Established in 1964, La Pietra School for Girls has many attractive attributes for families seeking a dynamic and unique, but also small and safe independent school for their daughters in grades 6 to 12. An outstanding college prep curriculum taught by caring and committed teachers. A serene, beautiful campus seeped in historic elegance on the slopes of Diamond Head. Rich and diverse co-curricular activities, ranging from student government and community service to fine arts and athletics, to allow each girl to discover her special interests.
But La Pietra’s strongest testament of what it can do for young women are its students. Take Rachel Briggs, a bright, engaging junior at La Pietra, whose self-confidence and intelligence can be felt immediately. It wasn’t always so.
“I was very shy in elementary school, but it wasn’t as if I didn’t have opinions and thoughts. I was afraid of expressing them for fear of being teased or sounding stupid,” says Rachel, who entered La Pietra in the 6th grade.
“I found La Pietra so special because of the interaction, inside and outside of class. It was not only okay to talk, but our teachers encourage and engage you so you learn how to express yourself. And I learned that it’s fun it to listen to other people’s ideas,” she says. Rachel enjoyed the school’s small classes, averaging 11:1 student-teacher ratios, because “we can have more discussion and interaction, but also a stronger sense of community.”
Rachel says the critical thinking skills she gained in class (“teachers expect us not to simply memorize information, but help us to research and come to conclusions”) found expression through her active participation in the school’s diverse campus clubs. Raised in Ka‘aawa, Waimea on the Big Island and other beautiful island communities and a vegan since age 12, Rachel was drawn to the Green Club, dedicated to environmental sustainability. As Green Club president, she discovered personal opportunities to give back to and take care of our islands’ natural beauty.
For her junior year independent project, she worked with another student to make La Pietra, already doing recycling, to become even more eco-friendly. Four new proposals resulted from their research and guidance from teachers – a worm composting site that now serves as a campus model; a xeriscape gardening project, featuring well-adapted native plants using less water; a school-wide awareness campaign reminding everyone to recycle through notices posted all over campus; and a long term project for the school to use biodegradable utensils and plates, instead of plastic, which can be added to campus compost sites.
“Students like Rachel make us proud of our efforts to foster their intellectual curiosity, leadership, creativity, confidence, respect and service to others as they grow into accomplished young women,” says Head of School Mahina Hugo. “Our creative, multidisciplinary approach to learning is not taught in isolation, but challenges students to make connections and communicate their new found knowledge – lifelong skills to enable them to be resourceful and contributing global citizens.”
As for Rachel, she spent the summer exploring college options before beginning her last year at La Pietra in the fall. Imagine what she’ll accomplish in her senior year and beyond.