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Our Davis Story: Hilary and Brian Unell

One of the primary reasons we moved to Sandy Springs from Buckhead in 2010 was to be close to Heards Ferry Elementary School, a reputable public school that happens to be the same one Brian attended. Our son Harris was a 2-year-old preschooler at The Suzuki School and we looked forward to enrolling him at Heards Ferry if he was selected through the Georgia Pre-K lottery or Kindergarten when the time arrived. Almost two years later, and around the time we would have needed to apply for the lottery, Harris and Brian had a conversation that went something like this… Brian: Harris, what did you do at school today? Harris: We did our six multiplication tables. Brian: What about one through five? Harris: Dad, we already did those (sounding exasperated with the question like it was normal for a 4-year-old to be doing multiplication). 

In addition to learning Harris was “gifted” in math, we also learned from his preschool teachers and from our observations at home that Harris was a very active, energetic, and spirited boy. He flourished when receiving extra attention from adults and peers and when continuously presented with new, challenging activities and materials. We realized this meant his chances of academic and social success would be greatest in a setting with smaller class sizes, innovative teaching styles and educational formats, and an accelerated curriculum. Therefore, we decided not to apply for the lottery and to instead commit to Suzuki for an additional year and start exploring a handful of private schools for kindergarten. And thus, our Davis journey began. 

Even though Davis is farther from our home than other excellent private schools, we initially chose Davis primarily for the rigorous curriculum, specifically in Math. Davis more than exceeded our expectations in that area. Each year, Harris was supported or challenged based on his individual readiness in all subjects rather than a standardized curriculum for his grade level. But we learned throughout the years that curriculum is just one of the key pieces that make Davis special and the investment so worthwhile. The school-wide events, programs, and grade-level milestones such as Kabbalat Shabbat, Young Authors Night, Book Buddies, Grandparents & Special Friends Day, Wax Museum, Siddur Ceremony, Network Sherpas, Middle School Leadership Training Institute, Frozen performances, Continental Congress Re-enactment, field trips, technology fair competitions, community service projects, Israel voyage, and, Jewish holiday celebrations are just a sampling of some of the many memorable and moving experiences for Harris and our entire family. 

From Kindergarten all the way through 8th grade, Davis developed Harris’s character, self-confidence, resilience, work ethic, curiosity, enthusiasm, and love for learning. Harris had multiple informal and formal leadership opportunities in the classroom as well as extracurriculars in the arts, sports, and clubs that cultivated a sense of ownership, accountability, and responsibility to himself, our family, and the greater community. When challenges arose from time to time, Davis teachers, counselors, and administrators partnered with us to resolve them. Our relationship was built on respect and appreciation of each of our roles in Harris’s growth and development and our mutual commitment to his success. 

Speaking of Harris’s success, his transition from a small private Jewish Day School to a large public high school was virtually seamless, and he has thrived academically, athletically, and socially as a 9th grader this school year. We owe the “lion’s share” of the credit for this to Davis. Harris’s Lower School experience served him well when it was time to take on the intense but exciting Middle School years. The Middle School teachers, counselors, curriculum, and programs prepared him to navigate a challenging courseload of Honors and AP classes, to advocate for himself, and to balance his academics with his extracurriculars. 

Additionally, on a deeply personal note, we feel it was largely due to his Davis experiences that Harris was able to compose and deliver with great conviction and poise in front of hundreds of mourners a eulogy on behalf of himself, his two younger cousins and his younger sister at his Papa’s funeral last October and then flawlessly chant Torah on Yom Kippur just a few days later wearing the kippah he bought for his Papa while in Israel with his 8th grade classmates. 

We are grateful to Davis for providing such a strong foundation for Harris, a foundation that will enable him to make a difference in whatever he chooses to do in high school, college, and beyond.

We are proud to have been part of the Davis family for nearly a third of its first 30 years and are excited for our daughter Sara to follow in her brother’s “pawprints” this August when she begins her own Davis journey as a Kindergartener. 

We wish Davis a happy 30th anniversary and many more decades of success!


Hilary & Brian Unell
Davis Alumni Parents



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