Parker 7-22

Character Education & Community Engagement


For more than a century, Parker has emphasized the development of the whole child—encouraging students to be both active agents in their education and contributing citizens in their community.

The end and aim of all education is the development of character.

Colonel Francis W. Parker

The True Aim of a Parker Education

Our community is driven by the desire to guide students to becoming curious, honest, kind, and hardworking people who—as they forge their way into and through adulthood—will be transformed by meaningful experiences in their communities.

Our founders, faculty, and staff understand deeply the profound responsibility they hold in creating a learning environment in which the whole child is developed and nurtured. Essential skills and attributes including character building, teamwork and conflict resolution, empathy-building activities, and self-reflection are embedded into the fabric of a Parker education.


lower school

The Lower School Code of Ethics: S.T.R.I.V.E. frames our expectations for students' conduct, attitude, and citizenship. Together, the students, staff and parents say it out loud as part of our weekly Lower School community flag-raising on Monday mornings:
Seek always to do your best.
Treat people and property with respect.
Revere the truth.
Invest in your future.
Value School rules, your heritage and personal responsibility.
Enrich the world for all.

In the Lower School, grade themes help ensure that character education remains a daily focus: (Grades JK-1) Identity-intrapersonal skills; (Grades 2-3) Awareness-Interpersonal skills; (Grades 4-5) Action-Navigation. In addition to the grade-level themes, our curriculum address core competencies including: flexible thinking, mindfulness, empathy, cultural competence, self-efficacy, teamwork, resilience, and responsibility.


A new emphasis of Parker’s Community Engagement Program is being placed on exploring complicated issues before participating in philanthropic endeavors.  Reflection before, during and after collaboration with community partners helps students explore challenging issues both intellectually and emotionally. During the 2018-19 school year, for example, the Student Council not only packaged goods for the Youth Assistance Coalition but also explored the issue of youth homelessness and debated assisting other nonprofits that assist this population. During the 2017-18 school year, the well-supported Book Drive included a visit to the medical clinics and public schools receiving the books and an upper school student's testimony about her role in supporting and the drive and the impact students can have. During the 2019-20 school year, students will not simply be serving food to car-bound homeless individuals through the Jewish Family Service Safe Parking program, they will also have open conversations before and after these nighttime dinners both inside and outside of the classroom. Each year, under the leadership of groups such as the Student Council, Girl Scouts, and Squires, Parker's Lower School generously supports charitable giving for entities ranging from Rady Children's Hospital to Reach Out and Read San Diego. Fundraisers for worthy non-profit organizations causes have always received great community support. 


Students have opportunities to develop their leadership skills by participating in student government or serving as a School ambassador through the Squires program.

Parker In Practice


This year Lower School worked with the Youth Assistance Coalition to help make nearly 500 food bags. These small tokens of kindness help YAC build relationships with many of the more than 1000 people in San Diego identifying as homeless youth.

Parker In Practice


To kick off the 2019-20 school year, Grade 8 students participated in a 3-day immersive community engagement "plunge" to bridge the gap from community to global awareness. Each year Grade 7 students participate in three separate days of community awareness activities off-campus. 

middle school


Students make meaningful connections to the Middle School's grade-level themes (Grade 6: Self Awareness; Grade 7: Community Awareness; Grade 8: Global Awareness) that allow them to archive and reflect on academic and social-emotional growth.


The purpose of advisory is to provide a space and time for students to build a relationship with at least one teacher that will help guide them through the school year and advocate for them, as needed. Advisory also increases students’ sense of community, satisfies students’ need to belong to a group during crucial developmental years, provides a forum to discuss Character Education topics, improves communication between the school and home, and helps to prepare students for academic success by discussing study skills, organization, and time management. 


As part of our commitment to character education and social-emotional learning, the Middle School holds three Life Skills weeks each year as a complement to our advisory programming. Life Skills Week programming is presented by our counselors, nurse, and director of diversity and inclusion, as well as faculty and some outside providers. Curriculum involves a sharper focus on Social Emotional Learning including health and wellness, alcohol and drug awareness, healthy eating, human development, and stress management. 


At the end of each year, students share information with family and peers about their overall progress. Students set goals for their own learning, examine their progress against their own goals, and develop their ability to discuss their own learning. Students take time in advisory to prepare for presenting, and get feedback from their advisor about their progress on their portfolio. 

