Andrea Patella ’17 and Julia Patella ’20 are the first sisters to be elected student body co-president during their respective senior years, a fact that they are still in the process of embracing as a significant achievement in the story of 50 years of women at Peddie. “I didn’t really think about it in terms of the school’s long history, but as something that was just really cool for us,” said Andrea.
The sisters acknowledged that while the coeds of the early 1970s paved the way for thousands of female students who followed, there is still a long road ahead for women and minority groups at Peddie.
Andrea pointed out that Peddie had done a good job of ensuring diverse student leadership, citing former co-president Uzo Achebe ’16 as one of her female role models. But she also urged that “Peddie needs to prioritize all sorts of diversity in their leadership positions, not just for students.”
A rising senior at Barnard College of Columbia University, a women’s college, Andrea said she is grateful to be “surrounded by female leadership and inspiration.”
“Both at Peddie and now at college, I realize the importance of female-focused leadership,” she said, adding that she hopes for a female headmaster — and a female headmaster of color — in Peddie’s near future.
"Peddie needs to prioritize all sorts of diversity in their leadership positions."
Julia recommended additional changes to Peddie’s “heteronormative policies.”
Just a couple of months ago, she and other student leaders successfully advocated for a change to school election procedures through the position on the Faculty-Student Senate. Rather than vote for a male and female co-president, students now elect two senior co-presidents, regardless of gender identity. In the first election this spring under the new format, one female and one male president were elected.
She called the change “necessary because we have students who are gender non-conforming and this allows them to see themselves in positions of leadership. It’s also more inclusive of trans students who perhaps aren’t out yet.”
The sisters agreed that it’s Peddie’s strengths, namely the school’s strong sense of community and an innate desire for self-improvement, that will continue to bring about positive change.
“The community of Peddie is amazing,” said Andrea. “Years out from my graduation, I still feel like I have such a tight-knit community of friends and faculty members who really did change my life.”
“Peddie always wants to improve,” said Julia. “That’s something I observed early on in the Faculty-Student Senate — a group of students and faculty who want to see the community improve in every way.”