Six houses. Middle and high school students. No, this isn’t Harry Potter. This is Veritas Prep’s “house program,” where incoming 6th graders are inducted into a group, or “house,” to help with a smoother transition to middle and high school.
“The idea is to improve the communication and community within the student body,” said physics teacher Jim Ward, who took over the program when the founder left Veritas. “As the school has grown, we thought that having a house structure would help facilitate a stronger community.”
Ward explained that the structure also helps the relationship between the younger and older students.
“We have a mentor program, but the houses also help the younger kids look up to the older kids and see by example. It helps build and nurture the culture and character development of the students,” Ward said.
Each year, juniors can apply for house leadership. There’s an application process where students discuss Veritas culture, the honor code, and how they see themselves furthering the community and the school’s development. They also need two teacher recommendations. The applications are reviewed by a panel of teachers who select three seniors that will lead each house.
There are a variety of events that each house participates in, including athletic and academic field days. They support other clubs, like the Great Hearts Helping Hands, and participate in a fall food drive where they compete to see which group collects the most food.
“The most important part of being a house leader is creating a strong sense of community within,” senior Olive Mehrer said. “The main way we do that as house leaders is by planning events. The activities within these events must be entertaining and eventful for all students.”
This year, the groups planned on doing an adopt-a-charity event, but it was put on hold and will hopefully be back in motion soon. They are doing an art recreation challenge based on the Getty Art Challenge that was popular on social media in the spring. House members will recreate a famous work of art and will vote on the top three. They will also have a movie night for house members and are working on a game night.
“The first quarter has been a transition, so we’re looking to do more in the second quarter,” Ward said.
The houses are named after important historical figures: Charlemagne, Leonardo da Vinci, Homer, Newton, Joan of Arc and Washington. Students remain in the same house during their entire school career. Each has a billboard set up in the dining hall to communicate with members.
“We are working on a project where each house can adopt a section of the school and be in charge of the cleaning and maintenance,” Ward said. “They each have their own flag – normally, the houses create a new flag and banner at the start of the semester, but that wasn’t able to happen this year.”
“As a house leader, it is of the utmost importance to form a positive culture among the students. I want students to feel at home in House da Vinci, and it should be a wonderful experience for all involved,” senior Michael Shirias said. “I hope that through my hard work, I will be able to fulfill my duties as a house leader, and make the house into what I have imagined it to be.”
The current leaders consider their positions a high priority. “The students explained that it’s so helpful coming in as a 6th grader or a freshman to feel more comfortable and what a great experience it is. They say, ‘I’ve been waiting for this day since I was a freshman.’ It’s something they aspire to be,” Ward said.