Oak Knoll Establishes Strategic University Partnerships

Oak Knoll students kicked off the 2022-23 school year with Dr. Rebecca Stilwell, Ph.D., an Organizational Psychologist and professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, who visited the campus as part of the Emerging Leaders Program.

In addition to the school’s signature leadership programs for middle and high school students, Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child has established strategic partnerships with Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania to ensure the entire senior class enters higher education with enhanced leadership confidence and students in grades 10-12 have the option of earning a certificate in Social Entrepreneurship.

“There are many incredible benefits to an all girl education, and that includes opportunities to build leadership skills that are tailored to the passions of our student population,” said Upper School Division Head Kate McGroarty. “All of our leadership programs empower young women in the Middle and Upper School to pursue ideas that they care about as a community. These expanded partnerships allow students to diversify the experience and interact with students in other schools and in the surrounding community. Whether you are developing as a leader with a capital ‘L’, or a leader with a small ‘l’, each student can find their place to test out leadership in that space. That’s such an important part of Upper School — learning how it feels to be a leader in this space.”

Emerging Leaders of a Globalized World 

All seniors at Oak Knoll participate in this program which runs from September to April. The program is facilitated by Dr. Rebecca Stilwell, Ph.D., an Organizational Psychologist and professor at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Leading in a continuously changing globalized world can be a challenge for even the most experienced leaders. This program is designed to support the further development of emerging leaders for existing leadership roles and those in the future. In a collaborative learning environment students develop an understanding of leadership theory and practice by working in learning teams on projects.They reflect throughout the process on their individual strengths and areas for development as well as reflect on the process of working collaboratively on a learning team. By increasing confidence in utilizing self-knowledge and fostering higher-level leadership skills, participants better serve their community both now and in the future.

Throughout the senior year, students participate in a monthly synchronous two-hour online learning session with Dr. Stilwell, they individually benefit from three one-hour executive coaching sessions with Dr. Stilwell, and they collaborate in smaller groups on their monthly Learning Team projects. More on the program is available in this program guide.

Social Innovators Program

The Upper School is excited to partner with the University of Pennsylvania and Schoolyard Ventures, an organization that develops university-level, real-world learning opportunities for ambitious high school students, to offer The Social Innovators Program for students in grades 10, 11, and 12.

The 12-week virtual program allows students to learn about social entrepreneurship and experience it first-hand, while earning a Certificate in Social Entrepreneurship from the University of Pennsylvania. Oak Knoll is one of only eighteen schools worldwide invited to participate in this unique initiative. During the program, students learn how to launch ventures of their own that create value and a positive impact on society. Students learn in small online classes and through engaging interviews and case studies with young entrepreneurs, with personalized one-on-one guidance and support along the way.

Because students choose their own projects, each student’s experience in the program is unique. The program runs from November 21 to February 24, with classes meeting virtually one evening per week. At the end of the program, students will present their work and participate in a virtual graduation. More on the program can be found here.

Oak Knoll’s Signature Leadership Programs

Grade 6 students during the Sixth Grade Leadership Retreat.

In addition to the school’s strategic parntership, Oak Knoll remains a school of choice for blossoming young leaders and entrepreneurs. Long-established signature Oak Knoll programs such as EmpowHER, Peer Leaders, and L.E.A.D, in the Upper School, as well as the sixth grade year-long Leadership Institute, provide a strong platform for cultivating leadership skills throughout the Lower School to Upper School continuum.


A unique Oak Knoll program that teaches girls to take risks, build confidence, and be themselves. It is based on principles outlined in “The Confidence Code for Girls” by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. The program is facilitated by grade 7 and 8 teachers and incorporates a variety of class bonding and self discovery activities. Learn more about EmpowHER.

Peer Leader Program

The Peer leader program comprises small groups of seventh and eighth, and ninth graders working with two seniors in each group. The Senior Peer leaders meet once a cycle. The meetings include discussions about social and academic pressures; relationships with peers, parents, and faculty; and any problems or concerns that need to be addressed. The younger girls develop a special rapport with their “older sisters” and emulate their behavior and attitude. Seventh and eighth graders gain a sense of comfort and belonging and more connectedness to the high school. Learn more about Peer Leaders.

L.E.A.D. Program

The Leadership Evaluation and Development (L.E.A.D.) Program aims to teach and discuss leadership with student athletes at Oak Knoll. Through speaker series, team workshops, and an extensive Captains Academy each summer, Oak Knoll students are exposed to leadership teaching throughout each season that transcends the playing surface. Learn more about L.E.A.D.

Grade 6 Leadership Institute

The purpose and goal of this course is to expose our students to the concept of leadership, provide them with the tools to identify the traits of leadership, and assist them in creating opportunities for leadership. This course meets once a week for a double period. Some of the specific areas of exploration include the following:

  • Who are leaders? 
  • What is leadership? 
  • How do you lead? 
  • What qualities should a good leader have?
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