Maybe you were present?  A good number of parents were, including the parents of students newly enrolled at Harrisburg Academy.  The occasion was the Academy’s annual Middle School / Upper School Matriculation ceremony.  The event welcomes all new students (including international students) to our school community, as well as students transitioning to a new division (like 5th and 9th grade).  Students sign their names in a large leather-bound book during the program, thereby documenting their matriculation along with many other students from past years.

Typically my role is to welcome everyone and add comments that highlight the unique nature of Harrisburg Academy and its significant value to students and their families.  This year, however, I did something different.  I asked, “Why are we here?”  I wanted to hear the perspectives of our students to this essential question rather than simply projecting my own thoughts.

Students immediately offered their opinions to my open-ended question: “to learn;” “to make friends;” “the Academy Advantage;” “to be admitted to a good college;” and “to be part of a welcoming community.”

Their answers covered nearly the entire spectrum of reasons that I, myself, would have suggested as to “why we are here.”  To learn — and learn how to think critically and deeply.  To make friends — and learn from the Academy’s diverse multicultural environment.  The Academy Advantage — learning how to benefit from the extraordinary advantages that constitute significant opportunities at Harrisburg Academy.  To be admitted to a good college — and gain sharper written, verbal, and quantitative reasoning skills to prepare students for what is next.  And to be a part of a welcoming community — learning and growing with people who value the development of character skills and embrace a challenging academic program.

After the students responded, I suggested one more reason — one from the Academy’s mission statement.  Simply put, it is to teach skills that prepare students to thrive in college and beyond, thereby contributing to the betterment of our global and local communities.  We believe it’s important for Academy students and alumni to recognize that their experiences are preparation for both their own personal success and for the success of others.

And succeed, they do.  We will recognize outstanding alumni again at our Alumni Achievement Awards Ceremony and Athletics Hall of Fame as part of Alumni Weekend (Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, 2016).  We will again proudly present our Service to Humanity Award to a highly-deserving Academy graduate. Not surprising, recipients of our Professional Achievement and Academic Achievement Alumni Awards have also spent much of their careers sharing their personal achievement for the benefit of their local and global communities.  It’s that one more reason “why we are here.”

“Why are we at Harrisburg Academy?” It’s certainly a big question… but not too big for students to begin to analyze critically.  As the year proceeds, I look forward to pursuing the question further with them.  I can’t wait for their next round of responses.  Matriculation was just the start.

I’m so pleased the new school year has begun — I can’t wait to share this journey with you! ​