A Community with Honor

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“What’s honor?” The student’s voice was careless and lazy, punctuated with a shrug of his shoulder. He asked the question without expecting a response, dismissing the very idea. “That doesn’t exist here anymore.” It hurt me to hear one of my classmates deride the system that I’d come to love and respect-the Honor System at my small, private school. The Honor system had, after all, made the suspicion and surveillance cameras of public school a distant, dreaded memory. After coming to Athens Academy in 9th grade on a scholarship, I quickly became accustomed to the trust and openness of my new community and took the Honor System for granted…until my junior year of high school. After the winter break of my junior year, I learned that countless students had cheated during the previous term’s exams. Although only a few students were convicted of Honor Offenses, the administration took away everyone’s privileges. In just a few days, the Athens Academy I knew and loved for the high expectations it had of its students disappeared. I felt like I was walking into a different school, and I knew nothing would change unless students took charge. Determined to restore a sense of dignity to the school environment, I gathered some friends and faculty, and we formed the Honor and Integrity Committee. The purpose of the committee was to figure out what had gone wrong among the student body, to correct it, and to prevent it from happening again. Because the Honor System only works if students trust each other and the school, we decided to re-establish this trust by improving communication between teachers, students, and the administration. Last year, I initiated Committee efforts by scheduling meetings, writing letters, and publicizing our goals among students and staff. To combat the problem of broken communication, we met with students from every grade, presenting ourselves as a support group as well as extending an open invitation to anyone interested in joining our team. We informed the student body of the history of the Honor Code to demonstrate its advantages and to rebuild faith in the system. We also began a ceremony wherein students sign the Honor Code, an act that we felt would emphasize its importance to the institution. Because of our efforts, the student body again recognizes Honor as a guiding principle: last year marks the lowest number of Honor Offenses in the recent history of the Athens Academy.Although the process was long and often frustrating, I am thrilled to see the positive results when we enjoy free periods instead of study halls or when teachers feel comfortable leaving us unsupervised during tests. Under the leadership of my senior class, Athens Academy is again the open, trusting school that I remember entering four years ago; more importantly, I approach honor as a privilege, and will never take it for granted again.

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