Meet The Dowells
Randy and Shani Dowell were both raised outside of Nashville — Shani in Houston, Texas and Randy in Northern Virginia. They both went to public schools and love and value a diverse public school experience. Randy moved here in 2004 to start a KIPP school, and Shani moved here in 2008 when she and Randy got married. They have lived in East Nashville for over 15 years. Before Harpeth Hall, their daughter Selah went to Nashville Classical Charter School in East Nashville.
As a parent, what influenced you to consider and enroll your daughter in Harpeth Hall?
In the midst of the pandemic, we realized we had missed a whole year to consider Selah’s high school options. We had a really great elementary school experience for Selah but were a bit less sure about what path we’d consider for high school.
As we considered different options, we had Selah check out their websites and let us know which ones compelled her. Between her choices and our choices, we submitted applications, entered lotteries, etc. Selah fell in love with Harpeth Hall when she visited. She truly fell in love with the all girls aspect of the school. Both of my sisters went to an all-girls college, so I had seen the power and impact that setting could have.
I remember one Sunday we went to the campus to just get a feel for it. As we drove up, we saw students practicing lacrosse and running on the track. At that moment, it clicked for me - the gym equipment is for girls. The athletic fields are for girls. As someone who went to a large, public, co-ed, and awesome Texas high school, the idea that the equipment on the campus was for girls really spoke to me. As we read more and learned more, the power of an all-girls' school increasingly became compelling.
We had always been parents who said that our child’s opinion would be a factor but not the deciding factor. Her passion and conviction for Harpeth Hall won out.
How have you seen Selah’s Harpeth Hall experience help develop her academic and co-curricular interests?
It has been a joy to watch Selah’s interests and curiosities grow and expand at Harpeth Hall. In her first year, she went deep in sports. We loved her passion for sports but hoped she’d explore other areas as well. This year, she has continued her love for sports but taken on new interests. She joined Public Purpose at the encouragement of one of her teachers and has come to really enjoy that.
Academically, she has taken ownership for her own experiences. She drives her homework, studying, and projects. She loves something about all of her subjects and talks positively about them.
It has been really fun to watch projects that excite her and get her wheels turning. When I see her class work, I have no doubt that she’ll be ready to be successful in college and in whatever professional path she chooses. Her confidence in her academic contributions has grown, and she is taking increasing risks in exploring new co-curriculars.
What are you most excited for her to embrace in the years ahead?
We love the new areas of interest Selah has and the new platforms and dimensions for her existing interests. In the coming years, we look forward to Selah discovering new interests, applying her voice to new contexts, and continuing to give voice to her unique perspective. I get excited thinking about her playing sports and other activities with her current classmates over the next years and into high school.
In what ways have you gotten involved in the Harpeth Hall parent community?
As a first year parent, I was a 6th grade level representative and also hosted a reception in East Nashville for families interested in Harpeth Hall. I also attended a number of school hosted events and got to know other parents at sporting games and events. I’m also a member of Black Parent Alliance, which is a welcoming space for Black parents, students, and families.
I have recently joined the Harpeth Hall Board of Trustees, which allows me to continue to contribute to and be part of the community. Randy has participated in a number of events, such as the Father-Daughter dance, and some special learning sessions hosted by the Dads Network. There are so many different ways to contribute and to be in community and learn.
Do you have any advice for prospective families who are unfamiliar with Harpeth Hall or who are unsure of the benefits of an all-girls’ school?
I would encourage prospective families to visit the campus and be open minded. The benefits of an all-girls’ school were clear and research supported, making it easy for us to embrace. I admittedly wasn’t as open to the idea of a independant school. When Selah was admitted, we had to sit down and really reflect on our own school experiences, talk to our parents about the choices they had made and why, and let Selah talk to us about what she wanted from her school experience. It was actually through the application process when she was answering the application questions, that her passions and interests truly came alive. My advice is listen to yourself and to your your broader family, ask questions of your past, ask questions of your future, and listen to your daughter’s heart and voice.