By Rachel Shuster | all school

Dear Prairie Families,

Our Upper School ended the day today with a Thanksgiving assembly. I shared with them the moral messiness of history and the flawed nature of humanity, with the goal of understanding that valuable traditions often have unsteady beginnings and/or paths. We also considered how humans and their ventures are usually a cloudy mixture of positive intent and mixed results. Yet with time and iteration, we humans have been able to make things better and despite the many challenges we face, the world has reached a level of prosperity that could not have been imagined in 1621 when the Pilgrims shared their first harvest feast with the Wampanoag Tribe.

Sarah Hale was an accomplished 19th century American: editor, poet, and social activist who deserves the lion’s share of credit for establishing our tradition of stopping our busy lives to come together with family and friends to express gratitude for our good fortune. Due to the efforts of another exceptional woman rallying the Racine community in the mid 1960’s, we here at Prairie are truly fortunate. Mrs. Johnson established Prairie for future leaders to grow up together and develop the desire and skills to make the world a better place to live, work, and raise a family.

Making the world a better place is a daunting task, and I am truly grateful that we have all chosen to be here at Prairie to pursue this mission together.

2019 has been an excellent year for our school. We have won awards in the arts and sciences, athletic championships, earned marks as the top high school in Wisconsin and the Best Place to Work in Southeastern Wisconsin. But what makes our school so special is that we are not here for the awards. We are here for each other.

What inspires me most about Prairie is our shared commitment. The Prairie community seems to intuitively understand that life is not a solitary activity and that our goal is to dive fully into the challenges confronting us — striving to grow, learn, and excel together.

We are all incredibly fortunate to be a part of this school and we each have a duty to find the roles that help the group, the team, the class, the school, the community — grow and improve. Like our history, our lives are messy. We are all flawed, and yet together we are able to work hard each day at being a better version of our individual and collective selves.

We know that there will be moments of great joy and success as well as devastating sadness and loss, all of which will be more poignant and meaningful when shared with the people we love. Thank you all for caring for each other and our school.

Before they headed home for the long weekend I asked the students to look around the theater and ask themselves two questions: who here am I grateful for? Who here can I do more to help be their best selves?

I went on to ask them to slow down, put away their phones for a little while this weekend, and consider three more questions when they are with family and friends: What is my role? What am I doing to help my friends and family be their best selves? What am I learning and sharing with them?

I ended the assembly by reminding them that one of the great things about being human is that we each have control over how we act, what we say, and what we do. Life is a series of choices and we each decide dozens of times a day to either make things better or worse. In the days and months ahead, I hope we will all choose uplifting gratitude and positive support at every opportunity.

I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving and great long weekend where you are able to slow down and have an abundance of quality food, fellowship, and family time.


Dr. Nat Coffman
Head of School and President