Editors Note: Cheverus officially marked 20 years of co-education in 2020
As I was coming into Cheverus to be part of their twenty-years of co-ed, it made me wonder if there are any differences or similarities from twenty years ago. I took my wonder to the next level and interviewed a close family friend, Mary Elizabeth Gervais, hoping to get a few answers to my questions. She gladly answered the questions along with Lauren Rague. Both of these girls were students during the second year of co-ed at Cheverus.
The first question I had was about sports. Knowing that Mrs. Gervais had started the Girl’s Swim Team at Cheverus, it made me wonder if there were many options for them. “We had female sports offered to us to play if we were interested,” Mrs. Rague said. Explaining her process of creating the swim team, Mrs. Gervais mentioned that if there was a sport you wanted to play and it didn’t exist, you would find girls with similar interests and start that team. The first year of the girl’s swim team, they won 3rd in the state! Now, it seems like there are as many sports for girls as there are interests in. We now have the Swim Team, Field Hockey Team, Lacrosse Team, and many more. We can definitely thank the first few girls for these opportunities.
I also asked about the activities Mrs. Rague and Mrs. Gervais participated in during their four years at Cheverus. From their responses, it sounds like the clubs welcomed them warmly and the sports weren't that much of a problem. Both participated in the Key Club. Mrs. Rague was part of the Basketball team as well as the Yearbook Club, becoming editor her senior year. Mrs. Gervais was on the Swim Team all four years and was captain her Junior and Senior years. She also participated in the Pro-Life Club.
The environment they had entered was previously all-male, so there was no doubt that there would be a bit of tension. Mrs. Gervais says, “The upperclassmen weren’t very pleased with the switch to co-ed and they were vocal about that. They never bullied us (to my knowledge), but they weren’t happy that girls were going to their school. They kept their strange traditions like grunting in the hallways (I think they called them uproars?) and as time passed, they got used to the change.” However, there were some exceptions. Mrs. Rague mentioned, “Thinking back, the only time the male versus female shift came into play was when we (the females) had sporting events against other girls teams. The players on the other teams would sometimes talk smack or call us derogatory names, but the males from Cheverus would come to our events and stick up for us, which was nice. It kind of was like a brother/sister relationship where the brothers would pick on us but stick up for us if someone else gave us a hard time. It was really nice!” The Cheverus community has always tried to involve everyone in their school. Making the switch from all-male to co-ed seems like it was hard for some, but it definitely got better with the students who entered after the switch to co-ed at Cheverus. Both of the girls mentioned that they really liked being one of the first few girls and are proud they got to pave the way for many girls after them.
The boy-to-girl ratio twenty years ago was roughly five boys to one girl in the Freshman class. As Cheverus has continued as a co-ed school, the boy-to-girl ratio has gotten better. Today we have a ratio of about 23 girls to 21 boys. When I asked if there were any specific rules for the incoming Freshman girls, the answer I got from Mrs. Gervais was: “No specific rules. The teachers and administration were good about treating the girls the same as they would the boys.”
When it comes to uniforms, Mrs. Rague mentioned, “(The girls wore) khaki pants, a button-up shirt in any color and a black or navy blazer. Shirts were to be tucked in at all times. Dress code was strictly enforced, and if it was broken, they would receive JUG.” Mrs. Gervais also said, “I always felt like the administration didn’t realize how many options girls had in the ‘business casual’ department.” Now in the Cheverus community, the girl’s dress code is more relaxed. For instance, if a girl untucks her shirt, she most likely won't get JUG.
Cheverus has advanced when it comes to a co-ed school. They have adapted their ways to fit the lives of their students. The many girls that have walked through the halls have definitely made a positive impact on all of us today. Twenty years ago, all Cheverus knew was an all-male school and now it is one of the most prestigious schools in Maine. We can thank Mrs. Gervais and Mrs. Rague, among others, for their help in turning Chverus into the co-ed school it is today.
Hannah Napolitano, Writer