The pandemic has changed our way of life, yet it has also created opportunities for our community to find ways to support each other. SMH students have shown resilience and have created new initiatives to connect with each other.
Meet Divya B. ’27, the founder of a new reading program called, “Barons for Books.” As a virtual learner, Divya wanted to provide a means for virtual students to have more opportunities to connect with on-campus students. Barons for Books is currently made up of virtual Middle School students, who read to Lower School classes (Kindergarten to Form 3) during lunch using the teachers’ classroom Zoom links.
Divya is not only learning how to be a creative problem-solver, she is also gaining a vast amount of experience in leadership. She started the program working alongside Lower School Librarian/Instructional Technologist Linda Wells and several Lower School teachers. Each week, Divya puts together a list of Middle School readers and matches them with Lower School classes. She also helps guide and approve the readers' book selection.
Barons for Books has been well received. As Divya says, “All of the teachers have been very open and flexible with scheduling, and the Lower School students seem to be enjoying our lunchtime reading and conversations. We have received many emails from teachers saying that their reader that day was great and that they were excited to continue Barons for Books.”
Divya was inspired to come up with Barons for Books because of her love for reading. When asked about the program she shared, “I have loved books for as long as I can remember, and the library, especially, has always felt like a safe place, a sanctuary. I chose a reading initiative for almost the same reasons. I want to help kids learn to love (and find joy) reading because that was something that brought me so much joy when I was their age, and continues to bring me happiness today.”
Divya began her journey at Saint Mary’s Hall in 2014 as a Kindergarten student and her brother, Anish ’23, also attends. Her father, Dr. Muralidhar Beeram is a member of the SMH Board of Trustees, and her mother, Dr. Amita Patnaik is a member of the ONE|SMH Reopening Task Force. When asked what she loves about Saint Mary’s Hall, Divya says, “My time at SMH has been filled with wonderful memories that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I love our beautiful campus and that, everyday, our teachers are ready to help and guide students in academics and life. I treasure every day that I’m able to learn at our school, even if it is virtually.” In addition to Barons for Books, she has been in dance from the very beginning. She has even danced in the Nutcracker for Ballet San Antonio for three consecutive years. She was a Girl Scout and a Baron Ambassador for the Lower School. Over the years, Divya has been involved with the school newspaper, chorus club, the Middle School play, and is a National Youth Storyteller.
Saint Mary’s Hall is so proud of Divya and other students like her, who are persevering and thriving every day. Part of the SMH experience is cultivating students’ innate leadership abilities and providing opportunities for students to serve in roles of leadership and service. For a glimpse into the student experience at SMH, visit our Student Life webpage.