Stand and cheer at Saint Andrew’s School athletic events such as swim meets, tennis matches, lacrosse games and the rallying cry “Go Scots” can be heard from those proudly wearing red and white. Ask those cheering what it means to be a Scot and the response promptly shifts to honor. Honor Above All.
Honor Above All references the school’s honor system. Each year in September, the community reaffirms its commitment to honor through an Honor Pinning and Signing Ceremony, when new and returning students, as well as faculty and staff, recite the following Honor Pledge:
As a member of Saint Andrew’s School, I pledge my honesty, academic integrity, sportsmanship and stewardship to the school community, and I expect others to be responsible and to do the same. Honor Above All.
At the ceremony, students, staff, and teachers new to Saint Andrew’s accept an honor pin, and in doing so, make a commitment to honor. As each collar or lapel shines with the red, white, and golden pin, Scots begin a journey towards understanding the long-standing tradition of honor and what it means to be honorable in thought, word, and action as members of the community.
The tradition of honor at SA began early in the school’s history. However, Scots attribute the renewing efforts of alums Hilary Pushkin ‘90 and Peter Fechtel ‘90 as important student founders in the reconstitution of the honor system.
Nearly 30 years later, the pulse of honor still beats steadily within the SA community. Kayla Kusel ‘20, a member of the school’s Honor Board, should know. Her mom is founding member Hilary Puskin ‘90.
Kayla is grateful for her mom’s contribution to promoting honor at the school, but what drew her to be a student leader runs much deeper than a family commitment. “Honor means a lot to me because I’ve been here since Kindergarten,” Kayla commented.
“When I was in Lower School in 5th grade, I was on the honor council. It was a group of around 20 students, elected by their peers,” said Kayla. Each potential council member was asked to write an essay focusing on what he or she might do in certain difficult situations. “For example, what might I do if I found out a friend was cheating. Would I talk to them? From that point on, I realized honor really comes first - it’s above all.”
Katie Gull ‘19, Honor Board Prefect, agrees that honor is a vital part of the educational experience at SA, from seniors to even the smallest Scots. “When I look at students who have spent a lot of their younger years at Saint Andrew’s, I can see that they have a deeper understanding of how honor can and does guide actions and decisions,” said Katie.
Katie and Kayla are just two of eight leaders on the Upper School Honor Board. The Honor Board consists of junior and senior members who evaluate specific cases in which a student may have violated the honor code.
These “hearings” are an attempt to understand the teacher’s and student’s perspective before determining appropriate and meaningful consequences. “If you just come out of it and think ‘Oh no I got in trouble,’ and it stops there, that's totally not what we want to happen,” said Katie.
Upperclassmen such as Katie and Kayla are also part of the broader Honor Council consisting of elected representatives including eight upperclassmen, four sophomores, and three to four freshmen, who are elected later in the year. Freshmen and sophomores hold the position for one year, juniors for two. The honor council meets once a week to focus on promoting the value of honor through proactive educational programming.
Andrew Weiss ‘19, a senior Honor Board member, thinks that SA is embarking on an exciting new educational dimension to honor leadership. “We are moving from a behind the scenes student organization and transitioning into making a broader appeal to the student body,” he said.
“It has been my desire to put a human face on these issues, and also to make discussions of honor more light-hearted and even fun,” remarked Andrew. To that end, at the beginning of the 2018 year, the Honor Council, with the help of freshmen advisors, split up the entire freshmen student body into small groups. They created an interactive presentation containing a few scenarios and hypotheticals related to past honor violations at the school and talked through an explanation of the school’s stance on each issue with freshmen participants.
As the honor heartbeat drums on through devoted participation of student leadership, it also thrives because of the stead-fast and exceptional leadership from Honor Board Chair and Upper School English Teacher Erika Gettig. “I’m proud that kids want to participate in this; they come every week, we have these great conversations, and they care about getting the message out,” she said.
In speaking of the Honor Council and Board leadership, Ms. Gettig’s words of validation resonate. “It’s one thing to live an honorable life and know that you’re doing right by you and the relationships you’re having, but to stand up for it…”
Though Ms. Gettig’s words trailed off as she spoke about Honor Council and Honor Board members, a leadership squad of valiant young men and women, her message rings true and her pride was palpable. Honor leaders at SA stand up for what they believe in, helping make Honor Above All something all Scots can believe in.