Mercy’s First 6th Grade Class Graduates!

June 13, 2019

In addition to celebrating its 90th year as the only all-girls, Catholic, college preparatory school in the Rochester region, Our Lady of Mercy School for Young Women graduated its inaugural 6th Grade class on June 7. Of the 126 seniors who accepted their diplomas at Eastman Theatre, 23 students have the unique distinction of having spent seven years at Mercy, longer than any of the 13,200 alumnae who have come before them.

“My parents wanted me in a Catholic school where I would grow up in a safe environment,” said Jessica Jacobs ’19. “When Mercy first introduced the 6th Grade program, we toured, we loved it, we could feel the sense of community and the sisterhood that was around us. I made my decision that day.”

When Mercy opened its doors in 1928, five faculty members taught 75 freshmen. For 62 years, Mercy grew its high school program – not only expanding its academic curriculum for grades nine through 12, but also its student body. Seventy-five students turned into a few hundred, then several hundred. In 1990, Mercy expanded to include a middle school, accepting 7th and 8th graders for the first time.

In 2012, Mercy once again expanded to include a 6th grade. A few years later, the school changed its name from Our Lady of Mercy High School to Our Lady of Mercy School for Young Women. Despite the name change, the school’s official alma mater – along with thousands of alumnae – still refer to Mercy as ‘High School.’

The addition of the 6th grade was handled carefully and strategically. Instead of modeling this new grade as simply the next grade after fifth, Mercy’s program acts as a supportive transition between elementary and middle school; a critical time in the development of a young woman. The 6th grade environment and curriculum focus on the development of the whole child, including expanding cognitive and non-cognitive skills, as well as encompassing enriching activities and ensuring multiple opportunities for parent involvement. Mercy’s embrace of differentiated instruction allows whole group, small group, and partner work to be paired with flexible grouping to challenge students in a supportive environment.

“During middle school, our students develop the study skills and academic foundation required to ensure their future report cards are reflective of their effort and abilities,” said Dr. Sherylanne Diodato ‘93, Dean of Mercy’s Middle School. “All of our middle school and high school teachers work closely to ensure seamless vertical alignment of curriculum from grades 6-12.”

Mercy’s college preparatory program includes curriculum that is aligned with national College and Career readiness standards. Mercy discontinued participation in the New York State Regents testing program several years ago. Instead, Mercy teachers have developed more authentic assessments that ensure students are developing the higher-level thinking skills needed for success in college. At the end of 6th grade, for example, students complete a portfolio of learning which compiles their perspectives and accomplishments for the year.

“Year after year, Mercy’s graduating seniors receive generous college acceptance packages. Members of the 2019 graduating class earned an average of $236,000 in total scholarship offers from all the colleges and universities to which they’ve applied,” said Mercy President and CEO Pam Fennell Baker ’74. “The combination of our college prep curriculum, all-girl environment, and amazing faculty really yields an incredibly high return on investment.”

Graduating senior Ana Hayes ‘19, whose six older sisters attended Mercy before her, has seen an amazing amount of growth from when she started at Mercy in 6th grade to today.

“There has been a lot of transformations over the past seven years,” said Hayes. “Although I’ve only grown two inches since I started at Mercy as a four-foot-ten 6th grader, Mercy has helped me grow and succeed in my studies; I couldn’t be happier.”

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