It seems that the 2016–2017 school year passed faster than any so far…
Buzzing with life and and full of excitement, this was a rich and rewarding year of individual and organizational growth and accomplishment. It was also a year that asked us to examine our mission and our values and to strengthen our community. While the re-accreditation process currently underway requires us to review our progress to date, the particular urgency of the historical moment compels us to consider the future. It is our intention and our hope that Academe students will go out into the world with strength and confidence, genuinely interested in other human beings, in local community and the world at large. With these aims in mind, we ask ourselves: How are our mission and our values reflected in our daily work with students, in our encounters with parents, friends, and colleagues?
Waldorf education is so much more than academic, and Academe of the Oaks is so much more than “college-prep”! Our mission is social, as well as intellectual; it is aesthetic, spiritual, and moral. Yes, of course, our students are academically well-prepared for post-secondary education—but we ask more of them than competence, and we strive to send them into the world with imagination, compassion, and courage.
Academe is progressive and innovative: we will try something new if, after due consideration, we deem it beneficial to our students—and we are pleased to be able to report much success in newly instituted programs!
Project week focused our attention on Dr. Martin Luther King’s “beloved community” theme. Students were assigned to seven mixed-grade groups; each group studied and presented one aspect or manifestation of the theme. Although a faculty member was assigned to each group to guide and assist when necessary, the projects were largely student-driven. One group wrote and performed a play on the oppressed; one group studied the history of the business community along New Street and in Decatur; one group studied the history of quilting as community building and created a quilt; one group studied watersheds in the community; one group focused on human rights; and one group explored issues relevant to refugees and the global community. On Friday of Project Week, the groups shared their learning with the whole school.
Recognizing that we grow when we serve others, Academe students nurture their capacities for love, empathy, and meaningful work through the Service Learning program. This year, Academe students participated in the “Hope Education Project” program (founded by Dr. Heval Kelli and directed by Zeena Lattouf), fostering connections between our community and Syrian refugee families. Every Sunday, we went with about twelve students to Clarkston to play with the children and to work with them on their homework. The students’ commitment was inspiring, and the experience was enriching and eye-opening for all of us. We look forward to continuing our participation in the program next year.
Students with a passion for science and an interest in medicine participated enthusiastically this year in the Young Physicians Initiative. Dr. Heval Mohammed Kelli, Cardiac Fellow at Emory University’s School of Medicine, leads the YPI, piloted at Academe and now in its second year on our campus. In monthly meetings with healthcare professionals, students learn about medical school admissions, as well as disease, diagnosis, medical research, and public health.
Kudos to our green club members who are so invested in their work! While maintaining our green school certification, we have embarked upon a student-driven zero-waste initiative. We look to the entire school community to help us bring this critical endeavor to fruition in the coming year. Our certified butterfly garden is attracting pollinators; the vegetable garden is flourishing; and new bee hives are happy in a new location next to the science building.
Our international exchange program continues to attract enthusiastic participation. Returning students describe their three-month foreign exchange experiences as “transformative,” “life-changing,” and “pivotal.” We are very pleased to have added Japan to the roll of our foreign exchange destinations! Two students have already elected to participate in exchanges with Japanese partners.
This year, too, we launched the entrepreneurship program. Next year, with their detailed business plan in hand, students in the program will run their own campus-based business.
Academe students’ participation in the Global Nomads program continues to grow: this year, we were assigned two partner schools—one in Jordan and one in Tunisia. The program connects students and communities that would not otherwise have any contact with one another. Through video-conferencing and an online platform, the program seeks to diminish misconceptions about other cultures and to foster peace through understanding. Academe’s Nomads chose to address homelessness in our community: they packed sack lunches—each including an inspirational note—and delivered them to a women’s shelter in Decatur.
In February, we presented our Middle East Conference—Awakening Hearts and Minds: Critical Perspectives on Israel/Palestine and Syria. It was our first conference of such scope and stature, and it was a huge success. Attendance exceeded expectations (we were delighted to welcome engaged students from Georgia Tech, Emory University, and Morehouse College), and even weeks after the conference people were still talking about it! Our sincere thanks to Dr. Ilise Cohen for planning and leading the conference, which featured presentations, workshops, and discussion panels with top-tier speakers, on topics such as islamophobia and antisemitism. Noura Erakat, a human rights attorney and assistant professor at George Mason University, was keynote speaker at the conference, which was informative and thought-provoking.
Our new website debuted this year, garnering significant increases in online traffic, while our energetic marketing team continued to promote the school on social media. By fall, we had 2000 followers on Facebook, and we expect to reach 2500 very soon. The marketing team’s public relations and outreach brought us many new media connections this year. We are a progressive high school and this comes across!
This year also saw us through a purposive strategic planning process, and I am gratified to report that the board, the administration, and the faculty have much confidence in Academe’s future. I am grateful to them for their support, and to you, too, for your part in our success!