In September, teachers Liza Enrich and Laurel Horn took six students to Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania to tour the school’s historic campus. The young women explored the dorms and historic classrooms and met with students and administrators. They were, for a few hours on a cloudy Saturday, integrated into the fabric of this prestigious women’s college. This college visit is just one element of Thurgood Marshall Academy’s Women’s College Cohort (WCC), now in its second year. Led by Chemistry Teacher Liza Enrich and Special Education Teacher Laurel Horn, both alumnae of Scripps College in Claremont, CA, the WCC exposes female students to the powerful impact of the women’s college experience.
During the first year of the WCC, three young women joined Ms. Enrich and Ms. Horn for weekend trips to regional women’s colleges, and gained additional mentorship and college interview practice. The initiative proved to be successful: Spelman, Bryn Mawr, and Barnard Colleges accepted a graduate from Thurgood Marshall Academy. This year, the WCC has doubled to six young women, all current seniors.
Thurgood Marshall Academy has a successful College Counseling Department – 100% of the school’s graduates have been accepted to college – yet Ms. Enrich and Ms. Horn observed “a void in opportunities to explore what women’s college had to offer. We wanted to broaden students’ perspective to what an all-women’s college could offer,” says Ms. Horn. WCC member Brianne Turner, TMA ’14, echoes this sentiment: “I decided to participate in the WCC because I didn’t have an idea as to what kind of college I wanted to attend. I felt this was a good opportunity to look into colleges and universities I would want to go to.”
Ms. Horn and Ms. Enrich began recruitment for the WCC in the spring. “We look for students with high SAT scores and high GPAs and we strive to expose them to some top tier schools, as many of these women’s colleges are,” says Ms. Enrich. After attending a preliminary information session, students “can submit an essay and be invited to an interview, after which we chose the final cohort for the school year.”
In 2013-14, Ms. Enrich and Ms. Horn invited 12 students to the WCC, six of whom are current members. These six young women attend weekly meetings where they practice interview skills with Ms. Horn and Ms. Enrich, work on building a pad-folio with writing samples, test scores, letters of recommendation, and revise their personal statements for all of their applications, not just to women’s colleges.
The WCC emphasizes the unique benefits of women’s colleges: these schools are often small, liberal arts colleges that have a “deep tradition of sisterhood,” observes Ms. Horn. This small-college setting, explains Ms. Enrich, “is really great for students coming from Thurgood Marshall Academy, which is a small high school, who are looking for that sense of community and cohesion.” Brianne noticed this sense of sisterhood during the Bryn Mawr visit. “There was a sense of community where you felt you could go to just about anyone on campus and get help. You can feel [the connection] to other students…and form a sisterhood that can help you later in life.”
For Brianne, the WCC has been a truly eye opening experience, and her peers in the cohort feel similarly – all plan to apply to at least one women’s college this year.