Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter

September 2017

Nobles Parents' Newsletter September 2017

"A Nobles Parent Guide to EXCEL" or "What Does EXCEL Stand For, Anyway?" from Director of the Anderson/Cabot Center for EXCEL Ben Snyder



Since Nobles adopted “EXCEL” as the moniker to describe the broad variety of experiential programs the school offers, I have gotten all sorts of attempts at what EXCEL stands for. Most people get the “experiential” right, but after that, all bets are off. While most understand Nobles’ commitment to service, the “s” for service isn’t present, there is no “t” for travel, our classes and projects that are more process- and project-based aren’t easily identified, and our Achieve and Upward Bound programs don’t seem to fit easily.

So what does EXCEL stand for?

EXCEL stands for Experiential and Community Engaged Learning—programs include:

  • Service learning opportunities,
  • Travel/cultural immersion programs and study away options,
  • “Applied learning” classroom experiences along with Class I projects, and
  • Achieve and Upward Bound—our two programs for low-income/first-generation college-bound students (from Boston and Lawrence, respectively).

The depth and breadth of these programs are unmatched in providing opportunities for Nobles students and, in fact, embody the Nobles mission of teaching “leadership for the public good.”

However, EXCEL represents much more beyond a simple acronym.

First, and perhaps most importantly, EXCEL reflects Nobles’ institutional commitment to being a private school with a public purpose. Our mission of “leadership for the public good” is more than simply flowery language. EXCEL compels us to create meaningful opportunities for students and to use our institutional resources to serve the greater good and empower our students to ultimately make their own positive difference wherever life takes them.

Second, EXCEL programs broaden student perspectives and the ways in which they see themselves and their place in the world while building critical skills—empathy, advocacy, creative problem-solving, adaptability, resilience, gratitude and humility.

Third, by requiring student service and providing a wide range of travel and study away opportunities, each student finds their own way to make a meaningful contribution somewhere that is important to them. Nobles is not in the business of defining the “best” service, but we are in the business of helping students identify opportunities that can make a difference and that resonate with the student. There is a “culture of service” at Nobles and our 80-hour service requirement is ultimately exceeded by more than 75 percent of each graduating class.

Fourth, EXCEL programs allow Nobles students to “fail” without the perception of a “fatal” transcript consequence. As adults, we all recognize that the most important lessons in life often come from significant setbacks, yet most Nobles students perform so well in the classroom that “failure” doesn’t happen very often. So whether in a class where the “process” of learning is central to the pedagogy (and there are many classes at Nobles with that approach—from computer science to advanced arts classes to many science electives to journalism, etc.) or on a trip or at a service site where the original plan or approach doesn’t work, EXCEL provides the opportunities for students to “fail,” recover, learn, and grow.

Finally, EXCEL often puts our students (your children!) in uncomfortable and challenging situations where the real risk is quite low (click here for a piece on “Safety First” in EXCEL) but the perception of risk for an adolescent feels high. When a student does a homestay for the first time in a foreign country or delves into a completely new culture or environment on a service project or trip or takes a semester away from the confines of Nobles, we often see exponential growth in student maturity and perspective. Over the last five years roughly 75 percent of all graduates have taken advantage of the travel/cultural immersion/study away opportunities at Nobles; the impact of these programs is real.

Every EXCEL opportunity requires student reflection and some sort of contextualization.  Below is a recent student reflection that captures so much of what EXCEL stands for at Nobles.

“The people I met and interacted with made me realize what the important things in life are. I am forever grateful that I had the opportunity because I know I will remember the experience for the rest of my life.”

As you consider the remainder of your child’s time at Nobles, we hope you will work with your child and our faculty to find the most meaningful and impactful EXCEL opportunities —and if you’d like a quick video overview of EXCEL click here

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If you have questions, comments or suggestions for this newsletter, email Kim Neal at kim_neal@nobles.edu.