In looking through his files, a colleague recently unearthed a surprise: the deed to University School’s original Hough Campus. Dated 1891, it was a real find, testament to the longstanding connection between our school and our city.
The roots of US are intertwined with those of Cleveland. Our Shaker Campus was designed by famed area architects Walker and Weeks, also responsible for such Cleveland landmarks as the Federal Reserve Bank, Severance Hall, and Public Hall. Architect Peter van Dijk gave Cleveland not only the Blossom Music Center; he gave us the Hunting Valley Campus.
But US’s ties to Cleveland go beyond bricks and mortar. Just as important as recognizing our shared past, US is committed to a shared future.
Academically, we have redoubled our efforts for our boys to better understand our city. Central to our first graders’ theme-based curriculum is a unit entitled “Cleveland: A Community Coming Together,” introducing students to the region, its history, and its resources. Cleveland is our classroom as well as our curriculum, with even these young learners heading downtown from Shaker. Seventh graders zero in on Cleveland neighborhoods and meet with community leaders to complement their individual research. Our tenth graders take on topics related to Greater Cleveland for their sophomore research projects, addressing a wide range of social, political, and economic topics. They have researched invasive species and algae blooms in Lake Erie. They have considered lakefront development opportunities. They have investigated the inner workings of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Like all of our curricular spirals – from Lindseth Hall to Conway Hall, from Shaker to Hunting Valley – our boys’ experience of our city is enriched by ever more immersive, sophisticated, and interdisciplinary studies.
Civically, with our mission to cultivate “young men who lead and serve,” US has long been dedicated to service. Last spring, as chronicled in this issue, the Class of 2022 finished their year not at the high school but around Greater Cleveland as part of a civic immersion experience. This fall has had no shortage of additional examples. Members of the Class of 2028 have already visited Head Start, the Council for Economic Opportunities’ holistic preschool program for children and families, connecting with and mentoring children. Over 200 US students and staff volunteered more than 1,000 hours of service to the Greater Cleveland Foodbank, Josh Rossen ’24 won their Student Leadership Award, and US has been recognized as 2019’s “School Partner of the Year.” Justin Flamm ’21 was named “Youth Humanitarian of the Year” by the Epilepsy Foundation for raising more than $5,000 through a competitive interscholastic dodgeball tournament. We encourage boys to make a habit of involving themselves meaningfully in our community, and, as with their academic pursuits, their contributions grow deeper and spread wider in their time at US.
As we at US look to the skills, habits, and values we hope to see embodied in our boys, our graduates so often point to values as most instrumental and impactful of all. Beyond our classrooms, Cleveland represents an all-important first step for them to put those values to work beyond themselves. The impact is palpable. In her book Teach Your Children Well, clinician and educator Madeline Levine, Ph.D. notes that engagement like that we strive to cultivate at US “contribute[s] to teens’ sense that they have something unique and important to add to their community. Participation in these kinds of activities helps teens develop competence, independence, connection, and real self-esteem. It gives them a sense of being relevant, and helps them to construct an identity greater and more robust than the sum of their test scores and trophies.” So many of the testimonials in this issue speak powerfully to this reality.
Real-world learning begins at home. Making a difference starts in one’s own community. We are committed to Cleveland, and we are the better for it.