History & Mission


Changing the lives of girls from low income homes through an empowering middle school education

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Reflecting wisdom in the girl


Core Values


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Facts About Sophia Academy

  • Approximately 60 students in grades 5-8

  • 234 graduates

  • 13 full- and part-time teaching and guidance faculty

  • More than 60% of Sophia’s Class of 2019 was accepted to Classical High School, which accepts approximately 30% of applicants each year

  • 100% of Sophia Academy graduates earn a high school diploma; most matriculate to higher education

  • 47% are first generation          

  • 87% of Sophia Academy students qualify for free or reduced meals; 100% receive financial aid. On average, families pay $500 per year in tuition

  • The school’s budget in 2019-2020 is approximately $1.4 million

  • Sophia’s $1 million endowment is invested with the Rhode Island Foundation

  • The school is accredited by the Association of Independent Schools of New England (AISNE) and is a member of the National Coalition of Girls Schools and National Association of Independent Schools

Our History

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Founded in 2001 by Sr. Mary Reilly, RSM, Sophia Academy is the only independent all-girls middle school in Rhode Island focusing on the intellectual and emotional growth of students from low-income families. Our motto, “reflecting wisdom in the girl,” captures the essence of our school as a place that draws forth each girl’s inherent wisdom, helps her to find her voice, guides her to embrace challenges and develop her intellect, and sets her on a path to discover and realize her dreams. Sophia Academy mission springs from Sister Mary’s vision: to provide a rigorous, relevant, empowering education, preparing our students to be successful in high school and beyond, helping them to lead their lives as confident, compassionate women.

Recently inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame, Sister Mary has spent her life helping women reach their full potential through literacy, employment, advocacy, and community involvement; she was influenced by years spent in Central America where she developed her feminist conscience, and by a sabbatical at the United Nations and the report of the 1995 UN Conference on the Girl Child.

These experiences inspired Sister. Mary to gather the Sisters Collaborative, a community of passionate women, and to lead them in the creation of Sophia Academy, whose mission is: Changing the lives of girls from low income homes through an empowering middle school education.

 In 2007, Gigi DiBello succeeded Sister Mary as Head of School. Under her leadership, the school enhanced its academic program, raised funds to purchase and renovate a building for its first permanent home, and became accredited by the Association of Independent Schools of New England. DiBello’s vision was to create an intellectually rigorous environment that would not only guide girls to continue their education beyond middle school and eventually move out of poverty, but would help them develop strong voices to advocate for themselves and for others.


In 2018, Maura Farrell began her tenure as the new Head of School. Ms. Farrell previously held the position of associate head of school at Winchester Thurston in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During her tenure so far, Farrell has worked with the faculty, board, and community to get to know the Providence community, understand Sophia’s key strengths and assets, articulate a “portrait of the Sophia graduate,” benchmark Sophia’s programs, finances, and outcomes, and build a vision and plan for Sophia’s future vitality. From that work, she is now working with others at the school to build upon the school’s strong core by pursuing opportunities for growth so that the school can have an even greater positive impact.