by Amanda Mace, School Leader

On August 8, 2011, Mission Heights Preparatory opened its doors for the first time to the Casa Grande community. The school opened with the intent of offering a smaller environment to students who desired to be challenged in classroom settings that would prepare them for the collegiate level. I started that year as the senior English teacher.  Now, six years later, as the new school leader of MHP, I find myself asking whether we have fulfilled that vision. I have held many roles here, and I see it from all angles – I am a teacher; I am an administrator; and I am a parent.

As a teacher, I see smaller classroom sizes, where I had the opportunity to know every student in class. If someone missed a day, I knew. I read everyone’s writing, and was able to not only know names, but to also know hearts. As educators here, we do not ask the question, “Are you going to college?” No. Our question is, “Where are you going to college?” It is the expectation and the mentality of every staff member here; we emphasize it continuously. In fact, out of 70 graduates in May, 94 percent of them went on to a university, community college or the military. We proudly push our students to not only learn and be engaged in the classroom settings now, but in their communities later.

As an administrator, I see a group of supporting staff members who have become more like family – all striving toward the same purpose. We have 16 highly qualified instructors who devote themselves to prepare students for their futures. It is important for me, as the new principal, to be a part of the enrollment process and interview each incoming student, so that I learn who each of them are before they even sit in a desk. It is valuable that they know my office is a safe place intended for support and guidance.

As a parent, I see how MHP was one that prepared my son for higher learning. It was a proud moment for me in May to hug him as he walked the stage to receive his diploma. He, too, has a collegiate plan, and I am thankful for the staff at MHP who invested in his time here.

Therefore, as I reflect on my initial question – “Is Mission Heights fulfilling our mission?” – I can proclaim with a confident “Yes!” We are here “to create an environment of academic success built on the pillars of college readiness, community service, civic duty and self discipline.” Are there areas needing improvement? Always. Are we misunderstood in the community? Maybe.  Are we going to continue to grow, challenge and better this school? Absolutely.

I stepped into this new role asking the questions, “What makes us different?” and “How do we stand out?” It’s not just higher test scores. It’s not just increased rigor. It’s not just the small, safe environment. Then it hit me – we are a school where students can be truly known by the entire staff. When I walk down the hallways of MHP, I don’t just see faces. I see lives. I see stories.

Whether we admit it or not, everyone has an innate desire to be known. We all want someone to know us, acknowledge us and realize that we exist. Statistics tell us that social media is one of the highest growing businesses in the world. In fact, Facebook announced in the month of June that they reached 2 billion users. Why? Because people want to be KNOWN!

Your students are hungry to be in environments where they are not just a number. They want to feel that their lives have purpose. In showing students they have value and are a NEEDED part of society, they find that purpose. They want to walk in through the doors of classrooms and feel part of something. MHP is not just a building that students come to; it is a family that they are a part of. It pushes students, gives them purpose and promotes them to be an integral part of society. Students who come here can prepare to be known. They can prepare to have purpose. They can “PREPARE TO SUCCEED.”