Class of 2020 celebrates successful inaugural Pitch Night 2019
Mary Virginia Swain '77C

As part of this year's new Seminar Program at Saint Mary's School, juniors have spent this quarter working with community partner District C to solve real-world problems for local businesses. It was an exciting and innovative evening at Saint Mary's, Feb. 21, as the results of that work were presented on the inaugural Pitch Night, when the students pitched their ideas to company representatives.

"For the last two months, the juniors have worked collaboratively in squads of three to four girls to tackle complex business problems," said Heather Ramee, 11th grade seminar lead faculty member. "The inaugural Saint Mary's Pitch Night is the culmination of all this incredible work by the Class of 2020. The experience has required them to build and exercise several key competencies such as communications, cross-cultural intelligence, self-directed learning, and new media literacy, to name a few. They have engaged in independent research, regularly interfaced with business professionals, asked critical questions, brainstormed solutions, and challenged themselves to think outside the box."

Community partners for this Seminar included: The Community Music School, Family Style, Kaplan Test Prep, Lithios, Repurpose-IT, Saint Mary's shop1842, Teaching Horse, and Yarns Etc.

Our community partner District C is dedicated to partnering with forward-thinking high schools from across the region to offer innovative real-world learning experiences designed to teach high school how to work together to solve real problems. District C has set a goal of giving every Triangle area high school student a real-work learning experience by 2025. Saint Mary's is the first area high school to bring this program to its students.

"There is not another school in the country doing this kind of innovative work, as Saint Mary's is doing," said District C co-founder Dan Gonzalez, in remarks at the Pitch Night opening reception in Smedes-Emory Parlor.

The Challenges

The Community Music School in Raleigh, represented by Dennis de Jong, serves undeserved youth and is looking for increased visibility, awareness, and influence.

Family Style, creator of family-friendly food events, represented by Brent Miller and Cayce Miller, is looking to develop a sustainable business model.

Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, provider of test prep services, is looking to create a unique product design concept for SAT and ACT students. A Kaplan executive flew in from New York for Saint Mary's Pitch Night.

Lithios, a five-year-old app developer, represented by DeShawn Brown, is looking to sharpen its brand image to attract larger enterprise-level clients.

Repurpose IT, a nonprofit that provides indigenous communities with repurposed technology, represented by Ted Hein, if looking for strategies to help communities preserve their traditions.

Shop1842, Saint Mary's school store, is looking to increase sales. The shop was represented by Kirstin Monroe and Mary Brown Taylor '08.

Teaching Horse, a leadership development provided, represented by alumna June Gunter '83C and Beth Hyjek, is looking to attract a new generation of clients.

Chapel Hill yarn store, yarns etc..., represented by Mary Stowe, is looking to modernize its marketing efforts to attract more visitors and create a community.

The Results

The business representatives engaged in compelling question and answer sessions with the students following each pitch and were busy taking notes with the students' ideas and asking for their PowerPoint presentations.

"On behalf of Kaplan Test Prep, I wanted to thank you all as a group for your thoughtful and thought-provoking work, which will have real impact as we set out to build a brand-new kind of SAT prep tool," wrote Chris Ryan at Kaplan Test Prep in a follow-up email to the students. "Gregg, Whitney, and I were thrilled to hear your pitches last week -- and, as you noticed, to ask lots of follow-up questions! We hope the discussions were as interesting to you as they were to us. As I mentioned in the meeting, we'd love to be able to run a few more specific ideas and/or video 'rough drafts' by you as we develop them. We'll be back in touch on that front. In the meantime, good luck on your continued studies, and thanks again for helping us develop the next generation of test-prep products."

Lithios representative DeShawn Brown said, "The groups did amazing and we're going to be implementing a lot of their feedback."

By all accounts, Saint Mary's inaugural Pitch Night was a resounding success.

About Saint Mary's Seminar Program

The Saint Mary's School seminar program integrates what we know girls need, with what we know of the changing world girls will be facing, to provide relevant, forward-looking, real-world opportunities to prepare girls for college and life.