Navigating the Ups and Downs of Middle School

The middle school years, aka adolescence, tween, or pre-teen, are a pivotal time in the growth of all young women, with a lasting impact on their future. The transition between childhood and adulthood is exciting, as well as a period that sometimes leaves girls feeling vulnerable. Providing guidance, resources, and opportunities to help young women become healthy, ethical, intelligent, and productive is critical for both the student and the parent at this developmental stage.
An all-girl environment, particularly for this unique age group, is advantageous for several reasons. The International Coalition of Girls' Schools (ICGS), a leading advocacy group that conducts, sponsors, and disseminates meaningful research on issues of importance to girls' schools, identified the top ten benefits of an all-girl school environment which include:
10. Inspirational Environment
9. Academic Achievement
8. Builds Self-Confidence
7. Develops Leadership Skills
6. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
5. Dedicated to How Girls Learn
4. Higher Aspirations
3. Excellent Mentoring
2. Prepares Girls for the Real World
1. All-Girl Schools Allow Girls to be Themselves!
I am often asked what makes the Middle School at Visitation different from the other great schools in the St. Louis area. Most people may assume it's our academic program, the variety of extracurriculars, or even the leadership opportunities available to our students. While those are all accurate, what differentiates us is that Viz Middle School checks not only these boxes but all the boxes on the ICGS's list.
Being an all-girl middle school gives our students the advantage of having all their developmental needs met both in and out of the classroom. Our goal is to create an environment that empowers our students to reach their potential and be fearless in getting out of their comfort zone so they can thrive. That happens by creating a safe space for our girls to explore, be inquisitive, and be themselves. Additionally, Viz provides programs and support tailored to the needs of this specific age group. These include:
  • Study Skills Class (Grade 6) and Study Skills Club (Grades 7 and 8) – Focuses on the transition into middle school, providing tips on organization, study skills, and test-taking strategies to assist students as they progress through each grade level.
  • Peer-2-Peer Tutoring (Grades 6, 7, and 8) – Provides a productive and positive learning experience in which one girl is the tutor, and the other is the student. Tutors gain leadership skills while using their academic knowledge in a subject area to support fellow students. Students in this program gain one-on-one attention and positive reinforcement from their peer tutor.
  • Girl Talk (Grade 6) – A monthly peer mentoring program focusing on age-appropriate topics, including using school resources, self-image, peer relationships, self-health, internet safety, and more.
  • Owning Up (Grade 7 and 8) – This self-empowerment program focuses on dignity for everyone and provides a safe environment to discuss issues faced by students, such as conflict resolution, positive relationships, communication skills, self-confidence, body image, internet safety, the influence of media and pop culture, and more.
  • MS Buddies – Students are paired with another student from their grade level advisory to act as a resource, providing a great go-to person, especially for new students, to help with the transition to Viz.
  • MS Families – Each Middle School family includes a student from Grades 6, 7, and 8, helping to build community as a Viz family. In addition to giving our eighth graders a leadership opportunity in the role of "big sister," the girls form close relationships to support each other. MS Families meet for community-building activities, one-on-one support, and sit with each other at our Visitation Masses.
  • Parent Resources – Presentations, guest speakers, articles, and other materials are made available to parents throughout the school year.
  • On-Site Counselor – Our dedicated full-time comprehensive Middle School counselor addresses our student's developmental needs reactively and proactively and provides a sounding board for our students' parents.
Our philosophy is that if we educate our girls with information and offer them resources, they will be better equipped to face academic, social, and emotional challenges as they arise. This, in turn, builds their confidence, allowing them to be the best version of themselves. If our girls feel their social and emotional needs are supported, they can thrive academically. This philosophy fits Viz's mission academically and spiritually as it supports our Founder St. Francis de Sales' emboldening quote, "Be who you are and be that well."
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