They’re often called “lifers,” those students who remain at the same school for the entirety of their primary and secondary academic careers. They move across grade-level divisions like any other student, mastering the elementary years before progressing into middle school and ultimately advancing up through the high school grades. However, their overall experience has a distinctive spin, as they receive their whole education from one independent institution over the course of 13 continuous years. read more
For private schools throughout metro Atlanta, academics are only part of the school experience. In fact, offering access to a welcoming and extensive school community is a major draw for many families, who are looking for an environment that reflects their common values. Here, we look at schools across the area that offer a wide array of community-oriented activities and opportunities for family involvement.
Students, parents and families of this Catholic-based school have a host of options for gathering and feeling a sense of community. To start, ADS hosts an array of fundraisers and social events, including an international dinner, an ice cream social, spirit nights at local restaurants, a drive-in movie night, a daddy/daughter dance, a mother/son recreation and fun event, the annual gala and the 5K Spartan Run. Additionally, the school’s Parent Volunteer Association nurtures the community atmosphere with opportunities for parents to volunteer at the annual book fair, the Atlanta Greek Festival and concessions at basketball and soccer games, as well as chances to serve as parent ambassadors and talk to middle schoolers about their jobs and responsibilities during Career Week.
Within the community-at-large, several local businesses have partnered with ADS, including Chik-fil-A, Druid Hills, Oak Grove Market, Athens Pizza House and Atlanta Urgent Care. These businesses sponsor events, such as the 5K Spartan Run and annual gala. According to Sophia Tsiotsias, community and development director at ADS, “All of these events have built a great sense of community and fellowship among our student body, parents and community partners. They have proven to build strong friendships and bonds even outside of the school. It’s important to foster these relationships to help build and develop our thriving school community.”
With 90 different nationalities and 65 languages represented at AIS, celebrating different cultures offers a great way to learn while building community. The school’s inclusive community is united by a spirit of intercultural understanding and academic excellence, says Emily Hands, director of communications. She explains, “For students, it means learning and growing in a unique environment, where they can develop real world skills and friendships that thrive on different perspectives.”
WorldFest, scheduled early in the school year, celebrates the nations represented at the school with homemade food and entertainment. United Nations Day, an authentic Weihnachtsmarkt (German Christmas Market), Lunar New Year, La Feria and Harambee celebrations also are organized and created by parents. And AIS further involves families with volunteer opportunities to perform charity work on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, create baskets at Thanksgiving or help at Horizons at AIS, a summer youth program. Parents share their experiences and expertise, whether by reading stories, speaking at lunch and learn events or assisting in co-curricular programs such as Mock Trial, Model United Nations or theatrical productions.
Students not only learn in the classroom through unique project-based programming and on field trips, but parents and grandparents experience The Davis Academy’s “magic” through multiple celebrations, workshops, seminars and other interactive and collaborative programs. For example, more than 300 people of all ages recently participated in the Davis Day of Service. That day, students, parents, grandparents, alumni and Davis friends packed 200 bagels to support Bagel Rescue, put together 200 snack bags in conjunction with The Sandwich Project and made over 500 bags of food items for children as part of Backpack Buddies. They also collected winter coats for the Atlanta Mission through Homeless at Heart, created thank you cards for soldiers in the U.S. military and those in the Israel Defense Forces and created 200 cards for elderly residents at The Jewish Home.
As a school infused with Reform Jewish values, children, parents, faculty, grandparents and other community members work collaboratively to make the world a better place, according to Cristy Milrud, director of marketing and communications. She notes, “Schoolwide and grade-level community outreach activities and service projects allow our students to be hands-on with causes they care about and community organizations that serve the greater good.”
Students and parents are made to feel right at home from the beginning of the school year as the school hosts an evening on campus for parents in all three levels with senior leadership, the Board of Trustees and faculty and staff members. The evening allows the entire school community to gather and meet other parents, faculty and staff. Families also are invited to Fun Fest in the spring, featuring arts and crafts, musical performances, inflatables, face painting, a petting zoo, food trucks and more. Younger students enjoy bounce houses, while older students earn service hours by volunteering to provide an enjoyable day for their community. What’s more, Galloway families can get involved throughout the school year with toy and coat drives in the winter and cleanups of Chastain Park in the warmer months. Some of these events are classroom initiatives or are sponsored by parent groups such as Families of Color United for Success.
“Experiences like the Morning of Service give our families the chance to meet other Galloway families while serving our surrounding community, furthering Galloway’s mission that our students grow to be culturally competent, enlightened contributors wherever they go,” says Meghan Stauts, director of marketing and communications.
“At Lovett, we are committed to building a culture of belonging that grows students of honor, faith and wisdom with the character and intellect to thrive in learning and life,” says Dr. Tommy Welch, head of culture and community. “Our core values of intellect, purpose, belonging, faith and love support our mission and are the foundation of what we believe and do.”
