose says, which is, to improve student achievement. Four years down the road, we want to see our young women graduating exceeding what's expected of them, by state mandated tests. We want to see them in leadership positions, we want to see them partnering with women who are mentors in the community and coming back to mentor other ninth graders.

José Cárdenas: Yvonne, it sounds like a wonderful program, it gets underway in August?

Yvonne Watterson: Gets underway in August.

José Cárdenas: And we wish you the best on that and thank you for joining us on "Horizonte."

Yvonne Watterson: Thanks, so much, José.

José Cárdenas: Thank you. That's it for us tonight. For all of us here at "Horizon," I'm José Cárdenas. Have a good evening.

Yvonne Watterson:Principal, Girls Leadership Academy of Arizona;

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