The Rockford area boasts several high-quality private schools that successfully combine college-preparatory academics and the liberal arts. To help with your decisions, we’ve found a few of the best public and private institutions.
Keith Country Day School
1 Jacoby Place, Rockford, (815) 399-8823, keithschool.com
Keith Country Day School is a premiere college-preparatory institution that serves students in the northern Illinois area. From PreK through grade 12, students receive an education that prepares them for a life of meaning and purpose.
“Keith’s liberal arts curriculum is extensively focused on college readiness standards,” says Dr. Debra Dimke, head of school. “The graduation requirements are among the most extensive in the region, including four years of English, mathematics, science, history, foreign languages and fine arts. The high school curriculum also includes a Leadership Academy and Senior Project Presentation intended to prepare and advance students for leadership positions at the collegiate level.”
Beginning in PreK, nine core values are inherent in the Keith academic culture. Honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment are concepts that teachers integrate into classroom life. To enact these core principles, Keith’s high school program has Honors Council: a student-elected group that promotes honesty in academic practices.
Niche, a school ranking and review site, rated Keith 14th out of 7,500 private schools in Illinois. The school has also been the recipient of several grants, including one from the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois, another from In Youth We Trust, one from Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Fitness, one from Toshiba Science and several from Illinois Clean Energy. In addition, Keith was the only school invited to attend the Yale University Youth Summit in October 2015; several Keith students are nationally ranked in spelling, history and geography bees.
Keith is a wireless campus environment in which students begin using personal laptop devices in third grade. All classrooms have SMART Board capabilities, and science labs have updated lab technology and software. The recently renovated McBain Gymnasium has courts for volleyball, basketball, tennis, pickleball and badminton, and a high school regulation-sized soccer field is available for physical education, sports competitions and lifetime fitness activities.
“Keith’s athletic programs begin in third grade,” Dimke says. “Students are expected to participate in at least one team sport to learn collaboration and interdependence skills.”
All athletic programs have a no-cut policy, with available sports including girls and boys’ volleyball, soccer, basketball, golf, tennis and cross-country, as well as girls swimming. Additional extracurricular activities and clubs include Model United Nations, Student Government, National Honor Society and Certamen (a Latin Quiz Bowl). Keith also consistently has students achieve summa cum laude status on the National Latin Examination.
Parents and prospective students can feel free to tour the school at any time.
“At Keith, every day is an open house,” Dimke says. “We encourage families to visit to understand the school culture and the significance of the teacher-student relationship – a hallmark of the Keith educational experience.”
Keith Country Day School at a Glance
Dr. Debra Dimke, Head of School
Dr. Ron Lee, Director of Upper School
Mrs. Jan Brahmstedt, Director of Lower School
• Established: 1916
• Grades: PreK through 12
• Enrollment: 300
• Student/Teacher Ratio: 12:1
• Tuition: $9,000 average
• Tuition Assistance: available for academically talented students
• Dress Code: No uniform/written school dress code
• School Mascot: Cougar
• Average Teacher Education/Experience Level: 15 percent Ph.D., 56 percent master’s degree
• Percentage of Students Who Attend College: 100 percent
• Athletic Conference: Northeastern Athletic Conference (NAC)
Rockford Public Schools
Administration Bldg., 501 Seventh St., Rockford, (815) 966-3000, rps205.com
Rockford Public Schools educate about 29,000 students in 47 facilities. Families may choose one of the following special programs, each with a focus on a specific type of teaching and learning:
The Montessori Program serves students PreK through grade eight. In the multi-aged Montessori classroom, children are encouraged to take responsibility for their own educations. Students move freely around the room, selecting materials needed to carry out their individual plans. They work with a trained Montessori teacher, and older students serve as models for younger children. Students remain with the same teacher and classmates for two or three years, allowing the development of a strong sense of community with the classroom. PreK through eighth-grade classrooms will be housed at Marsh School beginning Fall 2016.
Barbour Language Academy, for grades K-8, is a dual-language immersion school. In kindergarten and first grade, students receive 90 percent of their daily instruction in Spanish, and instructional time in English increases by 10 percent each subsequent grade. By fifth grade, time is evenly balanced between Spanish and English. The academic standards and curriculum align with traditional RPS 205 schools. The program promotes bilingualism, biliteracy and positive cross-culture attitudes and behaviors.
