Austin Prep: Journey of the Heart



March 22, 2022

A Reflection on Women's History at Austin Prep

By Ms. Celia Barletta, World Language Department Chair

As Women’s History Month comes to a close and I see the young women of Austin Prep excelling in academics, athletics, service and leadership, I can’t help but recall an important event in Austin Prep’s history that I was fortunate enough to have experienced first hand.  Just about 30 years ago, after having completed the first half of its existence as an all boys’ school, the decision was made for Austin Prep to admit its first female students and become a co-educational school. For those of us who worked and attended school here at that time the proposition was both exciting and daunting.  There was an enormous amount of preparation that needed to take place so that we would be ready to welcome our first female students and all hands were on deck to guide this transition smoothly to its completion.

When the new school year began in the fall of 1992, Austin Prep was transformed as the first group of young women joined our school and made their presence felt immediately. Those young women led the way for all those who came after them by quickly earning and achieving important milestones in the community such as first female Valedictorian, Student Council President, Varsity Student-Athlete, and role model.  They were true pioneers who established themselves in our school with confidence and enthusiasm that caused a positive shift in the school’s culture toward renewed spirit, academic initiative and social responsibility. 

An example of this which I particularly appreciate was the establishment of the Austin Service Club.  The only six girls in the sophomore class of 1992-1993 united to form this new club and asked me if I would be their moderator.  The club was unique at Austin Prep at the time and its purpose was to find ways to help others, both in our school community and in the communities where our students lived. This group of young women made connections with programs that fed the poor, cared for the elderly, tutored the young and cheered on those in need of encouragement.  They were amazingly successful in sharing the responsibilities within the group, with each student taking a turn leading or supporting as needed for each project.  

Over the years, the Austin Service Club grew steadily in the size of the membership and the scope of the projects they undertook.  During the 20 years that I was the moderator of the group, I was thankful to be able to work alongside the members of the club and to have been invited to accompany them on their journey. Without specifically articulating the charisms of veritas, unitas, and caritas, “The Sophomore Six” as the founding members of the club called themselves, demonstrated our shared Augustinian values through their desire to collaborate in an activity that depended on sharing their gifts to benefit others. They were a shining example of how women have influenced, enriched and strengthened the Austin Prep community through its history.