Belonging

Student playing outside on the playground at St. Mary's Episcopal School, our all girls pre-kindergarten in memphis tn

Nikki Davis

Director of Belonging

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.

Board of Trustees Statement on Belonging

Students standing together outside of St. Mary's Episcopal School, our private high school for girls in memphis tn
Four students standing together outside of St. Mary's Episcopal School, our independent grade school for girls in memphis tn

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

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 the 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

News

Nikki Davis Discusses What It Means to Belong

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.

Students Engage in Conversations about Belonging and Equality

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.

Students Invite History-Making Athlete to Campus

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.

Celebrating Those Who Shaped History

Throughout February, students across campus celebrated Black History Month, studying how Black Americans have contributed to history, society, and culture. In each division, the faculty incorporated Black history into the curriculum in various ways.

group of students talk around fireplace

At St. Mary’s, Upper School students have the opportunity to organize a “fireside chat” to have discourse on subject matters of their choosing. Students are encouraged to have meaningful and honest conversations with their peers on current issues that affect our community and beyond. Recent topics have included the rise of antisemitism, women’s rights in Iran, and finding your purpose.