It’s a Girls WORLD

St. Andrew’s Priory will represent Hawaii at the Team America Rocket Challenge in Virginia next month - the only team from the Islands to make it to the high-tech competition. Somewhere, Queen Emma is smiling. And while the concept of rocketry would certainly be foreign to her, the idea of young women competing and succeeding at the highest levels is exactly why,

Alana Folen
Friday - May 02, 2008
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St. Andrew's Priory rocketry team
St. Andrew’s Priory rocketry team Tracey Ige, mentor Dr. Jake Hudson, Leah Creamer, Danica Swenson, Chang Qi, Kamilla Pollock, Toka Beech and Giavana Coluccio

Somewhere, Queen Emma is smiling. And while the concept of rocketry would certainly be foreign to her, the idea of young women competing and succeeding at the highest levels is exactly why, in 1867, she founded the all-girls St. Andrew’s Priory School. So, yes, Emma would be smiling at news that a team of Priory girls will represent Hawaii at the Team America Rocket Challenge (TARC) in Virginia next month.

Which means that the first time Hawaii sends a team to the high-tech TARC nationals, it’s an all-girls squad, comprised of Toka Beech, Leah Creamer, Kamilla Pollock, Tracey Ige, Dana Arbaugh, Danica Swenson, Gia Coluccio and Chang Qi. On a recent day, the girls built and launched a 46-inch-long, 3-inch diameter rocket 748 feet with a total flight time of 42.3 seconds. The rocket is self-built and according to their team mentor, Dr. Jake Hudson, resembles a “giant hunk of watermelon.”

“Being that they’re the only team in the state of Hawaii to make it to nationals, in my book they’re already winners,” Hudson exclaims.

The queen’s girls have certainly come a long way, baby - in lots of ways.

At St. Andrew’s Priory, says Sandra Theunick, head of schools, technology is deeply integrated into the curriculum. Each girl in grades 5 to 12 utilizes laptops in class. They do their own podcasts, webcasts, iMovies and interactive reports - everything is online. But despite the endless benefits of technology, Theunick makes it distinctly clear that technology cannot replace human interaction.


“Trying to humanize technology and make the quality of communication exceedingly strong and high is a challenge that every school faces these days,” she says, adding,“Here at the Priory, I think we have a good balance of that. The good, caring environment, the very intimate, personal communication that goes on tempers what could become a totally technologically driven program.”

No matter how technologically advanced our world becomes or what the future brings, Theunick says, there are basic skills and competencies that we all need to succeed at all stages of life.

“Whether they’re skills of analysis, learning to be lifelong learners, learning to be good communicators, learning to be compassionate - all of those will serve our young women well as they go into the future,” she attests.

As for the school’s many successful grads in all fields - and for that championship rocketry team - Theunick says it’s the desire to do well that makes all the difference, not necessarily a competitive nature.

“Girls can be competitive, yes, but they can also be very collaborative. That’s what I’ve noticed about good girls’ schooling - you teach them to measure their success against their own ability, and I think that’s something you don’t necessarily see in co-education.

“My take on girls’ education, whether it’s in math or English class, is that it’s not about a particular achievement,” Theunick explains. “You measure yourself against your own abilities. You’re not looking at each other as rivals, but you’re looking at each other as colleagues and collaborators, helping one another out, working in study groups, trying to make everyone better at something.”

So step aside, gentlemen, the days of this being a “man’s world” are long gone. With the first woman up for the presidential vote this election year and many other female leaders in power around the world - in all fields and professions - ladies are without a doubt making her-story.

Located in downtown Honolulu, St. Andrew’s Priory School is one of four girls’ schools on the Island.

Queen Emma would be proud
Queen Emma would be proud

What began as a queen’s vision has turned into a lifelong legacy. The Priory was founded by Queen Emma Kaleleonalani, wife of King Kamehameha IV, who recognized the need to educate the women of her Island nation.

“Queen Emma really had a vision for the young women of Hawaii in that she wanted them to have the best education possible,” says Theunick. “She not only wanted them to have an excellent education locally, but she also brought in a global prospective by bringing the Church of England, by bringing the sisters over to educate these girls beyond what they might have gotten if they’d just been educated locally.”

In 1902, St. Andrew’s Priory was transferred to the jurisdiction of the Episcopal Church of the United States and was run by the Sisters of the American Order of the Transfiguration until 1969.

“Queen Emma saw the need to have the women of Hawaii able to take their place in society, able to work in the community - in those days it was as nurses and teachers - to have the women prepare to really create Hawaiian society as a man would, having the same competencies as a man would,” Theunick states.

Today, St. Andrew’s Priory creates college-preparatory educational opportunities for girls from kindergarten through grade 12. Theunick says the vision that Queen Emma had years ago still holds true today: equipping young women to meet their career goals as a result of a Priory education.

But despite the consistent vision of the queen, there’s no doubt that times have changed in terms of technological advancement and the increased access to information at our fingertips.

“In Queen Emma’s time, it was probably a little easier to predict what the girls would need,” says Theunick.“Now we have to try to prepare them for something that is unpredictable.”

Theunick came to Hawaii in July 2007 to take on the role of interim head of schools and was thrilled when she was asked to stay on permanently. She has extensive experience in institutional leadership, with more than 26 years serving as head of school for prestigious K-12 institutions across the nation, most recently at The Seven Hills School in Cincinnati.

“My heart is really in girls’ education,” says Theunick.“I went to a girls’ school, I went to a women’s college. I just know that I would-n’t be here today, I wouldn’t feel

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