A few years ago at our annual Humanities Conference, a visiting independent school teacher from the eastside, impressed by the quality and intensity of a discussion dominated by Lake Ridge Academy students, asked me, “How do you prepare your students to participate in that level of discussion.” The answer was simple; it is how we engage our students in our classes. We teach and expect our students to state and defend their positions. We welcome and encourage all defendable points of view. In the process, we develop a student’s critical thinking skills and confidence.
It is this type of intellectual engagement coupled with small classes where all students are known that define the education offered in our Upper School. We provide our students with a rigorous college preparatory curriculum that includes numerous AP and Honors courses. We also offer a number of unique programs like our graduate certficate programs related to our Centers of Excellence and courses like Anatomy and Physiology or Developmental Biology and Embryology, and independent studies in subjects like Multivariable Calculus. These courses and programs, coupled with some of the best teachers I have ever had the pleasure with which to work, fully prepare our students for the challenges they will face in college.
Lake Ridge Academy also understands the need to connect our students to the global society. We require two years of world history to ensure that our students have a proper background to understand current world affairs. We offer electives in global and comparative politics, world literature, and AP World History to broaden their understanding. Each fall we offer our Diversity Forum to schools throughout the area that has brought noted world figures, such as Paul Rusesabagina, who spend the day meeting and talking with those in attendance. Each spring our Humanitarian Aid Society hosts Culture Fest, a celebration of cultures that raises money for humanitarian projects from India to western Africa.
A Lake Ridge Academy Upper School education, however, means more than going to a high school with a challenging curriculum and a global perspective. While our course offerings are impressive, what makes our Upper School special is the closeness of our community and the opportunities students have to thrive within that trusted environment. We are a collection of teachers and students, colleagues and friends, who enjoy being together in and out of the classroom. I often hear our seniors talk about the close relationship they have had with the faculty at the end of the year Senior Luncheon. Where else would the senior class decide to surprise the Dean of Students by camping out in her backyard and, upon being discovered in the morning, be invited inside for breakfast. It is that community feeling that our graduates miss the most when they leave our halls.
Within that protected community, we offer our students the opportunity to experience the freedom of having a choice as to what to do with their time during their free periods. We offer them the opportunity to join a variety of clubs and organizations whose meetings take place during the school day to accommodate students who come from communities throughout the area. We offer them the opportunity to become leaders in their school as we carefully monitor the number of organizations in which one can hold an office to give many a chance to lead.
Finally, the community at Lake Ridge Academy is guided by four core values: integrity, respect, scholarship and personal best. These are the four values that make up the Upper School Honor Code, a document written by the students with the belief that “the failings of the individual can be corrected and counteracted by the wisdom found in the collective responsibility of a community.” Along with these values, is the belief in service to others. While there is no service graduation requirement, there is an unstated expectation that all the members of the Upper School community, faculty and students, will actively participate in community service throughout the school year.
It is this community to which I welcome you. What I have described, however, is merely a brief sketch of who we are. As Atticus said in To Kill a Mockingbird, you never really get to know a person “until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” I invite you to do some walking around in our Upper School to learn more about why this is such a special place.
Michael M. Shaulis
Director of Upper School