Alumnae Calendar

Laurel's varsity golf team recently closed out an incredible season! After placing second in the Northeast Sectional Golf Tournament the team qualified to compete in States, which took place October 13 and 14 at Ohio State University's Scarlet and Gray Golf Course in Columbus. 

The team, coached by Upper School Spanish Teacher and Director of Service Learning Marti Hardy, went on to break their District record of 352 strokes when on day one of States the team shot a 339. The final result was a fourth place finish. Jami Morris '21 was honored as Second Team All Ohio, Taylor Thierry '21, shot a hole-on-one on the Par 3 17th hole, Grace Durdle '19 and Haley Thierry '21 both had their personal best scores and we watched Sophia Levinson '18 play her last hole as a Laurel Senior. Congratulations to the golf team on a fantastic season! 

The Cleveland Jewish News recently spoke with Laurel's Associate Head of School, Kathryn Purcell, to discuss the benefits of a private high school. At Laurel, there is a number of benefits. I think the environment allows the girls to be serious students, to be themselves and to connect with one another in a way that doesn’t add any social pressures or any expectations in how they are supposed to behave." She goes on to state that Laurel is "a smaller environment, and with that, we’re able to grow relationships with each girl so she knows (the school) has her back. In general, at private schools, teachers are of high caliber and they are incredibly dedicated to their students. It’s a community-driven experience." Kathryn also highlights in the piece that Laurel is seeing more students take an active role in the decision process. "They know if they want an academically rigorous environment." Click here to read the full story.


In her latest New York Times column, Lisa Damour, Ph.D., Director of Laurel's Center for Research on Girls, tackles adolescent curiosity and how they will satisfy it online. She states that, "Young people have always been curious about sex, and when our teenagers have questions, the internet is usually their first stop, for worse and for better. Adolescents can and do find highly explicit sexual material online, and an emerging body of research tells a worrisome story about the place of pornography in young people's lives." Dr. Damour goes on to state that "teenagers also turn to the internet for information about relationships and sexual health."

In this digital age there is no shortage of topics to tackle with adolescents - from dating violence to how all consuming relationships can become with a smartphone in hand. The column hones in on how parents can address these topics by talking with teenagers about pornography and by directing them to dependable online information. Lisa provides several useful resources for parents and their teens, and offers a variety of approaches to take when broaching the topic. Click here to read the column in its entirety.

Hope Murphy, Director of Studies for K-8 at Laurel, recently spoke with Cleveland Magazine for an article on the "four C's", critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity, and how each of these play a vital role in Laurel's curriculum and how students learn from a young age.

The story highlights how, using an interdisciplinary approach, Laurel School encourages the Four C’s by taking one theme and extending it across subjects. Hope is quoted saying "As early as age 5, students recognize the power of their own voice and of adults and older students to listen to them. They learn the importance of bigger questions and the broader community." In the article, she goes on to talk about how social emotional development is a key focus for early learners. Kindergarten teacher Nicole Franks and First Grade teacher Laura Marabito are also quoted in the story, highlighting examples of how the four C's play out in the classroom.

"Kindergartners at the Shaker Heights girls’ school learn about animals in the rainforest and think critically about the question: “How does where the animals live affect how they live?”  

They research the subject in a science lab and then go on a field trip to visit animals at the RainForest at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. In class, kindergartners use their artistic skills to build a habitat that represents the rainforest environment.  

“Both the art teacher and the science teacher help draw out the girls’ understanding of an animal they have researched,” says Laurel kindergarten teacher Nicole Franks. “They supplement what students are learning in their homeroom about regions of the world through reading literature or nonfiction about the region in language arts and social studies."

Click here to read the full article.



