Why USJ?

Families choose USJ for their children for a number of reasons. Click on a name, below, to find out what some of our families say about USJ.

Richard and Amanda Newman: Parents

We chose to transition our two children to USJ for the 2015-2016 school year for three reasons: academics, athletics, and great friends. Our oldest child, Sam, at the time in the seventh grade, began asking about making the move, as his best friend for many years is a long-time USJ student. Sam is a soccer player, and he wanted to join his friend on the school’s soccer team to be challenged and trained by the best program in the area, led by Coach Paul Conway.

We began our journey by reviewing the academic standards and discovered all of USJ’s classes to be college preparatory courses. After reaching out to former USJ graduates who are now in college, they all said the same thing: their freshman year in college was made much easier by the work they had done at USJ.

They went so far to say that most of the work they did their freshman year in college was covered during their time at USJ. Looking at where these kids were attending college and the scholarships they had received, that was an impressive statement. Without a doubt, that was enough to lead us to attending USJ’s orientation to learn more.

At orientation, Kay Shearin, USJ Director of Admissions, greeted us and made us feel at home. We can’t begin to say enough nice things about her. Before, during, and after orientation, Kay demonstrated the heart of the school, always willing to listen to concerns, answer questions, and help in any way possible.

The school and campus is impressive, no doubt. The Blankenship Theater, the lunch rooms with seemingly endless menu items to satisfy the pickiest of eaters, the science rooms and libraries, the athletic facilities, all are great. But what makes USJ the school for us is the faculty members and teachers. They all had time for our kids and for us when we reached out for assistance.

We say this after our first year at the school. Our daughter, Alivia, a third grader last year at USJ, came home every day with a smile on her face. She fell in love with her teacher, Mrs. Jenny Carey. She was assigned a Bruin Buddy in her class, who helped her adjust and make new friends.

Sam missed the very first week of classes, as he had an opportunity to travel to England to play soccer. From the beginning, USJ supported his choice to make this trip. When he got back, he was behind in a brand new environment and stressing over honors math.

His math teacher, Coach Bryce King, met with and assured us on multiple occasions Sam was fine. He opened up his class extra early to get Sam and others on track. Coach King is a fantastic instructor and an even better person. He embodies the spirit of the school, excellence achieved through practice and hard work.

While moving our kids to USJ was done with much prayer and discussion, it’s one we will never regret. The education they are receiving is top notch, and the faculty and staff are fabulous. And, those picky eaters, they never ask for a sacked lunch from home.

Laura Harmon: Alum

“I am so thankful for USJ. Last semester I had straight A's, and I'm hoping for the same this semester after I finish my last two exams. Today, I took my biology exam, which I knew every bit of thanks to Coach Herriman's Environmental class. However, it hasn't been that easy all the time. I'm currently in Spanish 323, and my teacher constantly compliments how hard of a worker I am. Plus, it helps that I had a great Spanish teacher (Señor Glosson). All of that came from USJ, and I am so grateful for my time there. I take back the many times I complained about the homework and the stress of going to high school there. It all paid off this year alone, and I know it will continue to help in the years to come.”

Jessica Platt: Parent, Faculty, and Alum

“I’ve never considered not being a part of the USJ family. I have taught at several schools, and nothing else compares. I am completely confident in the education that my son is receiving here.”

Jane Ramer: Faculty, Alum Parent, and Grandparent

“USJ provides an atmosphere of academic rigor that inspires students to reach their full levels of potential. Having other areas of excellence, including the athletic and arts arenas, makes the school a perfect place for a child to develop all of his or her gifts and talents.”

Carol Ryan: Parent and Faculty

“Having worked at other schools as a teacher, I appreciate the opportunity to expose students to the coursework I know they will need to be successful in college and in their professional lives. At USJ, I have seen that students genuinely want the bar raised on their educations. I want that day-in-and-day-out exposure to meaningful coursework for my own children. As the college advisor, I have the privilege of seeing how the USJ experience translates into students pursuing professional directions that will allow them to positively impact our world. USJ gives students the firm foundation they need to be successful in the 21st century workplace.”

Jamie Sullivan: Parent

“A couple of years ago, our oldest daughter was finishing at St. Mary's, and we were faced with the decision of where to send her to high school. There were several factors that drew us to USJ, including strength in academics, athletics, and the arts, but most importantly the college preparatory education. We believe that we made the right decision for our family and now have all three of our children enrolled at USJ.”