The Renaissance Gifted Academy, for grades 1-12, identifies and nurtures gifted students through specialized curriculum offerings which are modified and adapted to meet students’ unique learning styles, interests, abilities and needs. Students must test into the program, which challenges students to accelerate their skills and infuse creative and analytical thinking into core subject areas. Students in grades first through fifth currently attend Washington Academy, and they continue the program at Thurgood Marshall for grades sixth through eighth and Auburn High School for grades ninth through 12th.
At Haskell Year-Round Academy, elementary students in PreK through fifth grade receive the same number of instructional days as other RPS 205 schools, but they are spread throughout the calendar year. Students typically attend school for nine weeks and take two weeks off, which helps to avoid the “summer slide” – a loss of academic skills that typically occurs during the normal three-month summer break.
The Creative and Performing Arts program, or CAPA, provides grades 6-12 with a more in-depth arts experience. The program is housed at West Middle School and Auburn High School. After a successful audition, students may take part in dance, instrumental music, theater tech and media arts, vocal music and visual arts.
Partners in Success: Talented staff and community supporters are key to students’ growth and success. Of 2,004 RPS 205 teachers districtwide, 86 percent hold advanced degrees. This academic success among faculty translates to academic success among RPS 205 students: Those who take at least three advanced placement courses score an average of 27 on their ACT. In addition, more than 120 area businesses provide support that connects students’ classroom work with real-world experience.
RPS 205 has many strong community partnerships. The district thrives because of the support from area organizations, businesses and a battalion of committed volunteers to produce students ready for college and careers.
Rockford Public Schools at a Glance
Dr. Ehren Jarrett, Superintendent
• Grades: PreK through 12
• Enrollment: 28,689
• Facilities: Five high schools, seven middle schools, 32 elementary schools, three early childhood centers
• High School Mascots: Auburn Knights; East E-Rabs; Guilford Vikings; Jefferson J-Hawks; Roosevelt Rough Riders
• RPS High School Athletics: NIC-10 Conference, IHSA
• High School Sports: Baseball, Cheerleading (Competitive & Sideline), Competitive Dance, Football, Softball, Wrestling. Boys & Girls: Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Golf, Soccer, Swimming & Diving, Tennis, Track & Field, Volleyball
• RPS Middle School Athletics: IESA
• Middle School Sports: Basketball, Bowling, Cheerleading, Chess, Cross Country, Football, Golf, Soccer, Tennis, Track, Scholastic Bowl, Swimming, Volleyball, Wrestling
• Elementary School Sports: Basketball, Bowling, Soccer
Rockford Lutheran Schools
3411 N. Alpine Road, Rockford, (815) 877-9551, rockfordlutheran.org
Can you visualize the way the world looked in 1965? Many of the parents of Rockford Lutheran students were not alive in 1965, when this school was planted by committed parents who saw the need for stability and focus in a chaotic and changing world.
“We were challenged by changing values and new technologies,” says Don Gillingham, executive director. “Faith in our public institutions was being shaken. A group of parents and Christian educators were certain that our community would be well-served by the establishment of a Lutheran High School, a school that was well founded.”
Flash forward to 2016, and you’ll see Rockford Lutheran addressing the qualities that define our modern society.
Rockford Lutheran Schools is accredited by National Lutheran School Accreditation and the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges, and is recognized by the State of Illinois. Instructors have an average 15 years of classroom experience, and nearly 25 percent hold advanced degrees.
Recently, Rockford Lutheran broke ground on a new facility that is designed with the future in mind. Academic priorities have been reshaped to prepare young people for an incredibly competitive world.
“We have expanded our classroom to cover a world of knowledge and collaboration,” Gillingham says. “Our students have different ways to get a jump on the future by earning college credit. We are enhancing our course offerings with engineering-related experiences for students from K-12. Our eighth-graders are carrying tablets throughout the day. The number of students with these tools will expand every year, as our teachers use the technology to serve the needs of our students.”
