Dr. Lisa Grillo, a 1989 graduate of Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg, Maryland, returned to her alma mater to serve as president of the Girls of Charity-sponsored school for girls.
“It’s just a joy to be back at my alma mater, a school that I believe in,” Grillo said. “We have been nurturing young women since 1959. As an alumnus and daughter of Seton, I believe deeply in our school’s mission to prepare well-rounded young women to become outstanding scholars and leaders in service to others.”
Last August, Grillo was named the school’s acting president. His nomination for the presidency was announced at the end of December. Sister Jane Graves, Daughter of Charity and chair of the school’s board of trustees, announced Grillo’s appointment in a statement posted on the school’s website, commending the new chair for her “wealth of experience as an educator, administrator and teacher”.
“It’s clear: his (Grillo’s) passion for Seton and his vision for the lasting value of a Seton education is inspiring,” Sister Graves said in the statement.
For the past 25 years, Grillo has served in school districts in Maryland, the District of Columbia and North Carolina as a teacher, principal, assistant superintendent of special education services and director of human resources.
As principal of a Washington, D.C. public school, Grillo led her school community to achieve autonomous school status, an award given to a select cohort of high-performing schools. As Chief Human Resources Officer for Baltimore City and Baltimore County, she designed talent management frameworks and oversaw performance management systems. Most recently, she was an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Howard University’s School of Education.
Of his decision to return to Seton, Grillo said, “I missed the leadership of the school, but I knew I wanted to be in an environment rooted in Christian values. I no longer wanted to separate my deep faith from my leadership.
“The call to serve (to Seton), I just knew that was God speaking,” she added. “It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made professionally.”
Returning to his alma mater “is surreal in many ways,” Grillo said.
“I credit Seton with my development as a leader. I was student government president as a senior. I learned to be a leader here, and now coming back and practicing the skills I learned here means I’ve come full circle,” she said. “I love Seton and was fully prepared for college when I left here.”
After graduating from Seton, Grillo earned his Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Education from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., and his Doctor of Education in Education Administration and Policy from Howard University. .
In her new position, Grillo said she enjoys working with those she has known since she was a student.
“I was taught by the Daughters of Charity, and being with them and working with them as colleagues has been exciting,” she said. She added that she also works with Nancy Hernick who was a physical education teacher when Grillo was a student and who is now the director of operations at the school.
She also works with former classmates and other school graduates.
“Seton is an alumni-run school. Of the 11 members of our school leadership council, seven of them are alumni, two have daughters who have gone to Seton and one is a daughter of charity and one has been a staff member for over 30 years,” she said.
Returning to Seton, Grillo said she had to adjust to “how different students are now.”
“They are much more technology driven. They are independent and confident. Seeing young women show their confidence and beliefs in certain areas like justice has inspired me,” she said. “These girls actually fulfill the vision of strong, confident women who serve others and focus on certain areas of justice.”
One thing that hasn’t changed, she noted, is that “Seton continues to boast a strong and rigorous education environment for students. This is one of the characteristics of our school. »
Seton’s curriculum includes pre-career programs in several fields, including pharmacology and law, as well as advanced-level and specialist-level courses. “We have a wide menu of AP and Honors courses and various courses – there really is something for every girl in a wide range here at Seton,” she said.
“We have high expectations for our students and every year they exceed our expectations. Our students are phenomenal, not just academically, but they come away with a solid understanding of what it means to be a Seton student – that we serve the poor, focused on others in need. They are also women of character,” she said.
Another thing that has remained constant at Seton, Grillo said, are some of the school traditions.
“We have traditions that haven’t changed — the big sister, the little sister program, the class rivalries,” she said. “And our alumni haven’t changed. We have always had a very strong alumni network. When I came back, I knew I would receive support from the elders.
Taking the lead from Seton during a global pandemic, Grillo said one of his first strategies was to make sure “we stick together as a community.”
“We have always had a very strong community – our students, our teachers, our parents, our alumni, our donors. I try to find ways to keep us connected as a community,” she said. “We had virtual classes, virtual meetings, webinars and virtual prayer services. One downside is that I couldn’t interact with the parents as I would like. Parents love coming to the school building because they are so involved in their daughters’ education.
Despite pandemic restrictions, she said the school has embarked on a three-year strategic plan to improve innovation in academic programs, boost athleticism and bring back more alumni to be active in supporting Seton.
“It has been a joy and a blessing to return to Seton,” Grillo said. “I have prayed to the Lord for the opportunity to use the gifts and talents He has given me, and I am very happy to be able to do so here at my alma mater.”