Missy Rose, Director of College Guidance at Laurel, was recently included in a Cleveland Jewish News story focused on the various benefits of taking a gap semester or year prior to college. In the article Missy is quoted saying, "While academically, (the student) may be ready for college but socially, they might not be ready. Another reason can be that they feel burned out from working hard in high school and they just can’t imagine getting back into that with only a two-month break. They might want to use their brain in a different way." Missy also notes in the piece that these options are an ideal way to further personal development. Click here for the full story.
Congratulations to our ninth grade golfer who won the Regional Drive, Chip and Putt competition (Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Delaware) at Muirfield Golf Club on Saturday, September 16. She will go to the Master's Tournament in Augusta, Georgia in April to play in the National Tournament. She plays number one for Laurel’s varsity golf team and has led our team to the lowest 9 hole, 18 hole and tournament scores in the history of golf at Laurel School. 

Lisa Damour, Ph.D., Director of Laurel's Center for Research on Girls, recently co-authored a piece in the New York Times - Well - Health guide titled "How to Be a Modern Parent." 

The piece states that “Modern parents have the entire internet at their disposal and don’t follow any single authority. It’s hard to know whom or what to trust. Here, we’ll talk about how to help your child grow up to be a person you really like without losing yourself in the process.” The article touches on many different aspects of parenting starting with how to promote good sleeping habits from the start to fighting food battles with toddlers. The piece go on to touch on a variety of social issues such as bullying, gender and academic pressure and provides guidance and as to how to handle sometimes difficult parenting challenges.


Kana Cummings '18 has been named a Semifinalist in the 63rd annual National Merit Scholarship Program. She is included in a pool of approximately 16,000 talented high school Seniors that will have the opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $32 million that will be awarded in the spring. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), a not-for-profit organization that operates without government assistance, was established in 1955 specifically to conduct the annual National Merit Scholarship Program. Scholarships are underwritten by NMSC with its own funds and by approximately 420 business organizations and higher education institutions that share the goals of honoring the nation's scholastic champions and encouraging the pursuit of academic excellence.

National Merit Scholarship Program Finalists will be notified of this designation in February. All National Merit Scholarship winners will be selected from this group of Finalists. Merit Scholar designees are selected on the basis of their skills, accomplishments, and potential for success in rigorous college studies.

Congratulations to Kana on this wonderful achievement! recently highlighted the news from Laurel School announcing a $10,000 grant awarded by the Veale Foundation, a forum, of which Laurel has been a member for five years, that instills an entrepreneurial mindset in high school students through experiential learning.

The money will be used to fund Laurel's entrepreneurship activities and programs throughout this school year. Those include the school's Capstone Experience, which cultivates purpose, relationships and leadership, and its Veale Venture Challenge which, through a series of steps, aims to help students start a business while they are still in school.

To read more click here.

Laurel School graduates Nora O'Malley '05 and Phoebe Connell '04 were recently featured on and in The Plain Dealer where they discuss their newly launched Aida snack line. When the snacks they made for their groundbreaking East Village wine-tap bar, Lois, turned into an object of desire among other food pros in the neighborhood, the two decided to move the snacks "from their cheese boards to online sales, the shelves at Eataly, Manhattan's fine foods court, and now to Cleveland at The Grocery, a little Ohio City spot specializing in local food. Along the way, The New York Times gave them a nod in print, calling their snacks addictive."

"It became a cult thing," Nora recalls in the story. "They'd say things like, 'I'll trade you some of my house-smoked salt for some of your currant crisps."

The article also discusses where the concept for these snacks came from. Phoebe states that "the sourdough cracker recipe is a direct steal from the bread made regularly by her father, Tim Connell, still a history instructor at Laurel. While she once was embarrassed to show up at school with homemade bread, she now 'misses it incredibly'. The crackers, 'a riff on that bread', have their own cheese-like flavor from a five-day fermentation."