With that in mind, Lovett links classrooms to the neighborhoods and communities that comprise Atlanta’s unique culture through programs, courses and projects, “We are fortunate to have long-standing, mutually beneficial relationships with nonprofit partners across the city,” Welch notes. Students are encouraged to participate in co-curricular activities, including performing community service, with over 60 student organizations for students to show leadership, responsibility and initiative. Parents support the school by volunteering as grade representatives, team and club parents, parent association leaders and volunteers. Parent education and skill-building programs for families assist parents to understand their children’s needs. These relationships create meaningful connections to the school with counselors and chaplains and demonstrate dedication to “whole child education,” building cognitive, social and emotional skills and motivating, individual passion, self-discovery and collective purpose.
MPCS promotes community and belonging through messaging, curriculum, instructional implementation, culturally relevant field trips and other activities and events, according to Catina Taliaferro, director of diversity and belonging. “We desire to create an environment that unifies all of God’s people as one body in Christ. It is our goal and our desire to have the community of Mount Paran Christian School reflect the world as God truly intended it to be.”
Several activities highlight the school’s Christian faith, including weekly chapel, morning devotions, retreat and spiritual emphasis days and Family Serve Days, among others. Serve Saturdays, a monthly community service, allows students, families, faculty and staff a chance to support local nonprofit organizations. Families also host tables offering food, games and other information about countries and cultures at CultureFest, a biennial celebration. The entire family is involved in ParentEd, a parent education program, and the school hosts PreK Community STEAM days, which are free to preschoolers and their parents, to engage in a morning of STEAM activities. Finally, MPCS engages with the community through a private social platform, the MPCS Network, for users to link to job and internship opportunities, networking, business leads and mentoring.
Through the Mount Vernon Parent Network, families engage with the school by volunteering at events, including participating in service projects and special events. Parents, grandparents and alumni share their stories, experiences and expertise with students often, which further builds connections and community. And families can experience a true sense of community through “milestone moments,” including a fall impact drive, a food collection drive in partnership with the Atlanta Mission, a Toys for Tots drive and the Week of Impact, featuring hands-on activities to benefit the Sandy Springs Food Pantry. A Christmas Arts Showcase and Mustang Rally also help build the school’s sense of community.
“Fostering deep relationships inside the school and extending them beyond its boundaries is truly foundational to learning, service and engaged citizen leadership,” says Kristy Lundstrom, head of school. “Being more proximate, learners become story-informed and experience-informed which bridges the distance between me and we.”
Regularly, students attend chapel sessions on Wednesdays, with parents invited to hear inspirational messages and share stories of faith. Parents and grandparents also are invited to attend more than 20 informative courses on health and wellbeing, digital footprint management, navigating teen years, substance abuse and technology advancements, helping them connect with their students on key topics.
North Cobb Christian invites parents into the learning experiences of their children. To start, grade levels in preschool and lower school host a family event with an academic tie-in at each grade level. For instance, first graders and their families participate in a Fairy Tale Ball, where students and parents dress in royal finery to enjoy dancing, fairy-tale themed snacks and a special storytime with their principal (Queen Titus), while fourth graders apply financial skills learned in math with their families in The Game of Life. Additionally, special family traditions fill the school calendar, including the Thanksgiving STEAM parade, during which floats and costumes are student designed or crafted utilizing STEAM principles, with many constructed with recycled materials. “Each grade level is given a different STEAM challenge to complete, from building a turkey trampoline to creating their own musical instruments for a Spanish song performance along the parade route,” says Todd Clingman, head of school.
At the community level, students work on the Great Kindness Challenge. In 2022, NCCS organized a supply drive to restock the family pantries at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, which provide snacks and drinks for families whose children are being treated there. Not only were the pantries filled, but additional donations also were contributed to the Ronald McDonald House in Atlanta.
From Friday night football games and the Pace Fall Fair to middle school musicals and alumni events, community is the heart at Pace Academy. The first of the academy’s four core values is to create success through partnerships with parents, students and faculty.
Pace Academy thrives through parental involvement through the Pace Parents Club. Club volunteers support students, faculty and staff through educational, financial, social and community engagement activities such as staff appreciation, parent education, on-campus volunteering and planning events like the fall fair and the club’s auction. The school’s Community Engagement program connects students, faculty and families to global issues through the work of local nonprofit organizations; the academy partners with more than 35 nonprofits to build cultural competency and promote cultural awareness and leadership skills. Students, parents, faculty and staff also can volunteer at frequent Family Engagement Weekends.
According to Caitlin Jones, director of communications, “We truly believe in the old proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ so there’s a place at Pace for every parent and caregiver to use their talents. We also believe that a diverse, equitable and inclusive learning environment is key to a quality education and to fostering a sense of community.”
Family involvement can be found on any school day, with parents helping the Booster Club, building a set for a drama event, setting up for a reception to follow a concert or attending a discussion group. Annual events have turned into traditions at the school, including Grandparents and Special Friends Day, the fall BBQ and an auction to raise money to support the financial aid program. Parental groups help build that sense of community and inclusion through the Black Parent Organization, Latino Parent Group, Paideia Asia Society and Rainbow Pi. The school also engages the entire community with the Art Visions Fine Arts and Craft Sale, while the Paideia Green Team hosts a campus-wide cleanup, the Re-Use a Shoe program and an elementary Earth Day celebration.
