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IHA's Kerry Carroll

From Student to Principal

Located on Van Emburgh Avenue in Washington Township, Immaculate Heart Academy (IHA) has been part of the Pascack Valley landscape since 1960.

Principal, Kerry Carroll, has a unique viewpoint since she is also an alumna of the all-girls high school. "I grew up in Ridgewood, where I attended public school until deciding to attend Immaculate Heart Academy for high school, and it was truly life-changing," she says.

Upon graduating from IHA, Kerry went on to earn a B.A. in computer applications programming and theology from the University of Notre Dame, a J.D. degree from the Columbia University School of Law, an L.L.M. specializing in international property law from King's College London, and a certificate in college counseling from UCLA—not exactly a typical career path for an educator.

 "While still in high school, I began to consider that I might want to pursue a career in guidance counseling," says Kerry. "I ultimately attended law school, but that desire to work with a high school population never left, and when I had the opportunity to work as a teaching fellow— I knew I loved it."

After several years of practicing law, Kerry decided to try volunteering at Immaculate Heart and was soon hired as a theology teacher. "I hadn't intended a complete career change, but it was the perfect fit."

Kerry's passion for IHA is obvious. "I often hear from alumnae that their education at IHA has continued to open doors for them that they were prepared to excel. More importantly, their time at IHA showed them the importance of the value of female friendships," she says.

Kerry continually seeks creative approaches to provide students with new programming and opportunities and feels it is a privilege to share in their transformation over their four years at school. However, being a principal at an all-girls school does not come without its challenges when considering the constant bombardment of social media, peer pressure, self-esteem issues, and interpersonal challenges that young women face today. Kerry's team has developed social-emotional and mental wellness programming and executive functioning seminars for all 9th graders to help ease the transition into high school and manage stress levels. The school has also established a four-year college search program to support students and their families throughout their entire time at IHA.

"High school is a challenging time in general, and recent statistics about mental health in teenage girls are particularly frightening. Our students have many opportunities, but they also navigate new pressures," says Kerry.

The IHA faculty recently rolled out a new academic Scholae program that offers five academic "schola" segments, allowing students to study their academic passions while engaging in a small community of like-minded students. "I am incredibly proud of the thought put into launching this program because I know our students will thrive."

The school places a strong emphasis on servant leadership. "Our Director of Formation has developed an unrivaled community service program," says Kerry. "Our students become leaders in their community as 9th graders and continue to grow their skills and experience while helping others. We love hearing how our students discover their passions and continue their service as they enter college."

As an IHA alumna, Kerry can certainly relate to her students and their experiences. "I sat at the same desks, in the same classrooms, wearing the same kilt," she says. "I balanced the same sports schedules with extracurriculars and homework assignments. I received an excellent education at IHA and my friends and teachers supported me. Now, I can help ensure that we continue to provide that same exemplary high school experience to a new generation of students."