Our People, Our Voices
From Those Who Know
Students Share: “What we Love about Salem Academy!”
“Salem is helping me be the person I want to be. Because Salem is diverse, I was able to break out of my American bubble and see the world as a whole. I’m a much more globally aware citizen and now I can talk to people from all over the world.”
Jordan Duncan A’20
“Salem is teaching me to live a balanced life, to work hard, but to take breaks and have fun, too. That’s how I want to live my life and I learned it at Salem Academy.”
Faith Harcus A’20
“Because of the smaller class size, we get a much deeper connection with our teachers. We know each other as human beings, which makes it easier to ask questions and get help … I struggled academically in public school. I wasn’t getting great grades and I didn’t really care. Now, I care and I’m driven to do well. Once I got my first A on a test at Salem (and it took me a while) I felt incredible. I studied and it paid off – it’s a feeling I wanted to continue.”
Ava Heinen A’20
“My favorite part about being a boarding student is the fact that I have some independence. I can go downtown with my friends to have dinner. Plus, we get really close because we’re together all the time. The friends I’ve made here will be my friends for life.”
Jeanine Ikekhua A’20
“I came to Salem from public school, where I wasn’t getting much out of it. Socially, I didn’t have the types of friends who would help me move forward. Here, it’s the opposite: all my friends want to do well, which has affected my own desire to do well.”
Isabella Smith A’20
“I want to go into civil engineering. I’ve always been interested in math and science –and the Academy has taken my interest even further. During Jan Term, I did an internship with civil engineering firm back home. It was a lot of fun and it made me want to go into the field even more. I was glad to have this affirmation before I went to college.”
Sidney Stearns A’20
“The community is the best part about Salem. We are all supportive of each other. I was surprised that I felt so comfortable right away, but now I see why it happens: whenever a new girl comes, we have traditions and ice-breakers that pull us together.”
Jessie Gentles A’21
“The advisory program is especially good. We have weekly lunches with our advisors and it really helps us stay on track. I feel like I could ask my advisor anything – she has been really helpful to me!”
Michaela Murphy A’21
“When I toured Salem, I saw students at lunch, sitting at a table talking to each other and enjoying each other’s company. There were no phones and I could hear they were having real conversations. Seeing that human interaction made me want to go to there and from that point, Salem was it.”
Emma Shelby A’21
“I’ve changed in so many ways since I’ve been here. I’m more culturally aware and more respectful of people’s differences. Salem has girls from all over the world and all over the country, so we learn that everyone has a different upbringing and experience. I’ve learned to appreciate that. This is one of the ways I feel that Salem is preparing me for the real world. I’ll have a job one day and will have to work with people who are different from me. Because of this, I’ll feel comfortable and will go farther with my work.”
Piper Angel A’22
“The teachers at Salem always help us, they never just send us off on our way. Best of all, they help us become self-motivated. It’s not ‘get this done or else.’ Instead, it’s ‘get this done and you’ll be a better student.’”
Emma Grimstead A’22
Our Outstanding Alumnae
A few of the many!
Marshall Chapman A’67: Singer, song writer, author, and film actor
“The only real education I ever got was at Salem Academy. Because it was a college prep school, Vanderbilt couldn’t throw me anything I hadn’t seen before.”
Marshall Chapman A’67
A renowned singer, song writer, author, and film actor, Marshall Chapman has released 13 critically acclaimed albums and written songs recorded by Emmylou Harris, Joe Cocker, Irma Thomas, Jimmy Buffett, and others. She appeared in the films Country Strong (with Gwenyth Paltrow), Mississippi Grind (with Ryan Reynolds), and Lovesong (opposite Rosanna Arquette). In addition, Marshall wrote two books: Goodbye, Little Rock and Roller and They Came to Nashville. Read more about Marshall here.
Kathryn Harrold A’68, LMFT: Television and film actor; marriage and family therapist
“I received my best education at Salem Academy. When I went to Mills College, I was so far ahead of my peers in English class that the professor asked me to help other students. I’m very proud of my Salem education.”
Kathryn Harrold A’68, LMFT
After graduating from Salem Academy, Kathryn Harrold went on to have two successful careers: one as a stage, film, and television actor, and another as a marriage and family therapist. Her IMDB profile highlights her work in TV (Greek, Desperate Housewives, The Larry Sanders Show, I’ll Fly Away, Chicago Hope, Rockford Files, e.g.) and film (Raw Deal, Yes, Giorgio, Modern Romance, e.g.).
In addition to a bachelor’s degree in Drama from Mills College, Kathryn earned a master’s in Clinical Psychology from Antioch College and is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Today, she maintains a private clinical practice in Los Angeles.
Rolonda Watts A’77: Author, journalist, talk show host, actor, and voice artist
Rolonda Watts is an award-winning journalist, television and radio talk show host, producer, actor, voice artist, standup comedian, and author. Her first novel, Destiny Lingers, was endorsed by Dr. Maya Angelou. You may also know Rolonda as the voice of Professor Wiseman on the PBS show, Curious George.
She is a graduate of Spellman College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Rolonda also received an Honorary Doctorate from Winston-Salem University. She is president and CEO of Watts Works Productions. Read more about Rolonda and her impressive career.
Ashley Hamlett A’86, J.D.: Attorney, judge, law professor, director of licensing for Alabama’s Board of Medical Examiners
“Salem Academy helps girls become incredible women. It happens over and over — by nurturing them, encouraging them to try new things, and celebrating who they are.”
Ashley Hamlett A’86, J.D.
