The Ascension ProjectThe Ascension Project

Heart and Head

From the day our youngest boy enters Junior Kindergarten to the end of his Sixth Form year, Haverford's
vision and curriculum centers on his using both head and heart in relationships, in problem-solving, and in
making decisions. Teaching empathy is not a science; nonetheless, we are intentional in helping boys grow
into men of compassion and honor. The formal programs which develop this growth are decision education,
service learning, and the honor system; however, as with most independent schools, much is learned
through the relationships with faculty advisor, teacher, and coach.

A whole school initiative, decision education, equips students with skills to take on ethical decisions and work
collaboratively to solve complex problems. Students begin practicing decision fitness in Lower School and
as years pass, they learn that they have the power to shape their lives by the decisions they make. We hope
that students will graduate having defined their characters by their good decisions.

Haverford's Service Learning weaves its programs throughout the three divisions of the school and into all
the curricula, seeking to give students the tools they will need to live as active, successful, and compassionate
citizens in their world.

In the Lower School the boys learn to engage with people unlike themselves through the Elderly Empathy
Project. This experience provides our youngest students hands-on learning about what senior citizens in our
surrounding communities cope with every day. Other integrated programs broaden their understanding of
different cultures, such as the African Water Project where they study the challenges people in third world
countries face seeking access to healthy water for their families. This project culminates in a fundraising
effort to purchase wells for impoverished and remote villages.

All Middle School students participate in an awareness program that teaches them how to better understand
and engage with people with disabilities. In partnership with students from the Jewish Community Centers
of Greater Philadelphia, they host the annual Caring Community Carnival for children with special needs and
their families.

By the time they reach the Upper School, students have a good foundation for understanding their diverse
world. They become advocates for victims of social injustice. Through our year-long hunger project, students
are trained to educate the school community and communities-at-large about the deprivation of populations
far and near. Service trips vary from weekly Habitat for Humanity and tutoring in the neighborhood to
traveling to disaster sites such as New Orleans, Haiti, and Lima, Peru where mudslides have left whole villages
of orphaned children. Students reflect on these experiences both in writing and in assembly, sharing
stories of what they learned more than what they did. It is a testament to the power of Service Learning at
Haverford that there is no requirement to participate yet nearly every boy chooses to do so.

Every year Upper School students affirm their commitment to live under the honor code. Some serve on the
council which educates the whole school about honor; others serve as jurors; others serve on the board of
the Character Mentorship Program, a program designed to support students who have made poor decisions.
The honor system is student run, and its message is basic: We will strive to build a community based on
respect, honesty, and courage.

The value of empathy is also evident in classrooms, on the playing fields, and around campus. Our athletics
program emphasizes respecting one's opponent, showing humility in victory, and grace in defeat. In the
Middle and Upper Schools, the advisory program builds supportive relationships between different students
and teachers. These groups learn to advocate for and listen to each other. In the Upper School, Peer
Counseling, a program which teaches active listening skills, and the Community Awareness Program focus
on creating safe spaces for students to be themselves and on stressing the importance of treating each member
of our community with respect. In the Lower School, this year's theme is service to others and the walk
of virtues is a daily reminder of the path they may choose. Haverford seeks to teach and model caring for
others through programs, teachable moments, and traditions. Symbolic of our purpose to graduate honorable,
compassionate young men is the way students enter the auditorium on Opening Day. Our oldest boys
go to the Kindergarten class, meet our youngest boys, and take them by the hand to the ceremony.

Rebecca Davis, Dean of Faculty at The Haverford School in Haverford, Pennsylvania
About Rebecca Davis