Carla Roach: Faculty and Alumni Parent

“I taught in public schools for fourteen years before having the opportunity to join USJ. What a blessing it is to be in a school where students want to achieve and succeed at the highest levels possible. After seventeen years at "The U," I continue to love teaching math and preparing my students for the next level of their education. College preparation is crucial, and my students are eager to prepare and succeed. Many schools of this size do not offer the challenging curriculum and opportunities for extracurricular activities that our school offers. I also appreciate the support and encouragement of our parents. Working in an environment where we all work for what is best for our students is a wonderful thing.”

Holly Johnson: Parent, Alumni Parent, and Faculty

"As a graduate and parent of USJ, I understand the value of investing in a child’s education. This investment begins in the Lower School with classrooms that provide creative and active instruction and culminates in Upper School with a strong college preparatory curriculum. The influence of USJ’s environment encourages the sharing of ideas, the learning from both successes and failures, and the instilling of life-long learning. As a teacher, our charge is to be deliberate not only in developing thinkers, but deliberate in building character, values, and faith in our students."

Sara Jane Via: Parent

“We love USJ! Six years ago, we started our first of four children in kindergarten at USJ. Now all four of our babies are enrolled. I have to admit I was hesitant in the beginning because I felt that we ‘wouldn't fit in’ for different reasons—we lived outside of town, we were not USJ alums, we had no ties to the school except for a few friends whose children attended the school. Much to my surprise, this old cliché was quickly erased. From day one, we have felt it was the best decision we could have ever made. We have always felt like part of one big family. We chose USJ initially because it is by far the most academically superior school in West Tennessee. However, as the days quickly passed, other reasons we ‘belonged there’ became evident. Not only does USJ build a strong overall academic foundation, but it also fosters family in every sense of the word. From the top to the bottom, we love every teacher we have had, and fellow students and their families have become an integral part of our lives. I would say the key to our love for USJ has been getting involved. It is not just a one-way street. In order to receive, you must give...of your time, energy, and resources. I promise, the rewards will be exponential. USJ was the best decision we could have ever made!”

Zuzanna Wojtas, Class of 2012

"It's days like this (in college) where I thank my teachers Jane Ramer and Malea Mullins for being so awesome. College biology is teaching us cell parts and I'm sitting here on Facebook because I know all of this material in my sleep, and in chemistry, I am at the top of the class because I have done the stuff that we are going to be tested on. Thanks, guys!”

Ainsley Gompf, Class of 2012

Ainsley wrote to Bridget Clark, Upper School English Department Chair: “I hope that you are doing well and that everything is working out this year! I miss you and your class so much. It was much more interesting than the English class I am in now. I really like it here at High Point … In one of my classes we wrote a four-page research paper. Half of the kids had never used an online article before and were so confused. I became very thankful for that 30-page thesis project! I hope to see you when I come home sometime soon!”

Joyce Sanders, Grandmother

“All four of my grandchildren have been at USJ since junior kindergarten. I have been a part of the reading program at the Lower School since my oldest grandchild was in kindergarten; she is now in sixth grade. Being involved at USJ, even just in the reading program, I can attest to the fact there is so much one-on- one instructional time for the kids that really pays off in their ability to learn and grasp concepts. The academics at the school are superior to any other school in the area; I am amazed at what they are learning and how fast they learn. USJ is so far ahead of others in all aspects, academics, reading, music, art. It just amazes me how much my grandchildren have learned. USJ is a great school and certainly is laying a strong academic foundation for its students.”

Shane Vargason, Valedictorian, Class of 2012

“USJ has played a significant role in shaping me as an individual. I have been exposed to a rigorous academic course schedule and know that I am academically prepared for college. I have been taught the importance of leadership, character and hard work. The many opportunities here at USJ have made me a well-rounded individual. Truly, USJ has provided me with an ‘education for a lifetime.’ My teachers have prepared me to make the important choices and decisions that I will indeed face in the future.”

Dr. Michelle and Thad Puzdrakeiwicz, Parents

“With four children who already have pretty lofty goals for their futures, we knew we needed to have them in an environment that would challenge them academically. They are also athletic so a good sports program was also on our list of criteria when it came to a school. Looking around, we found USJ to be a natural fit for our family. We relocated to Jackson so that they could be a part of the community. We have found that at USJ, the bar is set high for them to achieve and that challenges them to rise to a high level. USJ affords our children lots of opportunities in the classroom and on the playing field. We know that they will be prepared to achieve their goals well beyond the high school level. We also are impressed with the unique methods of teaching beyond just textbooks that are being utilized on all grade levels. They have goals of Ivy League schools and we see them being able to achieve what they want and that they will be prepared.” (Thad is a stay at home dad; Michelle is a pediatrician.)

