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Emma Willard School: Building Bold Leaders and Learners

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Who is Emma Hart Willard? 

Picture this: it’s the year 1814, and 27-year-old Emma Hart Willard is a teacher at a school for girls. Disappointed by the conditions and curricula, the bold and creative educator opens her own home and establishes a better schooling option for her students in a time when education was not a priority for girls.

More than two hundred years later, Emma’s commitment to a rich educational experience for girls is evident on the campus of the Emma Willard School in Troy, New York. Emma Willard School is a college-preparatory boarding and day school for girls in grades 9 through 12. Faculty and staff work to foster in each student a love of learning, the habits of an intellectual life, and the character, moral strength, and qualities of leadership to serve and shape their world.

Building Leaders of Purpose

Emma Hart Willard’s vision was bold, and Emma Willard School’s commitment to educating motivated, intellectually curious students is as strong as ever. Emma Willard School embraces three program pillars which guide the community to lead with purpose.

The first pillar is Intellectual Flexibility, which asks Emma students to consider big questions and work to solve big problems. Intellectual Flexibility allows Emma faculty to educate a generation of learners with the capacity to address the most pressing issues of their time.

The pillar of Purpose & Community guides Emma students toward personal wellbeing, self-exploration, and connection to others. The Emma Willard School curriculum fosters a sense of purpose in each student by emphasizing relevance, impact, and community connection.

The pillar of Equity & Justice exposes Emma students to the global and inclusive community to which they belong. Students focus on developing the skills necessary to build and sustain equity and justice in the world.

The program pillars have guided Emma’s faculty as they develop advanced course offerings that are unique to their students. Moving beyond AP™ courses, this curriculum is designed to offer what students most need from their high school experience to prepare them for college, careers, and civic life.

Learning and Laughing Outside the Classroom

Welcoming students from 38 countries and 21 states with a variety of talents and interests, the Emma community is vibrant and diverse. Sixty percent of students live on campus, and all are offered opportunities to expand their learning beyond the classroom. Clubs on campus range from PRIDE to Science Olympiad to Model UN and beyond. On weekends, Emma students immerse themselves in community engagement opportunities and local events, bond over cooking, crafts, and movies, and enjoy structured activities to enhance their high school experience. The historic tradition of Revels, a century-old theatrical performance reimagined by the senior class every year, is one of many bonds that tie generations of Emma alumnae together.

The Practicum program at Emma allows students to pursue personal passions, ranging from medicine to archery to fine art to aviation. This experiential learning extends to students who pursue Signature projects, a capstone program for juniors and seniors. Students have used Signature as an opportunity to work on cutting-edge biotechnology research, report for the Albany Times Union, and put social justice initiatives into action. Honoring the mission of Emma Hart Willard herself, students are encouraged to ask themselves, “How will you put your signature on the world?”

Emma Willard for Your Student

The benefits for students who attend girls’ schools are well documented. Compared to peers who attend coeducational schools, students at institutions focused on educating girls have been shown to experience higher levels of self-confidence, academic engagement, aspiration, motivation, and community support. Emma Willard School welcomes families to campus to “Experience Emma” first-hand. For more information, visit Emma Willard School’s website, emmawillard.org.

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