“Honoring Our Past – Embracing Our Future” – Alverno Heights Academy

To the friends and family of Alverno:

Over the past two years since I have been Head of School, Alverno has undergone a transformation. We have enhanced our campus with beautiful new landscaping; we have added many new classes to our academic program (this year American Sign Language and Advanced Theatre to the main schedule, and a myriad of new offerings during our enrichment periods); we have new faculty including a new Director of College Guidance; we will have a new Learning Technology Center by the end of the first semester; and we will have a new or old name, depending on how you look at it. Yes, Alverno is a school in transition and on the move! Here is some history behind the decision to return to our roots as Alverno Heights Academy:

When the Sisters of St. Francis chose to purchase the Barlow estate in 1942, their vision was to have a southern California novitiate for their growing order as well as to start a secondary school for young women who were underserved in the San Gabriel Valley. Their dream came to pass in 1960. They chose the name Alverno Heights Academy. Alverno is the anglicized name for Mt. La Verna in Italy where St. Francis of Assisi received the stigmata. They added Heights to the name because it was in the highlands of the valley. Finally, they called it an Academy because it met the diverse needs of the population they served. In 1972, the Sisters changed the name to Alverno High School hoping to make it more appealing to a broad spectrum of girls. They sold the school to the Immaculate Heart Community in 1977 because they, too, had a similar charism.

Throughout the decades, our students and alumnae have asked to return to the original name, many of them saying that they attended Alverno Heights Academy, even though it no longer went by that name. Alverno has undergone much change over the years but the perennial question requesting to return to our original name has been constant.

In 2015, we began seriously exploring what would be involved in changing the name back. When we began to really think about it, it seemed to make so much sense. We held focus groups with faculty, parents, students, alumnae, and the Board. We received almost unanimous approval. We looked at why the Sisters chose the name in the first place and we realized that it fit us more today, then it did then. Alverno is still true to its Franciscan roots in all we do. Each year we celebrate Founders’ Day in conjunction with the feast of St. Francis, October 4. We obviously are still in the highlands of the San Gabriel Valley, but most importantly, we are truly an academy. Academy means a private school of distinguished scholars, artists, or scientists who aim to promote high standards. Alverno is known for its following unique programs: early entrance gifted academy for middle school girls ready to start high school; outstanding performing and visual arts program; honors engineering in biotech research in partnership with our Caltech mentors, as well as the only all-girls’ secondary international genetic engineering machine (iGem) team in the world. We have 100% acceptance to four year colleges and pride ourselves on the individualized attention we give each girl. Our mission reflects this commitment to provide this unique educational experience – To empower each young woman to be exactly the person she wants to be.

We are proud to start the 2016-17 school year with our new name and tagline which honors our past while embracing the future:

Alverno Heights Academy – Be who you imagine.

“Be who you imagine” will also be our theme for the new school year. The possibilities are endless. Alverno is also taking up the challenge of being who we imagine. We are so excited about this year and all of the possibilities that are ahead of us. We imagine that soon EVERYONE will realize what an amazing school we are and they will be clamoring to be a part of this unique community. Welcome to our future!


Julia V. Fanara M.A., M.Ed. P ‘0, ’03, and ’05
Head of School
Alverno Heights Academy

Alverno Heights Academy, 200 North Michillinda Avenue, Sierra Madre, (626) 355-3463 or visit www.alvernoheightsacademy.org.




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