Lisa and Barry Hand
I want to thank you for having the vision to create such a rare gem of an educational opportunity for the Charleston community. I am excited to finally be providing Sarah an excellent educational experience.
Over the past 10 years our family has chosen to have direct experience with the best private, magnet and public choices we could find in the area, but I have never felt them to be anything more than adequate providers of the basics in academics preparation. As a child psychiatrist with expertise in the developmental needs of children and this crucial period of brain growth, I recognize that I am more critical than most parents about the stimulation and exposures that bathe my child’s brain 7 hours a day.
Sarah has always been “an excellent student” regarding grades, behavior, and friends. She could have easily continued on with the herd in its migration from elementary school to middle school and remained in her comfort zone of memorizing facts and studying simplistic textbooks. The thought of having her wasting 1260 hours a year of potential brain enrichment time just made me sad. We decided to explore all our options (again) and found a new one had arrived on the scene! University School of the Lowcountry. Sarah was reluctant to leave the safety of her herd at first, but even she was quickly won over by the excitement, passion, energy and learning enthusiasm that is the air USL students breathe.
As she nears the end of her first semester, her father and I marvel at the transformation that has happened. She has learned more this semester than in the past 6 grades combined. Most importantly she has discovered how to think. She now approaches novel academic and social challenges with an obvious sense of confidence and competence she knows how to “figure it out”. I can almost see her brain cells forming new, more complex interconnections and new areas of her brain being activated. Finally! It is clear that USL creates an environment in which Sarah feels not just safe but expected to challenge herself physically, academically, interpersonally and creatively. Her comfort zone is stretched but not strained every day. That is the secret to her rapid personal growth at USL. She has been exposed to hundreds of new ideas/concepts that are present in her current world (“What do we do with our trash?”, “What is the deficit?”, “Should women be allowed in The Citadel?”) and taught how to think about the concepts from multiple perspectives to fully understand their complexity. In three months of LOTC’s she has shaken hands with a more diverse selection of adults, than in her other 11 years. Probably most special is that USL models and creates a climate of doing what is right not because you will get in trouble if you don’t but because it intrinsically feels wonderful to do right.
Each morning when I drop off my smiling child at the door, I appreciate what the USL team works so creatively to create. Sarah feels understood, cared about and safe. She will be a better learner and a better person for what USL is giving her, and I am thrilled. My expectations have been exceeded, and I am one happy mom.
With warmest regards,
Lisa and Barry Hand