Mercersburg Academy is committed to providing its students with opportunities for growth and leadership. With this understanding, Mercersburg has intentionally and purposefully put in place a number of initiatives that contribute to developing a culture of student leadership. With greater responsibility and investment in the school, students learn to live up to expectations rather than conform to rules. Though only a few leadership opportunities are outlined below, moments for action are woven through almost every facet of student life, from proctors in nearly every building to ushers, club representatives, academic center ambassadors, and more.
Find out about two of the programs that help to cultivate and build leadership skills at Mercersburg.
Mercersburg has committed to a holistic education for each student. As such, we have partnered with Project Wayfinder, a program primarily for 10th- and 11th-grade students. The goal is to identify and support each individual in their own personal journey to determine their passion and, ultimately, their purpose in life. Through this process, students reflect on their core values and strengths, then explore beyond self to consider what resources they possess to support them during their journey as they step into life with a purpose.
Each year, student leaders return early to school to participate in our annual leadership training lab. Mercerburg’s newly elected and selected prefects, Student Council representatives, and mentors all return to participate in a forward-thinking curriculum and activities to help prepare them for leading their peers and community. Together, we explore topics like emotional intelligence, character strengths, listening, cultural responsiveness and perspective, and the importance of “leaning into discomfort” in order to challenge both ourselves and others to grow as a community. During the week, students also help prepare for new students to arrive and welcome them and their families at our New International Student Orientation and our New Student Inbound. The week culminates with students setting goals for the year and an action plan to execute those goals. The work from the lab continues throughout the year with continued collaboration, reflection, and feedback on these action plans in weekly meetings and three more daylong leadership labs in the fall, winter, and spring.
Students in their 11th-grade and/or senior years who live the school’s mission and demonstrate character that exemplifies the school’s values are selected to serve as prefects. At least one prefect lives on each floor of every dormitory and is responsible for the supervision of the students who live there. They support all rules that govern personal conduct, standards of living, and adherence to those parts of the daily schedule that affect dorm life.
Prefects are seen as school leaders and their work and influence extend beyond the dormitory walls. All prefects are expected to be good role models, to check in each day with the students in their “neighborhood,” to counsel peers who are experiencing difficulty, and to be a liaison between faculty and students.
Peer Group Leaders
Peer Group is an evidence-based national program that supports and eases students’ successful transition from middle school to high school. The program taps into the power of 11th and 12th graders to create a nurturing environment for incoming ninth-grade students. Once per week from early September until mid-February, pairs of Peer Group Leaders meet with groups of 10 to 14 ninth graders in outreach sessions designed to strengthen relationships among students across grades. During this time, they cover topics such as homesickness, use of technology, exam preparation, time management, treatment of others, drugs and alcohol, and self-reflection, in addition to other fun activities. These peer leaders are simultaneously enrolled in a weekly leadership course taught by school faculty. Mentor Leadership for incoming 10th graders is the sister program to Peer Group.
The Mentor Leadership Program, a sister program to Peer Group, runs from the beginning of the school year through the fall term. We recognize that new lower middlers (10th graders) sometimes have a difficult time assimilating to life at Mercersburg, and this program is an opportunity to aid this specific population by providing additional support.
The Mentor Leadership Program connects members of the senior class with a group of lower middlers new to the school. The curriculum for this program includes reflection of self, vulnerability and listening skills, use of time, and issues surrounding drugs and alcohol, and culminates in a session about exam preparation as the lower middlers face their first term exams at Mercersburg.
The Student Council is comprised of a president, a vice president, an executive member at large, a director of finance, and a director of student activities, and includes a faculty grade dean. The students run for these positions and are elected by their peers. Each class has a class council with similar positions. These councils speak for the group they represent and advocate for student interests. A lot of this work is done behind the scenes.
Additional Leadership Opportunities
The Conduct Review Committee (CRC) is called when a major rule infraction by a student has occurred that the head of school does not deal with herself. The CRC consists of six students and seven faculty members and exists to make recommendations to the head of school.
During required family-style meals, a dining hall proctor sits at each table to take attendance and designate which students at the table serve as blue coats and white coats. This student leader also ensures that the table is functioning well. (The white coat retrieves the food from the kitchen at the beginning of the meal, and the blue coat takes dirty dishes back at the end of the meal. Each student typically has one or two coats per week.)
The duty dean assistants help the dean on duty one night each week. They supervise the evening study hall, and while the dean on duty is making rounds on campus, the duty dean assistant supervises the Simon Student Center in Ford Hall, making sure things are running smoothly and checking out the pool table and ping-pong equipment when asked. As needed, duty dean assistants will help the dean on duty follow up with students who may have missed a commitment earlier that day.
The Blue Keys are an organization of student volunteers who give tours of campus to prospective students. Head Blue Keys help organize and assign those tours, both during regular weeks and open houses.
The headwaiters are students who collect attendance sheets from dining hall proctors and help with announcements during required meals. Unlike other students, the headwaiters don’t rotate tables; they stay at the same table all year long.
The Language Media Center (LMC) is open during specified weeknights. With both patience and content knowledge, our skilled team of LMC ambassadors offers help and support to language students. Ambassadors are recommended for their roles by faculty members, and there are one or two ambassadors each night for each language offered by the Academy: French, Chinese, Spanish, German, and Latin.
The library in Lenfest Hall is open every day of the week and Sunday through Thursday evenings for study hall. Lenfest proctors assist librarians during the evenings by sitting at the front circulation desk. Weekend library proctors lend a hand to librarians during the day on Saturday and Sunday. Proctors sign students in, check out/check in items, and assist with locking up the building.
The Math and Science Center is open several weeknights. The Math and Science Center assistants (along with a few faculty members from both departments) offer help to students at all levels of math and science.
Performance Group Activities, or PGAs, give students opportunities to learn and gain from collaborative experiences. Each student must participate in one—whether it be an athletic team, an arts program, an outdoor education program, community engagement, or other offering—every day after classes. Within these programs are many opportunities for leadership and personal growth, from captains on our athletic teams to officers in Stony Batter Players (our theatre group) and more.
The Writing Center helps students across disciplines and at all levels of proficiency. The fellows are available for scheduled, individual conferences to assist students with anything from a short paper to a college essay.