Recently I’ve had some thoughts that I want to share with you before the end of the school year.
In March of 2013, our Upper School students performed their first musical. Until that point, Upper School students generally staged primarily well-known, twentieth-century plays. Under the direction of Michael Gamon, chair of our music department, our students’ first musical endeavor was an ambitious one – Elton John and Tim Rice’s “Aida.” As it turned out, the performance was a runaway success. Since then, musicals have become annual staples of life in the Upper and Middle School divisions.
I vividly remember the opening night of “Aida.” Just prior to intermission, Acklynn Byamugisha ’16, who was then in 9th grade and playing the role of Aida, sang “The Gods Love Nubia” with a vocal range and beauty that I had not heard previously from a high school student. When Acklynn finished singing and the house lights were turned on, parents and students in the audience did not rush for refreshments in the lobby outside McCormick Auditorium. Instead, they stood, clapped and cheered as though it were the end of the musical. Everyone present realized the remarkable moment that Acklynn, and her fellow actors, pit musicians, and stage managers had achieved. A wave of pride spread through the auditorium.
My tenure at Harrisburg Academy has been filled with many moments like the opening night of “Aida” – moments that sent a chill down my spine as I realized the unique mixture of beauty, emotion, power, and accomplishment that I was witnessing: senior speeches that reflected uncanny wisdom; Middle School “This I Believe Speeches” that asserted confidence and vision; Girls’ and Boys’ Varsity Basketball victories over Lancaster Country Day teams; Middle School Basketball championship victories; student artwork and photography; performances during holiday concerts at The Forum; and “States Fair” projects.
Teachers and administrators learn significantly from their experiences with talented and motivated students. This has been my Academy experience. After sixteen years, I am leaving Harrisburg Academy wiser for my time with our students, and our dedicated and creative faculty and staff. Likewise, I benefitted from listening to many alumni recount humorous stories that gave me a window into the world of Harrisburg Academy before I joined it and a deep appreciation for those who previously built the Academy into an excellent school.
The environment and learning opportunities that Academy faculty and staff create for young children and teenagers are extraordinary. Our teachers challenge their students in a school atmosphere that cultivates respect, self-advocacy, inclusion, and gratitude. With the caring support of staff and faculty, students gain insights that help them navigate their social and emotional development. In turn, our students respond by achieving daily advances that lead to mastery of fundamental skills, impressive levels of critical thinking and analytical review, and passionate expression.
Given changes in our society, it is increasingly challenging for communities to animate their mission and core values. Harrisburg Academy achieves its mission, and provides a superior opportunity for students and families to learn, grow, and develop in a challenging and affirming environment. Continuing this successful implementation of mission and core values will require sustained and varied kinds of support from everyone in the Academy community. Current students and alumni, current and alumni parents, and our faculty and staff must connect with singular intent to affirm the founding goals of John Harris, Jr. and the Academy’s current mission.
Harrisburg Academy is a remarkable school that transforms the lives of its students in unique and positive ways. It has been my privilege to serve as its leader.
Onward and upward, Harrisburg Academy.
Learn more about Harrisburg Academy on our school website.