For close to 20 years now, my family has been involved with The College School – an independent/private, experiential K-8 school in Webster Groves. When our oldest son, who is now 22, was approaching Kindergarten age, we had planned to send him to public school. My husband, Jemal, and I are both products of the public school system. Jemal was raised in Texas, and I was raised in Webster Groves. We had settled in Webster fully intending to take advantage of the strong public school system. At the Kindergarten open house, someone told us about The College School, and we decided to take the tour. I remember visiting for the first time and thinking about how different it was. When we visited it was clear that experiences, collaboration, and reflection were cornerstones of the learning model. The children were not at desks all day and they took trips to visit a local river to learn about the environment and apply science and math. They were involved in hands-on projects and discussed how they applied to real life. We heard stories and saw pictures of trips all over the metropolitan area and camping trips to other parts of the country. We thought to ourselves, “I wished I could have attended a school like this when I was a kid.” As our son marveled at the magical loft in the Kindergarten room, his excitement and how the teachers interacted with him made it clear that The College School was a place we could call home.
Fast forward almost 20 years, a relocation and return to St. Louis, and a second child and we are still a part of The College School community. Our youngest is currently in 8th grade at TCS and thinking about what high school to attend. Although her path forward may be a different high school than her brother chose, we are confident knowing the education our kids received at The College School has taught them to be curious learners and it has helped them develop a level of emotional IQ that is so needed today.
For many of us in the African American community, a non-traditional approach to education may feel unorthodox or just plain weird. You may be thinking, “We don’t camp” and “The College School’s approach to educating kids is different than my experiences.” This may be true (it was for us) but come check it out before discounting. Your next question might be, “How many people of color attend The College School?” You might be shocked to learn The College School has 30% students of color, making it one of the most diverse independent schools in the area.
The College School is proud of its diversity numbers, and they haven’t happened without intentionality. When Jemal served on the Board of Trustees from 2005-2011, improving the school’s diversity was in its early stages. Over the years, training, administrative leadership, and community involvement have pushed The College School’s diversity numbers to all time highs. But our journey is not over. We continue to take steps to make this unique educational opportunity accessible and we hope that through outreach and education other families of all types of backgrounds will make TCS their home.
Even though this is the last year our kids will be attending school on either of the College School campus,’ our commitment as a family continues. I am currently serving my first year as the Chair of the Board of Trustees and will continue through 2023 – an honor that I proudly undertake. As the first African American female chair, I look forward to taking the stage when our daughter, along with the entire 8th grade class, give their graduation speeches – a time honored tradition at the school.
The confidence my children have gained and the growth our family has experienced with The College School community is unparalleled. We understand the best way to learn and retain information is by doing. Experience is the best teacher. Experiential learning is what The College School is all about.