Buffalo Seminary’s location in the Elmwood Village neighbourhood immediately captured Martha Achieng Odhiambo’s heart. Since then, the Kenyan student, who will graduate in 2022, has not looked back.
“It was just the perfect balance of social life and personal space,” Odhiambo exclaims. “My instinct to come to SEM was just heavily influenced by its location and I hoped everything else would fall in place. And it did.”
Buffalo is a city with a bustling social scene, yet with Frederick Law Olmsted’s Delaware Park, this city allows residents to get their fix of nature’s beauty. This appealed most to Odhiambo. “Not as busy as New York, and not as boring or quiet as the rural areas,” she says.
SEM boasts more than just this enviable setting. It has an excellent academic programme and a culture of achievement, leadership, and creativity. Here, students are prepared for college and for life. They cultivate intellect and independence, with all the support they need to evolve into lifelong scholars and leaders.
For students, it is a home away from home. Instant life-long connections are made among the 160 students when they meet each other for the first time.
At the residences, Odhiambo met her best friend, Katrina, a Bahamian; an American friend talked to her during orientation and she is still playing soccer with her and her mates after four years. The Black Student Union was another place where Odhiambo connected very well with its members.
Just like home
Life at SEM for boarders is just like home life — both students and faculty members live and have meals together. They also participate in a rich array of activities after school — including supervised study hours — and on weekends.
Dr Lisa Semple believes that SEM’s boarding life has allowed her daughter Lulu Semple ‘25, currently in Grade Nine, to blossom into a more confident and independent girl.
“By being a boarder, she is responsible to get herself to school on time, meals and laundry. I am impressed that she is able to manage all of this and her schoolwork, and am thrilled that she is learning some life skills while boarding,” Lisa says, adding that Lulu now communicates with teachers by herself more often — she used to shy away from teacher interaction.
Girls are strongly encouraged to pursue their passions through SEM’s 14 athletic teams, 25-plus student-run clubs, theatre and arts programmes and 19 AP classes. It is SEM’s academic programming, however, that ensures students thrive here.
Flexible Learning by Design
SEM is a community of scholars, where women have the flexibility to pursue their interests in research, work, service, leadership, arts and sport. Hence, this particular philosophy, Flexible Learning by Design allows students here to continue their personal pursuits while still having relevant, meaningful learning experiences. Technology, flexibility, personal attention, and an understanding mindset make this possible.
For aspiring equestrians, the Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Centre and its facilities – located five minutes from campus – allow riders to practise their skills, compete regionally and nationally, and volunteer. “This educational model was perfectly suited for Melissa’s (Melissa Jacobs ‘12, one of the original Flexible Learning by Design students) personal and educational goals. She was able to ride in competitions throughout the US while simultaneously completing her demanding academic coursework, being a part of the SEM community, and ultimately graduating alongside her classmates,” Alice Jacobs enthuses.
Flexible Learning by Design students also actively pursue dancing, recording, skiing and other interests at a high level. Current SEM student Emmy Robinson ’22 is taking advantage of the programme while participating in an intensive dance initiative at the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago called the Joffrey Conservatory.
Flexible Learning by Design has also allowed Robinson – the only high school student in the programme – to continue her SEM education (and graduate in the spring alongside her classmates) on top of her dancing. Robinson aspires to continue her post-high school education next year while pursuing her dream of one day joining a professional dance company. Additionally, she volunteers her free time working as an instructor with the Joffrey Academy of Dance’s Adaptive Dance Programme which offers the opportunity for students with diverse movement abilities to learn and enjoy the elements of dance.
Robinson says, “SEM has opened so many doors for me. I’m seamlessly keeping up with my studies, while living on my own in Chicago dancing with the Joffrey Ballet!”
Indeed, with such excellent academic programming and exceptional facilities, it is little wonder SEM is the #1 Best College Prep and Best All-Girls High School in the Buffalo area. SEM’s students are truly well prepared for college and for life.
Odhiambo sums this up best: “The platform SEM has given me to express myself will be so much help for my future.”