September 1, 2021
Greetings USJ Families,
We strive for intentionality in being a mission-based institution. At almost every meeting and professional development session, the idea of mission is mentioned and questions are raised about how the issue we are addressing applies to our mission as a school. These conversations often make reference to the “three pillars” of the USJ mission:
“We instill a passion for academic, artistic, and athletic excellence while committing to personal integrity, mutual respect, and lifelong learning.”
When we mention the pillars, we are referencing the classroom, arts, and sports; we often postulate how this current project or that initiative moves the needle as it relates to these three areas. But as one whose responsibility stands to keep us on the mission, I’d like to take a moment and remind us all of a very important point: the “pillars” of USJ’s mission rest upon principles, without which the pillars cannot stand.
We talk often about growing people, as that serves as our mission in a nutshell, but just what kind of people are we trying to grow? The answer is to be found in the dependent clause: men and women of integrity, no doubt. Success is predicated on it. It is impossible to succeed in any endeavor without it. Period. When we see USJ graduates making an impact on the world, we don’t just see doctors, engineers, teachers, and pastors. These are our sons and daughters who are applying the principles learned here to their respective fields. We must produce competent professionals, yes, but there MUST be more substance beneath the expertise observed on the surface.
I am proud to work with a team of educators who are dedicated to leading themselves, young people, and their families to be better people. We are about daily growth in areas of conscientiousness, teamwork, kindness, humility, and honor. These are prerequisites to learning algebra, theater, and soccer. It really isn’t about just being a factory for Jackson’s future professionals; we aspire to grow leaders. People who are accountable, determined, and whose lack of entitlement spurs a desire for personal growth, service, and the pursuit of God’s calling for their lives.
We must demand of our students to do their best in every endeavor, to respect their teachers and the rules, and to encourage their classmates, not to avoid punishment but because (and this is important) it stands as the right thing to do. A core principle of integrity is just doing the right thing at all times. What if we all placed learning ahead of making the grade and playing well before the win? What if we ranked character above popularity and work ethic ahead of results? Then we will grow people who we want to hire and with whom I want to engage in business and in life. These are the leaders of tomorrow who we are growing here today.
These principles are applicable in our daily lives as parents and students. We cannot claim to value honesty, then utter the words, “Don’t tell Mama.” (unless we are hiding a birthday present. Hint: It’s always chocolate) We can’t teach accountability while seeking ways around the rules for our children. The best way to teach them is through our actions and prioritizing what really matters. A 90 mph fastball isn’t worth much if one cannot play well with others. A brilliant artist won’t succeed if beneath the surface there exists an alcohol problem. And of what value is there in a straight-A student who cannot be trusted due to dishonesty? Each of these examples personifies failure in spite of the tremendous blessings of talent.
Our mission of excellence in academics, the arts, and athletics, which we must daily accept, stands upon virtue and must be built firmly on a foundation of good character and faith. May we do our best to never sacrifice our core principles in the seeking of temporary or superficial results. I am honored to pursue this mission with you daily and for your trust in partnering with you in educating your children.
Head of School
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