YWA is first girls-only high school in EPISD
(YOUNG WOMEN’S STEAM RESEARCH & PREPARATORY ACADEMY -- Aug. 22, 2019) — EPISD has a new high school this school year, and this one is fueled solely by the power of women.
Young Women’s STEAM Prep, the District’s all-girls school, enrolled its first-ever class of freshwomen this school year. The Class of 2023 will lead the way year by year until the school becomes a full-fledged high school serving sixth- through 12th-graders.
The country’s only single-gender New Tech campus offers girls a unique opportunity for rigorous academics but also the opportunity to participate in UIL sports and extra-curricular activities. Many of the girls have been students since the school opened and they were sixth-graders. The school has added a grade each year and will do so until it becomes a full high school.
“This is their second home,” Principal Dr. Cynthia Ontiveros said. “They already know our staff, our facilitators, and each other. So, when they came this year, they didn't skip a beat. It’s not a drastic change like going to a brand-new school or having to make brand new friends.”
Even though this year marks their entry into high school, the ninth-graders have already accumulated algebra and language high-school credits – setting them up for intern and externships once they become upperclasswomen.
“We offer a full package where they still have the experiences that a typical high school would have minus the coed environment,” Ontiveros said.
The staff worked with the students to determine interests to ensure the girls’ needs are met. “We are trying our best to make sure that we're catering to those interests and meeting their needs academically, personally and professionally.”
The specialty campus, which opened with sixth and seventh graders in 2017, provides the students with an academically rich environment while also nurturing a close-knit bond among girls.
“Moving up grades, I have grown really close to my classmates,” said Sophia Tovar, who enrolled as a seventh-grader. “We’re going to graduate together and go to colleges. It’s the dream I want. That’s why I wanted to continue here with these girls because all of us together will push each other to be our best.”
She sees other benefits noting an academic atmosphere free from boys and a smaller cohort. The transition to high school was easy for her but she’s already experiencing the rigors of a high school class load.
“It is different from middle school but good different,” Sophia said. “This is going to help us be prepared for the work that we are going to receive.”
The comradery among the girls is key to freshman Hannah Conner.
“Everybody gets along,” Hannah said. “We interact and communicate with each other and we get more opportunities than you do in other middle and high schools because we’re a small school. I love the people here. I love my teachers, my principal and our facilitators. It’s really been good for me.”
The entry into high school also brings a whole new ball game when it comes to athletics. The campus hired Laura Pacheco, a former assistant at Chapin High, as head volleyball and softball coach and Jermaine Williams, former assistant Andress High, as head basketball coach. Both coaches will grow their respective freshman teams into the varsity level. Already, they’re competing in volleyball with other freshmen at 6A schools.
“The girls are amazing here and I look forward to developing them from the ground up,” Pacheco said. “We are looking to see how they can develop athletically in addition to the academics here – to develop their mental strength and empower them.”
Throughout the county, Ontiveros promotes the perks of her small, single-gender campus with a STEAM focus. She hopes the concept appeals to more girls as the school continues to accept transfers for all grade levels available.
“I think being small allows us to form stronger bonds,” Ontiveros said. “While it's still very competitive as far as making sure they're meeting their marks, they still help each other to make sure that everybody at the school is successful.”
Photos by Leonel Monroy