The queen's legacy
|Oahu K-12 Schools|
|Thread||School of the Future|
The St. Andrew’s Schools looks to the leadership of Queen Emma for inspiration as the schools improve and extend academic opportunities to the widest possible range of O‘ahu’s youth. Since 1867, The Priory has earned a reputation as one of Hawai‘i’s premier college preparatory programs for girls, graduating confident and articulate young women who go on to achieve greatness—in Hawaiʻi and around the world. The Queen Emma Pre School prepares preschool boys and girls to love learning. Now, with the establishment of St. Andrew’s Preparatory School for Boys, The St. Andrew’s Schools opens a new chapter on academic excellence for Hawai‘i and the nation. This bold new initiative brings the Schools' years of leadership in individualized learning to bear on one of the most urgent challenges facing America today: the education of boys.
For centuries before the 1893 overthrow, Hawaiʻi had a long tradition of supporting and acknowledging female leaders. One of the most important of these was Queen Emma. The “People's Queen,” as she was affectionately called by her subjects, Emma was a progressive leader—revolutionary in her time—who had a vision for providing accessible, affordable, premier education to young girls in Hawaiʻi.
Today, that goal is still just as important as it was in the 19th century. It's imperative, in fact, to maintaining a civil, safe society. Emma's mission of providing healthcare and education for her people continues to influence the school she founded, and its mission, to this day. Founded in 1867, the St. Andrew's Schools—which include the Priory school for girls, the Prep school for boys and the Queen Emma preschool—are structured on the dual pillars of Emma's own ethical credo: her Hawaiian heritage and her religion, episcopal Christianity. The two dovetail nicely into the school's mission to build children that are confident, creative learners and compassionate leaders.
“Queen Emma defines everything that we do at this place,” says Jordan Jones ('18). “She was a queen that lost a lot—she lost her husband, she lost her son—but she still had to be a strong leader for Hawaiʻi and her people. I see her as a role model, and I think all the girls here see her that way. Our traditions and our values stem from her roots.”
Administrators, board members, teachers and students all look to Queen Emma as a champion of progressive ideals. “What would Emma do?” is a phrase that the decision-makers in the school check their trajectory against, evaluating their progress and making sure it reflects the values she believed in.
“We want to have a sustainable world, so we need to be thinking generations ahead,” says Ruth R. Fletcher, Ph.D., the Head of School. “That's one of the things Queen Emma was great at, and it's one of the main things we try to instill. There's a before and an after, not just a now. We are building our life on the foundations of those before us, and we need to preserve this place for the generations still to come. We have a rich past, and we want an equally bright future.”
Developing the Whole Child
“When you come to St. Andrew's, you are known,” says Fletcher. “There is so much beauty in a person that if, from a young age, they feel they are known, they can develop a great deal of confidence. They trust their own intellect and their own human capacity, and then they're not afraid to try. So they risk, they innovate and they build.
“Ethics, integrity, honesty, openness and inclusiveness; how to interact with another human being—we get these values from the Episcopal sect of Christianity on which the school was founded,” she adds.
“I've been at Priory since Kindergarten,” says Jones. “A lot of people see St. Andrew's as just this small, little school that, maybe, doesn't have a big impact. But I think that, because we're small, we can have a big impact on each other.”
The small size of the school allows students to connect with teachers and peers, and the nurturing environment the school strives to create helps students figure out who they are and how they fit into the world. The school, which was historically founded to educate young women, has recently begun accepting boys, K–5, to the Prep School for Boys, as well, though the genders are educated separately.
“I think it's a wonderful time to be a boy in a single-gender setting,” says Fletcher. “Boys develop differently than girls and we think that young boys—at this point in history—are not being well served in schools. They can get the impression that who they are isn't as good. And that's just not true. We want our students—whether boys or girls—as they grow and learn, to understand that we aren't on this planet alone; that people have helped us, and we need to pay that forward and help others.”
The school is evaluating emerging strategies for developing more than academic and cognitive skills by focusing on the social emotional learning of a child and cultivating their interpersonal skills.
“We're trying to foster things like critical thinking and collaboration, teamwork and problem solving,” says Stephanie Jones, Director of Admissions, and mother of Jordan. “Because it's not necessarily the straight-A students that are successful later in life. Sure, that can't hurt. But often it's the kids who can tap into those more universal, cross-disciplinary skills that are the ones that go on to create something revolutionary.”
“We take people and we grow them. We have an amazing faculty that uncover the potential in kids and help them become more than what they thought was possible,” says Fletcher.
“They practice being themselves,” agrees Sophie Halliday, Director of Educational Programs. “Through the variety of opportunities and experiences here, by the time they graduate, they have the skill set to be successful in whatever pursuits they want to engage in life. It's not just academics, because you need more than that to succeed. We really try to develop the whole child.”
“We live in a democracy,” says Fletcher. “And it's critical, in a democracy, that we learn how to converse in a way that is respectful and inclusive of differences,” says Fletcher. “So we're teaching children how to be deeply respectful with one another. We are teaching children to trust in their own intellect and to know that it's OK—you might not agree with me, and it's OK to say so—and we can still walk away and talk to each other, because not everybody is the same, and we can learn from this diversity of thought. Instilling that in young people is critical to the health of the nation.”
