The 2nd annual Founders’ Day celebrated the legacy, perseverance, and resiliency of St. Mary’s Episcopal School. This year, we honored Sister Hughetta Snowden, who assumed the leadership of St. Mary’s following the death of Sister Constance and the other Sisters of St. Mary during the yellow fever epidemic. Sister Hannah Winkler, CSM, a member of the Sisters of St. Mary in Sewanee, Tennessee, shared Sister Hughetta’s story with our students.
You Belong Here
St. Mary's welcomes girls of all faiths and walks of life. Through Chapel and our character education program, Bridge to Caring, all girls are encouraged to grow personally and spiritually. Fostering an environment of belonging is the top priority.
At St. Mary's, everyone takes on the responsibility of creating a community where girls are valued and welcomed as members of our school community. All girls are loved here, and their differences are celebrated and embraced. As a pillar of our episcopal identity, we value inclusiveness. Our course offerings and reading lists are intentionally designed with all girls in mind. Additionally, we use Chapel to showcase our inclusiveness. From celebrating Black History Month to sharing family Passover traditions to welcoming alumnae speakers from all over the world, we introduce the girls to people, places, and ideas beyond their lived experiences.
St. Mary’s girls are as unique as they are brilliant, and all girls belong here. From St. Mary’s Place to the Upper School, we all work hard to ensure that SMS girls are seen, safe, supported, valued, and celebrated. We are preparing today’s young women and girls to be empathetic and intellectually curious global citizens.
Belonging starts from within. Once we really see ourselves as the wonderful, beautiful, and unique human beings that we are, we can extend that sense of belonging to others.
Nikki Davis, Director of Belonging
FaST Belonging Committee
The Faculty, Administration, Staff, and Teacher Belonging Committee is a diverse group of St. Mary's employees who meet quarterly to identify opportunities to make St. Mary's a place where all girls belong. We believe that we teach, learn, and become the best version of ourselves when we work collaboratively to support, celebrate, and encourage diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging. Members include:
Angie Cooley, MS English Teacher
Miranda Cully, Head Chaplain
Nikki Davis, Director of Belonging
Catherine Smith Denman ’06, Director of Libraries
Ben Graunke, MS History Teacher
Chrystal Hogan, US Math Teacher
Sherronda Johnson, Admission Coordinator & North Campus Registrar
Marcy Kueffner, MS Math Teacher
Sarah Kerst, US Spanish Teacher
Jenny Madden, Director of Auxiliary Programs
John Nichols, Global Education Director
Jessica Osias, 5th Grade English & Geography Teacher
Hilary Davis Robinson ‘90, Associate Head of School
Amber Stewart, LS Spanish Teacher
Yari Torres, MS Learning Specialist
Teila Walker, Senior Kindergarten Teacher
Student Affinity Groups
At St. Mary’s, affinity groups serve as a vehicle to support ongoing efforts of belonging. The various groups provide a space for students to share common experiences, cultivate a sense of belonging, celebrate diversity, and educate others on historical and cultural contributions of women and men of a variety of backgrounds, circumstances, and experiences. The overarching goal of our affinity groups ties into the Episcopal tenet of belonging. St. Mary's affinity groups currently include:
- Asian Student Association
- Black Student Association
- First Gen American Club
- Gender and Sexuality Alliance
- Jewish Student Association
- Middle Eastern/North African Student Association
- Multi-Racial Club
- Muslim Student Association
Each year on September 9, those in the Episcopal Church celebrate the legacy of Sisters Constance, Thecla, Frances, Hughetta, and Ruth on the anniversary of the death of Sister Constance. These nuns came to Memphis in 1873 to take the helm of St. Mary’s and stayed in Memphis during the yellow fever epidemic to care for the sick and the orphaned while most people fled. Assistant Chaplain Mary Henry Thompson shared a message with our students in preparation for this day of remembrance.
Recently, St. Mary’s new Director of Belonging, Nikki Davis, spoke at Chapel on the South Campus about the importance of “belonging,” rather than simply “fitting in.” Fostering a sense of belonging helps individuals feel seen, emphasizing that they are with us for a purpose and that each of us adds value to the community.
Earlier this semester, Upper School students in the Facing History and Ourselves book club met weekly to discuss one woman’s struggle for equal access to education. Judith Heumann, regarded as the mother of the disability rights movement, wrote Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist. Heumann was paralyzed as a result of polio as a baby.
This month, the Association of Muslim Students invited former University of Memphis basketball player Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir to speak at South Campus Chapel. While at Memphis, she was the first person in NCAA history to play in a Division I basketball game wearing a hijab.