Heads Up

Welcome to Heads Up, a blogging experiment that aims to: 

  • connect the people, parts, and principles of Durham Academy;
  • share ideas about learning and human development;
  • spotlight a few of the many wondrous things I get to see every day at Durham Academy. 

Thanks for reading the posts below — and sending news, links and ideas worth sharing. 

Michael Ulku-SteinerHead of School 


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This They Believe

This morning, three students stood before nearly 500 of their peers and teachers in Kenan Auditorium and delivered their personal mission statements.

I can’t imagine my teenage self having the courage to do such a thing – let alone the self-knowledge to create and hone a coherent statement of my core values and aspirations. For the 21 students in The Mission-Driven Life course, however, such demonstrations of bravery and wisdom have become commonplace.

Like my co-teacher Lee Hark, I wish I could take credit for guiding these students to their insights about morality, happiness and productivity. But the truth is clear: these sophomores, juniors and seniors have started to do for themselves what all adolescents yearn to do: figure out who they are, what matters most to them, what gifts they might offer to the world, and how they might build lives of meaning and purpose.

We launched The Mission-Driven Life in August of 2016 (click here to see our rationale, along with last year’s syllabus and links to the personal mission statements of our 2016-17 students).

Detailed course evaluations from last year's students led us to restructure our syllabus and upgrade it with new materials and activities. Among this year’s highlights for students:

  • conversations about passions and career paths with serial entrepreneur Sonny Caberwal 
  • an inspiring pep talk from UNC Women’s Lacrosse Coach Jenny Levy
  • A field trip to Duke’s new Student Wellness Center with the legendary “Dean Sue” Wasiolek
  • a series of moving student speeches about “mission-driven role models” (including parents, teachers, coaches, peers and more).

With the adoption last spring of The DA Graduate: A Mission-Driven Life (a portrait of our aspirations schoolwide for the path to moral, happy, productive lives), we also reframed this year’s course around DA’s 15 key traits: 

Click here to see this year’s course syllabus. And click below to watch more personal mission statements from this year’s students. We hope the variety, authenticity, courage and conviction in them inspires you to think about your own mission — in and beyond the DA community.

2017-18 Personal Mission Statements from:

  • Jack Anderson  
  • Tanner Barry
  • Alex Bayer
  • Tyler Carpenter
  • Emily Cutcliffe
  • Jackson Futrell
  • Alexis Galloway
  • Sydney Grissom
  • Will Hanson
  • Sydney Harpole
  • Abby Hulka
  • Katie Hunter
  • Benny Klein
  • Ian Layzer
  • Davis McCain
  • Marlee McKenna
  • Finn Moylan
  • Scarlett Reade
  • Mariana Rocha-Goldberg
  • Rory Smith
  • Shaffer Woody

 Many thanks to Melody Guyton Butts for her expert assistance capturing these speeches. 



Posted by mulkus on Monday January, 29, 2018


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