My grandmother had a best friend we called MiMi. MiMi lived around the corner and would meet Grandmomma to walk to church every Sunday morning. I loved MiMi. She bought me my first purse- a red patent leather shoulder bag with my initials B.O. scribed in white in the corner. A bag fit for a talkative three-year old. I loved Mimi but hated Mimi’s house. Mimi was old school and only allowed kids in one part of the living room. When asked why I couldn’t go into the other rooms of the house, my mom would respond by saying, “Those rooms aren’t meant for you.”

In some school communities students are having a similar experience. They are being asked to learn, grow, and participate in learning environments that are not meant for them. Many students have been included in these school communities but are far from experiencing a sense of belongingness that is necessary for true academic and personal growth.

Goodnow & Grady(1993) define belongingness as the extent to which student feel personally accepted, respected, included, and supported by others in the school environment. Belongingness, then, is a deliberate action done by the community that results in positive feelings like acceptance, respect, inclusion, and support. Many schools have made inclusion a goal in their communities. I assert that inclusion is not sufficient to support true academic, emotional, and spiritual growth for all students. Inclusion results in participation not partnership. Inclusion typically requires the individual to change who they are for access to the community.

SMA students already belong. They are seen, loved, and cared for as precious gifts from God. The SMA rooms are meant for them! Because they belong, students will exceed their own expectations in all areas, including leadership, achievement, and character. Belongingness at SMA is not happenstance. It happens through the commitment and work of the amazing faculty and staff members on campus. Their commitment to seeing every aspect of each student is why this community is unlike any other. Simply put, at SMA you don’t have to fit in, you already belong.

Goodnow, C., & Grady, K. E. (1993). The relationship of school belonging and friends’ values to academic motivation among urban adolescent students. Journal of Experimental Education, 62(1), 60–71.