For 17 Years, This All Black Girls’ School Has Achieved 100% Graduation and College Acceptance Rates!

by Gee NY
Sister Joseph Ellen Cavalier of the New Orleans Sisters of the Holy Family talks with St Mary's Academy's tenth grader Keyell Bentley in 2017. Image Credit: Matthew Hinton

St. Mary’s Academy, a Catholic school for young Black women in New Orleans, Louisiana, has consistently achieved a remarkable milestone: for 17 consecutive years, every student has graduated and gained college acceptance.

This week, the school was featured on 60 Minutes, where respected journalist Bill Whitaker explored the institution’s success and its inspiring history.

At St. Mary’s, half the students receive scholarships subsidized by fundraising efforts, offsetting the $8,000 annual tuition.

The school maintains high expectations and strict rules, including no cellphones, modest skirts, and natural hair colors.

Despite these rigorous standards, the students excel, showcasing their academic and personal achievements.

Whitaker interviewed two recent graduates, Calcea Johnson and Ne’Kiya Jackson, who made headlines by independently proving the 2,000-year-old Pythagorean Theorem using trigonometry—an accomplishment once thought impossible.


When asked if she was surprised by the students’ achievement, St. Mary’s Academy principal Pamela Rogers responded confidently:

“We were not shocked…our students can do anything. And that’s what we tell them. You know, ‘The sky is the limit, and we want to be up there with you.’”

Rogers explained that all the young women at St. Mary’s are exceptional, nurtured to believe in their potential from an early age.

The school’s commitment to excellence has ensured a 100% graduation and college acceptance rate for nearly two decades.

St. Mary’s Academy’s legacy dates back to 1867, founded by the Sisters of the Holy Family under the vision of Henriette Delille.

Born in 1812, Delille was a Creole nun dedicated to educating slaves and free people of color in defiance of anti-literacy laws.

Her efforts laid the foundation for one of the oldest Black Catholic sisterhoods in America and the establishment of St. Mary’s Academy.

The guiding principles of St. Mary’s remain rooted in Delille’s mission, focusing on service, empowerment, and community involvement.

“We teach young women to give service, to empower themselves, [and] to be in the community. We teach them to grow spiritually, intellectually…to be good people and give to one another,” Rogers told Whitaker.

The school faced a significant challenge in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina caused severe flooding, necessitating the complete rebuilding of the original site.

St. Mary’s Academy emerged stronger despite these hardships, with a new building and expanded enrollment.

Calcea Johnson and Ne’Kiya Jackson, both affected by Hurricane Katrina, exemplify the resilience and determination fostered at St. Mary’s.

Last year, they graduated with nearly $3 million in scholarship offers.

Ne’Kiya earned a full-ride scholarship to Xavier University, while Calcea received a scholarship to study environmental engineering at Louisiana State University.

“I want to be an environmental engineer,” Calcea told Whitaker. “I want to be able to come back and help the New Orleans communities, since they helped raise me. Helping with climate change and helping with flooding would be a really big thing to help New Orleans. So, I want to help.”

St. Mary’s Academy continues to uphold its founder’s vision, empowering young Black women to achieve academic excellence and become community leaders.

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