“It’s a mixed world”: Loyola prepares to welcome girls in 2023

Loyola hired its first female president to lead the wave for girls to enter the 125-year-old high school.

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Although she is only 10 years old, Emily Noble still feels at home when she visits Loyola High School, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce Boys’ High School.

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The private Jesuit school educated four generations of his family – from his older brother Noah to his great-grandfathers in the 1910s and 1920s.

During a visit in 2016, when her grandfather Paul Cambell Noble was inducted into Loyola’s Hall of Merit, Emily saw class photos of her uncles and other male relatives that adorn the walls of the school 125 years old.

“She was running down the halls saying, ‘Dad, it’s so much fun here. It’s great, but I only see boys on the wall. Can I go here too?’ her dad, Mark Noble, recalls .

At the time, the answer was definitely no.

But unbeknownst to Noble, the Jesuits of Canada and Loyola’s board of governors had already considered admitting daughters.

A declining birth rate in Quebec and English eligibility rules would cause enrollment issues in the future, but as women took on more leadership roles in society, the school felt that it was time to offer girls a Jesuit education as well.

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About a third of Jesuit schools in the United States have become coeducational, and three of five Jesuit schools in Canada have already made the switch.

After lengthy discussions with its former students, teachers, the Mothers’ Guild and parents, Loyola announced last month that it would admit the first cohort of girls to Secondary 1 in the 2023-2024 school year.

“When we heard about it two years ago, it was such a relief that the choice (of high school) was made for us,” Noble recalled in an interview.

“My cousins ​​and brothers are thrilled with the idea.” Emily’s grandfather, who died in March, also thought it was a “good idea”.

Noble said he always thought Loyola differed from other high schools because it wasn’t just academically focused. Her Jesuit and Catholic education focuses on the development of the whole person. By the time they graduate from Loyola, many students are intellectually curious, compassionate and determined to build a better community, Noble said.

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“While Loyola’s core mission has remained the same since its founding, the culture and experience of our students has constantly changed from generation to generation, and we must ensure that we continue to update our approach. pedagogical for the time,” the school said. said in a statement.

The school has applied to the Quebec Ministry of Education for a permit to open a French section in 2025 and is planning a fundraising campaign to modernize its sports facilities. Currently, Loyola has 690 students. The school distributes approximately $750,000 in scholarships each year.

To implement Loyola’s new mission, the Jesuits began to search for a leader who could usher in a new era and open the door to young women.

Marcelle De Freitas was working at the University of Toronto in 2020 when a colleague asked her if she knew anyone interested in a leadership position at a Jesuit high school in Montreal.

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She briefly wondered if she knew anyone who might want to move to Montreal, then wondered if the assignment was something she should explore.

She called Adam Pittman, a Jesuit who works at the school, and they chatted for about an hour. Pittman suggested he contact the chairman of the school’s board of trustees. A few months later, she was hired as Loyola’s first female president.

In an interview with the Gazette, DeFreitas said the rationale for separate education for boys and girls is no longer true.

“Looking back in history, there was a time when men educated men to be business and community leaders,” she said. “Society has changed and we frequently see women in leadership positions now. It’s a mixed world.

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In discussions with DeFreitas about the upcoming changes, some current students wondered if the girls would sit with them in the cafeteria, attend school dances, or figure out their humor.

One student expressed concern that some girls might not like the roughing or teasing that some boys engage in.

“Are the girls going to find it funny the way we joke and make comments?” asked a student.

Many said they would welcome the girls, and others suggested the school should hire more female teachers to make the girls comfortable.

As a Loyola teacher and president of the school’s alumni association, Chris Hain has heard from many current and former students about the school’s change in direction.

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“There was a mixed response. Some, like me, were excited because I have a niece coming here,” Hain said.

“But others were worried. It’s a testament to their protection of the school and what they’ve been through. When you go to school during your formative years, you want to preserve that special place that made you who you are.

The school will hold an open day on September 17 for students and parents. Students eligible for the English language, regardless of gender, background or religious beliefs, can apply.

In addition to enrolling in music and art classes, Emily said she was thrilled to be the first girl in her family to apply to Loyola.

“My dad always told me his brothers went there and his dad went there,” she said. “It looks like a tradition, so I want to go too.”


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