Belles Blog

a blog about St. Mary's Academy

Welcome Onward Scholars Program

St. Mary’s Academy is excited to announce that, through the generosity of The John H. and Cynthia Lee Smet Foundation, 12 Belles from the Class of 2022 will make up Cohort I of Onward Scholars at SMA! 

The mission of the Onward Scholars Program is to promote academic excellence, foster an environment conducive to genuine peer support, expose students to leadership opportunities that instill a love of service, and empower goal-driven young women by providing resources that build skills for their path to higher education and lives of purpose.

Belles accepted into the program will receive a four-year scholarship to fund 75% of their tuition. Scholars will meet with the Program Director, Mrs. Rice, on a regular basis to receive support pursuing academic and personal goals through mentoring, access to college workshops, life skills education, and community service opportunities. 
In addition to the scholarship, each Scholar has access to a maximum of a $2,000 stipend over the four years from the Smet Foundation that the Program Director administers to offset the cost of activities or programs in line with the mission of Onward Scholars (e.g., summer college programs, test prep). 

To qualify to be an Onward Scholar, an applicant must be among the top students in her graduating class (with the target minimum cumulative GPA being a 3.5 during her middle school tenure) and have demonstrated leadership in her school and/or community.

To learn more about the Onward Scholars program at SMA, please go to admissions section of 
or contact:

Mrs. Michele Rice, Program Director

Onward Scholars at St. Mary’s Academy


Busy Belles Summer 2017

As always our Belles were busy, busy, busy this past summer .  Check out some of the exciting and enriching things they were up to:

Jailen Hewitt, Gold Tie ’18

Jailen volunteers with Kaiser Permanente West LA every Saturday working in the Family Child Center. She did some volunteer work at the Junior Blind Center doing data entry.  She also volunteered at the St. Joseph’s Center in Venice as a social work intern helping feed the needy and also helping out in child care.  She went on 2 college tours, EST BLACK COLLEGE TOUR, where she visited Bennett, Clark Atlanta, Howard, Spelman, Norfolk, Hampton & North Carolina AT&T, and also visited a few landmarks.  Her second college tour was in northern California with the UCLA Richard Riordan Business Program to UC Berkeley and Stanford  were she also got to tour Google & Survey Monkey.  Wow, what a jam packed summer!

Jessica Laar, Gold Tie ’18

Jessica worked a six week paid internship at Kaiser Permanente  in West Los Angeles, CA. The program is called Kaiser Permanente L.A.U.N.C.H. High School Summer Youth Employment Program.  L.A.U.N.C.H. is short for for Learn About Unlimited New Careers in Healthcare.

Jessica also participated in the C.S.J. Leadership Conference at Mt. St. Mary’s University, Doheny Campus in Los Angeles, CA in June.

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Belles and Books

On Wednesday, August 30th, we welcomed a group of alumnae back to St. Mary’s Academy for our fourth annual Belles and Books event! We tasked both students and alumnae to complete the same summer reading: Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. In his book, Gladwell attempts to reveal the many factors at work that contribute to a person’s success and analyze patterns using examples from various fields, such as professional sports, tech, and music. These people who achieve extraordinary things he calls outliers.

Alumnae circulated through our English classes throughout the day and held lively discussions not only about the book and the author, but also about how they define success, what you can take away from well-known success stories, and whether they believe themselves to be outliers. This gave students an additional chance to hear and explore new perspectives on the book—and to get to spend some quality time getting to know our fantastic alums! Thank you so much to the alumnae who shared their time and their thoughts (as well as life anecdotes and advice!) with our Belles! 

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Over the summer, St. Mary’s Academy hosted two sessions of enrichment camps for middle school students we dubbed SMART Camp.  These two-week sessions were comprised of morning and afternoon workshops that incorporated science, math, art and engineering/ technology also known in the education world as STEAM.

The morning portion of the first session of SMART Camp focused on Recycled Science and utilized recycled materials from  Trash for Teaching.  Our students learned about various types of energy sources and the importance of finding renewable alternatives to fossil fuels. Students used iPads to do research on energy sources, created comic strips about their selected topics, and built functioning windmills that could raise an object.

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A Welcome from our New Principal

Dear family and friends of St. Mary’s Academy,

I am excited to welcome you all to a new year! To some, this will be your first day of your first year at St. Mary’s Academy. To others, this will be the first day of your last year. And to all those in between, this will be another blessed year starting the first day at SMA. However way you approach these first days of school, know that you are blessed with opportunities to grow in all the areas you’ve promised yourself to work on, uncover talents you never knew you could do, and carry out the best version of yourself as God has created you to be. I, too, will soon be starting my first day of two important roles in my life: my first day as a new mother and my first day with all of you as your new Principal. Though I will need some time to grow in my new role in motherhood before beginning my first day as Principal, know that I will pray for all of you often and will be there in spirit, cheering you on as you live, love, learn, and serve at this wonderful school. Dr. Nah will do an amazing job as the Acting Principal during my absence and I have complete faith and trust in our talented group of faculty and staff who will be there constantly to guide you in the right direction with the mission of the school at the forefront of their hearts. I wish you all the best first day and look forward to my first day with all of you.

-Mrs. Mary Rose Batungbacal

Note- Baby Noah is here! He was born on Friday, August 18th. Everyone is doing well.

A Thank You from the Principal

“Hearing the laughter of students in the hallways, the sounds of brains turning and students learning in classrooms, the squeals of excitement during college acceptance season, the warm and welcoming smiles of all I have come to know and the sounds of prayer and faith whether in organically created student-led study groups or as one school community during mass, will be the small pieces of heaven, the pieces of St. Mary’s Academy, that I will forever cherish. It has been my pleasure, honor and joy to serve as principal of St. Mary’s Academy.

