Creating curious, kind, courageous, and adventurous learners and leaders.
Colorado Academy’s new Mission Statement is distinguished by its brevity—and its heart. It resonates even with CA’s younger students, which you will quickly learn if you ask Ms. McCoy’s Second Graders about the words in the Mission Statement. “They are some of the bestwords you can think of,” says Logan Adrian.
Retooling a Mission Statement is not a task to be taken lightly for any organization. In the case of CA, it took a year—and a fair amount of curiosity, courage, kindness, and adventurousness. The process started on the first day faculty returned to school for professional meetings in August 2018. Head of School Dr. Mike Davisasked the entire faculty to break out into small groups and begin thinking about how they would craft a new Mission Statement. Immediately, the faculty contributed more than 100 keywords, written on sticky notes, including:
In a more formal setting, the faculty and staff met for a morning early in 2019, divided into small groups, and took on their individual assignments to writea new Mission Statement in various styles: as a tweet, a poem, a song, using magnetic words and letters on a board. With this exercise, faculty and staff had to distill what they did every day at CA into its purest form.
CA’s Board of Trustees and Administratorsalso spent two sessions discussing, debating, and deliberating what form the new Mission Statement should take. They worked together to identify “must-have” ideas and to write supporting “Value Statements” to help the school focus on its goals. They debated the difference between “mission,” “vision,” and “motto.”CA wanted a Mission Statement simple enough that a Lower School student could memorize it.At the same time, the new Mission Statement needed to reflect the tradition and tenets of the school in the past, the present, and what it aspires to be in the future. In the latter regard, the Mission Statement could be considered a challenge, a “call to action,” prompting change.CA also reached out to the entire CA community, past and present—some 5,000 people—to solicit feedback on a new Mission Statement. The final results incorporated ideas from the Board of Trustees, alumni, faculty, staff, students, parents, grandparents of students, and parents of alumni—and it is only nine words long.
“This was a highly collaborative process over a long period of time, with a goal of making the Mission Statement shorter and more direct,” says Davis. “With that many stakeholders weighing in, it would have been easy to end up with something long and unwieldy. And yet, because our community practiced our mission, we now have a Mission Statement that represents who we are and what we want to achieve.”
A Middle School perception of the Mission Statement
Ask Eighth Grade students in Renee Medina’s Advisory what a Mission Statement is, and they will tell you in no uncertain terms.
“A Mission Statement gives you the guidelines that the school lives by,” says Colin Love. “It’s the goals a school works toward,” adds Abby Colodny. “The Mission Statement is also the way the school presents itself to the public.”
Ask those same students which of the words in the new statement are most important, and opinions diverge.
Leaders:Leaders is the most important word. The world needs more leaders to solve problems and bring about change.Georgia Burstein
Learners: It means that you are always progressing and trying new things, even if you make mistakes. Failure is an important part of getting better and learning. Colin Love
Curious: You can’t learn unless you are curious. Ezra Wolkon
Courageous: You need to be courageous to go on an adventure.Graham Neely
Kind: Kindness is always doing the right thing. Even if it’s a person you don’t know, you should be kind.Maddy Reeves
Kind is the most important word because if people aren’t kind, then none of the other goals of the school can happen. Avery Siegler
Kindness creates a safe environment where you can be courageous, and adventurous, and curious.Colin Love
A Lower School perception of the Mission Statement
When you ask Second Grade students about the Mission Statement, you can see the beauty of its simplicity. They understand what it means and how it can be reflected in their daily lives.
Curious: Curious is when you wonder about stuff. Colbie Manzo
It’s when you think about new ways to learn and solve problems. Rohan Mrig
It’s when you are curious to know how something works. Mackenzie Yi
Courage: Being courageous means thinking of new things that people have never thought of and being the first to do something. Mia Brayton
It means you are brave enough to jump off the diving board. Eli Sprick
Adventurous: It’s when you go into the jungle or someplace you have never been and explore. Rohan Mrig
Kind: If somebody forgot their backpack and you find it in the hall, you bring it to them. Logan Adrian
If someone is hurt or has problems, you help them out. Alex Wall
When you invite someone to play, you let them do what they want to do. Lilah Dennis
You include people, because if you didn’t they would be sad. You do not treat people the wrong way. Liliana Richardson
A “learner” is a person who “learns new things in math, reading, and writing,” says NilayaMajmudar. And a “leader” is a person who “shows people what they are supposed to be doing,” adds Julia Books.Even these seven-year-old students understand what their school stands for and what it means for their daily lives.
