Mount Mercy Leadership Academy


Meet Suzanne Fox Overdorf ’60, the driving force behind the Mount Mercy Academy Leadership Academy. A current Board of Trustee member, Alumna, past Mount Mercy parent and now a Mercy grandmother, Sue’s commitment to Mount Mercy and developing future leaders continues. Sue’s idea of an eighth-grade Leadership Academy came from one simple conversation.

The Mount Mercy Academy Leadership Program began with a question from my granddaughter Brogan Rose Maloney ’23 as to “why her boy cousins could have their Grandma as their teacher in Timon’s Leadership Program, but she couldn’t because there wasn’t such a program at Mount Mercy”. Needless to say, the leadership at Mercy agreed with Brogan that there should be a Mercy program and the rest is history. Approximately 65 young women have graduated from the program since its inception.

The idea behind the Academy is to attract those students who exhibit leadership potential, girls who will have a positive impact on both their school and wider communities and then through class experiences, to enhance those innate skills. Once enrolled in the program, girls can expect to learn strategies for making a good first impression, skills for better name recall, tools for making good decisions, methods for implementing a group project, effective communication skills and the process for designing a “Vision Board” as a means for focusing on their future goals. A strong emphasis is placed on public speaking throughout the classes. 

A student must be nominated for admission to the Academy by their elementary school principal. Only those students who have solid grades, good character, a strong work ethic, are mature and responsible will be considered. There are 21 girls enrolled in the 2020-21 program; they currently attend local public, catholic and charter schools. 

This unprecedented COVID-19 year has not allowed for in-class meetings, therefore a decision was made that Mercy would offer an on-site Summer Leadership Camp for those current eighth grade students already nominated by their principals and enrolled in the Program. 

One of the Program requirements is that a girl choose and implement a Service Project. Each year their choices astound me. If I had to choose one project however, that is especially memorable, it would be a project that demonstrated a young girl’s capacity for showing love beyond her personal grief. This particularly mature young lady had lost her father the previous year and was so impacted by the concern shown to her and her family by “Grace House”, a facility located in South Buffalo that “enables families to focus on their loved ones while we focus on the well-being of those families”. She chose her project to support those at Grace House who had supported her. When she spoke of this project during her graduation speech, it was an incredibly moving and memorable tribute.

I take great pride in the success of this Program, notably that as of September 2021, the Program will evolve into a Five-Year Leadership Academy, with the intent each year to build upon the strengths of the eighth-grade program. 

In a year where many glass ceilings have been broken, we look forward to seeing the endless opportunities in store for these future leaders.


"The Leadership Program is without a doubt one of the most important things to have happened to me. I learned that a leader isn’t necessarily someone who has a special power but rather someone who finds power within themselves and the talents they already possess. It showed me that being a leader is about being confident in myself and in my abilities, and harnessing those qualities to inspire others. The Program has taught me self-confidence, a trait that I know will empower me and carry me to success in all my endeavors in life."

- Ellie Godsoe '23





"Being a part of the leadership program has helped me become a better public speaker. It has encouraged me to become more independent and given me the confidence to take charge in various projects throughout the Mercy Community!"

                                                                                                           - Kayla Pietrkiewcz '23


"Mount Mercy has positively changed my life forever. Through the inviting community, I was able to grow as a woman, as a daughter, as a friend, and as a member of society. Throughout my time here I have gained an education in both academic areas and life in general through the school's ongoing efforts to educate students on gender inequality, racial injustice, and environmental crisis'. Furthermore, Mercy has given me the space to gain confidence that 4 years ago I never would have guessed I would have. Mount Mercy has helped me take that initial step toward becoming the strong woman of color I am today. At Mercy you are more than just a student, you are whoever you wish to be."

Melina Courtney

Class of 2022

"My future, success, and the ability to be an empowered woman in society come from Mount Mercy. My school is a strong foundation for my role in life. From attending Mount Mercy, I can say with confidence, that I will graduate with the mindset that I can accomplish anything. Mercy is my home and my sanctuary to be whoever I want. Mount Mercy has been bringing forth generations of strong intellectual women into the world, and I am more than honored to be one of them. Mercy teaches girls more than academics, but also about the world around us. As a mercy community, we give back to the world because it is our home. From my four years at Mercy, I have been educated on pushing for equality and peace and the understanding that there is no limit to what I can do. I have the confidence to go out in the world and make a difference because being a Mercy girl has given me that opportunity. "

Cassidy Reid

Class of 2022

"Mercy is more than just a school. Mercy is my second home and a shoulder to lean on. Mount Mercy has given me the confidence and resources to pursue my passions and make the world a more inclusive place, propelling me to take strides into male-dominated fields. Mercy blessed me with an environment to grow intellectually and in the community, giving me the foundation to make a tangible impact while making lifelong friendships."

Adrianna Awald

Class of 2022

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