Upper School


The purpose of advisory is to provide a space and time for students to build a relationship with at least one teacher that will help guide them through the school year and advocate for them, as needed. 


All Parker students are required to prove that they are engaged in different ways. Students in Grade 9, Grade 10, and Grade 11 are required to complete twenty hours of engagement work. Grade 12 students demonstrate their engagement by being an active members of the National Honor Society (NHS) or the California Scholarship Federation (CSF), enrolling in Parker's Social Justice course, or any other approved service-learning course, or by taking part in the Interim or Summer Service Learning Immersion experience.


Upper School offers elective courses that encourage students to acquire a deeper understanding of complex social issues, and develop the skillset needed to take an active role in promoting change within the School community and beyond. Social Justice, a popular social studies elective, focuses on topics ranging from the AIDS pandemic in Africa to homelessness in San Diego, and includes hands-on outings throughout Southern California to explore relevant social justice topics. 


Over a dozen community engagement clubs exist in the Upper School. Two honor societies foster a passion for community involvement. Examples of community engagement clubs include the Activism Club, UNICEF Club, Amnesty International, Interact, Cancer Advocacy Club, Homeless Outreach Club, and even the Robotics Team, which, in particular, emphasizes mentorship and charitable giving so much so that they have earned the coveted Chairman's Award for several years straight. Students interested in taking their passions to the next level create National Honor Society team projects that range from tutoring at nearby elementary and secondary schools to providing technological services to senior citizens. On campus, particular clubs and projects support reducing waste at school, cleaning up after lunch or passing on a passion for robotics to Parker middle school students through the First Lego League Team. California Scholarship Federation members join together to support events such as the AIDS Walk, Kids4Community, LS Halloween Carnival, and the Linda Vista Multicultural Fair.


Parker’s Interim Internship Program matches Grade 11 and Grade 12 students with unpaid, job shadowing experiences over a one-week period in the spring. The Director of Community Engagement works with students to connect them with a business, government agency, or service organization in the community. Over a one-week period students keep a daily log of their learning experiences related to a field of work that interests them. They also enhance their knowledge and skills in areas of punctuality, responsibility, cooperation, and communication. 


To date, nearly 150 students have participated in summer service-learning immersion experiences that allow students to spend several days learning about challenging social issues plaguing San Diego and then volunteering in the field. One day students might explore the assets and needs of Linda Vista by participating in a community "WalkAbout" and assisting The Bayside Community Center. The next day they may be exploring the dynamics of being a bi-national city by touring our border with US Border Patrol and visiting the non-profit Border Angels in Sherman Heights. The goal of this program is to raise awareness of the diverse needs of our city and to build an appreciation of the many entities seeking to assist the most vulnerable segments of society. 


Grade 10 through 12 students can demonstrate their engagement in the community by assuming a leadership role in National Honor Society (NHS), or by participating in the School-directed California Scholarship Federation (CSF).

NHS allows any Grade 10 through 12 student to demonstrate leadership in and a commitment to a particular cause by teaching students how to develop a team-based project to reach out to those in need. Students who are members of CSF participate in School-organized outings to places such as Bayside Community Center, the AIDS Walk, the MDA Walk, and Episcopal Community Service’s Friend to Friend Club House’s Life Celebrations.

Parker Upper School students complete an average of 40 service hours each year, two times the amount that is required by the School. The Presidential Volunteer Service Award recognizes students who commit an exceptional amount of time to community engagement.

Parker In Practice


Umit Suri and Noa MacDonald, Class of 2020, raised more than $3,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). Their efforts were part of the society’s annual Student of the Year campaign—an intensive seven-week fundraising competition. Although their team, “We Believe,” was only a short amount away from raising the most money in San Diego, Umit and Noa say the best part of the experience was building meaningful relationships within their community.

The Center for Character, Citizenship, & Community

The Center's mission is to provide authentic experiential learning opportunities, foster leadership skills, create a culture of inclusion, and instill core ethical values to help students make a meaningful difference in the world. Led by the Director of Community Engagement and the Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, The Center collaborates with a variety of Parker staff and faculty to enrich the following Upper School programs:

  • Community Engagement
  • Character Education
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Global Studies
  • Student Leadership
  • Internships