"To Learn, To Lead, To Serve" Remains Mission of OKC’s Private School

TIn 1969, Oklahoma City faced a major change, and the city was in an uproar.

Forced bussing of students was in effect, but many students were being taken from their neighborhood schools and bussed across town. The move created a hardship for students and their parents, as well as for the students the decision was designed to help.

A group of parents held a neighborhood meeting to discuss options. Private schools were already too crowded, so the parents decided to start their own school.

Norman Reynolds and his wife, Maxey, were among those who dreamed of an inclusive school that would accept all children but would be close enough to not cause a hardship.

From that dream, Heritage Hall was born. Heritage Hall is a private co-education college preparatory school in Oklahoma City that serves approximately 900 students from age 3 to 12th grade.

Now, 50 years later, Heritage Hall is celebrating its history as an independent school. Its school culture revolves around an educational philosophy of kindness, truth and service to others. In fact, students at Heritage Hall Upper School donate approximately 20,000 hours of community service annually, and the school just continues to grow.

50 YEARS OF HISTORY

It took only six weeks to create Heritage Hall. Maxey Reynolds herself waded through 250 applications for teachers, and Heritage Hall was born, serving grades 7 through 12 in the basement of All Souls Episcopal Church the day after Labor Day in 1969.

The growth was astronomical. The school eventually bought a decrepit field on Northwest 122nd Street and began the long process of moving and developing the campus in the mid-1970s.

“That was big for Heritage Hall. For most of the past 50 years, enrollment has hovered around 900 students,” says Jennifer Roth, director of marketing. “We are a nondenominational school. In the classroom, we’ll have a mix of all different faiths, ethnicities, backgrounds and beliefs. We have a very diverse student body.”

Purchasing that land allowed the school to not only build a Lower School, Middle School and Upper School, but also athletic fields, an athletic complex, arts buildings, libraries and more. Today, the original 20 acres has expanded to a 112-acre campus.

Heritage Hall also offers rigorous academic coursework that challenges students academically and through curricular activities.

“We have a lot of unique programs other schools may not offer,” Jennifer says. “The mission of the school is ‘to learn, to lead, to serve,’ and everything from curriculum to extracurricular activities to opportunities on campus all align with that mission statement.”

The Heritage Hall Independent Studies Program is one example of a unique curriculum designed to help students excel in college. The program allows students to choose a topic of interest in a variety of disciplines to study in depth. The program culminates in a formal assessment and presentation of learning to a panel of advisers.

The Heritage Hall Explorer program allows students in grades 5 to 12 to embark on a week of personal interests that include on-campus offerings, local service and area explorations, foreign and domestic travel and more. Arts are also celebrated with coursework in dance, visual arts, debate and music.

“In addition to our championship athletics, our debate team is nationally recognized, and we produce several National Merit Scholars each year,” Jennifer says.

What really sets the college preparatory private school apart, however, is the sense of community, she says.

“Everybody cares. The community cares. Parents are engaged, and the students want to be the best version of themselves they can be,” Jennifer says. “Our students are very engaged and are supportive of one another. The teachers have close relationships with the students, and the students feel like their teachers care about them. Some of our teachers have been teaching here for 30, 40 years.”

CELEBRATING 50

From Sept. 4 to 9, Heritage Hall will honor its 50-year history with several events, including an alumni art show, an all-class reunion, a “Thanks Coach” reunion, a Saturday evening “Spectacular” celebration and more.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t credit the success of the school to our founders but also our incredible faculty,” Jennifer says. “I think the general public has a perception of the school is just for rich white kids, but walk into any classroom, and you will see a lot of ethnic and racial diversity in the school. The students also see how special the school is because they are very successful in college.”

For more information, visit HeritageHall.com.