An Upper School perspective
As Seniors, Avery Lin and Lulu Geller will only be at CA for one year under the new Mission Statement. Still, it resonates for them, and both of them feel like the new Mission Statement fulfills one of their goals—to leave CA better than they found it.
Avery Lin:“What fuels us at CA are the values we have, and the values in this new Mission Statement are indicative of the fire that burns inside the CA seal. We are kind, nice people who do cool things and take classes that challenge us.”
Lulu Geller:“Being at CA has allowed me to embrace my curiosity, not only academically, but also in the community. I also love the word “courage,” because courage is undervalued. It can be something as small as asking a question when you are nervous about speaking out in class or with a group.”
Lin:“The mention of being “kind” is huge. We value excellence, and we work hard, but I think it’s the community of kindness and respect that makes us special, and it extends throughout every hallway, in every grade, from the head of school, to the faculty, to the students.”
Geller:“In this Mission Statement, being “kind” is elevated to the same level as academics. That is so refreshing and speaks volumes about the type of community we want to cultivate.”
Lin:“Making this our Mission Statement will bring like-minded people to CA. People will look at it and say, I want to go there because I value the same qualities.”
Geller:“Any single one of those adjectives—I would be honored if someone called me those things. How great is it that a whole community will be driven by these words!”
The second half of the Mission Statement lists eight values which act as pillars for CA’s mission.
1.We foster courage: exploring new challenges in academics, athletics, the arts, and experiential learning.
2.We nurture curiosity: the foundation of lifelong, creative discovery.
3.We choose kindness: engaging graciously in an inclusive, joyful community.
4.We encourage understanding: listening to others and acting ethically, with integrity and respect.
5.We embrace inclusivity: working through education to create empathy and compassion.
6.We promote habits of health, both physically and mentally, strengthening resilience and confidence.
7.We believe in a dynamic response to the needs of an ever-changing world.
8.We inspire thoughtful individuals who are ready to transform the future.
The faculty spent hours thrashing through the many options for a Mission Statement. So, what do they think of the outcome? We asked Upper School English teacher and Tenth Grade Dean Emily Perez and Middle School Science teacher Thanh Luong.
Thanh Luong: “It helps us to have this in writing, because it gives clarity and reminders of what we hope to achieve and the goals that all of us as a community are working toward. It is a cohesive vision for the entire community.”
Emily Perez:“These values have always been a part of the CA community. In the Mission Statement, we have made explicit what was before implicit.”
Luong:“I think the emphasis on being “kind” makes our school’s focus unique. The popular view of our society is that there is not enough kindness in the world, and we often fail to highlight examples of kindness. We tend to think of kindness as just “being nice,” but taking action to help others realize they are being unkind, so they can grow from that experience, is an act of kindness in itself.”
Perez: “I am grateful that we included Value Statement Number 5: “We embrace inclusivity: working through education to create empathy and compassion.” As an English teacher, I use literature to teach empathy. For teachers, I think this is important to do both inside and outside the classroom in every discipline.”
Luong: “For me, the most important Value Statement is Number 4: “Weencourageunderstanding: listening to others and acting ethically, with integrity and respect.” If you follow that guide, you will be kind, curious, inclusive, live a healthful life, courageous, and adventurous. You will achieve everything.”
Perez: This statement is so easy to remember. Whenever you are faced with ethically difficult situations, you can look to the Mission Statement to see how your decisions align with our mission.
The final words
For Angie Crabtree, who is in her first year at CA and had no involvement with the development of the Mission Statement, the words of the new Mission Statement “resonated in my heart.”
“It gave me a sense of peace,” she says. “This is a school that gets it. If this is my mission, it makes my job easy, because we are not producing cookie–cutter children. We are teaching individuals who will forge their own path.”
In September, Crabtree watched as the excited (and nervous) Seniors were paired with their nervous (and excited) Kindergarten Buddies. That was the Mission Statement in action, she believes. Kind Seniors empowered curious and courageous Kindergartners, and the learning and leading began. “All those words came together in that moment,” she says. “CA had the courage to say the words and make this our mission.”