Belles Blog

a blog about St. Mary's Academy

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!


A Week In Watts

A WEEK IN WATTS premiered recently at The Grove. The documentary highlights two of our Belles, Jennifer Alvarado, Green Tie ’17, and Petra Avelar, Blue Tie ’20, who are part of Operation Progress Los Angeles.  The mission of Operation Progress is to empower underserved youth to become educated, capable, ethical and productive people who will in turn lead, mentor and contribute to society at large. They support students from kindergarten through high school and beyond through a comprehensive program called Ten Pillars of Success. Through Academics, Arts, Athletics, Coping Skills, Ethics, Long-term Commitment, Mentoring, Parent Involvement, Service Work and Skills Training they believe hope, opportunity and success can be achieved.  Thank you to Greg and Rick Caruso for making the film possible. And to LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck for support of Operation Progress.

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Zoot Suit Field Trip

St. Mary’s Academy was selected to participate in the ‘Zoot Suit’ Student Matinee Program! Between February 21-23, 2017, approximately 2,000 students from the Los Angeles area attended Center Theatre Group’s Zoot Suit performances at the Mark Taper Forum.  Zoot Suit is about young Chicanos in 1940s Los Angeles fighting for justice, self-identity and racial acceptance during a time the media stigmatized the zoot suit fashion.

School educators who participated in the program attended a conference to delve in to the play in order to prepare class discussions and reflections on the students’ viewing experience. Our students engaged in a variety of activities before and after their trip to the Taper Forum and even received a class visit from one of the actresses from the play! Following the performance, the students from various schools were able to ask questions to the actors and actresses. One of our Belles asked the actresses how they were able to show a strong female presence in a male dominated play. The actresses appreciated the question and informed the students that they felt compelled to bring a stronger presence to the stage because there was a predominantly male cast and were fortunate to be mentored from other female cast members to bring energy and passion to the stage. The Zoot Suit play would not be as impactful without our female  artists!

SMA Belles participated in the Center Theatre Group’s Instagram challenge as to what our students #TakeAStand on in the face of adversity. Our Belles #TakeAStandCTGLA for female power and equality!

Acting teacher, Ms. Gorder wrote about the experience-

“Estela Garcia, a teaching artist with Center Theatre Group LA, came to our class to introduce the themes of Zoot Suit to our SMA Belles. She felt right at home here, as she also grew up in South LA! During her first visit, we played lots of theatre games that were created by El Teatro Campesino to introduce theatre to farm workers. On her second visit, we discussed the play as a whole and created short scenes with our own endings to the play. We were very thankful for this opportunity from Center Theatre Group. Next week, we will be putting together a mock trial similar to the Sleepy Lagoon Murder Trial discussed in Zoot Suit.”

California Science Center Trip

Our Engineering and Geometry classes visited the California Science Center to explore the Disney Pixar and Space Shuttle Endeavour exhibits.  Both exhibits provided hands on experience in the combined fields of math, science, art, and engineering. Our Belles are inspired to pursue possible career fields in STEM and see their classroom content come to life!  Below are snapshots from the trip and quotes from students in geometry about what they liked most and learned on the trip.  Thanks to our awesome Parents Association for raising money to provide transportation for these classroom trips!

“It was cool that I saw things I learned in class (graphing. triangles, etc,) and saw that it can be used for things like movies.  I never really thought about math being used like that.”

“My favorite thing was observing the building and finding all the different shapes that we learn about in geometry.”

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Annenberg Space for Photography Field Trip

The Media Arts career path recently went on a field trip to the Annenberg Space for Photography in order to view two exhibits, Identity by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and #girlgaze. Identity showcases people who have dominated their field  of work despite demographic prejudice.  This showcase empowered our girls to not give on their dreams despite what people around them might say.  They enjoyed the simplistic nature of the pictures that further enhances powerfulness of the picture.

#girlgaze is social movement that empowers female photographers and gives them a platform to showcase their work. This work allowed the girls to see what could be done by people similar to them.  They were also able to post some of their own #girlgaze pictures and contribute to the movement.

Girls get a hands-on view of #girlsgaze photos

Hidden Figures Field Trip

On Tuesday, January 31, 2017, our Belles embarked on a school-wide field trip to the Cinemark theatre at The Promenade at Howard Hughes Center.

Thank you to our generous benefactors Mr. Roman Silberfeld and Ms. Pat Klous for sponsoring our entire school  to see Hidden Figures. They were inspired by Octavia Spencer, who purchased an entire showing at a Baldwin Hills movie theater in Los Angeles during MLK weekend, and  wanted to give back to our students at St. Mary’s Academy. Our generous donors sponsored the entire experience from the  cost of transportation, movie tickets and ensuring each student had a bag of popcorn, candy and beverage.

Ms. Klous shared with our students her own humble beginnings and lack of resources as a child. She indicated that it was a high school teacher that encouraged her to pursue her dreams and apply to college. She thanked the SMA faculty for believing and supporting our students as they prepare for college and life beyond high school. She encouraged the Belles to believe in themselves and reinforced to them that they can become whoever they want to be. They just need to work hard to achieve their dreams!

This wonderful gift occurred during #CatholicSchoolsWeek. The day’s theme “Celebrating Your Students” was a wonderful tribute to show our Belles how much they are appreciated by the SMA community.

Upon returning to school, the students reflected on the movie during their homeroom class. Below are some of their responses.

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