Not long ago I had the chance to hear Joe Sanfelippo talk about how each school must be willing to tell their story. I’ve heard Joe share this discussion more than once and each time I take something different away from it. That’s how it usually is, right? Like a great book or movie, we learn something new with each experience. Now I want to focus on one particular communication tool we have used for the past 5 years and I’m hopeful it can be of value to other schools either now or for the coming school year. This event helps us tell our story and we call it Cardinal Kickoff. The premise centers on the idea that we want to open our doors and show you everything that makes us #CardinalProud.
The description that follows is not a prescription or recipe, rather an example of how a school can take assets that already exist and organize them in a purposeful manner.
Cardinal Kickoff begins with parents arriving and finding our advanced guitar students playing in the auditorium foyer. And as families grab a program and find a seat, there is a PowerPoint playing with pictures and quick facts cycling and a small string quartet sharing a few pieces. This large group general session involves a 30 minute presentation focusing on the academic life, the means by which we communicate, and the various ways that kids can get involved on campus. It’s mostly me talking with some short mixed media pieces to help inform. The session ends with an introduction to the spirit within our school as led by our Cheerleaders. As they teach the Color Shout to our future Cardinals you can feel the energy begin to climb within the room. What follows is my favorite part.
Students and families head to the cafeteria down hallways flanked with our jazz band playing. And as a little pep enters your step, students can begin to see and hear the buzz inside. Filling every corner of this large space are tables packed with posters, treats, memorabilia, and sign-up sheets. The room is filled with electricity powered by current students who are recruiting with the same zeal as a basketball scout that has just found the next Lebron James. Prospective families make their way through the crowds, moving past the Robotics booth to the South Asian Student Union. They grab a cookie from the Baking Club and enjoy the Anime Club videos. Music blasts from a corner area with eMotions dancers in a freestyle break-dance session. Finally they cruise past the Swimming and Lacrosse tables to find the Chess Club. And each year as students leave the cafeteria, catching up with mom and dad, I often hear something along the lines of, “this school really does have everything.” Cardinal Kickoff allows us to show off the student life that exists on campus, an element that fully complements our academic program. The student life portion of the high school experience is alive on our campus. As a staff member said the first year as the event closed – we are big, we are loud and we are proud.
I share all of this as an example of how we try to tell our story. And as I reflect on the event, I offer another conclusion that I have reached – one that might be even more important. I have learned that while I thought we were telling the story to families on the outside, the most ardent consumers were the students and staff within the building. You see, for many of them this was a chance to learn themselves about all that we offer. Students were finding out that we had all these programs, and these opportunities, and that made them proud. And they began to share that same story to others on campus. And the resulting energy, excitement, and enthusiasm have been the greatest rewards.
Telling your story doesn’t just benefit people that are looking for the best school. Deciding to share all that makes you proud is just as important to those already on the inside. Stories teach us and they also remind us. They have the power to get us through the toughest times in the spring semester and they can propel us toward the fall. Momentum can spring from telling your story. It doesn’t matter if you share it with a microphone in your hand or while standing in line at the grocery store. The point is that you are the only person that can. I hope you’ll consider the power of your school’s story and commit to start telling it today.