A Queen’s Legacy

(front, from left) Quinn Yamamoto, Ronan Halliday, Tara Gojo, Kailana Kuamoo, (back) Jordan Jones, Hypatia Pine, Krista Chang and Dr. Ruth R. Fletcher

Established by Queen Emma in 1867, St. Andrew’s Schools, led by Dr. Ruth R. Fletcher, is gearing up for its 150th anniversary

Among the many things Queen Emma may be known for — co-founder of The Queen’s Medical Center, for example, and pioneer of the Anglican tradition in Hawaii— celebrity probably isn’t top of the list. But such is the case at St. Andrew’s Schools, which she established in 1867.

“We think of Queen Emma as a rock star,” says head of school Dr. Ruth R. Fletcher.

She isn’t kidding, either. In fact, it is because of Queen Emma, Fletcher believes, that so many St. Andrew’s students go on to lead successful lives. Much like Queen Emma (who overcame the loss of a young son, husband and a historical election), students leave the institution equipped with the confidence and courage to persevere — to take on any task no matter the challenge.

So, as the school gears up to celebrate its 150th anniversary, beginning with a May 26 gala, it should come as no surprise that Queen Emma remains at the forefront of everything. It is, after all, through St. Andrew’s students that her legacy will continue.

“She’s known as being the people’s queen, but to us, she’s just a beacon of light and a visionary leader,” says Fletcher. “We all love her because of the role model that she provides for all of us.”

In founding St. Andrew’s, Fletcher believes that Queen Emma simply chose to combine Hawaiian values with that of the Episcopal Church. That is to say that St. Andrew’s is rooted in kindness and love. As such, students not only are taught to recognize their own potential, but also the talents of others.

It’s a key aspect of learning at St. Andrew’s, and one that encourages mutual respect and collaboration among peers. At St. Andrew’s, learning is not about one individual, but about every student.

“Children who are educated here respect another person’s gifts and talents as much as their own,” says Fletcher. “Everyone can be great. It’s not a pyramid of greatness.”

Everything ultimately boils down to truly understanding each child, and discovering what their talents may be. In helping students align their passions and abilities, Fletcher believes they are given the resources to find value and meaning in life.

“We try to provide a learning environment that allows these strengths to be uncovered … and then give the child the confidence to take action,” she adds.

While those values always have been a guiding force at St. Andrew’s, much else has changed throughout its 150-year history.

In 1985, for instance, it opened Queen Emma Pre-school on Pali Highway. Then, just a couple of years ago, St. Andrew’s Preparatory School for Boys was added to its main campus at Queen Emma Square.

While boys and girls may co-exist on campus, they remain separated in the classroom, which makes St. Andrew’s the only coordinate school in the state. The setup allows for a personalized learning experience, which is particularly key because boys and girls develop at a much different pace during their formative years — girls are three years ahead of boys, in fact, according to Fletcher.

The Prep, as it is referred to, accepts boys in grades K-5. Part of that cutoff has to do with space restrictions, admits Fletcher. More importantly, though, it equips boys with the same fundamental building blocks to also be confident, respectful and courageous members of society.

St. Andrew’s students attend an Ascension Day service in this photo dated before 1910

“We thought we could grow them, and then they could go off and expand,” says Fletcher.

“We celebrate the strengths of boys and girls, and we love that we are here together on the same campus because we educate separately, but we socialize together,” she adds. “We feel like we get the best of both worlds.”

Of course, as its high school graduates are comprised solely of girls — referred to as The Priory (St. Andrew’s Priory School for Girls) — they remain the primary focus at St. Andrew’s. It is no secret on campus that the ultimate goal is to educate and empower future female leaders — “It’s pretty much shouted,” says Fletcher — and it is the main reason St. Andrew’s has single-gender education for grades 6-12.

“There’s such a stereotype threat in the general public for what a female can or can’t do,” says Fletcher. “You might get boxed in, where you might not even know you’re being boxed in. Here, that doesn’t happen. You get to try everything; you get to be everything.

“Oftentimes, it is an us-and-them mentality,” she adds. “We very much teach a ‘we’ mentality. When we think about our young women, we’re trying to build them up so that they know who they are, what they love — they know what their talents are and … they have the fuel and energy to move into the world with strength (and) courage.”

One way St. Andrew’s achieves this is through a program it nicknamed “Priory in the City.” It begins in 10th grade, when girls take a tour of downtown Honolulu to explore various careers. Students also spend time conducting career assessments, exploring their strengths and learning more about different professions via field trips.

Then, as seniors, students complete internships with a mentor in their desired field, an enlightening experience for the girls, says Fletcher. One student who envisioned a career as a graphic designer soon realized that she preferred art as a hobby rather than a possible job. Another interested in medicine shadowed a pediatric surgeon and now is studying to become a doctor.

“To know in high school that you love it gives you so much fuel to pursue it and persist,” says Fletcher.

In addition to that, St. Andrew’s boasts a strong performing arts program, and Fletcher is quick to share that its all-girls orchestra recently won several accolades in California. Other initiatives on which St. Andrew’s is focusing right now include STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art and math — learning.

Fletcher points to two students who created a video focusing on limiting urban sprawl that currently is entered in a competition. There was another student interested in what it means to be a female politician, who interviewed the likes of St. Andrew’s alumna U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, along with U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and others.

“Our girls — we’re not really just preparing them for the future,” says Fletcher, “we’re asking them to live their life fully now based on what their interests are so that they can learn and grow. Let’s build strong, competent, healthy people who have the character and will to make the world better for future generations in the spirit of Queen Emma.”

For more information on St. Andrew’s Schools, visit