This summer, 14 rising seventh-grade students from the greater Charleston area spent six weeks learning financial literacy, honing their leadership skills, and taking wellness classes designed specifically for them at Ashley Hall. It was all part of the growing middle school program at Horizons at Ashley Hall, a tuition-free, all-girls community centered program expanding educational equity in Charleston.
Not only were these seventh-graders, many of whom have been with the program every summer since its inception in 2018, the oldest students on Ashley Hall’s campus this summer, but they were the oldest in the program’s history. “It is exciting to watch our middle school program grow, and I cannot wait for the years ahead as we build out the program even more,” says Executive Director Nolie Mangan who has been with the program for three years. “This past summer, it was incredible to watch our middle school students really step into a new role within the program as mentors and leaders.”
Since its inception, Horizons at Ashley Hall, which worked with 105 students in grades 1-7 this summer, has been growing. The program launched in 2018 with thirty first- and second-graders, and it’s been adding a grade ever since. Building out a specific set of programming for middle schoolers was a natural step to be sure the needs of every student are continually being met and our students continue to be empowered, explains Mangan.
“Our middle school programming is really about providing more choice, more opportunity, more agency in their educational experience, and more exposure to different future careers and future passions,” Mangan says. Next year, the middle school program will expand to include rising eighth grade, and in 2025, the program will reach its goal and max capacity of enrolling 135 students in grades 1-9.
Here’s a snapshot of just a few of the middle school program offerings at Horizons at Ashley Hall, including extracurricular activities and courses through local partnerships:
Led by Kionnie Epps (aka The Responsible Homegirl), this class explores entrepreneurship, financial literacy skills, and even gives students the opportunity to design their own business.
Cooking and Nutrition
Rising sixth grade students explore the world of cooking during sessions led by Lowcountry Food Bank featuring core cooking skills, activities, and delicious recipes, all designed how to show how food can make us our best and healthiest selves
Both rising sixth and seventh grade students take women’s health education sessions through MUSC’s Lotus Initiative. Topics include female anatomy, puberty, and the menstrual cycle. Students are free and encouraged to ask questions and leave campus with information and resources so the conversations can continue at home.
Middle school students explore social emotional learning, mindfulness and mental health through a partnership with Empowered Family, a mental health organization in Mt. Pleasant. Empowered Family counselors and therapists are also available to all Horizons students throughout the summer who may benefit from additional one on one counseling.
Rising seventh grade students dive into citizen science in their weekly class led by Coastal Expeditions. Through engaging hands-on activities, students learn about their surrounding environment and ecosystem.
Lessons in Leadership
Both rising sixth and seventh grade students took a field trip to James Island County Park Challenge Course this summer to develop leadership and teamwork skills. Rising seventh graders also left campus to participate in a mindfulness and surfing retreat at Folly Beach led by Waves 4 Women.
Ashley Hall is pleased to announce that Elisabeth Lavin-Peter will step into the role of Upper School Director in July for the 2023-24 school year. A graduate of Tufts University, she holds a master’s degree in English Literature, and she is currently pursuing a second master’s degree in Educational Leadership with the University of Northern Iowa. Lavin-Peter comes to Ashley Hall after 15 years of living and working in Singapore where she served as a member of the Overseas Family School (OFS), a high-achieving International Baccalaureate School.
Lavin-Peter began her employment at OFS as a teacher of English Literature. She was then promoted to Academic Advisor, a role in which she worked closely with families during their students’ high school careers to guide them through the process of finding their ideal university, whether it be in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, or elsewhere. Outside of OFS, Lavin-Peter was a core member of the Singapore International Counselor networking group and a founding team member of Global University Counsellor Connect, an annual conference created by and for international university counselors across Southeast Asia. After becoming Assistant Head of the Upper School at OFS in 2018, Lavin-Peter gained responsibility for the School’s advisory program for grades 11 and 12 and was additionally tasked with supporting teachers’ growth and managing the scheduling process for the high school.
Lavin-Peter looks forward to bringing her depth of experience to Ashley Hall and to working collaboratively with the “energized administration, the warm and caring teachers, and the smart, creative students” she met in her initial visit to the School’s downtown Charleston campus. Additionally, this is a homecoming of sorts for her and her husband Hugh. Their daughter Aurora Lavin-Peter graduated from Northeastern in 2022 with a degree in Behavioral Neuroscience, and she is delighted to have her parents back in the United States.
Ashley Hall’s unique global awareness program is centered around an annual school-wide commitment to embracing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This year, the Class of 2023 voted to focus the School’s global education theme on Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
“Every day, our students are encouraged and empowered to become the next generation of leaders,” says Head of School Dr. Anne T. Weston ’73. “Our focus on U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 5 for this year’s theme offers a powerful framework in which to realize this important work across our entire School.”
The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were developed in 2012 with the purpose of creating a set of global initiatives related to the environmental, political, and economic challenges that we all face throughout the world. A list of seventeen goals was crafted to serve as a blueprint for a better world and includes focus on ending poverty, hunger, inequity, and climate change to name a few. The SDGs are ambitious, yet the U.N. intends to have them met in 2030.
