An Exceptional High School Experience. No Exceptions.
By Ellen M. Arch, MD
As a Developmental Pediatrician and Clinical Biochemical Geneticist here in Saint George. I know all too well the struggles that today’s young people deal with, both mentally and emotionally. It’s not uncommon for me to meet kids who feel disenfranchised by the education system they have experienced. For many of them, self-esteem has suffered because they don’t excel with standard teaching techniques, or because they might be just a bit different, or have opinions that differ from those of their classmates and feel like for one reason or another they cannot fit in. I speak to patients regularly who are searching for an alternative to the regular public schools where they feel unsuccessful.
I embarked on this journey for alternatives myself while searching for the right high school for my son. I’ll admit it: I’ve got a smart one. Getting A’s has always been easy for him. He wants to study math and robotics. I’ve been around academia enough to know that getting A’s without being challenged won’t get him into the competitive universities that offer these programs. I also know that he’s not a “put in and spit out” kind of guy. His 9th grade year at another high school often felt to him like a waste of time. I heard about Saint George Academy from a friend before it had even had its charter approved. I joined the board, a group of community members committed to finding a better educational option for their kids, and for the students of Washington County. We had our setbacks and, at times I really wasn’t sure it would all work out, but it was worth a try – for my kid. And it did work, even better than I had had ever thought possible. Even though I played only a small part, I couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve built for all of our kids.
At SGA, students are encouraged to be themselves, and they feel empowered. Since this school opened, I’ve seen self esteem blossom in kids who were flailing in the standard education system. I’ve seen kids who were failing classes – yes, even at SGA – determine to bring their grades up because they love the place and don’t want to leave it. Students feel valued because their teachers know their names and work to get to know who they are and what they think – and their opinion matters. This school knows how to reach kids and to turn them on to learning. It’s corny, but SGA students “don’t just survive, they thrive.”
College preparation has always been the goal of our board of directors, but when we hired our director, David Jones, I knew this school was going to be a lot more than that. David was teaching in and directing the biology department at DSU. He’d spent his entire professional life on college campuses. He already held advanced degrees in Genetics and was working on his PhD in education. Sounded perfect for a college prep school, right? Then, we interviewed him, and he offered so much more….
In his interview Director Jones talked about how he would reach the girl who sat in the back of the classroom, the one who wears too much make-up and doesn’t talk to anyone, or the boy who always plays the class clown. I know from my clinical practice that these kids are often suffering. Reaching them is something that educators in crowded schools with strict curriculum targets often have little time to do. Yet it can mean the difference between a child’s success or failure, not just in school, but in life. I realized then that SGA isn’t just for students like my son, it is for students who need a different environment to discover their own spark. It’s, first and foremost, the commitment of this man and his amazing staff to reaching their students that makes SGA so great.
At Saint George Academy’s inaugural graduation this year a speaker said that I love this school, almost more than anyone else. It’s true. SGA has become a place where my son can excel. He enjoys school again! It’s also become a place where many of my patients have excelled. I could not imagine a better place for students to gather, and to come realize that they actually love learning.
Yet, there’s even more that students love about the SGA experience. The Academy was envisioned as a place with light and air, and freedom to move around – one with open spaces and comfortable furniture, and lots of group seating for discussion. SGA doesn’t feel like your standard high school. The environment is friendly and students want to be there, which is half the battle. I can tell you this is by design.
Learning at SGA includes, not only lectures, but group discussions, and beloved seminars like “The Psychology of Puzzles,” “The Math of Board Games,” “The Philosophy of Doctor Who,” and “#Adulting,” just to name a few. The goal is to challenge students to analyze a problem, form their own opinions, and express themselves. It’s the critical thinking that is so important not just for the student’s educational future but for their life!
At commencement a graduating senior said that Saint George Academy really is, “like one big family.” My son and the other students I’ve had the privilege to know agree. Add to that family a group of highly trained, dedicated faculty and an administration with a student centered approach to learning, and you’ve got a recipe for creating self-motivated life-long learners. What more could I, or any parent, ask of a high school?
Ellen M Arch, MD
Clinical/Biochemical Geneticist and Developmental Pediatrician
Vice President, Board of Directors,
Saint George Academy
Saint George Academy is accepting enrollment for the 2018-19 academic year. Visit their website stgacademy.org or call 435-319-0105 to schedule a meeting or campus tour with Director Jones.