And still, Rockford Lutheran is committed to providing students with first-rate, co-curricular opportunities. The music program wins awards annually. Student performers, from grades K through 12, can be seen and heard in churches and on stages all across the region. Beginning in kindergarten, students are invested in the Transform Rockford movement and invest thousands of hours of service to the community every year. The elementary school is a nationally recognized center for healthy lifestyles, while Rockford Lutheran’s sport programs collect trophies, records and accolades at every level.
“We follow a Lord who is the same yesterday, today and forever,” Gillingham says. “Our program is ever-changing and always focused. We encourage you to learn more about this school which is ‘Well Founded: Well Rounded.’”
Rockford Lutheran Schools at a Glance
Don Kortze, Academic Dean
Don E. Gillingham, Executive Director
• Established: 1964
• Grades: PreK through 12
• Enrollment: 860
• Student/Teacher Ratio: 19:1
• Church Affiliation: Lutheran (open to all faiths)
• Tuition: From $2,100 (PreK) to $7,120 (High School)
• Tuition Assistance: Program Available
• Dress Code: Yes
• School Mascot: Crusader
• Sr. High School Athletics: Big Northern Conference
• Sports: Co-ed: Bass Fishing, Cheer. Boys & Girls: Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Soccer, Tennis, Track, Volleyball. Boys: Baseball, Football, Wrestling. Girls: Powder Puff, Softball
Spectrum Progressive School
2909 N. Main St., Rockford, (815) 877-1600, spectrumschool.org
Spectrum Progressive School is focused on deeper learning. The independent school incorporates these main initiatives:
• Teachers provide materials, but students choose how they are used
• Time allowed for thoughtful planning and reflection
• Work in teams to learn how to collaborate and compromise
• Celebrate successes and mistakes
• Children can show knowledge through many avenues.
Spectrum Progressive students are active all day long. They are planning, working, reflecting and genuinely engaged in their learning. At younger levels, students have work time every day. They have a choice in the area in which they work and with whom they work. Teachers circulate throughout the classrooms, encouraging students to expand their play and solve problems diplomatically.
Reviewing the work is also important. Students as young as three years old discuss what they did (or didn’t) accomplish during work time and how any issues with sharing, personal space or things not going as he/she planned were resolved.
At the higher levels, students participate in project-based challenges. Teachers introduce a topic, such as Greek Mythology, and students then pursue an area within the topic that interests them. Students spend a few weeks investigating and learning about the area they choose, such as myths, goddesses, Greek history, architecture or culture and become the expert on the subject. They then share their knowledge with the class independently or with a small group via a video, PowerPoint presentation, rap song, skit or monologue. Sharing may also include a museum-style display of work to students at other levels, as well as parents.
It’s likely that many jobs parents have now will be taken over by computers by the time their child is ready to enter the workforce. Spectrum Progressive prepares students for the next generation of work – one that requires critical and creative thinking – in a warm and happy environment.
Spectrum Progressive School at a Glance
Christine Klekamp, Executive Director
Stephanie Koclanis, Admissions & Outreach Coordinator
• Established: 1967
• Grades: PreK through 8
• Enrollment: 150
• Student/Teacher Ratio: PreK 10:1, K-8 12:1
• Tuition: $3,355-$3,995 to $,7995
• Tuition Assistance: Available
• Educational Philosophies: Hands-on learning, Multiple Intelligences and personalized teaching to each child
• School Outcomes: Children who can think, create and innovate in collaboration with others
Immanuel Lutheran School
1225 E. Second St., Belvidere, (815) 547-5346, immanuelknights.org
Immanuel Lutheran School (ILS) is committed to providing a Christ-centered education to children PreK through eighth grade. Recognized by the State of Illinois and accredited through National Lutheran School Accreditation, ILS works with Immanuel Lutheran Church of Belvidere to make disciples of its students.
“Immanuel Lutheran School strives to provide a Christ-centered environment where students can reach their spiritual, physical, social, mental, academic and emotional potential,” says Judy Schaefer, principal. “We strive to grow bold Christian witnesses, academically successful students and socially responsible citizens in a welcoming family atmosphere.”
