Teacher working with student in the Coakley Center for Innovative Learning at Holy Child.

“I hope the Academic Support Program and Holy Child as a whole can continue to support the development of resilience and confidence in young women."

- Nicki Iadarola

Academic Spotlight: Nicki Iadarola '05 and Holy Child's Academic Support Program


“Difficulties exist only to be overcome.” – Cornelia Connelly

When creating the Holy Child model, Cornelia Connelly focused on educating young girls to become women of faith and action. Not only did she pave the way for young women to have access to an education that "met the wants of the age," but Cornelia also knew that education meant building the confidence and resiliency of every student so that they could face life's many obstacles.

The Coakley Center for Innovative Learning provides exactly that for Holy Child students today. Under the leadership of Nicki Hess Iadarola ’05, Director of Academic Support, our students are guided and supported to excel in the classroom and beyond.

Nicki believes the program is beneficial because it provides a space where students feel unconditionally supported, and therefore comfortable to voice their concerns and challenges as well as celebrate their triumphs and accomplishments. This setting provides a safe environment where students learn to identify stressors and obstacles, admit mistakes, and ultimately plan a path forward.

Originally a psychology major, Nicki discovered her passion for education and helping students with learning disabilities after working as a learning specialist at a local school. In 2009, Nicki was excited to return to her alma mater, Holy Child, as the academic support program began. Since then, Nicki has been instrumental in ensuring the program remains an important and necessary resource on campus.

One major benefit to the program is that it is an accessible tool for all members of our community. Each learning specialist on campus is equipped to provide students with the tools to be resilient and confident in the classroom, while also learning to apply those skills in everyday life. The learning specialists meet with parents, teachers, and students to ensure students are receiving the support they need in order to be successful; it is a collaborative effort in all aspects.

As Cornelia stressed, resiliency is not easy, but is an essential tool to help students get through any situation. Nicki believes that students must understand that there are many pathways to success.

At Holy Child, teachers instill resilience in their students by empowering them to navigate their own learning styles. Holy Child students are active participants in their learning. Students learn about their strengths and individual challenges, and are provided a seat at the table among parents, educators, and administrators. With this approach, students are invested and responsible for taking ownership of their learning. Our learning specialists have seen students articulately and professionally lead meetings because they have been taught to self-reflect and have become self-aware. Students become adept at overcoming challenges they encounter because they feel they are in control of their learning, and thus are living examples of the merit of Cornelia's educational model.