Read the full story and more about their success here


  • October 2017
    • MonOct23 MS Swimming Begins
    • MonOct23 MS Swimming Parent Meeting 6:30 PMLower University School
    • TueOct24 LSPA Picture Retake Day Lyman: Multipurpose Room
    • TueOct24 Grades 3 & 4 Theatre Workshop 5:30 PM
    • WedOct25 US Basketball Parent Meeting 6:00 PMLyman
    • FriOct27 NO CLASSES for Pre-Primary & Primary (Parent Conferences)
    • FriOct27 US Basketball Begins
    • SatOct28 ISEE Testing for Prospective Students
    • TueOct31 Halloween
    • TueOct31 Primary Halloween Parade 2:00 PM
  • November 2017
    • WedNov01 Alumnae/Senior Class Dinner 6:30 PM
    • ThuNov02 US Swimming Parent Meeting 6:00 PMLyman

Alumnae Spotlight

alumnae spotlight banner

Alumnae Spotlight showcases amazing Laurel women and the paths they have charted since graduation. Whether they are doctors, designers, artists, authors, scientists, lawyers, teachers, entrepreneurs, engineers, pharmacists, or civic activists or volunteers, Laurel women inhabit nearly all careers and corners of the world helping to make it a better place. Our alumnae and the journeys that they have taken speak to the essence of a Laurel education and what makes this School and the community of women who call it their own distinctive. This space highlights their fascinating lives and the mountains they continue to move.

If you would like to be featured in our Alumnae Spotlight, or know of an alumna who might, please email Megan Findling.

September/October 2017 Alumnae Spotlight

Tabitha Gillombardo ’12

A project for Jeanne Stephens’ Ninth Grade English class set Tabitha Gillombardo ’12 on an intellectual journey across the world—studying the Middle East, living in Amsterdam—before returning to Cleveland a year ago to help advocate for her hometown. After graduating from Laurel, Tabitha earned a bachelor’s degree in government and Middle Eastern studies from Wesleyan University. She studied Arabic to learn firsthand about ISIS and its recruitment techniques in disenfranchised communities. Academic studies of how governments give their citizens access to basic human needs led Tabitha to focus on urban planning, specifically transportation planning, in northeast Ohio. As part of a Cleveland Foundation Public Service Fellowship, Tabitha worked with NOACA (Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency), the federally mandated metropolitan planning organization. She staffed the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium, a nonprofit that works with mayors, county commissioners, developers, architects, academics and business owners to create a more vibrant, resilient and sustainable Northeast Ohio. Tabitha also independently writes articles on non-traditional security and terrorism post-9/11, and serves as a trustee for the Cleveland Association of Phi Beta Kappa. Tabitha and her sister, Samantha Gillombardo Larson ’99, are proud members of the White Team.

When did you start at Laurel and why?

When it was time for me to start preschool, my sister, Samantha, was already enrolled as a Sophomore at Laurel, so Laurel was my family’s natural choice! With the 13-year age difference between my sister and me, my mom was a Laurel parent for 27 consecutive years!

What are some of your favorite traditions, or fondest memories of Laurel?

I have so many wonderful memories from my 16 years at Laurel. Here are 10 of my favorites:

  1. Laurel Bananas, Oreo brownies, chicken fajita day, and those perfectly circular chicken patties!
  2. Mrs. Porris’ dance class. Whenever I hear the song “Mambo Number 5,” I think of dancing at the end of class with my classmates in Mrs. Porris’ studio in the colorful skirts we picked from her skirt bins.
  3. SkyLab, the visiting planetarium in the Multipurpose Room with Mrs. Farrell!
  4. The Scholastics book fairs.
  5. Mrs. Lang’s music class: Her class gave us access to the metallophone and glockenspiels. I loved earning those little strings to tie on the bottom of my recorder when I correctly performed a song from memory.
  6. Our Fourth Grade primary concert, which was cat-themed for Mrs. Pile. My class sang “Gumby Cat.” I stayed with Katie Gilkeson ’12 while I was in NYC this past May for the American Planning Association’s National Conference and we sang the ENTIRE Gumby Cat song from memory.
  7. Art with Mrs. Galloway and Mrs. Reagan and art history with Mr. Connell equipped us with the tools to appreciate art, including mastery of the language of art, so that we can intelligently describe what we love, admire and dislike. My love of art history (specifically Impressionism) inspired me to study abroad in Amsterdam! I actually lived two blocks away from where Rembrandt lived!
  8. The Senior Hallway filled with group work and laughter.
  9. My Junior year talent show: Alexis Allen ’11 and I choreographed a dance. We had so much fun practicing at Erin and Maggie Killeen’s house (both ’11).
  10. My Senior year talent show: my girlfriends and I choreographed a NSYNC dance parody complete with costumes. Nancy Eisele, Kat Geppert, Katie Gilkeson, Lilly Harris, Chelsea Jackson, Tory Mintz and I (all Class of ’12) really nailed it. 
What is the most important thing you learned at Laurel (something you draw upon even now)?

