As she prepares to attend Dalton this fall, eighth grader Sophie can’t wait to dive into two of her top interests: science and the arts. During a visit to the school, Sophie attended a student panel discussion for prospective families. One of the students said, "You’ll be able to take your interests to a higher level." That comment struck a chord. “I’ve always liked science and how it connects to everyday life, but I’m also excited by the arts and theater. I’m looking forward to exploring both at Dalton and figuring out how they can intersect within a career.”
Building a Strong Foundation
STEM classes and drama rehearsals aren’t the only things she’s anticipating. Sophie is also eager to create meaningful connections – an ability fostered at Harlem Academy. “In addition to giving me a strong foundation to handle rigorous academics, Harlem Academy also showed me how to build community across grades and social groups. It taught me that there’s nothing stopping me from being the first to say, ‘Hi. How are you? What’s your name?’”
Sophie’s drive to connect socially and excel academically were nurtured here from the moment she became a student in first grade. “From the beginning, our community meetings taught me a lot about treating people well – with respect and empathy,” she says. “And although I struggled a bit with math at one point, I didn’t give up. Harlem Academy taught me to be determined and to keep trying through any challenge. In the past eight years, I’ve grown into a routine of careful notetaking, good study habits, and active listening in class, which for me means paying close attention to what the teacher is saying. If I don’t understand something, I ask for help.”
Ready to Make a Mark on the World
Advice from teachers over the past eight years has also helped Sophie handle her workload. “They gave me guidance about organizing my work, making agendas for the week, and breaking down assignments into manageable pieces,” she explains. “All of that will definitely help me in high school, especially with long-term assignments.”
Another helpful tool? High School Week, a program at Harlem Academy that gives eighth graders a trial run at life in secondary school. Students navigate increased work, new privileges, and higher expectations. “High School Week made me responsible for my own time,” says Sophie. “I realized that I could use open periods to catch up on work instead of socialize. The experience pushed me to take control and create a schedule for all the projects I needed to get done.”
Assistant Head of School Dr. Eric James, who also teaches middle school science, has seen Sophie’s growth firsthand. “Learning at Harlem Academy is centered around enhancing students’ abilities to think critically, efficiently analyze new information, and develop questions and observations,” notes Dr. James. “Sophie’s mastery of these skills make her well-positioned not only to thrive at Dalton but also to make her mark on the world.”
Leadership at Her Own Pace
Sophie envisions herself in leadership positions at Dalton, but she wants to be thoughtful and deliberate in her pursuit of them. “I’m interested in joining clubs based on STEM and the arts. But before I take on any leadership roles, I have to scope things out first. I need to get a solid footing so I’ll know where my leadership skills might be best applied. I don’t want to go into a space that I’m not well prepared for. That would be a disservice to myself and to the people I’m leading.”
This type of clear-eyed approach and strong sense of self helped to propel Sophie’s success at Harlem Academy and will do the same at Dalton and beyond. As she points out, staying true to yourself is the key – and that’s exactly what she intends to do. “The first line of our School Creed, I am bold and creative, stands out for me as I get ready to go into this new space. It reminds me that I shouldn’t change my personality or hide myself. Being able to stand out, be creative, and be yourself wherever you are is one of the most powerful tools you have.”
Thank you to the Harry Winston Hope Foundation, Con Edison, and Columbia Community Service for sponsoring our middle school science program.
Harlem Academy is an independent school (grades K-8) that drives equity of opportunity for promising students, guiding them to thrive at the highest academic levels and one day make a mark on the world.