From its very inception, the founders of our school knew that they wanted to provide students with not only a rigorous academic experience, but also one that nurtured their character development as well. They included in the school bylaws instructions for a weekly chapel service with the purpose of instilling values and a higher sense of purpose in students. Although St. Edmund’s Academy is an independent school with no parochial affiliation, the historical tradition of this original chapel service remains. The first portion of this 30-minute community gathering holds true to the founders’ original format, but other parts of the service have evolved through the years to better reflect the diverse nature of our community. Our focus is firmly set on the Core Values that unite our school community and transcend any sort of religious belief or practice. The ministers, rabbis, priests, imams, and sometimes students who share their thoughts on a shared virtue each week emphasize the shared nature of the particular human value, whether it be honesty, perseverance, resilience, or joy.
Moving then from this conceptual level, we take time to recognize each week the witnessed acts of students that are consistent with our Core Values in the form of Commendations. Teachers and administrators are always looking for examples of positive behavior, which are then recorded and announced each week during the chapel service. Progressing through each Core Value—from “Respecting the Needs and Feelings of Others” to “The Value of Setting High Standards in All Endeavors” and continuing on—any child who has been seen enacting one of those values is named, asked to stand, and their specific act is read aloud to the community in the form of a Commendation. By focusing on the positive behavior and character traits that we want to see perpetuated among students, we cultivate a community where these values emanate throughout our daily practice. These commendations allow teachers to recognize students’ efforts and our Core Values in action.
The service concludes with the naming of a Lead Student from Grades 5-8 who exemplifies all of the Core Values on a consistent basis and who serves as a character role model for younger students. A long-standing and cherished tradition in school history, the chosen student for the week is kept a closely-guarded secret until the moment of announcement. Upon being names, the Lead Student is presented with a medallion to wear proudly throughout the week, and our Head of School reads an account of the gifts and talents this individual brings to our community—written collaboratively by the teachers who know the child the best. Always a touching moment of celebration, this weekly tradition allows us to publicly recognize students who are living our Core Values on a regular basis, reinforced by decades of historical pride attached to this respected honor.