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Forming the Future: Elizabeth Seton Academy, Dorchester

By Donis Tracy Pilot Correspondent
Posted: 5/13/2016

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Elizabeth Seton Academy will begin a new initiative with next year's incoming freshman class that will focus on the medical arts. Pilot photo/courtesy Seton Academy

DORCHESTER -- Elizabeth Seton Academy, the only remaining all-girl Catholic high school within the city of Boston, is launching a new initiative to help supply their students with the tools to become leaders in the fields of science and engineering.

This new initiative, which is set to begin with next year's incoming freshman class will focus on the medical arts -- allowing students to delve into topics such as medical ethics, neuroscience and genetics while at the same time maintaining traditional high school subjects like algebra, calculus, English and theology.

"We have made a decision to incorporate a Medical Arts track into our already college prep curriculum because, as it has been widely acknowledged, there is a very distinct lack of women in leadership in these fields," explained Gregory O'Neill, Seton Academy's director of advancement. "It's all about filling a need."

"We filled a need when we opened this high school in 2003. We fill a need when we give these young women a great high school education. We fill a need when we give them a hot meal every day," he continued. "Well, now there's a need -- a need for women in the technology and engineering fields. Seeing that need, we are pivoting towards it to try to fill that need."

"This Medical Arts track is going to give our girls some options," echoed Patricia Bulman, director of mission and development. "In order to succeed in these fields, you need more than just luck, you have to have something substantial in your background that helps you to stand out."

"We are trying to give them the help they need to do so," she added.

The Medical Arts curriculum has been created with the help of an advisory council made up of area college professors and "esteemed educators," explained O'Neill.

"We are very excited to be able to offer this option to our students," he said.

Elizabeth Seton Academy opened in the fall of 2003, just months after Msgr. Ryan Memorial High School shuttered its doors. As the only all-girl Catholic high school in the city, it focuses on three pillars: education, service and achievement, according to Bulman.

"We strongly believe that these three work hand in hand," she said. "What good is it to educate yourself if you don't pay it forward?"

She praised the strong work ethic found in each of the nearly 120 girls at the school, noting that each year since 2009 there has been a 100 percent college attendance rate.

"We are here in the city. We are city girls. Our ethnic population mirrors the city of Boston," she stressed. "For many of these girls, they are the first in their families to graduate high school, to attend college. We try to open doors for them, to open their eyes to the possibilities that are before them."

Both Bulman and O'Neill agree that part of the reason for the success of the students at Elizabeth Seton Academy is the school's size, which creates a close-knit community.

In addition, because of the school's size and its location, many options are made available to every student. O'Neill cited how local arts organizations often donate tickets to the school in order to expose the students to the arts. This year alone, O'Neill noted that students have been able to attend "The Wizard of Oz," the Boston Pops, as well as performances at Boston College.

"We are so proud to be in and of the city," he said. "Boston is our campus -- to us, you can't do better than that."