HIGHLIGHTING HAPPINESS: Georgia students are learning, serving, and making an impact

By: Savanna Buckner

 

Whether it’s in Ecuador or at a local book drive, Cornerstone Preparatory Academy students are determined to make an impact.

 

By Savanna Buckner with Andrew Campanella 

What’s more exciting to students than Spring Break? How about the week before Spring Break?

At Cornerstone Preparatory Academy, a private school in Acworth, Georgia, students spend all year gearing up for the week before Spring Break, which the school calls IMPACT Week.”

During IMPACT Week, Cornerstone’s 200 or so high school students can’t be found on campus. Instead, they’re attending 15 different trips— some local, some international— each of which builds comradery and includes a service component.

This year, one group’s mission led them to Ecuador to help at a cystic fibrosis camp. Another group, Video Heroes, took on the mission of filming and editing a video for a local homeless ministry.

Each trip is designed to make an impact, both on the students who participate and those they serve. Cornerstone’s Head of School Jeanne Borders described the purpose of the trips as “learning, leading, and serving.”

Showing how learning and serving can go hand in hand— and that both inspire happiness— is at the heart of Cornerstone Preparatory Academy’s mission.  

One way the school carries out this mission is through IMPACT Week. Each year, the themes and details of the trips are revealed in the Fall, giving students six whole months to prep for their trips.

The school also combines learning and service through capstone projects, which students begin the summer before their senior year.

“The goal is for our students to be able to initiate a service project in the community in an area that has their interest or appeals to their heart,” said Borders.  

After seeking project approval from advisors, each student works on the project during their senior year. At the year’s end, students present the projects to community leaders.

Three years ago, a student started a blood drive for her capstone project. It has continued since and the student, now in college, enjoys returning to ensure it runs smoothly.

Another student used the capstone project to provide mentorship to a child in foster care. In an incredible turn of events, that child was adopted and will soon be enrolled at Cornerstone.

Another Cornerstone senior used her project to highlight the importance of child literacy by creating a book drive to benefit Children Read.

If those activities and projects don’t yield happiness — for the students or the individuals who benefited from them — I’m not sure what could.  

But there’s even more to Cornerstone’s appeal!

The school itself uses an unusual model called a “University Model.” Secondary students are on campus just three days a week— Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays—and work from home on Tuesdays and Thursdays with assignments provided to them.

Elementary students attend class on campus Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the school partners with parents to provide curricula and co-teach on the days children are at home.

The model allows the K-12 school to offer more affordable private school tuition and active parent involvement for its approximately 500 students.

Recently, the school received a bit of extra proof that its model is resulting in happy students and happy employees. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s annual survey of best places to work named Cornerstone Preparatory Academy the #1 best small workplace in Atlanta for 2019.   

That’s an impact to be happy about.

 

Read more: 5 Questions for Jeanne Borders, Cornerstone Preparatory Academy