Creating Young Leaders at St. John’s Northwestern Academies

As the only college preparatory academy to offer two leadership models, St. John’s Northwestern Academies provides families with exceptional choices. The Academy President explains why SJNA’s Prefect Academy may be right for your student.

You know that you’d prefer a more structured education for your child, but you’re not sure if a military academy is the best thing for them or your family. What are your options?

Luckily, St. John’s Northwestern Academies offers families a Prefect Academy that serves as a side-by-side alternative to its equally prestigious Military Academy. Both the military and prefect tracks at St. John’s Northwestern Academies have several things in common: standards of excellence, proven leadership training for co-ed students grades 6-12 and a commitment to a student’s personal growth and achievement. However, the Prefect Academy operates differently than the Military Academy in key ways that remain true to SNJA’s overall mission.

“Our academies are the same in terms of educational and personal standards,” says St. John’s Northwestern Academies President, Robert J. Fine. “The Prefect Academy more closely resembles a college prep school. Our Prefect Academy students wear prep school uniforms, not military attire, they don’t participate in military training and they live in residence halls specifically for their academy.”

Pillars and principles

What exactly is a Prefect Academy? SJNA’s Prefect Academy model employs a 14th-century British Prefectoral system of student self-governance. This allows students to learn from peer leaders while gaining the skills and experience to become leaders themselves. SJNA Prefect students learn hands-on leadership skills by monitoring, assisting and tutoring their fellow students under the guidance of adult mentors.

Fine points out that the Prefect Academy model is rooted in the founding principles of the school. “SJNA was founded in 1884 by an Episcopal priest as a co-ed college prep school. In some ways, the Prefect Academy returns us to the original structure that became the basis for both academies,” he notes.

St. John’s Northwestern Academies follow four pillars: academic excellence; spiritual and character development; outstanding athletic programs; and premier leadership training. Along with SJNA’s four foundational pillars, Prefect Academy values are based on important principles that include leading others and leading to serve.

Whether you choose SJNA’s Military or Prefect Academies, it’s a matter of personal preference about what’s best for your student.

“You won’t have to worry about one being ‘better’ than the other,” says Fine. “Our Prefect Academy offers all the wonderful things found in our Military Academy, but the Prefect track offers a distinct approach to leadership and success.”

Fostering independence and initiative

Just like their military counterparts, Prefect Academy students are held to a high standard of personal behavior. However, because self-governance and accountability provide the Prefect Academy foundation, student-led direction and adult mentorship are the norm rather than a military chain of command.

Course offerings and campus activities support building young leaders with opportunities for volunteering, student government and thriving sports teams. As an integrated part of the academies, Prefect students interact with military cadets regularly, as well as a diverse, globally represented campus population. The self-governance model also promotes a sense of independence, adaptability and personal initiative.

Fine believes that the simple act of living on a campus with students who have different socioeconomic backgrounds, cultures and beliefs instills confidence and poise in all SJNA students.

“St. John’s Northwestern Academies students stand out from their peers,” says Fine. “They are predisposed to do well in college and beyond because they’ve learned time management, getting along with other people from all walks of life and becoming self-sufficient at an early age.” 

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Jennifer Kales
Jennifer Kales
Content editor Jennifer Kales has been in the business of writing for more than 20 years creating advertising copy, blogs, books and everything in between. She loves helping Chicago Parent clients tell their stories in a way that resonates with audiences.


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