Seton Catholic Preparatory not only welcomed 581 students back to school on Aug. 9, but also ushered in a new tradition in the school’s 63-year history: A new house system—created by the students for the students—was implemented to deepen the sense of community, camaraderie, and shared commitment to excellence at the college prep high school already grounded in a communal ethos. As a student-run, school-wide program, the new house system also provides abundant student leadership opportunities.
The new system conjures images of Hogwart’s infamous Sorting Hat, which determined the right house for Harry Potter and his classmates. Through Seton’s house system, each student is assigned to one of 15 houses named after a patron saint. Each house comprises 40 freshmen through senior students (five boys and five girls in each grade) who will remain in the same house during their years at Seton. Faculty and staff are also assigned to a house. School house systems originated in England as a way to organize students into boarding school buildings.
According to Assistant Principal Dr. David Sorkin, the seeds of Seton’s house system began among Seton administrators about two years ago as a way to ensure students remain connected—and Seton’s sense of community remain strong—as the school grows and evolves. Drawing on his experience implementing a house system as dean of students at an academy school in Minnesota, Sorkin and Seton’s Student Activity Director Beth Pattock researched best practices and contacted administrators of schools on the East Coast that employ house systems. In September 2016 with a customized house system plan in place for Seton, they turned it over to student council and “Principles of Leadership” class students for development.
“Students were involved in creating the Seton house system every step of the way,” said Sorkin. This included: writing the mission statement and designing house crests; modifying the bell schedule to include house meetings and activities; enhancing Seton’s Christian service hours requirement (houses will select a collective community service project); and developing the “House Council” governing structure, multiplying the opportunities for students to lead at Seton. There are 30 senior house leaders, 30 junior leaders, and two speakers of the house.
“Since each house has a male and female leader, the senior team of 30 are the co-leaders of the system with equal voice,” said Sorkin. “The new governing body will work in concert to design activities and events that foster the house mission of faith and solidarity.”
House activities will include prayer, competition, and various community building activities such as intramural-type sports, academic competitions, seasonal activities, and House nights at sports and fine arts events.
For more information, visit www.setoncatholic.org.