Salem Academy – Girl Power for the Real World

photos by SAIL OFF PHOTOGRAPHY

Voted the number one best private high school in the Triad, Salem Academy is also the only boarding and day school exclusively for high school girls, located on a college campus – and with a STEAM focus. In 2022, the school celebrated its 250th Anniversary, and the future is brighter than ever as students here learn through the relevant processes of Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics, conversations truly relevant in today’s world!

While their college preparatory curriculum is a strong one, the magic formula behind the school’s success is providing a safe, supportive, nurturing and empowering community for girls in grades nine through 12.

“Students – especially girls – need time to talk about what’s going on in the world today,” explains Director of Enrollment Management Jessica Rogers. “We offer them a real sense of belonging, while guiding them towards finding their niche and cultivating their passion.”

Self-confidence and strong leadership skills are always goals at Salem Academy, with an added emphasis on wellness and emotions that help form well-rounded adults, with lifelong skills. 

“Through listening, learning and pouring ourselves into the Winston-Salem community, we meet our students right where they are – which is ready to learn and grow,” explains Jessica.

From the moment arriving students are sorted – Harry Potter style – into either the Purple or the Gold team (a designation they keep throughout their time in school), they know their lives are changed forever. 

The Faces of Salem Academy

With the boarding and day school numbers nearly equally divided (47% boarding, 53% day), this year’s student population at Salem Academy hails from Bulgaria, China, Dominica, Germany, South Africa and Ukraine. Within the United States, students are from California, Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and, of course, North Carolina.

“We’re incredibly proud that 100% of our students matriculate to college after graduation,” Jessica adds. “Last year’s graduating class earned more than $3,000,000 in merit scholarships to colleges and universities around the world. They were our “Covid class” – small, but extremely successful.”

Jessica has served as Director of Enrollment Management for seven years, with three years as Assistant Dean of Admissions at Salem College before that. Head of School, Kris Sorrells, is an alumna of Salem College, and a well-respected faculty member at Salem Academy for more than 20 years before taking over the Head of School role. The two schools share a campus, which allows students to earn credits from an actual four-year college during their time at Salem Academy, as well.

“Our community is purposefully small,” says Jessica. “Girls truly feel known here and are blessed with several layers of support around them at any given time. One hundred percent of the leadership positions at the school are held by females.”

Approximately 40% of students currently identify as people of color, and their socio-economic diversity is of particular importance.

“With our history rooted in serving the underserved, our goal is to provide education access to as many girls as possible,” says Jessica. “Our faculty and staff of 20 is specifically dedicated to teaching girls – that’s why we’re all here! We know how important it is to hire the right people.”

Stellar Academics 

With its carefully curated interdisciplinary curriculum, Salem Academy students also learn a great deal outside of the classroom through independent studies and often through interactions within the 20-plus campus clubs and organizations. From the STEM Club and service-oriented Key Club and Girl Up mentoring program to student government, literary pursuits, drama, debate and more, students are blessed with chances to interact with local organizations such as the Second Harvest Food Bank and the SECU Family House, as well as SECCA and generous opportunities within the Innovation Quarter.

An average class size at Salem Academy is 10, with some upper-level classes having only five or six students, and many AP and honors courses are available.

“In some cases, we are preparing girls for jobs that don’t even exist yet,” notes Jessica. “The world is changing quickly! We have two of the three all-girls robotics teams in the state – The Sisters of the Motherboard and the Code Sisters – all because, 10 years ago, a few students asked to learn coding. That’s how it started.”

Members of the Salem Academy teams enroll in year-long robotics courses which can be taken over multiple years. The courses include hands-on learning and instruction in the following areas: Engineering Design, Computer-aided design, 3-D Printing, JAVA Programming, STEM outreach, Robot creations and honors courses in computer science principles. In 2017, the team competed in the First Tech Challenge World Championships and ranked in the top 3%!

“Yes, women are still underrepresented in STEM-related careers, but we’re changing that,” Jessica points out. “Salem gives girls real access to science, technology, engineering and math. We do so through courses and activities like robotics and STEM camps.”

You’ll also find an emphasis on leadership starting early – as older students are regularly called on to mentor younger students. Tenth graders, for example, are required to design a “compassion service project” and pitch their ideas to ninth graders – then work together around the community in their chosen service area. The arts are also core to Salem’s programming, featured in both curriculum and student activities including theater (introductory and advanced courses all four years), visual arts (art design, advanced art and AP art) and music – through the school’s Acapella Club.

A History of Excellence

Established in 1772, Salem Academy’s Moravian founders believed strongly that girls were entitled to the same education as their male counterparts.

“Basically, we were educating girls when no one else would,” shares Jessica.

In the early years, Salem was schooled by the unmarried women of the Moravian community – known as the Single Sisters – a forward-thinking group, despite the times. In 1793, Anna Maria Samuel was the first enslaved person known to take classes and, in 1823, the first Native American students, Martha and Mary McNair. College-level courses were added in 1880.

The school’s rich history has also prompted many beloved traditions through the years, including Senior Vespers, a cherished holiday event, which consists of a candlelight choral service with seniors serving coffee and buns to attendees in the Moravian Lovefeast tradition. The Founders Day Convocation, held in the May Dell, celebrates the founding of Salem Academy and College and the convening of its first class of students by Elisabeth Oesterlein, Salem’s first teacher, and seniors wear their caps and gowns for the first time at this event.

And now, with more than 3,000 alumnae worldwide, the camaraderie between current and former students is stronger than ever, evidenced by ongoing support from alumnae in fostering community connections and internships. One especially favorite tradition that keeps the Salem spirit alive: Alumnae write letters of encouragement for students to read at Opening Chapel in the fall – the official start of the school year – and the beginning of a life-changing four years!

For more information on Salem Academy or to arrange a tour, email academy@salem.edu, or call 336.721.2643. Salem Academy is located at 601 S. Church Street, Winston-Salem, salemacademy.com and on Instagram @salemacademy. 

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