I will hold close to my heart the relationships and friendships I have gained during my time here. I am so proud of our faculty, staff, administration, Board, alumnae, friends, families and students for always working together for the betterment of our students and our world community. I am proud to have been a part of a school where students not only grow, but thrive in a comfortable and encouraging learning environment, make lifelong friendships, and receive academic and spiritual nourishment.

It has been a true gift to have come to know the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. These women of God, my mentors-my friends, who have guided me through this journey, provided me with wisdom and watered the seeds of gentleness, peace and joy that I will take with me not only in my newly appointed position as an Assistant Superintendent in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, but wherever I go.

I look forward to the future and seeing how St. Mary’s Academy will continue to flourish and continue its mission of educating young women of distinction who are committed to lifelong learning and service to the “dear neighbor” with the new principal, Mrs. Mary Rose Batungbacal, a special person who has  successfully served the St. Mary’s Academy community for many years.

Remember, to always be joyful, pray always and give thanks in all things-Thessalonians 5:16-18”

-Nancy Portillo

College Acceptances List 2017

As our Green Ties of 2017 prepare for the next phase of their education, we want to congratulate them for all of their academic achievements, community involvements and athletic talents they shared with our SMA community.

100% of our graduates will be attending college this fall! Below is a list of college acceptances and a slideshow of all of our graduating students and where they will be attending college next year.


Academic Awards- Seniors

On Wednesday, May 17th, 2017 our annual Academic Awards Ceremony was held on campus to recognize the academic achievements of our Belles.  This year we acknowledged seniors with a special senior award for excellence in a particular Academic area.  Below are those awards. Continue reading

Employee giving programs: What are they and how do they benefit St. Mary’s Academy?

What are corporate matching gift and employee volunteer grant programs?

Corporate matching gift programs are charitable giving programs created by corporations in which the company matches donations made by employees. You can double the impact of your donation by utilizing the matching gift programs that are in place at thousands of employers. The standard match is dollar for dollar up to a set limit that normally ranges between $2,000- 10,000 per employee each year.

Volunteer grant programs, also known as “Dollars for Doers” programs, are charitable giving programs setup by corporations in which the company provides a monetary donation to eligible nonprofits as a way to recognize employees who volunteer. If you volunteer with and work for a company with a volunteer grant program, you can request a grant for us which normally valued at $10-$15 per hour volunteered.

You can immediately assess your eligibility and gain access to detailed corporate giving information about your employer by searching our database of companies with matching gift programs.

See if your employer will match your donation by clicking on this button:

We provide you with as much of the following as possible:

  • Up-to-date company policies
  • Minimum volunteer hours required
  • Printed forms or links to the online submission process
  • Our nonprofit’s contact information (Tax ID, address, fundraising contact)

What is the history of employee giving programs?

Employee giving programs have been around since 1954, when the GE Foundation created the Corporate Alumni Program, the first employer gift-matching program. Today, the GE Foundation matches over $35 million annually to all 501(c)(3) organizations and accredited educational institutions (including K-12). Since then, thousands of companies have created similar employee giving programs.

How prevalent are corporate giving programs?

More than 65% of Fortune 500 companies and countless smaller employers offer matching gift or volunteer grant programs. Some even match funds raised for fundraising walks and go as far as providing each employee with a yearly unrestricted grant to allocate to a nonprofit of their choice.

For instance:

  • Verizon provides $750 grants for 50 volunteer hours and matches up to $5,000 annually
  • IBM provides $1,000 grants for 40 volunteer hours and matches up to $5,000 annually from current employees or retirees to schools and up to $1,000 annually to all other nonprofits.
  • BP, in addition to similarly generous matching gift and volunteer grant programs, allows every employee to allocate a $300 grant annually to any organization as well as matches funds raised for nonprofit walks, runs, etc.

Thousands of companies, representing more than 15 million people, offer matching gift or volunteer grant programs. We hope you’ll take a few extra minutes to see if your company offers employee giving grants – grants that could equal hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars for us.

A NEW Dance Partnership

At the beginning of March, SMA started a dance residency program through a partnership with Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre.     Both the acting and P.E. classes participated in this exciting opportunity to learn about site-specific dance.  Site-specific dance is defined as a performance that has been designed to exist in a certain place outside of the traditional stage.   Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre brought a vintage trailer onto campus to use as a mobile classroom and site and provided two teaching artists that worked with students twice a week over six weeks.

“The Duck Truck Residency Program (DTRP) is a curriculum-based initiative for schools, after-school programs, and community centers led by our teaching artists. The “Duck Truck” uses a 1976 Kountry Aire trailer as a mobile classroom and performance site, enabling students in underserved communities to take part in creative experiences in their own neighborhoods

Crafted for young “non-dancers,” the program activates children’s minds and bodies through site-specific performance, cultivating art and health in communities.”

At first our students were hesitant to something new but quickly caught on that it was okay to be pushed out of their comfort zones and that they were “in it” together.  The teaching artists used various exercises to teach spatial awareness and body/mind connection such as slow motion movement, following a partner’s movements, and gestures.  They enforced the “yes, and” mentality that there were no “bad ideas” only ideas that can be built upon.

The girls ended up being able to laugh at themselves and be proud of learning choreography in just a few short classes that they were excited to show off to the entire school.  It was a fantastic experience for all involved.

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