Who we are is inextricably tied into what we experience and do on a daily basis. Accordingly we approach character development at HPA from two different directions. We discuss and reflect on values, conventional rules and personal choices. Simultaneously, we work to cultivate an environment within which growth and development occur organically. While we focus on highlighting four residential core values (respect, responsibility, honor and care) applied both to one-self and to others, we often relate a plurality of values to these core four.
Opportunities for growth and development abound in the residential life program. These range from informal opportunities like working with a hall parent on a hall project or just helping out around the dorm to more formal opportunities like being a dorm representative in student council or being a dorm prefect.
The academic underpinnings of our approach to character development draw from a wide range of sources. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Carol Dweck’s work on mindsets
- Positive Coaching Alliance materials
- P. M. Forni’s work on civility
- Greater Good Science Center materials
- Kelly McGonigal’s work on Willpower
- Martin Seligman’s work on Positive Psychology
A variety of formal and informal leadership opportunities are available within HPA’s residential life program and within the school at large. Many students are actively engaged in areas such as student government, clubs of their own founding, the arts and varsity sports.
The prefect program at HPA provides seniors (and occasionally juniors) the opportunity to take an active role in the caring for the boarding community. Prefects are selected via a competitive application process conducted during April of the year prior to that in which they will serve. Prefects are chosen with an eye towards: past behavior and interactions in the dorm; earnest in wanting to contribute to the dorm; interpersonal skills; growth potential. After selection, prefects go through a training period, which involves an intensive week prior to the start of school.
Many students will always remember a smiling prefect as their first lasting contact with HPA. Prefects carry out a variety of roles. To begin with, they serve as peer counselors, older brothers and sisters, role models and knowledgeable guides. They also act as a conduit between the faculty and the students, promoting a bi-directional flow of information. Additionally, they help with the daily running of the dorms. But perhaps the biggest role of the prefects is that they are in essence the guardians of the dorm culture. They, more than anyone else, can help to make the dorm feel like a nurturing environment within which it’s safe to push oneself and grow.