Photography by Jessica Turner.
There’s a tradition at Solar Preparatory School for Girls that’s designed to foster camaraderie across all grade levels. Every student is assigned to one of six houses, represented by a color, mascot and Greek word signifying a value. Fifth-grader Olive Kennedy belongs to the aftognosia house. The color is orange, the mascot a cheetah and the virtue self-awareness. And self-aware Kennedy is.
She can rattle off her schedule just as quickly as she can say, determinedly, that lunch is her favorite part of the day. Wake up at 7 a.m. Arrive at school at 7:45 a.m. Reading, her easiest class, starts at 9:50 a.m. Math, her hardest class, begins at 11:20 a.m. Kennedy knows she wants to be not just any writer, but one who creates children’s fantasy books. She may end up taking inspiration from her favorite author and illustrator, Raina Telgemeier, whose work she discovered in the school library.
Kennedy has attended Solar since kindergarten, starting the year the school opened.
“My mom’s friend, she was like, ‘They’re opening this really cool new school called Solar, and I think you should enroll Olive in it.’ So my mom enrolled me in it, and then I got picked,” says Kennedy, whose family lives in Old East Dallas.
She plans to stay at the Henderson Avenue school through eighth grade. Then Kennedy wants to go to Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts to focus on writing and theater. She has some experience with that. She took a theater class at Solar, where she had to create props and present a news story based on a fairy tale prompt. Kennedy also played a bee in a production of The Jungle Book, part of the Disney Musicals in Schools program.
Solar has provided other opportunities for Kennedy. With the exception of last year, she participated in the soccer club. She also enrolled in the dual-language curriculum, which teaches students to speak, write, read, listen and think in Spanish and English.
“It’s been fun but also difficult because I’m learning a new language,” Kennedy says.
She’s studying Spanish at a young age, which she sees as a benefit. Plus, the language will be helpful for a potential future trip to Mexico, a place she wants to visit.
On Wednesdays, the girls spend time studying science, technology, engineering, the arts and math. Activities vary, but some examples include science projects and building games on coding programs like Blockly. Kennedy once designed her own version of Minecraft.
Each day at the all-girls school begins with a celebration of women. In sisterhood circle, students partner up and discuss a fierce female. Then during shine time, they talk about the women as a class and answer questions about them.
“They’re empowering girls to be what they want, no matter who they are,” Kennedy says.