How Students Find Their Place After Dawson

There is a big world beyond the walls of The Alexander Dawson School. The next step for our graduates is high school, and we understand the importance of addressing the academic expectations and needs of our outgoing students so they can continue to meet their personal potential in the future. And while our students experience myriad emotions as they exit the doors as eighth-graders, we are confident that they are prepared to meet the challenges of that big world. 
Dawson’s High School Planning Team is dedicated to finding the right-fit high school for each child. These individuals were chosen to front this initiative based on several criteria. Their priorities include:
  • Connecting and partnering with each individual student and family
  • Providing personalized guidance
  • Ensuring that each family has the tools necessary to navigate this process
  • Helping each student find a high school that meets their expectations and maximizes their potential
  • always doing what’s right for kids
“Once your child graduates from Dawson, we know the high school they attend is critical in continuing their intellectual and personal growth in college and beyond,” says Director of 6-8 Chris Estrella. “We want to provide families with a personalized mentorship experience that matches the right-fit high school placement with each individual child, educate constituents who are unfamiliar with the high school and boarding school landscape, and formulate reciprocal relationships with high schools to increase community knowledge and accuracy of understanding about Dawson.”

Our comprehensive high school planning program is first introduced to students as early as sixth grade. This mentorship continues throughout students’ last year at Dawson when they and their families are paired with a team advisor who meets with them to discuss hopes and goals for the high school experience.

“We want each Dawson eighth-grade student to find a high school that meets their expectations and maximizes their potential. The team is approachable; each member works with a small group of students and provides guidance and support to all aspects of the search process,” explains Chris. “We put forth the effort and go out of our way to make sure each student and family feels known.” 

In truth, even the best-laid plans sometimes include speed bumps and detours, and this part of a student’s journey is no different. An example is when the Team works to reconcile the goals and wants of the student with the reality of the family’s preferences or priorities. This might include financial feasibility, finding an institution that aligns with a family’s values, or ensuring student readiness for a new environment. How is this bridge crossed?

“Earn trust first and then get your vision together. We focus on who the child is and then strategize where they want to go as a family,” Chris advises. “The student is always at the center of the conversation; however, at this stage of the child’s life, we understand that where the child attends high school will be a joint decision, if not more aligned with the family’s wishes. Thus, each High School Planning Team member meets with families one-on-one and corresponds regularly to listen, ask questions, and understand the family. We round out the conversation by sharing our impressions of the student.”

There are a variety of options that can and should be explored, from local public and private schools to magnet and career/tech academies and nationally recognized boarding schools. The versatile support services of the High School Planning Team include:
  • individualized recommendations, access, and partnerships during the high school application process 
  • on-campus information sessions with high school representatives, such as student lunch meetings with boarding school representatives from across the country
  • shadow day opportunities at area schools
  • on-campus SSAT testing opportunities and prep courses with Dawson faculty 
  • regular communication about the high school placement process featuring advice from industry experts. 
We hope the experience of the Dawson Difference results in our graduating students remaining engaged beyond middle school. We want our culture to be one of reciprocation and support because our alumni are central to the current and future wellbeing of the School. 

Our graduates are some of the most important indicators of the power of a Dawson education, and we want them to feel proud to remain connected to the School long after they’ve exited our doors. We want to provide support, advice, attention, and mentorship based upon the individual needs of our students as they leave Dawson. And then we want to welcome those alums back to the School to share their incredible gifts, talents, and knowledge with us. Ultimately, this naturally provides our current families a window into the intentions behind each of our decisions and encourages deeper involvement in their own student’s individualized educational path.

As Dawson moves ahead into the next 20 years of its tenure, the ongoing goal of our High School Planning Team is to transform the process from a service into a center of excellence.

“We want to develop partnerships that leverage our complementary skill sets, appreciate our differences, create the context for innovative thinking, provide mutual support, and engender trust within the community,” Chris concludes. “When relationships work at their best, schools are able to align resources with their mission, address their greatest challenges, and innovate to ensure long-term sustainability.”

Learn more about Dawson’s High School Planning Team here.

See how our amazing alums are doing at

The Alexander Dawson School

The Alexander Dawson School at Rainbow Mountain, an independent school located on 33-acres in the community of Summerlin, is Nevada’s first Stanford University Challenge Success partner school for students in early childhood through grade eight. Utilizing the unique Challenge Success framework, Dawson uses research-based strategies and programs that emphasize student academics, wellbeing, and a healthy school-life balance to create more engaged, motivated, and resilient learners and leaders. At Dawson, students achieve their individual potential while savoring life and meeting the challenges of the world.