Teachers at Immanuel are both privileged and obligated to help students:
•Worship to “hear the message through the Word of Christ,” (Rom. 10:17)
• Study God’s “commandments and reflect on His ways,” (Psalm 119:5)
• Witness even “to the ends of the earth,” (Acts 1:8)
• Grow in fellowship, “encouraging one another” and “spurring one another on toward love and good deeds,” (Heb. 10:24-25)
• Serve the needs of others “so that the body of Christ may be built up, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph. 4:11-16)
Immanuel’s tuition rate is one of the lowest in the area, while students’ test scores rank in the top tier of all area schools. The eighth grade class of 2014 scored 88 percent above the national average in science and 93 percent above the national average in math.
Classrooms are equipped with SMART boards and wireless Internet access, while the school additionally has a 25-Chromebook computer lab, Kuno tablets for every student in grades 1-5, Chromebooks on a cart for middle school use, a science lab, two gymnasiums (one of which is high school-sized), a playground, a soccer field, an outdoor basketball court, a music/choir/band room and a motor lab activities center for PreK-K students.
Athletic programs in volleyball, soccer, basketball, cheerleading and track are available to students, as well as an abundance of clubs, such as prayer warriors, guitar club, book club and chess club. In addition, students can take advantage of many service opportunities, such as preparing programs for area health centers, collecting school supplies for students in Liberia and collecting gifts for the Rockford Rescue Mission.
Immanuel offers unique programs, activities and field trips to its students. For example, the Big Friend/Little Friend program pairs older students with younger students for monthly activities to help students learn responsibility and care more for each other. In addition, students can interact with the school’s “on staff” comfort dogs, Kye and Bekah, who greet the students on school days, make hospital visits and aid in disaster response situations. Finally, field trips for a third-grade overnight to Hannible, Mo., and an 8th grade one-week trip to YMCA Camp Lakewood in Potosi, Mo., and other unique trips help students to grow in their knowledge outside the classroom.
“Immanuel offers one of the area’s best bargains with a combination of strong academics and reasonable tuition,” Schaefer says. “Both church and school work together to help parents bring up the next generation, and that generation will be prepared for tomorrow and eternity.”
Immanuel Lutheran School at a Glance
Judy Schaefer, Principal
• Established: 1953
• Grades: PreK through 8
• Enrollment: 243
• Church affiliation: Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod
• Student/Teacher Ratio: From 15:1 to 26:1
• Tuition: $1,700-$3,800
• Tuition Assistance: Available
• Dress Code: Uniforms K-8
• School Mascot: Knights
• Average Teacher Education/Experience: 21 years experience; 53 percent have master’s degree
•Athletic Conference: Rock Valley Lutheran Athletic Conference
Rockford Christian Schools
Elementary Campus: 220 Hemlock Lane, Rockford; Jr./Sr. High: 1401 Bell School Road, Rockford, (815) 399-3465, rockfordchristian.org
Rockford Christian Schools provide a Christ-centered, college-preparatory education for students PreK (age 3) through grade 12. As the largest independent, non-denominational Christian school in the region, its student body represents nearly 130 area churches and 23 denominations.
It is accredited by the Association of Christian Schools International, AdvancED, and the Commission on International and Trans-Regional Accreditation, and is recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education.
State-certified faculty members have an average of 15 years of classroom experience, while 37 percent hold advanced degrees.
“Rockford Christian has a committed and caring group of teachers that want to make a difference in the lives of their students,” says Randy Taylor, superintendent. “Each one seeks to educate in body, soul, mind and spirit.”
Rockford Christian students routinely score well above grade level: elementary students, two to three levels above; middle schoolers, three to five above; and high schoolers test at post-high school levels in most learning disciplines. The average Rockford Christian Honors ACT score is 28.3 – well above both state and national averages. Of its graduates, 99 percent attend college.
Rockford Christian curriculum includes a college preparatory program, gifted enrichment and honors programs, 17 Advanced Placement courses, and many academic and extracurricular clubs and organizations.
Rockford Christian places a major emphasis on its college counseling program.
“Beginning in middle school, we track our students’ academic progress, extracurricular activities, community service and personality profile as part of a comprehensive college counseling program that will end in acceptance at the college or university of the students’ choice, as well as maximum scholarship offers,” says Taylor. “As a result of this focus on college preparedness, the 114 members of the class of 2015 received more than $6.5 million in scholarship offers.”