Strong academic curricula and a broad range of extracurricular opportunities allow kids to challenge themselves however they wish. For Jordan Jones, academic opportunities provide only one of several avenues of growth that also include athletics (she's a track and field state champ in the girl’s 3,000-meter race), performance arts, student leadership, clubs and committees: all the opportunities that larger schools might offer, but in the smaller setting.
The school's Priory in the City program provides a rare chance for the school's high school girls to interact with and shadow some of the state's most prominent female leaders in both business and politics. Last year, Jones' class visited with the women's legislative caucus and participated in Girl's Summit with their female peers from Farrington High School.
“We discussed some pretty controversial issues like equal pay, and I came away feeling very empowered, especially because all the participants were women and girls,” says Jones.
Another experience through the program took Jones' class to the Honolulu Police Department's forensic laboratory.
“I think that my favorite thing about Priory is how much the school goes out of its way to give us unique opportunities like Priory in the City,” says Jones. “Exposing us to what's out there; stuff we maybe wouldn't otherwise even think about as potential careers, is so valuable. And a lot of the jobs we get to see are unusual or atypical for women—for example, a lot of STEM jobs—which is really cool too because it empowers us to know that we can do that kind of work too.”
Two blocks east of, and across the street from campus, St. Andrew's alumni Teal Takayama ('04) is working in the office of Hawaiʻi Governor David Ige. Before working in the state capitol, Takayama worked in Washington D.C. at the office of Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa (also a St. Andrew's Priory alumni).
Like Jones, Takayama was an “extra-curricular over-achiever,” participating in paddling, tennis and softball; serving as president of the Kiwin's Club, as yearbook editor her senior year and as class president for two years.
“I distinctly remember visiting the councilor's office at the end of junior year, and they told me I was going to have to drop something because I was overloaded,” Takayama recalls. “I told them I wasn't going to drop a single thing because the opportunities were just too valuable to me.”
After college, Takayama had moved back to Hawaiʻi to work for Omnitrack, a market research firm. The firm had Colleen Hanabusa as a client, and Takayama was assigned to the politician's portfolio. After working on Hanabusa's 2010 campaign, and the campaign of her own father, State Representative Gregg Takayama, the congresswoman asked Takayama to come with her to Washington D.C.
“I knew it wasn't an opportunity that comes around every day,” says Takayama. “My interest in politics kind of took off from there. Watching her do what she did and learning why she did what she did was inspiring.”
Takayama remembers working with Hanabusa to acquire funding for Native Hawaiian programs, which was often a tough agenda considering most of the congresswoman's peers in the House lacked a significant Native Hawaiian constituency. Seeing the congresswoman fight tooth and nail on the floor of the House, sometimes staying up until the early hours of the morning researching or maneuvering with other representatives to come to last minute agreements on votes left an impression on Takayama.
“The biggest thing about my experience at the Priory was that it taught me to never back down from a challenge,” says Takayama. “Since it's a small school, you can take advantage of a lot of opportunities and experiment with a lot of different things and you can be successful in a lot of them, which really builds your confidence in what you can achieve if you put in the work. Stepping into the real world, I already had the mentality that, if I put in enough work, I'd be able to achieve whatever I want.”
Takayama is currently attending law school at night, and wants to continue serving the people of Hawaiʻi as a public defender or prosecutor.
“One of my jobs at Congresswoman Hanabusa's office was to explain to visitors from Hawaiʻi what was happening, legally speaking, during federal-level political processes,” says Takayama. “I realized how hard it is for most people to engage with the process when they don't have someone doing that for them. I want to do the same thing but with the court system. It can really be frightening for people who go through it, and who don't really understand their rights. The system takes advantage of that all the time, and I want to do what I can to help those people.”
Takayama's attitude is indicative of students who graduate from St. Andrew's with a strong desire to help make the world a better place—not because it'll look good on resumés, but because they feel like it's something they have to do; that they need to do. They are humble; they deflect attention from themselves; they recognize how fortunate they are. They know their success is based on everything that has come before them. Through that humility, they are a testament to the kind of people the legacy of Queen Emma can create.
“A lot of people think being a leader is just making hard decisions—and it definitely is—but you also have to work with the people around you,” says Jones. “You're not a leader if you have nobody to lead, so you have to put the interests of those you're leading first. They need to be able to look up to you and trust you.
“To me a leader is someone who is going to put personal feelings aside to help other people,” she continues. “It's someone who is willing to stand up and say something is wrong, or that something needs to be changed. It's someone who wants to make a difference. I don't know what it is that I want to do yet, but I know I want to make a difference in the world.”
For now, Jones does know that she wants continue her running career in college, and she's looking for a Division 1 school to attend where she can excel on the track, as well as in the classroom and community.
“Stanford is one of my top choices right now,” she says, breaking into a smile. “I've got big aspirations for myself in the future.”