He wanted more challenge and complexity in his daily work. He transferred to Prairie.

By Aliya Pitts | Middle School, Student, Top

When choosing a school, that decision is about more than the academic experience. Rather, a school is a community: a place where children grow within and outside of the classroom; where they are both supported and challenged; where they are exposed to new ideas about everything from science to soccer; where they are celebrated and cared for. The decision to join – or leave – a community is often difficult.  How does a transfer family make the choice to become a part of The Prairie School?

One such student, Eric Morocco ’22, made this exact decision last fall. “I was very nervous when I first realized I was transferring to Prairie,” he admits. Having attended a variety of parochial schools – in both Arizona and Wisconsin – throughout elementary school, Eric always found his academic experiences enjoyable. However, upon moving to Racine – his mother’s hometown – he found he needed more challenge and complexity in his daily work.  In the summer of 2016, his parents began to seriously consider boarding school, as Eric wasn’t being stretched far enough academically.

Marie Haertel, Eric’s mom, had attended Prairie briefly for two academic years and had always had it on her mental shortlist for high school – but was middle school too early? Would it be more challenging to transfer midstream, prior to that natural 9th grade entry point? “We visited three times,” she shared. Each time, they were welcomed with open arms – a good sign of the community they would eventually become a part of in the fall of 2016, at the beginning of Eric’s 7th grade year.

Like many families, Eric’s parents had long thought of reserving the Prairie experience for his high school years – but his need for greater academic challenge accelerated their decision.  Today, they feel confident in their choice.  “We knew something was missing [in his former schools] – but we had no idea how much better it could be,” says Marie.

One example is Eric’s selection of Mandarin as his language of choice, taught by Mr. Yan. “[He] has given me confidence to work outside my comfort zone. Being a new student to Chinese was tough as I was behind the rest of the kids in my class. Mr. Yan stayed after class with me many times to help me get caught up to where the other kids were. Besides being an extremely helpful teacher, he’s super fun and likable, always joking around with me and the other kids. Mr. Yan has helped me feel confident not only in his class, but in every class every day.”

In addition to academics, social and co-curricular opportunities are an important part of the fabric of Middle School. “The buddy system…helped me get started. My buddy Jayce helped me get to know people and showed me where I would be going…and I learned that Prairie has tons of opportunities, from Theater to the Art Department to sports to accelerated classes,” Eric notes. He now plays soccer and basketball with his classmates, and has also participated in Robotics and English Fest. He also finds time for activities outside of school, including a regular volunteer gig at the Kenosha History Museum. His advice to students considering a change? “When you feel scared about finding your place, know that Prairie really does offer something for everyone.”

Eric Morocco is one of many students who transfer to TPS in Middle School annually.  Thinking of making the switch?  Attend Prairie’s Middle School Open House (Grades 5-8) on Sunday, January 28th from noon to 3PM and meet current faculty and families who can tell you more about life at TPS.  Learn more at www.prairieschool.com/openhouse.