The intent of Goal 5 is to empower all girls and women while reinforcing the crucial role boys and men play in achieving these goals. Gender equality, and with it, gender equity, does not discriminate or diminish one group over the other. Nor does it seek to privilege one group above another. Rather, where equality and equity exist, all thrive.
“We hope the theme and our yearlong celebration of the accomplishments of girls and women in all fields inspires all students to further embrace their Ashley Hall PQV spirit,” says Global Education Coordinator Jonathan Perkins who works with the School’s administration and faculty to support curricular, extracurricular, and travel programs that reinforce the power of having a global perspective.
This year’s campaign also coincides with the 50th anniversary of Title IX, which has transformed girls’ and women’s educational opportunities, especially participation in the athletic arena. “Some schools celebrate having girls for 50 years,” says Weston. “They deserve credit for realizing that girls bring intelligence, creativity, and stability to their communities. There are other schools like ours who understand that it is truly all about the girls. We’ve been celebrating girls since 1909.”
Programming will consist of classroom instruction, hands-on activities, and opportunities to engage with visiting speakers, with an even greater focus on how to empower girls and women. These will be augmented by community-based and internationally-focused philanthropic activities that are also focused on girls and women.
Last year with heightened attention to global water challenges, and with the School’s campus being located in a flood-prone area, Ashley Hall celebrated “A Year of Water” which paid special attention to water-related SDGs: clean water and sanitation (Goal 6); and life below water (Goal 14). Students will use future school years as an opportunity to continue to explore more SDGs.
Introducing Ashley Hall Head of School Anne T. Weston, PhD ’73
When the gates of Ashley Hall swung open on Wednesday, August 17, 2022, the first day of the new school year, nearly 700 students from the ages of 2-18 were greeted by a new Head of School: Anne T. Weston, PhD ’73. With enrollment for the school at an all-time high and new thought leaders in many areas of administration, the mission of Ashley Hall has never felt more alive.
“Finally, the new school year has arrived. I have to say that as I have walked around campus this week, I am struck by the joy of connection being celebrated and the sense of possibility that is palpable. Our future holds great promise, and I invite all of you to lean into your Ashley Hall experience fully.”
Ashley Hall will begin the 2022-23 school year with a new leader. Dr. Anne Thornhill Weston ’73, former Assistant Head of School and Director of Upper School, officially assumed the role of Head of School on July 1, 2022.
Succeeding Jill Swisher Muti, Dr. Weston is Ashley Hall’s sixth Head of School and the only alumna to hold the position. She takes the School’s helm at a time of record-high enrollment, vital community relationships and an outstanding and loyal faculty and parent body whose dedication is truly matchless. Her strategic priorities include bolstering rich and worthy traditions and forward-thinking innovations alike, including welcoming new senior administrators to advance academics and student life, enhancing the athletic facilities and experience, renovating and expanding best-in-class STEAM programs, and growing the School’s already noteworthy performing arts program.
Along with her exceptional experience as a seasoned educator, Dr. Weston brings to her new role a love of Ashley Hall, talent as a communicator, and positive leadership as a lifelong advocate for women and girls. Here are a few fun facts to know about Dr. Weston:
5 Things to Know About Dr. Weston
1. Dr. Weston began her career at Ashley Hall teaching seventh and eighth grade math and science classes and went on to hold teaching and administrative positions at Heathwood Hall Episcopal School in Columbia, South Carolina before returning home in 2015.
2. She played women’s college basketball for Duke University and was a member of the varsity sailing team.
3. Her grandmother, Ama Van Noy Smith,was in the first class at Ashley Hall, a tradition continued by Dr. Weston, her sister Ama Thornhill Couch ’84, and her first cousin Jane Thornhill Schachte ’70.
4. Whether it’s at sea on a tall ship with Offshore Leadership Program participants or rowing in the Charleston Dragon Boat Festival, Dr. Weston loves a good outdoor adventure with her students.
5. She was captain of the Purple team and was co-First Honor Graduate of the Class of 1973!
Ashley Hall is pleased to announce the appointment of Shannon Reynolds as Assistant Head for Institutional Advancement beginning April 11, 2022. As a member of Ashley Hall’s leadership team, Shannon will work closely with the School’s Board of Trustees in the area of stewardship and donor relations, and manage alumnae engagement. She will also work with the current advancement team to oversee the Loyalty Fund and major giving initiatives.
Shannon comes to Ashley Hall from the New City School in St. Louis where she served as Director of Advancement. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Historic Preservation from University of Mary Washington and a Master of Historic Preservation from the University of Georgia, Shannon parlayed her education into an extensive career in nonprofit management. Prior to New City School, she worked with numerous nonprofit organizations including Humane Society of Missouri, Washington University School of Medicine, Southern College of Optometry, and the American Cancer Society. Having raised nearly $50 million in gifts from corporate and foundation grants and individual donors, Shannon is an accomplished and collaborative fundraiser with experience in all aspects of work in annual, major, planned, and capital campaign giving.
“During her recent visit to campus, Shannon impressed us all with her wealth of experience, independent school fundraising knowledge, energy, and warm personality,” says Head of School Jill Muti. “We look forward to her joining our Ashley Hall family.”
Ashley Hall is a K-12 independent school for girls, with a co-ed preschool, committed to a talented and diverse student population. We consider for admission students of any race, color, religion, and national or ethnic origin.