Students have access to cutting-edge tools, with a state-of-the-art Science and Technology Center; a distance learning auditorium; five computer labs and five science labs, including a special “dirty” lab for large-project construction and robotics; and integrated technology and SMART Boards in all classrooms.
The school also boasts two libraries, three art studios, a performance stage, three gymnasiums, a lighted football stadium and soccer field, an eight-lane all-weather track, a full-service weight training facility, and baseball and softball fields. Rockford Christian faculty and staff partner with students and their families in the educational process.
“Parents make a huge impact on our team-oriented environment,” says Taylor. “From the classroom to the playground, parents are on the scene.”
Rockford Christian teaches that biblical truths guide behavior and decision-making. Students take part in daily Bible classes, prayer time and weekly chapel, and they practice real-world applications of their spiritual lessons through community service projects, yearly mission trips and other service programs. Through Biblical integration in its Christ-centered academics and activities, Rockford Christian prepares students for responsibility to themselves, others and their community.
Rockford Christian Schools at a Glance
Randy K. Taylor, Superintendent
• Established: 1960
• Grades: PreK through 12
• Enrollment: 1,200
• Student/Teacher Ratio: 10:1
• Church Affiliation: Nondenominational
• Tuition: From $1,390 (two-day PreK) to $7,200 (High School)
• Tuition Assistance: Financial aid and scholarships available
• Dress Code: Uniforms
• School Mascot: Royal Lions
• Athletics: Big Northern Conference
Allegro Academy and Learning Center
6413 Forest Hills Road, Rockford, (815) 877-1489, allegroacademy.org
Allegro Academy is a nondenominational Christian school and childcare center, providing educational service to the Rockford area for more than 30 years. It is recognized PreK through eighth grade by the Illinois State Board of Education. While many schools focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), Allegro Academy students’ educations are enriched with STEAM: science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
Allegro offers a unique combination of progressive and advanced academics and fine arts. Programs include visual arts, music, accelerated/gifted programs, athletics, after-school programs, clubs and extracurricular activities. Facilities include a science lab, gymnasium, dance studio and music room.
“What sets us apart is the way we’ve integrated fine arts instruction for all students,” says JeanMarie McCormack, principal. “Movement and music, art, and Bible curriculum is taught throughout the week, starting in preschool. We offer a classical education that is committed to teaching fine arts and facilitating academic mastery.”
“We tailor the educational experience to the child, to accommodate individual learning styles,” adds McCormack. “We are passionate about children progressing according to their abilities and not merely age. Each child is assessed and allowed to run on his or her strengths in language arts and mathematics.”
The Allegro philosophy holds that each child is a unique creation of God, blessed with a special set of talents and gifts, who deserves to approach life with a sense of self-worth, respect for others, and a sense of his or her own personal relationship with God. “Students are given multiple opportunities to explore all of their God-given talents,” says McCormack.
A Christian perspective is part of the academic program, including daily prayer, Friday chapel and Bible curriculum taught four days of the week. “We help parents to give their children a safe, enticing learning environment where their children develop to their personal level of academic, moral and artistic excellence,” says McCormack.
By setting high expectations and allowing students to progress at their own pace, Allegro creates young scholars who are excited about learning. “Our students often progress faster,” says McCormack. “Our kindergarten reads at a second-grade level. In fact, more than half of our students test two grade levels ahead of their age group.”
Allegro’s hands-on learning experiences include high-tech, from computer-integrated classrooms to SMART Boards. “We’re small, which allows us to be versatile and stay on top of current trends and technology,” says McCormack. “Students utilize iPads and laptops to enhance the educational experience.
Also on-site is the Allegro Learning Center, a DCFS-licensed day care facility for children ages six weeks to five years. It includes six classrooms and three fenced play areas.
Allegro Academy at a Glance
JeanMarie McCormack, Principal
Kelly Parnello, Director of Learning Center
Cora Richter, Admissions Director
• Established: 1978
• Grades: PreK through 8
• Enrollment: More than 100
• Student/Teacher Ratio: 14:1
• Church Affiliation: Nondemoninational
• Tuition: $4,995
• Tuition Assistance: Available
• Dress Code: Uniforms
• School Mascot: Allegro All Stars
• Average Teacher Education/Experience Level: Degreed with reading, science and math endorsements
Christian Life Schools
5950 Spring Creek Road, Rockford, (815) 877-2600, clschools.org
At Christian Life Schools, faculty, staff and parents are committed to providing a quality education while cultivating an atmosphere where Christian principles are taught, modeled and encouraged. It is an environment that provides a sense of security, constancy and spiritual relevance.