Whitney Edwards Sikes, Parent and a Member of the USJ Class of 1996

"I value and appreciate the 14 years that I spent at USJ tremendously – both for the experiences I had as a student and for the way I was prepared for college and life thereafter. When it came time for us to make a decision about where to send our children, my husband and I visited USJ and found the same educationally challenging environment that I left in 1996. As parents of a child at USJ, we have also experienced a warm environment that not only develops our child’s mind, but his character as well. I love continuing the tradition of a USJ education with my children and am so thankful for the school and all that it will provide my children in the years to come."

James Kirkland, Parent and a Member of the USJ Class of 1993

"My wife and I believe it is our responsibility as parents to put our daughter in an environment that encourages excellence. Whether spiritual, academic, service, the arts or athletics, USJ has a proven history of helping students reach their maximum potential. At this early age, we do not know what her God-given talents and abilities may be, but we want to be faithful stewards of her potential. I know firsthand that USJ will encourage her towards this excellence."

Summer Ferguson, Teacher and Parent

"I chose to make USJ a career goal because I want to be a part of and exemplify the USJ spirit. The pursuit of excellence is shared by everyone here. This cultivation of this spirit begins in our 2-year-old program, and it is strengthened with each additional grade level and opportunity at USJ. Students and faculty share a commitment to learning, growing and having fun along the way. I believe that USJ embodies the balance for students that all parents want their children to possess. USJ helps children pursue a personal excellence in character and matches that with a commitment to academic success. As a parent, I want my girls to have a love for learning and school, but more importantly, to be a person of strong character and moral conviction. USJ is superior in cultivating those qualities in each student. The priorities of USJ are perfectly aligned with those of my family."

Camille Jones, Parent and a Member of the Class of 1979

"As a parent, I believe one of the greatest gifts you can give your children is an opportunity for an excellent education. It is one of few things in life that cannot be taken away from them. That is why Ralph and I chose to send Margaret and William to USJ! USJ challenges our children to excel academically. It teaches them to think and to respond. Not only do students at USJ receive an outstanding education, they are offered the opportunity to use their gifts and talents in so many different areas, including the arts: music, art and drama; and athletics: track, soccer, baseball, basketball, football and cheerleading! USJ also offers classes for those interested in forensic science, broadcasting and much more. From the PreK classes through high school, the teachers have cared deeply for our children, not just academically, but for themselves as human beings! We know our children will be prepared for the higher education of their choosing!"

Michael Richards, Class of 2012

“The teachers at USJ have taught me to think for myself and to be prepared at all times. It always seemed they wanted me to succeed. I know that college will be very challenging but I know that I have been given the best education possible. I have learned to study, prioritize assignments and work ahead. My strong work ethic is a result of the many coaches who have pushed me to be the best I can be and taught me that things don’t come easy if they are worth having. I am ready for the challenges that are waiting for me, thanks to my experience at USJ.”

Katherine Burton, Class of 2008

Katherine Burton, a member of the Class of 2008, was finishing up her last few weeks before graduating from Brigham Young University in European Studies with minors in French and harp in Spring 2012. She was taking a philosophy class with mostly students who were majoring in philosophy and was assigned a paper analyzing the writings of different authors. She was going over the rough draft with her professor. This is her account of what she and her mom told Bridget Clark, Upper School English Department Chair.

“He (the professor) stopped halfway through the paper and asked: ‘Where did you learn to write like that?’ and ‘Where did you to high school?’ I told him it was a private college prep school in Tennessee. He said he had not seen writing like mine from an undergraduate, even majors. He also said that my writing and grasp of the subject were even better than some professors. He then encouraged me to go to graduate school. I feel USJ really prepared me well for college."

G. Jan Wilms, Ph.D., Parent and Teacher

“We spent almost as much time researching local high schools as seniors do for their college choice, and USJ won hands-down, especially in the area that matters most – academics. Now that we've gone through our first year at USJ, we know we made the right choice – the honors curriculum is as challenging and rewarding as we expected, and our twins feel prepared to tackle some of the AP offerings in their sophomore year.”

Don Roe, Teacher

"I am so impressed with USJ! It does not take long to get the "feel" for the mission of University School. My students come to class every day ready to learn. It is such a joy to be around focused, respectful young people who are hungry to improve. The faculty is dedicated, professional and, simply put, happy to be here. All of the staff are friendly, helpful, and willing to serve our students and ensure that needs are met so things run smoothly. And finally, as a classroom teacher, it is so evident that the administration's priority is instruction. Class time is always protected, teachers are supported, and leadership is provided to ensure a safe, challenging, and nurturing environment. I feel so blessed and am excited to be a part of the USJ family!"