Following her Salem Academy graduation, Ashley Hamlett (shown here with her sons) attended UNC Chapel Hill and the University of Alabama School of Law. She served as a law professor and the director of legal writing at Faulkner University before becoming Alabama’s first female administrative law judge. Today, Ashley is director of licensing for Alabama’s Board of Medical Examiners.
Looking back, Ashley said, “Attending Salem Academy was a game changer for me. It gave me the confidence I needed to attend law school (when there weren’t many women there) and to serve as the only female administrative judge in Alabama. The Academy gave me the self-assurance and the skills to survive any intimidating situation by being smart and accomplished.”
Lalitha Vadlamani-Simmers A’87, MD: Pediatrician
“Of all my educational experiences, Salem Academy was the most pivotal in terms of making me who I am. It taught me how to handle challenges and it solidified my independence. At the same time, Salem gave me a sense of home and made me part of a family-like community.”
Lalitha Vadlamani-Simmers A’87, MD
After graduating from Salem Academy, Dr. Lalitha Vadlamani-Simmers A’87 attended Duke University (B.S. in Zoology) and East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine (M.D.). She also served six years of active duty in the Air Force.
Now a pediatrician practicing in Florida, Lalitha credits Salem for helping her fulfill her life-long dream. “I knew I wanted to go to medical school since I was 8 years old and Salem was a big part of my support system,” she said. “My biology teacher, Ann Dowell, approached me about a Jan Term internship, which I didn’t think was possible as a high school student.”
“I ended up doing two internships at Forsyth Medical Center — one in the ER and another in Labor and Delivery. It was the first time I’d been in a medical setting watching medicine being practiced. It peaked my interest even more.”
Natasha Del Toro A'93: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Emmy Award-winning film maker, on-air correspondent, and producer
“Going to Salem Academy was one of the best things I’ve done. It sent me on a completely different life track. I’ve carried the confidence I gained with me into my professional life.”
Natasha Del Toro A'93
Since her time at Salem Academy, Natasha has established herself as an award-winning journalist, documentary film maker, and representative of the underserved. Her work, which has been featured on PBS Frontline, Time.com, Netflix and ABC/Univision (The Naked Truth), HBO (Outpost), and more, often reports on the most marginalized members of society.
She served as host for PBS World Channel’s series America Reframed and as the anchor of Mic Dispatch on Facebook Watch. Natasha attended Tulane University and then received a master’s in Broadcast Journalism from Colombia.
In addition to being a Colombia Fulbright scholar, Natasha received a Pulitzer Prize (for her reporting on the Panama Papers) and an Emmy Award (for Hunger in the Valley of Plenty). She has also received a DuPont, RFK and a Gracie award.
In a 2017 interview with Salem Academy Magazine, Natasha said, “I couldn’t have done it without everything I learned at Salem Academy. It set the foundation.” Read about her latest work here.
Jessamyn Stanley A’05: Yoga teacher, author, body positivity advocate, entrepreneur
“Salem was the most important step in my life. I look at life and my identity as ‘before’ and ‘after’ Salem. I was deeply shaped by its values. It instilled in me a sense of individually that is inherent to the work I do.”
Jessamyn Stanley A’05
Jessamyn Stanley’s entrepreneurial spirit has guided her post-Academy life. After earning a B.A. in Media Studies from UNC Greensboro and an A.A. in Culinary Arts from the Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham, she started practicing yoga. Today, Jessamyn is an internationally recognized yoga teacher, body positivity advocate, and author of Every Body Yoga. She is also the founder The Underbelly, an online yoga studio and app for all levels and all body types.
Her work has been covered in the following national publications and news outlets: The Washington Post, People Magazine, Forbes, Psychology Today, USA Today, Yoga Journal, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Seventeen, CNN, ABC News, and more.
Looking back on her Salem Academy experience, Jessamyn said, “The single sex education allowed me to concentrate and not be distracted. To be an innovator, you have to be willing to walk your own path without a road map. Salem was a huge part of my understanding that.”
Darien Hanington Mogni A’08, Engineer
“Salem was awesome and I hold it near and dear to my heart – it was the perfect high school experience. I’m still close to my Salem friends; the relationships are lifelong.”
Darien Hanington Mogni A’08
Darien Hanington Mogni A’08 credits Salem Academy — particularly, Math teacher Kris Sorrells — for her career as an engineer. “Mrs. Sorrells knew I loved math and science, even though I was thinking of going into Business,” Darien said. “She talked to me about engineering and how it aligned with my passions and that conversation took me in a totally new direction.”
After graduating from Salem, Darien earned a Chemical Engineering degree from Northwestern University and today, she works as a quality engineer for Medline Industries. “I wouldn’t be where I am without Mrs. Sorrells’ mentorship,” she said. “Back then, there were even fewer girls going into engineering, but she reminded me that I can do anything.”
Tianjiao “Tania” Cai, A’09, MS, MBA: Engineer
“Salem Academy helped me achieve all that I have now. It taught me that girls can do as good as boys. I was one of the few female engineering students in college and I did better academically. I was ahead in college because of my time at Salem Academy.”
Tianjiao “Tania” Cai, A’09, MS, MBA
An engineer and senior consultant with multinational company Ernst & Young, Tania credits her Salem Academy experience with giving her “the confidence or skills to be an engineer.” An international student from China, Salem was her entrance into the U.S. “It helped me acclimate to the customs and language. It also gave me confidence, especially in my science abilities,” Tania says.
After graduation, Tania earned two degrees at Drexel University (a bachelor’s in Material Science Engineering and a master’s in Mechanical Engineering), followed by an MBA from Georgetown University.