I learned to be curious. Laurel teachers constantly exposed us to new things to learn. Now, I will not pursue a job that does not intellectually challenge me everyday.

Mrs. Stephens showed me that literature could be a mirror and that the most compelling writing comes from a topic of resonance. For every book, short story, poem or play, I pushed myself to discover the moments that resonated with me. Her classes taught me to first be empathetic and then to be courageous.

Laurel taught me that success is not a threat. Laurel is competitively empowering: students are proud of and celebrate each other’s successes, and we are motivated to become our best selves.

Also, to this day, I remember dessert has two “s” because you want more of it, and angel is spelled “gel” because they use it in their hair—Thank you, Mrs. Shields.

How did you become interested in government and Middle Eastern studies, your majors at Wesleyan University?

For a project in Mrs. Stephens’ Ninth Grade English class, I studied the human rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay Prison. I was disturbed by the lack of due process and inhumane treatment of prisoners. From that moment, my dream has been to become a terrorism defense attorney because everyone deserves a fair trial and to be treated with integrity.

I did not want to learn about the Middle East from the sensationalized news media, which often simplified topics to fit American foreign policy narratives. I wanted to understand the Middle East through its cultures, history, and languages.  So, I began studying Arabic, international politics courses and Middle East history at Wesleyan.

While studying abroad in Amsterdam in the fall of 2014, I joined the University of Amsterdam’s Conflict Studies Department. Our research was on ISIS recruitment in the Schilderswijk. I translated Syrian news articles into English and became fascinated with rhetoric and framing after explaining to my Dutch colleagues the cultural significance of certain word choices.

My senior honors thesis at Wesleyan analyzes presidential terrorism rhetoric by comparing the ways President George W. Bush talked about al-Qaeda with the ways President Barack Obama talked about ISIS. I created a new speech analysis system that breaks down speeches into the five major threat response frames.

You just completed a one-year position as a Cleveland Foundation Public Service Fellow. Can you tell us a little about the fellowship program?

The Cleveland Foundation Public Service Fellowship was created in 2016 to develop leaders in the public sector. Ronn Richard, the President and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation, recognized that the private sector has many professional development programs where it can recruit and groom future industry leaders. He believed that the public sector should have the same leadership development program. The fellowship lasts one calendar year and fellows are placed at local public agencies.

One of my favorite moments of the fellowship was being featured on Ideastream’s “Sound of Ideas” in June 2017. Three other Cleveland Foundation Public Service Fellows joined me on the show to discuss public sector appeal for the millennial generation. It was absolutely incredible to be a guest on a show that I listen to regularly!

As part of your fellowship, you worked at the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA), the transportation and environmental planning organization for Northeast Ohio. What projects did you help NOACA undertake?

NOACA is the federally mandated metropolitan planning organization (MPO) for Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, and Medina counties. I was working in urban planning, specifically transportation planning. This may seem like an odd career step from a double-major in government and Middle Eastern Studies, but my academic studies really were rooted in how governments give their citizens access to basic human needs; extremist groups most often recruit from disenfranchised communities, promising better access to one, if not multiple, basic human needs.

At Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium (NEOSCC), I worked with mayors, county commissioners, developers, architects, academics and business owners to develop grant applications and education plans. NEOSCC’s vision is based off the Vibrant NEO 2040 plan, a scenario-planning document that analyzes 12 Ohio counties’ sustainability. It is the only regional plan of its kind because it coordinates public, private, and governmental activities over a massive 12-county region.

What are the biggest challenges that Cleveland currently faces?