Paideia School is committed to social responsibility. “Social responsibility encompasses compassion for others, responsibility for working on solutions to the problems of our immediate community and of the larger national and international community,” says Caroline Riebe, director of communications and marketing. As a highlight, Paideia’s high school internship program strengthens the school’s commitment to the larger Atlanta community through volunteerism and civic involvement.
According to Julie Strickland, director of marketing and communications, “Being part of a welcoming and inclusive community has always been an important part of the Springmont experience, which seems even more valuable and meaningful since the pandemic and divisiveness we have experienced in recent years.”
To make family part of the equation, Springmont hosts parents at the school’s orientation, back-to-school nights and parent education sessions. They also can join the Springfield Parents Association and can visit the school for gardening days or make cultural or expert-based classroom presentations as part of the school community. Additionally, the school hosts two major events for families: each October, families attend the Springmont Festival and Montessori Mile, a fun run, alumni reunion and on-campus festival run by students: and an off-campus performance for the entire school is scheduled each February. Families are invited to bring a potluck dish, join other families at community dining tables and contribute to a community weaving project. Families also are encouraged to perform acts of service on MLK Jr. Day.
As a school community, students have led bake sales, plant and farm-fresh egg sales, car washes and donation drives benefiting sea turtles, animal shelters, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the International Rescue Committee. Springmont also partners with a local organization to provide Thanksgiving meals and makes 200 sandwiches for The Sandwich Project.
Parental involvement in their children’s education is a critical component of student success, according to Joe Marshall, head of school. That’s why family members are invited discuss their backgrounds during the annual Celebration of Cultures at the school. On Grand Day, grandparents or special friends are welcomed on campus for a special presentation. The annual Veterans Day program welcomes friends or family members, both current and former members of the military, to an all-school assembly.
In addition, the entire community joins together for a Day of Service each year. Students develop social responsibility through community and service-learning projects and build relationships with many nonprofits and service organizations. Also, nearly 200 parents, alumni, teachers, staff and others volunteer for Spotlight on Art. This event raises money for the school through partnerships with Neiman Marcus and Atlanta Decorative Arts Center. And a series of events culminate with an on-campus Artists Market in January and February that is the largest market of its kind in the southeastern United States.
“Through our partnerships and programs with organizations in the local community, our students make real-world connections to what they are learning in the classroom,” Marshall says. “Every experience also helps us carry out our mission of helping each child develop the knowledge, skills and character to achieve their unique potential as a responsible, productive and compassionate member of the school and greater community.”
One of the Walker School’s hallmarks for families is serving its extended community. Even the youngest Wolverines can serve, whether it is primary school students assembling napkins and eating utensils for MUST Ministries or students assisting through Angel Tree through the Salvation Army, MLK Jr. Day of Service, Fair Oaks Elementary Partnership and others. Families also can socialize and get to meet at the Fall Festival, part of the homecoming activities.
The sense of community extends to the academic environment as well. Daily language classes and homestays help students apply language skills in authentic contexts in the school’s language immersion programs. Students learn empathy, respect and understanding for other languages and cultures. Fifth through eighth grade students grow socially and academically on grade-level trips. Walker’s more than 40 clubs can engage students through a range of topics including coding, robotics, skateboarding, debate, finance. mock trial and several others.
“Academically, our students can intern through our Guided Scientific Research Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Georgia Tech,” notes Karen Park, director of communications and marketing. “Our WISE internship program gives juniors the opportunity to intern with companies throughout the metro area in a variety of fields. These opportunities lead to greater academic aspirations for students and a chance to gain real-world experience.”
Parents are very involved in Woodward Academy. First, they are invited to meet every Friday at the Primary School. Also, the school’s parent community hosts Super Goober Day, a fall carnival extravaganza for grades pre-K to sixth, and collaborates with the South Asian Affinity Club to host a Holi celebration, a celebration of love and inclusion and commemorates the arrival of spring in India, known as the Festival of Colors.
Besides the parent community, family involvement is promoted through the breadth and depth of Woodward’s many programs. For instance, upper level students can perform in the spring musical, while one of their siblings might be interested in jewelry making. Others may want to join the robotics team and take the independent Scientific Research course, pairing upper level students with university researchers. Woodward Academy also partners with local organizations and schools in College Park and the broader Atlanta community so upper school students can obtain their required service hours. What’s more, the school often joins forces with the Draper Boys & Girls Club, Atlanta Community Food Bank and many others.
“For our students, service in the community is an important part of their education,” says Dr. Nigel Traylor, Woodward's Vice President for Academic & Student Life. “They learn empathy and leadership skills from opportunities to engage in service. Parents often choose Woodward for their children in part because of our strong emphasis on service leadership.”