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Trinity Hall: All Girls High School Could Be at Fort Monmouth in 2013

Founders are looking at two potential sites for the school, a building at Fort Monmouth and land in Holmdel.

You may have heard a rumor going around that some folks are planning to open an all-girls high school here in Monmouth County. Well, Rumson residents Victoria Gmelich and Mairead Clifford want you to know, it's no rumor.

"We are opening September 2013. We are doing this," Gmelich said Monday when Patch caught up with her and Clifford.

With $5 million of seed money already raised, the pair of moms is poised to open the kind of school they remember fondly from their youth; one where girls are encouraged to focus on their education, become leaders and grow in faith. The school will not be a Catholic school, like Red Bank Catholic, but will instead be in the Catholic tradition, which will include brothers and nuns on a board.

The women are quick to emphasize that their venture is not to aimed to siphon students from other parochial schools like RBC or Mater Dei.

"It's not for every girl," Clifford said, "but it should be an option for every girl. Just like CBA (Christian Brothers Academy) is for boys."

The school's mission statement:

Trinity Hall is an innovative, independent college-preparatory high school for young women, in the Catholic tradition. In a technology-rich learning environment, a superior faculty and a challenging interdisciplinary curricular program fosters leadership, respect, perseverance and faith.  Unique and exciting co-curricular learning opportunities accommodate a diverse, yet a collectively passionate, creative and caring student body.  These young women will be empowered to take risks, pursue personal passions, network globally and grow as learners - and as valued individuals.

Transplants from North Jersey and Long Island, Clifford is a graduate of Mt. Saint Dominic Academy and Gmelich a graduate of Sacred Heart Academy, and both of their husbands also attended single sex high schools. In their hometowns, the women say, single sex, religious education for girls needs no explanation or defense, but the pair said that in Monmouth County, they are often called to defend it. You can read their argument for a girls-only school here.

When Gmelich and Clifford met in a playgroup more than a decade ago, they bonded over their shared past. Their all girls schools, they said, were empowering and relaxed with no stress of boy-girl interaction in class, or in the hallway.

"The focus is on learning, no distractions," Gmelich said. And, Clifford added, "The bonds (between classmates) were much stronger."

"It wouldn't completely eliminate the drama," Gmelich said, "but it did truly lessen it significantly."

"It was empowering because you were expected to do well, expected to participate," Gmelich said.

Clifford says that in the same sex school, whether it is the chess team, student council or the swim team, it's "all girls in every leadership role."

It's the kind of experience, they said, that they wanted for their kids too.

So when Clifford first moved to Rumson, pregnant for the first time, and delivered one girl, then over the years two more, she said she realized, "There's nowhere for them to go."

With seven girls between the two women, they determined that it would be up to them to create that type of school. So in 2010 they hired a consultant and launched a feasibility study with 2,100 families participating. (View the study here.) The results showed that in September 2013, Trinity Hall, as it will be named, can expect a founding class of about 79 girls, wearing school uniforms. Trinity's tuition will likely be in the mid to upper teens, the founders said.

This summer the founders will ask for a non-binding letter of intent from seventh grade girls who are interested in becoming the founding students. The pair intend to draw students of all socio-economic levels from all over Monmouth County, with financial aid available. Gmelich said she is hoping to build the diverse community at Trinity Hall.

In the near future Clifford and Gmelich expect to announce their choice for Head of School.

Then the fundraising push will be on to garner millions more to have what founders have estimated to be the start-up costs for the school, which will include facilities, faculty and equipment for technology-rich classrooms. Trinity Hall, founders say, will be a "highly academic, highly innovative college prep school for girls."

The founding families are pursuing two sites for the school, one is a building in thesection of Fort Monmouth and the other is land in Holmdel.

The faculty that Trinity hopes to hire includes a higher ratio of guidance counselors than is typical for the class size, Gmelich said: "One of our deliverables is we will place your girls in good schools."

"We realize this is not for everyone," Gmelich said, "But we want to deliver upon something that does not exist in this area."

a l June 14, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Clifford: "theres nowhere for them to go" Plenty of public schools out there...
Rick June 15, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Great - another CBA, in which female rich kids will be segregated, coddled, and sent off to the best colleges, while the staff does their best to ignore the few token middle and lower class attendees. On the bright side, there will likely be less emphasis than at CBA on leniency for star athletes with suboptimal IQs....
Rick June 15, 2012 at 03:41 AM
By the way, if they're considering Fort Monmouth, they need to realize that there are many contaminated areas on that property, parts of which are Superfund Sites: http://atl.gmnews.com/news/2009-08-06/front_page/002.html Radiological materials, PCBs, asbestos... Ft Monmouth has been contaminated with it all. They'd best look into this, and shoot for the Holmdel site....
SPC June 15, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Hi Rick I am a graduate of CBA and happen to be one of the founders of Trinity Hall. I appreciate that you took the time to read and comment. While I do hope Trinity Hall sends its graduates to the best colleges, I can assure you, we nor the administration will ignore certain segments (economic or racial) of our community. A very important part of our school's mission statement is diversity and providing an academically rich experience to those who can't afford the tuition will be part of the culture of this school from its inception. Our objective is to offer financial assistance to 10-20% of each class and if a staff member or teacher “did their best to ignore” any student, they would be dismissed. I am not sure where your idea came from regarding star athletes with suboptimal IQs at CBA or if you have any evidence whatsoeverl to support the statement. I graduated from CBA and can tell you many of the "star" athletes in my class were members of the National Honor Society. All of that said, we believe it is important to provide the young women of Monmouth County with this option. Many of the hundreds of supporters who are helping to make this happen either went to single sex high schools or recognize the inherent benefits it provides to a high school student. Once again, thank you for your comments and all the best to you. Please feel free to respond directly to me at info@trinityhallnj.org Sean Clifford
LAM June 15, 2012 at 03:04 PM
I went to an all girls high school in NY, it would never send my daughter! Between the emotional drama and competitiveness i felt so small. It was vicious! When i got to college i didnt know how to interact with the sea of guys in my classes. I was very intimidated and it took awhile for me to be able to open up. I think kids need to interact together on an equal playing field so they learn how survive in this world. For my daughters i would never consider an all girls school. This is just my personal experience.

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