Teacher Nina Slote shapes young scientific minds at Young Women's Leadership Academy. Photo by Bekah McNeel.
Teacher Nina Slote shapes young scientific minds at Young Women's Leadership Academy. Photo by Bekah McNeel.

Young Women’s Leadership Academy’s (YWLA) star is growing even brighter within the education constellation of Bexar County. The public all-girls academy was one of 335 public and private schools in the country to win the U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon designation for 2015.

The department awards the Blue Ribbon designation to elementary and secondary schools for one of two accomplishments. YWLA was among the 303 recognized for exemplary high performance. An additional 35 schools were recognized for their work to close achievement gaps among student subgroups.

Only 28 Texas schools received the designation, and YWLA is the only school in Bexar County to receive the Blue Ribbon in 2015.

The designation comes at a time when SAISD is on the brink of ambitious changes, particularly aimed at high achieving students. Increased rigor and high academic expectations are key to the success of YWLA. One can expect similar standards to evolve across the district as superintendent Pedro Martinez moves toward his district goals.

“As we work to redefine excellence throughout our district, their success is a great example of what we hope to achieve,” Martinez stated in a news release.

As an in-district charter school YWLA draws students from across Bexar County. However its presence within the SAISD boundaries provides a touchstone for the progress district leadership is seeking.

While they were recognized simply for their top tier academic performance, measured by state and national assessments, YWLA is also working toward bolstering specific academic fields. The academy focuses of math, science and technology – fields in which women are underrepresented.

“YWLA’s focus on science, math, and technology equips students with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the evolving global economy,” stated U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-20th District). “Graduates from YWLA are not only college-ready, they are poised to be leaders in whichever career they choose to pursue. I applaud the entire YWLA community and the example they set for schools across the United States.”

In a seeming paradox of empowerment, the confidence the girls gain in an all female environment will prepare them to succeed in fields where they will be the only woman in the room. They are encouraged not only to develop their academic skills, but the kind of gracious determination that will prevail against doors that were once tightly shut.

“We know that our school requires exceptional self-motivation, grit and perseverance, and our students demonstrate these characteristics consistently as they exceed expectations daily,” stated principal Delia McLerran.

Girls at YWLA have long expressed the freedom they feel in the competitive, all girls environment. Without pressure from less-ambitious peers or distraction from boys, the girls thrive on the support of their “sisters” and the expectations of their teachers. Success is not a zero sum game at YWLA. The girls inspire and challenge each other with each personal accomplishment.

A Blue Ribbon designation is proof that this attitude has permeated the school, resulting in a community of motivated, promising young women.

Those who know the work ethic and motivation of the girls on the YWLA campus would agree that the 2015 Blue Ribbon is probably one of many accolades to come. These girls are unstoppable.

 *Top image: Teacher Nina Slote shapes young scientific minds at Young Women’s Leadership Academy. Photo by Bekah McNeel.

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Young Women’s Leadership Academy Up For Blue Ribbon

Coming Soon: Young Men’s Leadership Academy

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Bekah McNeel is a native San Antonian. You can also find her at her blog, FreeBekah.com, on Twitter @BekahMcneel, and on Instagram @wanderbekah.