The power of 'We'
There were approximately one dozen white display tents lined up in a makeshift alleyway in the parking lot of Avon Grove High School last Saturday, and in them, the truest heart of this school was defined and manifested. It was homecoming at Avon Grove, a day traditionally reserved for marching bands, cheerleaders, alumni and football and yes, to the hundreds who attended on this blisteringly hot October day, the traditional pageantry did not fail to disappoint.
But it was the people beneath the white tents -- students and teachers advisers and parents, representing service organizations and sports teams -- who gave the day a larger sense of purpose. From booth to booth, organizations like the school's Leo Club, its All Cultures Together Overcome group and its Humanitarian Club used their ingenuity to create themes and giveaways, and were dedicating their proceeds to help organizations like St. Jude's and the Food Bank of West Grove. At a time in life when a person's vision is most myopic, these students are fully engaged in the larger world.
Illuminated by the selflessness and integrity demonstrated on behalf of its many clubs and organizations, there is something exceptional happening at Avon Grove High School these days, one that extends far beyond the enthusiasm of its students. Long thought to be the under-appreciated stepchild in the trinity of nearby Kennett and Unionville high schools, the school's dedication on behalf of its teachers, coaches and its higher administration in the last few years has leveled the playing field of achievement.
In a 2009 report compiled by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, Avon Grove's student activities programs were applauded for creating "a deep and meaningful role in the school culture." The report commended the school for its commitment to student achievement both in and out of the classroom; and it found a mood of community so pervasive in the air that they called it a "living, breathing document that all stakeholders could take to heart."
In a 2012 survey of the top 100 public schools in the Philadelphia region by Philadelphia magazine, Avon Grove ranked No. 45. In a 2013 study of our nation's high schools, U.S. News and World Report named Avon Grove the 1,138th best high school in the nation (out of 21,000 schools in the survey) and 34th best in Pennsylvania. To cap off a banner year, the school has been re-accredited by the Middle States Association's Commission on Secondary Schools through May 1, 2017.
In his address to the homecoming crowd gathered at the school's home side last Saturday, retiring Avon Grove School District Superintendent Dr. Gus Massaro continually spoke about the growth of Avon Grove High School in terms of "We." He recognized the work of school Principal Tom Alexander. He asked those in the crowd to applaud the dedication of the school's teachers. He praised the enthusiasm of the school's students. "It's all about the kids," he reminded everyone.
For those of us who fear what the world will look like for future generations; who lament the loss of leaders, we invite them to visit Avon Grove High School and speak with its students. A day there, an hour, or even a conversation, is enough proof to know that we will be all right.
"An educational system isn't worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to make a living but doesn't teach them how to make a life." The quote is anonymous, unattributable. The heart of a high school in the early days of an educational revolution, however, is attributable to everyone associated with it, and everyone at Avon Grove High School, the collective "We," deserves praise.
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