Spotlight – Horace Mann Alum Touches Base

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Frances Ikwuazom

Harvard University, Class of 2015
History and Literature
Why did you and your family decide to attend a private school, and do you think your educational opportunities would have been different at a public school?
I wanted to attend Horace Mann because of the numerous opportunities at the school to participate in extra curricular programs that would allow me to learn beyond the classroom. I knew that by attending Horace Mann, I would be able to explore my interests in the performance arts and the visual arts, and I would be given the resources to integrate them with my courses in other subjects and my community service activities.
What was it about Horace Mann that made it a good fit for you and your family?
Horace Mann’s inclusive community eased my transition from middle school to high school. All the friendly faces on campus made me feel as if I were part of a family rather than an institution. Horace Mann also valued what we referred to as the “life of the mind.” The teachers were all passionate about what they were teaching, and encouraged us to learn for more reasons than wanting to receive a good grade.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about Horace Mann?
I have spoken to a number of people who perceive Horace Mann as a “competitive, high-pressure school.” My experience as a student there proved otherwise. My fellow students and I were competitive indeed–but we were competitive with our own selves. I was surrounded by hard-working individuals who were eager to learn. We all wanted to spend that extra hour in the art studio or the lab because we wanted to finish a project or were curious about a topic or wanted to improve our performance in a course. This kind of competitiveness fostered a healthy environment where my classmates and I could learn from each other anywhere from the classroom to the soccer field to the stage. I enjoyed collaborating with my peers on class projects and in extra curricular activities. Instead of having the perceived “cutthroat” atmosphere, the school was more of a work station where unique and ambitious minds could take flight.
Do you think that parental involvement is important in a student’s well balanced retention at an independent school?
I think parental involvement in a student’s performance is very important. I actually credit a lot of where my siblings and I are now to our parents. My parents were supportive in all my endeavors, and they worked with me to make sure I had everything I needed to go after my dreams. Knowing they were behind me every step of the way helped to diminish any hint of doubt I might have had in my ability to achieve whatever it was I wanted to do. My parents also provided the necessary pressure to keep me motivated and on top of my work. Even now that I am going to school away from home, my parents never fail to check in to make sure I know I am never alone.
Why is classroom participation so important? Did you find classroom participation to be a challenge as a student of color and if so how did you challenge yourself to have a voice?
I never felt hesitant about participating in class. Most classes were set up as a round-table discussion where we were all free to share our opinions about an idea. The teachers were wonderful at facilitating the discussion and making every student feel involved. I valued my classmates’ questions and thoughts, and I trusted that, whether or not they agreed with me, they would also value mine.
THANK YOU, FRANCES!

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