Last month at our annual Matriculation Ceremony for students newly enrolled into our Middle and Upper School divisions, I mentioned that one of the advantages of being a student at Harrisburg Academy was the chance to have a stake in the school.

My comment produced some quizzical looks on the part of new students. For those returning to the Academy for another year, I think they understood what I was saying.

Rather than being somewhat anonymous in a large middle school or high school and feeling a lack of ownership, Academy students have an open opportunity to become involved in shaping the environment of either the Middle or Upper School divisions.

John Binnert and his Middle and Upper School teachers encourage students to consider what kind of environments they want to create. They urge students to have a stake, or an authentic sense of ownership, in the general student life in both divisions.

Students demonstrate that sense of ownership by recommending changes to policy, alternative programs for our Centers of Experiential Learning & Innovation, and new activities. In the past, their ownership has led to a variety of fun-filled competitions, serious discussions of national issues, as well as active clubs and student councils.

As a result, the question — “What kind of Upper School do we want?” — isn’t met with shrugged shoulders or blank faces. Academy students in the Upper School, in particular, typically have thoughtful ideas about how they want to improve their Academy world.

Taking advantage of what a school “offers” is one type of participation. Taking ownership of what the school “can become” is a very different kind of participation. If our mission is to “provide tools, develop character, and teach skills that prepare students to thrive in college and beyond, thereby contributing to the betterment of our global and local communities,” then encouraging students to have a stake in Harrisburg Academy is the best kind of preparation they can have for becoming stakeholders in college and afterwards.

Learn more about Harrisburg Academy on our school website.