"We – the Davis Family – moved to Tallahassee from Boston in 2005 when our children, Khari and Aaliyah were two years old and six months old. When we arrived in Tallahassee, we were in search of a place like the preschool we left, one that would enrich our children – a true home for young students. As we began looking towards Kindergarten for Khari, we heard more and more about Holy Comforter Episcopal School. After several recommendations from friends, colleagues, and even a few strangers, we made an impromptu visit during the middle of the day. As we arrived, our first impression was the beauty of the campus. It reminded us of the schools in Boston: the red brick, the architecture, but there was something more about HCES. The campus was simply peaceful, not the quiet, asleep kind of peaceful but the confident, knowing and self-efficacious kind of peaceful. We scheduled our tour, went to Lower School Chapel, and we made the decision that there was no other choice for our family.
From that first day, we were happy, we all were happy. We had – and still have – very busy and demanding jobs, and each time we dropped off our children, we felt safe and didn't look back. Throughout that first year, we experienced the natural feelings of change to a new city, a new school and making new friends, but we also witnessed the attention and focus on the individual child and a moral and ethical foundation being established with our children. Teachers and administrators got to know our children and challenged them to be the best that they could be, in the most nurturing of ways. During those first few weeks, a three-year old Aaliyah, in PK4, often missed Khari. Her teacher would take her to visit him, easing her transition.
Over the years, the faculty and staff recognized our children’s skills and strengths. They encouraged their individual gifts and then taught them to use those gifts to help others. The HCES faculty and staff recognized the uniqueness of our children, helping them grow and mature, not only academically, but also as citizens, children of God and as human beings. We have been blessed to witness how our children have thrived - and as they thrived, we were thankful and pleased with the how their teachers provided the time, and established an environment for our children (and their friends) to think freely while challenging them to think deeply.
For example, in the fourth grade, Aaliyah and her friends had the notion to create businesses, complete with their own currency, and they expressed their desires to their teacher. Aaliyah’s teacher embraced it, engaged it and integrated the businesses into the curriculum. For us this is a prime example of why we are grateful for HCES. An opportunity was seized for students to not only to create and be creative, but also to learn hands-on through trial and error, problem solving, teamwork, and collaboration. Similarly, we saw Khari grow from a reticent child standing up nervously at his first kindergarten chapel to being asked to be the first eighth grade male student to present a "This I Believe" speech. He was chosen to encourage and inspire his classmates so that they, too, could do the same. These examples are a tangible illustration of the beauty and practicality of Holy Comforter Episcopal School.
During our children’s middle school years, we have watched them blossom. Our children and their peers have become confident characters, focused scholars, and empathetic leaders. The beauty and practicality on display in the Lower School was also present in the Middle School. In a Kindergarten through eighth grade school, the students – lower and middle school aged – can be and are the primary focus. For our children, this intentional focus was good for them. It allowed them to transform, gain confidence, struggle, excel, be frustrated and learn a few life lessons all while in a safe environment. It also allowed them a chance to support and be supported, to admire and be admired, and to lead and serve in their matriculation at HCES.
We are confident that our children are (and will be) prepared for high school. Khari is completing his eighth-grade year and he is ready for high school. He will leave HCES joyful, he will leave HCES confident in his skill, he will leave HCES with a secure spiritual foundation, he will leave HCES with strong academic and social skills. And he will leave HCES ready to spread his wings.
As with any truly enriching and rewarding experiences, there are challenges and struggles. It was not different at HCES and when we struggled, expressed an opinion, or displayed frustration, the faculty, staff and administration were always responsive. The culture at Holy Comforter is centered on family. Because of that culture, our children were and are surrounded by people who cared about them and who are willing to work through any challenge. Our children learned resiliency not only at home but at school. We are hopefully confident and excited to see how they make their lives.
We are also proud to have been at the genesis and the revelations of HCES becoming a leader and innovator in STEM, especially technology. Our family is a partner and co-conspirator in the development and expansion of HCES STEM. And we could do so because parents are cherished for, and welcomed to, share their expertise with the school, its students and faculty. Personally, we have been valued as parents, for our input as experts in our professions and in our own little way, we have been allowed to contribute – a little bit – to the education of all students and to make HCES an even better place. When you are part of a community like this, amongst different-minded but similarly action and goal-oriented people, and you engage and embrace the community, life is splattered with drops of goodness and God-ness.
As our time at Holy Comforter comes to an end, we still feel that same sense of peace, calm and security that we did nine years ago when we first looked across the courtyard. With the closing of our HCES chapter, we know we have given our children a superb academic and spiritual foundation. And with that, wherever they go, they will excel and soar.
It has been a beautiful story, here at Holy Comforter Episcopal School. Holy Comforter was a choice we made, we believed in and we never looked back."
- Shairi Turner-Davis and Jimmie Davis, Parents of Khari '17 and Aaliyah '18