The school is accredited by the Association of Christian Schools International and is recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education. The Christian Life Schools campus houses PreK through 12th grade, all under one roof.
Christian Life has a strong history of excellent curriculum, caring faculty, competitive sports, exceptional learning environments, Christ-centered faith and students who continually test well beyond their grade levels. Of the faculty, 20 percent have master’s degrees and an average of 14 years experience. At Christian Life Schools, 90 percent of graduates attend college, while the remaining 10 percent either enter the military, vocational training or the workforce.
Technology-integrated education programs featuring Apple iPads are offered for grades 6-12. Thousands of square feet of academic space include six technology labs, iPads in each classroom and an Apple Computer Graphic Arts lab. There are two gymnasiums, a weight room, and labs for life science, physics, chemistry and language.
Academic offerings include AP, Honors classes and dual-credit college courses. Along with athletics, students can participate in Student Government, National Honor Society, Key Club, International Club and Writer’s Club and perform in concert band, jazz band, choir and Limited Edition select choir. The middle and high schools each put on a spring musical, and elementary students in kindergarten through fifth grade present grade-level musicals in the fall or spring.
Trips abroad, community outreach programs and fall retreats are offered in both middle school and high school. All students attend powerful weekly chapel services, and during Spiritual Emphasis Week, they hear motivational speakers offering relevant Biblical lessons.
The Christian Life philosophy is that education must be a cooperative effort between schools and parents, so that learning can take place outside as well as inside the classroom. The rigorous college preparatory academics are complemented with strong spiritual training and promotion of a positive self-image. All subjects are taught to prepare students to grow into responsible adult citizens of the world and God’s kingdom.
Christian Life at a Glance
Mark Perry, Superintendent
Mike Hoekstra, Secondary School Principal
Carrie Smith, Elementary School Principal
• Established: 1973
• Grades: PreK through 12
• Enrollment: 560
• Student/Teacher Ratio: 20:1
• Church Affiliation: Rockford First
• Tuition Assistance: Program Available
• Dress Code: Coordinated Attire
• School Mascot: Eagles
• Athletics: Northeastern Athletic Conference
• Sports: Co-ed: Bass Fishing. Boys & Girls: Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Golf, Soccer, Track. Boys: Baseball, Football. Girls: Cheerleading, Softball, Volleyball
Alpine Academy of Rockford
5001 Forest View Ave., Rockford, (815) 227-8894, alpineacademyofrockford.com
Tucked into a quiet neighborhood in Southeast Rockford, Alpine Academy provides a quality education in a nurturing, family-focused Christian school. Its mission is to enrich and deepen students’ academic knowledge and spiritual faith. Teachers strive to create an environment where students grow intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically.
Alpine Academy is accredited, is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Education Association (ELEA), and is registered with the Illinois State Board of Education. Its strong curriculum in reading, mathematics, science, language arts, social studies and religion provides students with a solid academic foundation. Students receive Spanish, computer and performing arts instruction beginning in preschool and continuing through sixth grade. An in-house speech pathologist provides additional special-needs support. Three theatrical programs spotlighting students’ talents and skills are presented in the gym during the year. Art, band and orchestra instruction begin in third grade. Regular physical education class is provided to all students, with upper-grade students participating in unique activities such as cross-country skiing, roller skating, bowling and canoeing at Pierce Lake. Numerous field trips provide students with off-campus learning experiences. Each class takes part in monthly community service projects, and the Academy is active in many charitable programs and organizations.
Alpine Academy has a fenced athletic area with a baseball field and a soccer field. It also has a protected and completely enclosed play area with slides, monkey bars, tricycles and climbing areas for all grades. Students compete interscholastically in a variety of sports and scholastic events.
At Alpine Academy, educators and parents work as a family to promote each student’s self-esteem, academic skills and Christian knowledge and values, to create children who are enriched spiritually and academically, who have a dedication to lifelong learning and are well prepared for their journey toward a successful adulthood.