Do Students Feel like they Belong at Hill-Murray?

More than 200 students in our middle and upper schools packed into four fan buses in the Hill-Murray parking lot earlier this afternoon and headed to U.S. Bank Stadium. Along with what I’m sure will be a huge Pioneer fan section, they will cheer on our amazingly talented boys soccer team in the state tournament title game. 

On the surface, riding a fan bus is a mix of fun and convenience, but what most of them don’t realize is that the relatively short, 30-minute trek across the river and back can have a positive long-term impact on their overall happiness, academic success, and emotional growth. 

Bus rides to sporting events, service-based travel, educational field trips, classes that tap into a student’s interests and passions – even simple club and team bonding events – all of these experiences have the potential to provide kids with a greater sense of belonging, something I care deeply about and will constantly be working to enhance as the leader of this school. 

We know that belonging is much more than participation.  Belonging at school means feeling seen, accepted, respected, included, and supported.  As a Catholic school, we see every student as a child of God, loved unconditionally and valued beyond measure. This perspective influences everything we do at Hill-Murray.   

You may recall, last spring we asked you to fill out a fairly extensive survey about your child’s experience at H-M. We asked several questions, but the heart of the survey was whether your child or children felt a sense of belonging at school.

While there is always room to improve, I’m fairly pleased with the results from the more than 300 families who responded. Some highlights include: 

  • 89% of students indicated that H-M is a good place to learn 
  • 82% of families as well as students, indicated that H-M has a caring community 
  • 92% of families indicated that we encourage all students to be part of school events, clubs and activities
  • 85% of students say they have at least one trusted adult at school 
  • 91% of students report they have friends at H-M

We know that students who feel a sense of belonging at school are typically more energized, more likely to spend time-on-task and return to activities, and more likely to choose to be in the school environment. So those responses are encouraging. 

The Boys soccer team did Yoga to stay grounded during its successful post-season run.

One of the survey questions that concerned me was how welcoming our school is to all students. Although 72% agreed or strongly agreed that H-M is welcoming, 28% disagreed or strongly disagreed. That’s significant to me because students who don’t feel welcomed or a sense of belonging often struggle to devote their full cognitive resources to their studies and experience issues with emotional wellness.  

What can we do? To start, it is important that the adults, especially faculty, staff, and coaches, in the lives of our young people are looking beyond their worldview. It is easy to recognize and relate to the needs of a student who is similar to us. But all of our students need us to be present, listen without judgment, show compassion and provide guidance in a way that shows we care.  To do this, we need to be intentional about getting to know every student – their likes, dislikes, and desires for their future.

It’s important to note that I do feel our faculty and staff are already deeply committed to all of these values.  But surveys like this reinforce the work that we are doing and help us all improve.

Lastly, one final statistic from the survey I’d like to share. It’s both telling and timely today.  85% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that positive school spirit is evident at Hill-Murray. The smiling faces of the 200 + students on the soccer fan buses fully support that finding. Congratulations to boy’s soccer on a wonderful season. Go Pioneers !