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Upper School Community
Students are assigned to homerooms with others from the same house and grade, along with a house advisor from the faculty or administration. Students stay in the same homeroom all four years, providing students with an opportunity to get to know fellow students and their advisor in a non-academic atmosphere. Homerooms meet twice a week; freshmen homerooms meet more often to continue the orientation program. Topics for homeroom discussions range from emergency procedures to virtues to study skills, and each week concludes with “bagel Friday” when students and staff share food and conversation.
While team colors and cheers create school spirit and fun competition, the House program creates a sense of belonging, leadership opportunities and cross-grade friendships.
There are six houses in the Upper School, each made up of students from grades nine through twelve. The houses are named after significant Visitation landmarks, and each has a nickname and house color:
- ANNECY, where the Visitation Order was founded in 1610 (Annecy Aces - red)
- AURORA, another Visitation site in St. Paul (Aurora Falcons – pink)
- GEORGETOWN, the first Visitation established in the United States in 1799 (Georgetown Bulldogs – blue)
- SOMERSET, one of the first Visitation sites in St. Paul (Somerset Gators - green)
- ST. LOUIS, for Visitation in Missouri (St. Louis Cougars – yellow)
- WHEELING, after Visitation in West Virginia (Wheeling Inchworms – orange)
Students stay in their houses all four years, beginning at Freshmen Orientation. Each freshman is paired with a senior big sister to facilitate a smooth transition to Upper School.
Belonging to a house creates a sense of belonging and an easy way to form friendships. To strengthen school-wide camaraderie, the six houses meet periodically for friendly competitions, fun activities and leadership development activities. “We are Wheeling, couldn’t be prouder!” and “Who let the dogs out?” are just a couple of the cheers that can be heard during the Homecoming Week dodge ball tournament.
Retreats are an integral part of the Visitation experience, helping our students grow spiritually, socially and emotionally. They are an opportunity to bring students together in an informal environment, focusing on ideas and questions that can help young people grow in faith and deepen their relationships. In the Upper School, the retreats build on each other from year to year and are a required part of the four-year curriculum.
FRESHMEN: This day-long retreat is intended to help students learn more about the Visitation Upper School experience and about Salesian Spirituality, which is the foundation of our school. Through games and community-building activities, large-group reflection and sharing, small-group discussion and prayer, students are encouraged to get to know each other better and to begin to develop themselves more fully as members of a caring community. Special emphasis is given to the importance of relationships in Salesian Spirituality and to the Salesian virtue of gentleness – both with ourselves and others. This retreat is led by Visitation seniors who are members of the Upper School Campus Ministry team.
SOPHOMORES: The sophomore class day-long retreat, also led by Senior Campus Ministers, builds on the theme of relationship from the year before. One very important aspect of Salesian spirituality is creating “heart to heart” relationships with one another and with God. This retreat focuses on the virtue of authenticity, encouraging students to let go of “masks” and to be real with each other as they work to create an atmosphere of respect and understanding. Special emphasis is given to self-reflection, as students are asked to consider their personal actions and the effects they have on themselves, others and the community.
JUNIORS: This retreat focuses on the broader theme of “Salesian Friendship” and recognizing its values in our own lives. Through games, input, reflection, discussion and prayer, students are challenged to cultivate Salesian virtues in their own lives, particularly those of courage, gentle strength and joyful optimism. The young women are encouraged to build firm foundations for their lives and personal choices, and to recognize the gifts they have to offer, all grounded in the Salesian maxim “Be who you are and be that well.” The junior class retreat is an overnight experience. The longer time together allows the class the opportunity to deal in depth with these issues, to reflect more deeply on the meaning of the Visitation experience, to work together as a class, and to socialize and have fun together.
SENIORS: The senior class has the opportunity to experience two retreats together: a two-night overnight at the beginning of the school year and another overnight in the spring. The first senior class retreat introduces the theme of “Companions on the Journey.” Based on the Emmaus story (Luke 24:13-33) and on the relationship of Mary and Elizabeth as seen in the story of the Visitation (Luke 1:39-56), this theme calls our senior women to support one another and to build a strong community based on the virtues of Salesian spirituality. Emphasis is placed on the virtues of interiority, humility and gentleness. Seniors spend considerable time in reflection and discussion, focusing on the “Visitation Be-Attitudes” (ways of being that are uniquely Salesian), and on identifying the characteristics of a Salesian leader, something all seniors are called to be. There is also time for goal-setting, games, class bonding, prayer, bonfires, one-on-one visiting, enjoying the outdoors and performing in an all-class talent show!
The senior spring retreat draws the Visitation experience to a close. Varying slightly from year-to-year based on the needs of each class, it is a chance for the girls to have one last time together, away from school and academic pressures, to reflect on their years at Visitation. This is a chance to reflect on the legacy they are leaving behind and on what they are taking with them “not for school, but for life” as they leave Visitation.
Class meetings assist in the development of class unity and solidarity. An integral part of the Upper School experience is each class' identity as young women with a variety of gifts and talents and united in Salesian spirituality. This idea is introduced during freshmen orientation and is a main component of the retreat program.
As a school, it is our goal to develop Visitation girls into caring and compassionate women who can work with and lead others. Class meetings provide an opportunity for our students to grow in this area together. During a class meeting, students from an entire grade come together to discuss topics specific to them – for example, college counseling, guest speakers, or planning for Lower School Field Day or Winter Week. Class meetings are held twice a month and are run by the class councils, with faculty advisors on hand to help. Additionally, class meetings provide leadership opportunities for class officers and student council representatives.
Visitation is over 100 years old, and we have many traditions which are near and dear to students and alumnae. Some traditions, like Senior Tea, have been celebrated for decades. Others, like the house system, are 21st century additions.
Here are some of the Upper School traditions:
- Art festivals
- Awards assemblies
- Big Sister/Little Sister (senior/freshman) program
- Clothing and food drives
- Drama performances
- Father-Daughter Dance
- Feast of the Visitation
- Founders’ Day celebrations
- Homecoming Week
- Liturgies for seniors and parents
- Merrie Market auction and gala
- Mother-Daughter event
- Music performances
- Opening Mass/Flag Raising
- Senior Tea
- Student Council activities
- Student liturgies
- Student retreats
- Winter Carnival Week