News Post

May 23, 2014
This week Bill Esher, Acting Dean of Students, joins Joanne in sharing thoughts about courage.

Dear Parents, 

                                    It is more important to be courageous than confident.

                                                                                                         ---- Anonymous

So, here we are at the end of May, and, with you, we are astonished that the close of another school year is almost here. As your daughters finish their final exams/projects and prepare for their culminating experiences in our signature programs -- C21 challenges, SSPs and Senior Seminars -- we have been talking about our admiration of our girls. In these upcoming moments, which will be filled with demands and expectations, they will leave their comfort zones to stretch themselves in a variety of ways.

While we certainly ask your daughters to approach all that they do with confidence, we feel that what they are about to experience -- whether in Philadelphia, South Carolina or Tanzania through the SSP program; or in design thinking, cyphers or the workings of the courtroom in their C21 challenges; or in Senior Seminars involving CAD or Life Lessons -- will provide them with moments to demonstrate substantial courage. These experiences will allow our students to know how courage feels and comprehend what courage means in ways that they, perhaps, have not understood to this point along their journeys. They are going to move out of the cocoon of AIS to unfamiliar physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual places, where they will be challenged to make difficult decisions, test their limits and move well beyond their secure structures and routines. They not only will become more confident, but they also will learn about being courageous.

As we move into the summer break, please encourage your daughters to continue building their sense of themselves through taking courageous steps. As a matter of fact, we hope that you will model that behavior for them. Try something new that challenges you to move away from your comfort zone -- take a run on a zip line; tackle a ropes course; take a class on a subject that you previously thought was beyond your reach. Be sure to share your experiences, and their many scary moments, with your daughters. Courage begets confidence.

We hope that they, in turn, will share the myriad aspects of their adventures with you. We are so proud of your daughters’ excitement about taking up these challenges, their desire to stretch themselves to the fullness of their potential, and their willingness to explore the depth of their character.


Warmly yrs,

Joanne and Bill

P. S. Below you will find the overview of each of these signature AIS programs.

Senior Seminars and College 101 Series

Following exams in May, seniors are involved in two to three weeks of seminars taught by senior faculty designed to parallel collegiate offerings in both context and time frame. Topics range from current events to film studies to the arts to amusement park physics. Additionally, students participate in the College 101 series: workshops on topics designed to prepare them for college life, including personal finance, self-defense, self health and an AIS Graduate’s Look at College Life.

Special Studies Program (SSP)

A signature program at Agnes Irwin, the Special Studies Program is as distinct as the girls’ personalities. All sophomores and juniors participate in a school-sponsored program and/or an Independent SSP. We offer a variety of local and global experiences. Whichever SSP they choose, Agnes Irwin students have long believed the program is one of the most rewarding experiences of their school careers.


The C21 Challenge is a two-week immersion program in interdisciplinary problem-solving. The 9th grade is presented with new challenges each day that draw on the curricular work the students have mastered during the year. The program focuses on 21st century skills, implemented through small and large group work. Each challenge draws on creativity, reasoning, communication, collaboration, time management, technology, adaption to change, setting goals, guiding and leading others, and working effectively in diverse teams. At the end of each day, there is a guided reflection on how the students managed to reach their goals. Outcomes have included understanding the application of academic work to real world problem-solving, managing group dynamics, class bonding, knowledge of career choices, public speaking and project presentation, and the ability to look critically at one’s own performance.