Sisters Academy of Baltimore: Quality Education for Girls

In the Fall of 2002, Sisters Academy of Baltimore emerged from an idea generated by the leadership of four Congregations of Religious Women – SSND, SNDdeN, RSM and CBS (Bon Secours). The idea was to initiate quality educational opportunities for young girls in SW Baltimore, MD – an area of extreme poverty.

From that idea arose a middle school (grades 5 through 8) for girls from Southwest Baltimore who lived in extreme poverty.  The underlying philosophy for this effort was the demographic principle that women’s educational attainment is directly proportionate to the quality of life indicators in their neighborhoods.  More precisely, as women’s education improved, so did the quality of life in their community.

Two Sisters, Delia Dowling, SSND and Suzanne Hall, SNDdeN, who became the Co-Founders, took the idea and within two years, created a school which today is filled with eager-to-learn girls from disadvantaged areas of Baltimore.

Delia and Suzanne set up a small office on Hollins Street in SW Baltimore where they lived among the people, and conceptualized and executed every aspect of the total project.  First, a Feasibility Study examined the need, potential for financial support, and possible sites.   A great deal of time was spent on this Study as the Sisters spoke with folks in the neighborhood, religious leaders, politicians, bankers and other service providers.

After the Feasibility Study, while Suzanne created the new legal corporation documents, Delia worked on a Curriculum which met the guidelines of the State and secured MD State Accreditation.  Working together, they secured sufficient money to begin operations and still have a cushion for future operations.

After a lengthy search for a site, Delia and Suzanne purchased an old Catholic school building which had been empty for some years – for $1M.  They could not get the Archdiocese of Baltimore to lower that price!

At that point, Delia concentrated on recruiting students and teaching staff, while Suzanne handled the work of securing title to the physical plant and appealing directly to John Erickson of Erickson Retirement Homes for help in renovating the building, the gymnasium & institutional kitchen.  John gave access to all of his contractors who then completed the renovation at no cost.   During that period, Suzanne became the de facto General Contractor, and with John’s help completed all of the renovations – which would have cost an estimated $750,000.

At the time of this writing, 2022, 98% of the girls and young women who have graduated from Sisters Academy have gone on to successful college experiences.

In 2007, when the school was up and running, Suzanne received a phone call from Sr. Carole Shinnick, SSND, Executive Director of LCWR asking if she would consider taking on responsibility for LCWR’s newly-initiated New Orleans Recovery Project.  Suzanne responded in the affirmative because of the compelling and immediate need in New Orleans subsequent to Hurricane Katrina. 

To this date, Delia has served as the constant-and-successful President of Sisters Academy of Baltimore.  After New Orleans, Suzanne is now the Canonical Treasurer and Coordinator of Development for her Unit in her Congregation.

Suzanne Hall, May 2022