We are the 2020-2021 Harvard-Westlake 9th Grade and 12th Grade Student Ambassador Co-Chairs! In this blog, we will share why we love Harvard-Westlake – and what aspects of the Harvard-Westlake experience are the most gratifying as a student. Treat this blog as our love letter to Harvard-Westlake – filled with what we believe makes Harvard-Westlake so special. There are also so many articles written by students about various topics that make the Harvard-Westlake experience and journey so amazing.
Though there are countless amazing aspects of the Harvard-Westlake experience, we focused on what we believe to be seven of the biggest categories:
1. Academic Excellence
2. Academic Reputation and Resources
3. Diversity and Inclusivity
4. The Dean System
5. Student Life
6. Student Leadership
One of the most rewarding aspects of being a student at Harvard-Westlake is knowing that any interest you have, there’s some way to express it and become a master at it – whether it’s leadership, computer science, biology, playing the bass, or acting. There are so many different types of courses at so many levels, so whether you’ve been playing violin for 6 years, or you want to try robotics for the first time, there’s a place at Harvard-Westlake to do so. At Harvard-Westlake, the Middle School is about finding new passions and interests, while the Upper School is about excelling in said interests and becoming a master of the subjects you love – which allows you to create your own educational path unlike any other student’s. This means that if you really love science, eventually, you can take multiple science classes and electives – and this goes for other classes as well. This is part of the beauty of Harvard-Westlake – your education is in your hands and you’re given all the tools you need to craft it. Harvard-Westlake is a school built on the idea of finding and expressing your passions, and the myriad of course options truly make Harvard-Westlake the perfect place to do so.
Academic Reputation and Resources
A defining component of the educational excellence at Harvard-Westlake is the innovative instruction of our dedicated and passionate faculty. Although the curriculum at Harvard-Westlake is challenging, there are many avenues of support along the way. These include teachers, deans (MS and US) , school psychologists, and the Learning Center. School psychologists provide support in various ways when students encounter challenges. Each campus is equipped with its own Learning Specialist and a Learning Center. The space is designed for students to work with on-site teachers and Peer Tutors who offer writing, study skills and organizational support. With considerable blocks of free-time built into the schedules of both campuses, “office hours” are a formative space for students to take initiative in their own learning and interact with their teachers outside of the classroom setting. They are extremely invested in the success of their students. The teaching style at HW is frequently socratic & discussion based, with small class sizes where critical and analytical thinking are encouraged. It is rare to see teachers more genuinely passionate and connected to the material than the instructors at HW, and it provides for riveting classes. Each year, most students will have developed at least one formative relationship with a teacher who has had a profound impact on them; it is not uncommon that students will keep in touch well beyond the end of the course.
Diversity and Inclusivity
Our mission statement begins, “Harvard-Westlake strives to be a diverse and inclusive community…” and the work in place to uphold this core value is part of what makes HW both unique and special. To create a true sense of belonging and connection among ALL students, Harvard-Westlake avidly creates and fosters affinity groups, townhalls, and guest speakers. Student leaders play an important role in these activities on campus. Harvard-Westlake continues to strive to be a place that welcomes students from all backgrounds. And what’s most important now to many of us is Harvard-Westlake’s recognition that though it is not a perfect institution, this only fuels our desire to work harder to make every part of our community better in the constant pursuit of our mission statement.
The Dean System
Middle School students have two deans in 7th grade, two deans in 8th grade (who remain with the class through 9th grade), and a third 9th grade dean for when the class expands with new students. The Upper School has nine deans (who have certain groups of students in each grade that they mentor throughout high school). Deans help students in various different ways. At the Middle School, deans help you with course selection and help you navigate anything you might need–whether it’s time management skills, figuring out what club to join, or just being there as a supportive ear. While Upper School deans also serve as a contact for extracurriculars and course selection, they primarily focus on improving mental health as well as guiding you through the college application process. The deans are an especially useful, reliable resource to ensure a happy Harvard-Westlake experience! Click here and here to read more about the deans!
Harvard-Westlake is a home! It’s difficult not to speak in superlatives about the strength of the bond formed between students at Harvard-Westlake. Everyone shares a similar dedication to do their best in everything they devote their time to and a similar drive that unites us all. Everyone is united under the honor code and by Harvard-Westlake’s core values–striving to create a diverse and inclusive community united by the joyful pursuit of educational excellence, living and learning with integrity, and purpose beyond ourselves. Having such a close-knit community that is also filled with people with different ideas and opinions is something that stood out before becoming a student at Harvard-Westlake and is something that we continue to be grateful for everyday as we see how the bond between students is unlike any other.
Harvard-Westlake does an incredible job to help foster bonds with your peers within our community. Complete with a multitude of events such as HW Homecoming, grade level retreats at the Middle School, and support shown at sports games, it is with no doubt that HW is a place where friendships grow. HW Homecoming is one of the first yearly large scale events where the entire school community is together in one place, and the school spirit is practically floating through the air. Click on any of these links to read more about school spirit, peer support, the HW community or making friends!
Our school takes pride in not only providing all students an endless amount of opportunities, extracurriculars, and electives, but also allowing for students to excel as leaders and change makers, and leave Harvard-Westlake with experience in leadership and teamwork. The faculty and teachers truly value the input of all students and treat us as equal, capable, and mature. They listen to all voices and ideas students may have, and offer advice, wisdom, and perspective, instead of excluding students from important discussions and decisions, and the faculty and teachers provide life saving resources. There are student leadership opportunities everywhere, for every single passion and interest. For more information about some of the incredible extracurriculars offered here at HW, check out these blog posts by other Student Ambassadors about Student Leadership, and here are blogs about two of HWs many fantastic student led clubs: BLACC and HW Venture.
Harvard-Westlake puts an extensive amount of care into all extracurricular activities–from performing arts to sports to visual arts to any interest students may have. Overflowing with everything students need to excel, no extracurricular at Harvard- Westlake is ever neglected. Harvard-Westlake goes above and beyond to encourage students to pursue their activities more vigorously, offering additional on-campus hours for students to engage in their practices. Not only does Harvard-Westlake encourage students to dive into their interests, but also students at Harvard-Westlake encourage one another to succeed, showing support for all programs. The examples of mutual encouragement among students are limitless–from HWTV, to sports team managers, to even the student lighting technicians for shows. Student-led clubs are a great example of the school’s support for extracurriculars, clubs ranging from the board game club to HW Surf Club can be seen meeting throughout the week! All students need to create a club is a faculty member’s support. In each of these activities, it is the students that help run these extracurriculars by using and exploring their individual talents in an environment that undyingly supports their growth. There are many different blog posts written about the extracurricular activities provided at Harvard-Westlake–to check them out, click here!
For all these reasons, and countless more, this is why we believe Harvard-Westlake is such a special place to learn, explore, and grow as a student, a peer, a friend, and a person. We hope that in this blog, we helped you visualize how amazing the educational journey at Harvard-Westlake is – and why we chose to go on this journey. If you have any questions about Harvard-Westlake from the perspective of a student, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Admissions Office, and they can direct you to us!
Jordan D., Davis M., Mia S., Ellie W., Skyler G., Wilson F., Nyla S., Alon M., Carolina R., Andrew S., Alice H., and Tatiana W.