High school is about many things — social-emotional development, growing from a young adolescent into an almost-adult, exploring intellectually and honing skills. All of this, in the end, translates into teenagers’ preparation for college and the rest of their lives. The way we do that at St. Francis is distinct from other schools. We talk about preparation for college and life. Another way of putting it is that we prepare students for all aspects of college, which is more than just academics.
Academics, of course, are foremost. Our curriculum is designed to focus on close reading, writing of all kinds (beginning with major research papers in 9th grade), critical thinking, discourse, problem-solving, and analysis. We go both broad and deep, with AP courses and non-AP electives in every department, challenging students at all levels and preparing them for any college classes they may encounter. There is no doubt that our students are ready to handle college academics.
Then there’s the aspect of college preparation that has always been a focus at St. Francis, but seems to be ever-increasing in importance as articles abound these days about college students’ inability to handle the non-academic aspects of their lives: working with parents to develop students’ resilience, competence, independence, and self-esteem. We believe that letting students “test drive” some responsibility is the best way to help them handle full independence in four years. Here at the High School, our sign-out system fosters time management and independence, as well as the added benefit of teaching students how to budget for lunch. The no-cut athletics policy ensures that students can be involved in any sport they like, and can gain all the benefits of part of a team in these critical adolescent years. The strong bonds that form between students and faculty help students develop the confidence in themselves and their voice. Focusing on the idea that students have a stake in their own education, and helping them develop the ability to seek out help from teachers and advocate for themselves, translates into young adults who are able to handle themselves on any college campus, large or small. Letting students take these steps, with a safety net firmly beneath them, is the best way to prepare them for the independence and self-reliance that college demands.
Each year, as we look at our incoming 9th grade class, it is hard to believe that in four more short years, their parents will be dropping them off on college campuses. But this is so, and as a result, our job, along with parents, is to get them ready for it in all respects. Year after year, our recent graduates come back to visit every fall and thanks us for how well prepared they are for the academic load, as well as managing the rest of life on a college campus — a testament to the full St. Francis education they have received.