Despite the closure of Cornelia Connelly School of the Holy Child in June of this year, at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, Head of School Jacqueline Sienkowski has spearheaded a program for students to learn new subjects and practice skills that will help guide them to success long after they’ve left the Anaheim all-girls school.
January Term (J-Term) is modeled after university programs and features a three-week session that seeks to enrich students outside of a traditional classroom setting.
Students have the opportunity to enroll in classes otherwise unavailable to them, and educators are able to teach classes outside of the standard curriculum. Classes offered during J-Term include SAT Math, child care development and Apologetics. Among the most popular is criminal law – taught by Sienkowski, a former lawyer and teacher.
“The girls are getting an opportunity that no other school in our community offers,” Sienkowski said. “I envisioned that juniors and seniors would have the opportunity to experience grown-up life because clearly, high school is not the real world. I wanted the internships to be things that interested them and could possibly lead them to a career.”
J-Term immerses the girls into their interests and potential career paths, ones they otherwise would not have time to explore within a typical school session. Some students find themselves participating in internships to gain experience in their aspiring job fields. Connelly girls are working at a variety of locations, including the OC Catholic newspaper, Kaiser Permanente and The Briggs and Alexander Law Firm.
The international student population at Connelly finds themselves abroad, participating in internships in their home countries, including China and Vietnam. Other students are participating in the exchange program in Europe, an opportunity otherwise unavailable to high school students.
The Board of Trustees of Connelly School agreed that after years of diminishing enrollment, the operation of the school was financially unsustainable beyond the 2019-2020 school year. Connelly’s administration and teachers are working with area high schools to seamlessly transition students.
Despite the school’s looming closure, the reception to J-Term has been positive as the community welcomes a successful program amidst a challenging time.
“The teachers are loving it because they are able to teach their passion,” Sienkowski said. “When a teacher is teaching their passion, then the students are fully engaged, and they walk away from the experience being nurtured in a way that you aren’t nurtured if you aren’t fully engaged.”
Aubrey Mandry is a senior at Connelly taking Apologetics, photography and criminal law on campus.
“The classes are taught like a college class, and I feel prepared for a new beginning,” Aubrey said. “J-Term is a breather from the stress of not worrying about having to turn something in. It makes it fun to go to school, and I’m actually excited to wake up early every morning.”
Sienkowski added, “J-Term has given our students an opportunity to have a much needed mental health break. It gives our students a chance to take a break from the rigor of our academics and the demands on their time. It allows them to come back from a difficult, emotional semester— for all of us.
“I am glad that even in light of our closing, we were able to do this. Mother Connelly, our foundress, was innovative. She went out and invited young women to be educated at a time when young women were not being educated. In her honor, in her memory, in her shadow, we are innovative, too, even at the end of this particular school experience,” Sienkowski continued. “What I think is important for the whole community, the whole world to know is that though the doors close on Connelly, the doors do not close on the love and generosity and innovation that Mother Connelly has given us to share with the world.”