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Portrait of a Graduate

Mercersburg Academy graduation

The Mercersburg Academy Portrait of a Graduate is a set of character traits created through a thoughtful collaboration with our school community to develop a shared vision of the skills our students need to succeed after graduation. The traits chosen go beyond discipline-specific skills and will be the core document guiding the school’s curriculum evolution. Mercersburg has always provided an incredible education for tomorrow’s leaders, but the world around us is changing, and we must change with it. By articulating the hopes that our community has for its students, the Portrait of a Graduate allows us to frame a new vision for what being prepared to tackle life after high school looks like for all Mercersburg Academy students.

Each trait starts out with a basic definition, then progresses to a definition that is centered around education, and then provides a deeper understanding of how Mercersburg will use each trait.

Portrait of a Graduate - Curious



  1. Eager to learn or know; inquisitive.
    Synonyms: engaged, questioning, interested

  2. Curiosity is the beginning of meaningful learning, the spark that creates enough light to inspire a learner to wonder and discover.

  3. Everyone is curious. We want to connect with the world around us, learn and develop our knowledge, and be part of something meaningful–but sometimes we don’t know where to begin. So, at Mercersburg Academy, learners are encouraged to engage their work and the community with simple curiosity–the entry points that pique their interest and animate their first steps, questions, or conversations. This way, learners can begin to build a life of following their curiosity toward epiphanies and purpose.

Portrait of a Graduate - Compassionate



  1. Feeling or showing sympathy and concern for others.
    Synonyms: empathy, understanding, care, concern

  2. Compassion allows learners to value and appreciate the lived experiences of others, so they better understand and become sensitive to complex circumstances other than their own.

  3. When students at Mercersburg Academy access compassion in their learning, they become attuned to the experiences of others and learning becomes a shared journey, not an individual pursuit; learning is undertaken in a community where care for others is paramount, which, in turn, builds community and empathic problem solving within and outside of the school.

Portrait of a Graduate - Collaborative



  1. Characterized or accomplished by a number of people working together as a group.
    Synonyms: collective, shared, cooperative

  2. Sometimes we need to learn alone, but learning with others opens portals and possibilities that we, alone, could have never imagined.

  3. In a school that welcomes learners from around the world and perspectives across a broad spectrum, students at Mercersburg do not learn in isolation. Instead, a collaborative life at Mercersburg promotes a deeper understanding of community, togetherness, and the ability to achieve more as a collective than as an individual.

Portrait of a Graduate - Autonomous



  1. Capable of thinking or acting for oneself.
    Synonyms: independent, self-determining, self-sufficient, freethinking

  2. A community like Mercersburg is the optimal place for learners who are increasing their knowledge, developing their skills, and determining how to do those things on their own and with others. 

  3. Interdependence is an essential part of the Mercersburg experience, but each student also becomes a self-sufficient learner, an autonomous contributor, and an independent critical and creative thinker. Within the company of peers, educators, and everyone else who helps Mercersburg flourish, each student develops the capacity to prepare themselves for the challenges and responsibilities that will add meaning and joy to their lives.

Portrait of a Graduate - Adaptable


/ə'dæp tə bəl/ 

  1. Able to adjust to new conditions or changes in environment, whether that environment is natural or social; able to be modified for a new use or purpose.
    Synonyms: flexible, versatile, malleable 

  2. Adaptable learners use their previous knowledge and skills to approach new and varied environments and situations. 

  3. In a time of unprecedented change, developing a sense of comfort with and an aptitude for shifts and pivots is essential. At Mercersburg, our most significant and durable learning is rarely linear and predictable: it’s found in academic settings and, of course, in our athletic programs, outdoor education, our arts program, and other groups such as Model United Nations, and community engagement, where kids learn to adjust to what is happening in the moment.

Portrait of a Graduate - Resilient



  1. Able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. 
    Synonyms: strengthen, perseverant, persistent, tenacious, fortuitous, gritty, self-determined

  2. Resilience is the ability to bounce back after a hardship or setback, to regain your footing when the challenge requires a second, third, or fourth attempt.

  3. The research is clear: hard learning sticks, while easy learning is here today and gone tomorrow. At Mercersburg, we create a setting where learners can persevere through mistakes and the challenges that require them to try and fail, regroup, and try again. By destigmatizing mistakes, Mercersburg establishes the social and emotional support to seek ever-increasing challenges.

Portrait of a Graduate - Reflective



  1. Characterized by meaningful contemplation and deep thought. 
    Synonyms: contemplative, thoughtful, self-aware, meditative

  2. There’s surprising, substantial research that tells us that learning isn’t complete, isn’t fully assimilated, until after reflection, the action that moves our learning to the literal front of our minds.

  3. At Mercersburg Academy, students have the time to reflect on their interactions, their relationships, their experiences, and their place in the world. So a given assignment or class isn’t an isolated event: it’s an opportunity to consider their learning in larger contexts, so a student can have more meaningful, long-lasting breakthroughs and understanding.

Portrait of a Graduate - Prepared



  1. Made ready for use.
    Synonyms: adapted, planned, adjusted, primed, rehearsed

  2. As educational theorist and practitioner, A.J. Juliani writes, “Our job as teachers is not to prepare kids for something; our job is to help kids learn to prepare themselves for anything.” 

  3. At Mercersburg, our most significant task is to inspire curiosity, compassion, collaboration, autonomy, adaptability, resilience, and reflection so that before and after our students graduate, they have the tools and a developed predisposition to be prepared for challenges, meaningful responsibility, and fulfilling accomplishment.