Episcopal Schools Celebration Service

Today, students, staff, present/former school leaders, and school supporters kicked off Episcopal Schools Week with a celebration chapel service. The students learned about the school’s history and sang “Happy Birthday” to St. Stephen’s Episcopal School. We’d like to invite you to learn about our school’s amazing history.

History of SSES

Our story begins in 1972.  In 1972, Hurricane Agnes flooded Harrisburg and its surrounding areas.  A flood as bad as Agnes only comes to Harrisburg once in 250 years.  The river came up and over the streets but St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral was completely dry because it was built on high ground.  After a long time, the water finally receded back into the river.  Many people left Harrisburg City after their homes were flooded and did not return.  The city was very empty and most homes sat abandoned without any families living in them.  By 1978, a group of dedicated community members were back in the city to clean it up and bring it back to life.  St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral decided that its number one mission would be a school right here in the city!  

Mrs. Patricia Cameron stepped up to open and lead the school with the church’s support.  She wanted to make sure that the school was a true reflection of the the people who lived in this area, so she made a commitment that St. Stephen’s Episcopal School would be diverse.  This meant that the students would come from different districts, that students learned that God loved them, regardless of their religious background, and that students all different hues of skin were welcomed.  On September 14, 1978, Mrs. Cameron opened the school doors to 35 students who were three, four, and five years old.  

Let’s learn about two of the students who came to school on September 14, 1978.

I am PETER FOX.  I am five years old and I live in Shipoke.  My father is a Lutheran pastor. My brother Nicholas and I will both graduate from St. Stephen’s Episcopal School and my father, who all of you know as Pastor Fox, will continue to visit the school every Monday for story time and every Friday for chapel.  

I am GILES KRILL.  My family goes to church at St. Stephen’s and I am four years old.  I will graduate from St. Stephen’s along with my sister Elizabeth and my brother Alexander.  My nephew, Hunter Kerr, goes to St. Stephen’s Episcopal School now.

Isn’t our school’s story pretty amazing?  And did you know that St. Stephen’s Episcopal School is celebrating its 40th birthday this year?  40 years later, Mrs. Cameron’s vision of having a school filled with students who represent the Greater Harrisburg Area is still alive and well and that is a reason to celebrate.  

Mrs. Cameron was the very first Head of School and she had Dean Mintz by her side.  Mrs. Lopez was the second Head of School with Dean McDowell as her partner. Mrs. Tenan was the third Head of School and Dean Pinder led next to her.  Mrs. Graffius was the 4th Head of School and she had Dean Pinder by her side as well. I, Mrs. Hartman, and the 5th Head of School am very lucky to be joined by Dean Welin and Deacon Shayna Watson to lead this school.  

I’d like to invite you all to sing “happy birthday” to St. Stephen’s Episcopal School and help celebrate 40 years in the city this year.


Ellen Hartman