The Pros and Cons of Single-Sex High Schools

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By Liesel Haskell, 17

My alarm clock is blaring - it's 5:30 a.m. I jump out of bed and head for the shower. On any other day, I'd roll out of bed at 6:30 a.m. But today students from a boys' school will attend class at Louisville, my all-girls high school. I need the extra hour to get ready.

Believe it or not, primping is not part of my daily routine. Since boys aren't usually on my campus, this was a special occasion and I wanted to look my best. I hadn't been in a classroom with boys since I was in junior high, a time when I was painfully shy and too intimidated to raise my hand in class.

All of that changed after I started attending Louisville. With no boys around, my confidence grew. I learned not to care if I asked a stupid question in class. I didn't worry about trying to be a know-it-all. I became comfortable with myself.

Those junior high memories filled my head as I walked into school. But then the sight I saw snapped me out of it: Instead of the usual makeup-free faces, I was greeted by faces coated with thick layers of foundation, blush, eyeliner, mascara and lipstick. 

On top of that, everyone's hair seemed remarkably perfect: pretty clips, little braids, and flowing curls. As I walked down the hallways, I kept getting whiffs of freesia and vanilla from every direction.

On an average school day, I walk around campus wearing sweat pants and not a stitch of makeup. Everyone else usually dresses the same. I was amazed at the time and effort expended just because boys were in class.

And inside the classroom, the most vocal girls were reluctant to raise their hands because boys were around. Aghh! It was junior high happening all over again!

When people hear that I attend an all-girls school, they immediately feel sorry for me. They're always surprised when I tell them that I love my school and that I had to fight with my parents to go there.

It all goes back to the eighth grade, when high school loomed in the near future. At the time, I had two choices: attend a girls' school where most of my friends were going, or a brand new school where I didn't know a soul. I wanted to be with my friends, so the girls' schools was it.

My mom was worried that I'd miss out on the real high school experience and it would make my social life more difficult.

But I went to Louisville and bloomed. With time, my hand went up more often in class. An all-girls environment was less intimidating. Choosing this school was the best decision I ever made.

At first, though, I wasn't so sure. It felt strange not to have boys around. During my freshman year I went to absolutely every dance and social event possible, because I had to find a boyfriend. But I never really had fun, because I was so concerned about what I looked like and how I acted. 

As I got older, my outlook on social events did a complete 180. Why spend my Saturday nights feeling uncomfortable? Now I'm a senior and can't believe how obsessed I was about having the perfect outfit. But that doesn't mean I don't care about socializing with boys.

This year I realized how much I've grown when I participated as a lawyer in a mock trial team at school. My position required a lot of public speaking, something I used to dread. I blasted the other side with my words and didn't care what anyone thought of me. 

Overall, my single-sex education has made me more confident. But will I attend a women's college?

No, I think I'm ready for the co-ed world.  

(c) LA Youth, Los Angeles