In order to understand one of Cleveland’s greatest challenges, we need to explore the city’s transportation history, specifically highway development. Originally, highways were for state-to-state transport but in the 1970s, planners began constructing highways for city-to-city travel. In Northeast Ohio, the highways were constructed in primarily poor and minority neighborhoods, disconnecting them from downtown and the lakefront. Another consequence of the highway system was the nation’s quick transition to car dependency.

The highway system we have today was built with census projections that anticipated 4 million people moving to Cleveland by 1990. Unfortunately, those millions of people never came. The effect? The highways facilitated crippling sprawl because the shrunken city population was exacerbated by speedy travel to less expensive land in second-ring suburbs of Cuyahoga County as well as neighboring counties, like Geauga and Lorain.

What should we do now? Cleveland needs to focus its infrastructure spending on asset management, so that we can take care of our existing transportation infrastructure instead of building more streets and highways whose maintenance we already cannot afford. Take the bus and the rapid when you can to support economically and environmentally sustainable transportation!

How do you see the city changing?  What do you love about working and living in Cleveland?

One of the most thrilling things to witness is how downtown and the Flats are destinations once again! I love taking the rapid to work. I love seeing people in Cleveland gear every day of the week. Clevelanders’ grit and collective pride for our city make Cleveland so special. We never give up!

What hobbies do you enjoy in your spare time?

I love beer. I started brewing beer at college (Go Wes!), so it has been really fun getting back into the brewing scene here at home. I love going to Browns, Indians, and Cavs games. I enjoy lifting, biking and power vinyasa yoga.

For the last four years, I have tutored people currently serving time in state and federal prisons. I wholeheartedly believe in workforce development and prison education, so that, upon release, these individuals can find meaningful employment and provide for themselves and their families.

Anything else you would like to share?

For 16 years at Laurel, I practiced taking intellectual risks and believing in my own competence. This Laurel mindset of “knowing my ideas are worth sharing and my voice is worth hearing” encouraged me to independently write articles on non-traditional security and terrorism post-9/11. Currently, I am writing an article that will be published by a Washington, D.C., consulting firm. My piece analyzes American terrorism rhetoric, specifically Americans’ reserved use of the labels “terrorist” and “act of terror,” with a social psychology narrative.

What advice would you give to current Laurel girls?

Always come prepared to class. It is the greatest display of respect for your teachers.

Our classes at Laurel are intentionally designed to be interdisciplinary. Continue to think comprehensively about your studies and the world after you graduate.

Laurel girls have access to so many unique experiences. The joy from these experiences may not fully hit your heart until you have graduated. I urge you to send your teachers a message of gratitude when one of your memories makes your heart smile. I know that it means a lot to them!

An All-Girls’ Independent College Preparatory School for Grades K-12 and Coed Pre-Primary
Lyman Campus Butler Campus

Laurel's Mission Statement:

To inspire each girl to
fulfill her promise and
to better the world. 


Pre-Primary and Primary
Open House

Saturday, January 6, 2018
9:00-11:00 a.m.
Lyman and Butler Campuses

More information and RSVP here


"Laurel transforms students into strong women through an exemplary education and an atmosphere built on growth." Caitlin Cronin '16

"During my time at Laurel, I developed the mental aspect of my tennis game -- staying focused and staying in every match. The support that I've gotten from my team and my coaches has really helped me to do that." Danielle Buchinsky '15

"Laurel encourages its girls to try things they think they can do, things they don't think they can do, and even things they never thought about doing." Jazlynn Baker '16

"Laurel is a place where almost every girl can find a home. The community here is extremely accepting and diverse, and every student has her own ideas and opinions that are valued by everyone."Rebecca Brichacek '16

"Confident, independent, open-minded, fearless. That's what comes to mind when I think of what Laurel has given to my daughters." Laurel Parent


“The greatest gift Laurel gave me was the gift of lifelong friendships with classmates, teachers and parents of classmates. We have a special bond based on our shared experiences.” 
Betsy Sweeney Backes ‘78

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