Sacred Heart Global Academy provides robust mission-driven online offerings

International students unable to attend in-person classroom activity due to visa and COVID-19 constraints can fully participate in four robust online courses grounded in the Sacred Heart mission thanks to the collaborative effort of their two network schools. Educators at Forest Ridge School in Bellevue, Washington, and Woodlands Academy in Lake Forest, Illinois, worked together this summer to create the Sacred Heart Global Academy. While this new initiative was designed primarily with their home-bound international students in mind, enrollment is open to some domestic students as well.

It all began with discussions between Forest Ridge Head of School Mary Rose Guerin and Woodlands Academy Head of School Meg Steele about ways of collaborating to offer students of both all-girls college-prep schools superior educational opportunities regardless of their ability to attend classes on campus this fall. Soon afterwards, a team of faculty and staff from both schools began meeting regularly. Their discussions created a program that has now become Sacred Heart Global Academy, offering courses entitled “Sacred Heart Leadership,” “Food Matters,” “Introduction to Forensic Science” and “Humanities Research Seminar” taught by Forest Ridge School and Woodlands Academy faculty members using Canvas, a learning management software.

“Enrolled students will engage with students from the other school in a combined learning environment of scheduled virtual classes along with unscheduled virtual programming,” said Jessica Campbell, director of the Woodlands Academy Center for Global Studies. “This is particularly important for our international students who will be learning remotely from various countries around the world. Students also will meet with the International Student Advisor to receive additional support and guidance throughout their remote learning experience. The classes being offered are new to our students, offering exciting and rigorous academic options.”

In addition to specific course offerings, Forest Ridge School and Woodlands Academy will be collaborating to provide the additional care and support needed by their international students to feel connected to their school communities in these unprecedented times. For example, a new International Advisory Support Program will operate much like the advisories students already know, but with the addition of programming specific to remote learning. This program will be overseen jointly by international student advisors from both schools.

“This unprecedented time has given us the opportunity to be creative, collaborative, and at the forefront of educational programming,” said Courtney Caldwell, Forest Ridge School’s director of teaching and learning. “Sacred Heart Global Academy teachers have created courses that will not only challenge students academically, but will allow them to explore their own and others’ cultures, make connections with other learners, and in the spirit of our Sacred Heart goal of personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom, develop increased independence. We are committed to supporting and including all of our students into our communities and are excited to continue building this program in the future.”

While Sacred Heart Global Academy courses currently are available only to students of the two schools that created them, organizers hope to grow the program over time and maybe even open its offerings to additional Sacred Heart schools.