Belles Blog

a blog about St. Mary's Academy

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.

Continue reading

Arts Field Trips to LACMA & The Broad

We’re gearing up for Arts Week right after spring break so we thought we’d recap on the two museums our visual arts students recently visited –  Los Angeles County Museum of Art and The Broad.

“Since its inception in 1965, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has been devoted to collecting works of art that span both history and geography, in addition to representing Los Angeles’s uniquely diverse population. Today LACMA is the largest art museum in the western United States, with a collection that includes nearly 130,000 objects dating from antiquity to the present, encompassing the geographic world and nearly the entire history of art. Among the museum’s strengths are its holdings of Asian art, Latin American art, ranging from pre-Columbian masterpieces to works by leading modern and contemporary artists; and Islamic art, of which LACMA hosts one of the most significant collections in the world. A museum of international stature as well as a vital part of Southern California, LACMA shares its vast collections through exhibitions, public programs, and research facilities that attract over a million visitors annually, in addition to serving millions through digital initiatives, such as online collections, scholarly catalogues, and interactive engagement at” –

One of LACMA’s public programs are school tours.  The tour we went on was about the Art of Many Cultures. On this tour, students discovered and compared art from many different cultures (Western and non-Western), identifying the unique qualities that relate a work of art to the historical time period and place of its origin.  Students also learned how culture and art influences each other.  We saw examples of Hindu, African, Pre-Colombian,  Egyptian, Assyrian, Dutch, and Roman art along with some contemporary American art.

Chris Burden Urban Light. 2008

Continue reading

Health Careers Path Program Updates

The Health Careers Path Program students have been very busy this semester! Here’s a sample of some exciting things they’ve been doing.

On Thursday 3/9, the outstanding Mount Saint Mary’s University’s nursing students taught the Health Career Program Blue Tie freshmen about measuring vitals signs–both in theory and practice. After a slideshow and discussion, 2-3 SMA students worked with an MSMU instructor to receive personal instruction and a chance to practice her skills taking blood pressure.

Continue reading

Top 5 Reasons our Belles say #WhySMA is their High School Choice

A group of our Belles from each class and tie color were asked to share #WhySMA is their high school choice:

1. Faith and Prayer

One of the benefits of attending a Catholic school is the importance of incorporating faith and prayer throughout the school day. At St. Mary’s Academy, we begin each morning with a prayer, each class with a prayer, and our weekly Faculty/Staff meetings with a prayer. The SMA community is committed to leading the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet as we develop young women to grow in their faith.

2. Career Path Programs – Arts, Business, Engineering and Health Careers

The unique academic and career based path programs at St. Mary’s Academy provide our students with curriculum that incorporates theories, hands on projects and community partnerships. The Career Path Programs are connected to local organizations and universities including Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, Loyola Marymount University, US FIRST and Mount Saint Mary’s University.  School field trips to Raytheon, SpaceX, Deloitte and Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center expose our students to innovative leads in the STEM fields.

Providing an after school music program through Harmony Project and student performances through Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre, enables our students to receive an Arts education in a time when budget cuts are affecting art programs. In addition, St. Mary’s Academy is proud to be the only all-female Project Lead the Way high school in Southern California.

Continue reading

SMArtBots Competition- Robotics Team Competes at US First Regional

The St. Mary’s Academy robotics team, SMArtBots (Team #3759), competed in the US FIRST regional championship in Ventura California on March 16 through March 18, 2017. This was the seventh regional competition the team has entered since its founding in in November, 2010. SMA fielded one of two all-female teams in the competition. Usually we are the only all-girl team.

This year’s team, pictured here with their mentors, includes from left to right Mentor Daisy Hernandez, Natalie Llamas, Karen Villatoro, Oceanna Lenon, Amy Pinto-Quintanilla, Mentor Mr. Bruce Ioki, Victoria Bravo, Michelle Ramirez, Coach Joe Condrat, Ashley Mancia and Jasmin Perez.

Ms. Hernandez is a Red Tie alumna who was a member of the charter SMArtBots team in 2011 and has returned as a mentor. She is currently studying mechanical engineering engineering at Cal State Los Angeles. Mr. Ioki was present at the meeting which brought US FIRST to the attention of SMA and has mentored the team since its inception. At that meeting, Mr. Condrat accepted the challenge to lead the team in what is arguably the ‘big leagues’ of high school robotics competition. The team fielded its first robot at the Los Angeles Regional competition four months later.

Forty-two teams entered the regional competition held at Ventura College. Seventy-seven qualifying matches were held on Friday and Saturday morning. Each match involves two ‘alliances’, each composed of three teams. Team assignments change for each match so that every team both competes against and cooperates with every other team. At the conclusion of qualification round the eight teams with the best scores form new alliances by choosing from the other teams. SMArtBots had the fifth highest score at the end of qualifications. These 24 teams form eight alliances that compete in the elimination round.

Field of Competition

This year’s robot is the lightest and most reliable robot ever created by the SMArtBots team.   The robot is required to retrieve and deliver objects to a team member in the field and then climb a rope to trip a light. The SMArtBots team achieved its best-ever performance this year, completing the qualification round by winning nine of twelve matches. The team survived the quarter-final round only to be eliminated in the semi-finals. This was the first year any SMArtBots team made it to the play offs.

Robot #3759

Continue reading

CSJ Work Around the Country

In honor of St. Joseph’s week we are sharing videos from The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet St. Paul Province that tell the story of the CSJ and their charism and dedication to serving “the dear neighbor”.



SMA faculty and staff congratulate Sr. Margaret Corey Jude CSJ on her Jubilee, celebrating 60 years of service with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.  Gold Tie and Student Leadership Council Vice President, Kristin Tatum ’18, put together a video on behalf of SLC.   Congratulations Smudge!


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