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Alums show how Keystone is like the Peace Corps

January 17, 2019
By Billy Handmaker

“It’s the toughest job you will ever love.”

I thought about this motto of the Peace Corps developed by the AdCouncil in 1961 as I listened to Keystone alumni last week. Over two days, I heard from former Cobras as they recounted their times in high school and college.  On Tuesday, January 8th, alumni returned to campus and served on panels speaking to current students in grades 9-12. They offered advice on how to handle the workload of high school, how to plan for the college process, how to manage the competing demands of senior year, and what to look for in a college.

On Wednesday, we heard from members of the Class of 2018. They discussed how Keystone prepared them for the rigors of college. When asked what we could have done better to ready them for their post-secondary educational experiences, they did not have much to say because they explained, they were so well prepared.  We discussed helping them find internships, possibly providing them with even more chances to pursue their individual passions, and when to schedule trips during junior and senior year.

Listening to these former Keystone students was an absolute pleasure. As you would expect, they were articulate, thoughtful, reasonable, and they had many good ideas.  It was interesting and reaffirming how their comments and suggestions dovetailed so well with the discussions we had earlier in the week around our self-study. Their comments supported what we have been studying during the self-reflection process, and it was heartening to hear so much commonality in the themes we’re addressing.

Perhaps most surprising were the opinions expressed by the alumni regarding stress at Keystone.  When asked repeatedly by administrators about the level of stress in high school, the response was the same.  They agreed that Keystone is hard, and at times, it can be very stressful. However, they also concurred that they were more than well-prepared for college, and in fact, they were much better equipped to handle the transition to college than their peers.

From those students attending Ivy League colleges to those at large state universities to alumni in art schools to former Cobras at small liberal arts colleges, they agreed the academic program at Keystone is outstanding.  They also said that while it’s intense, it’s also doable because the teachers are so caring and compassionate. They explained that the nature of the relationships between students and teachers enabled them to succeed and be ready for whatever came next.

Hearing these thoughts from alumni was affirming and helpful.  As a school committed to academic excellence, ethical growth, community involvement, and responsible leadership, we will always study how we meet our mission and look for ways to improve.  In addition, in our commitment to student wellness, we always want to gauge how students deal with stress and anxiety. We will attempt to balance how students manage their current course load while ensuring that they are ready for the work they will encounter in the next step of their educational journey.

One of the most succinct explanations for the benefits of the Keystone program came when an alumnus said, “Yes, Keystone is hard, but it’s worth it.”  As parents and as educators, we should maintain one eye on the present and one eye on the future; if we do, we can feel good indeed about the Keystone experience and where our students are headed.