“There is a perception that bigger means better, and we thought it was important to come and highlight what is going on here,” says First Lady of Missouri Georganne Nixon, addressing the students and faculty of New Haven High. “I don’t think this kind of success is a fluke.”
Mrs. Nixon visited New Haven High School on Thursday, October 8, to recognize the school district for winning the acclaimed National Blue Ribbon Award. She visited two classrooms and held a student panel, where she questioned a select group of high achieving students about the success of NHHS.
Mrs. Nixon questioned each student on the student panel about what their future plans were and why they believed NHHS was experiencing such great success. Students were quick to respond, emphasizing the great expectations placed upon them.
Jon Stone, Senior Class President, stated, “We always push each other to do better...it’s like a family.”
Principal Mr. Josh Hoener added, “Kids here have no idea how hard they work each day, because that’s all they’ve done their whole lives. They do great things, they push hard, and they never back down.”
When Mrs. Nixon first arrived, she was immediately greeted by the School Board and other significant members of the community. During the student panel, she was quick to highlight this “unusual sense of community support and involvement” at NHHS.
School Board President Brenda Menke also claims the “pressure” to succeed at NHHS one of the biggest reasons for the academic excellence it’s achieved, “Most of the time, we think of peer pressure as a negative thing. In our case, I see it as positive pressure…to do the best you can in class, to be in the top 10, or 5 of your class, to be the best in marching band, and music, and sports. This pressure to succeed comes not only from the students themselves, but the parents and extended community as well. And this doesn't just start when kids step foot in NHHS their freshman year. The foundation is laid by the good work done in our elementary and middle school. I believe it is truly a community-wide achievement.”
Another thing that stood out as unusual was our average graduation rate of 97%. According to studies done at Clemson University, lower graduation rates are a result of students who feel insecure or unsafe in the school environment.
Michael McKernan, Senior Vice President, demonstrates this point, “You hear in the news about other schools and it doesn’t show the security that we have. I just feel safe here. The teachers prepare you.”
Here at New Haven we also pride ourselves on maintaining the ‘Tradition of Excellence’. We don’t just focus on the achievements our sports teams make; we celebrate our academic accomplishments, such as earning a blue ribbon for our school.
“You see the valedictorians walk across the stage and you want to be like them.” Elizabeth Hughes, Sophomore Class Vice President, remarked.
The First Lady expressed many times over the course of the visit how impressed she was by New Haven High School. Regarding our tradition of success in academics, she said, “All the astronauts and Mark Twain and others who are great in business - you will be up there alongside them. I’m sure this will continue on a long time.”
Mrs. Nixon’s trip to NHHS was a cool and unforgettable experience for students and staff alike, and we appreciate the fact that she took time out of her day to come speak with us.