By Meghan Durkin ’21
On October 26, both Upper and Middle School students participated in Pingry’s annual Rufus Gunther Day. In a day dedicated to community service, Pingry students and faculty visited numerous organizations in order to give back to the greater New Jersey community. Students continued the long-standing tradition of service by, among other activities, sculpting clay, making blankets, planting trees, decorating posters, and sorting candy.
In the morning, buses picked students up and dropped them off at their various organizations. This list included Grow It Green, an organization that uses gardens to help provide fresh food to the community; Deirdre’s House, a center for children affected by abuse; and Community FoodBank, which helps the hungry. Pingry students also worked with ECLC (Education, Careers, and Lifelong Community), the John Taylor Babbitt Foundation, and Bridges Outreach, all of which Pingry has built strong relationships with.
In addition, students helped at organizations created by Pingry alumni: Saint Justine’s Preschool and The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. A Birthday Wish, founded by another Pingry alum, provides gifts for kids in the foster care system. Anushka Agraway (IV), who helped wrap presents for the organization, remarked about her experience: “It was really great because it gives us a fun way to give back to the community”.
For the second time, Pingry Drama students went to Montgomery Academy, a school for kids with social and educational challenges. There, they stayed with Montgomery students during classes, including Music and English, and played improvisational games with them to help them learn how to mend negative situations. Mr. Alan Van Antwerp, a Drama teacher who joined the Pingry students at Montgomery, was excited to see that the Montgomery students “got along well with the Pingry students because they saw that [they] all were students too” and that there was a “fun, collaborative” environment between the two groups.
Ms. Shelley Hartz, Director of Community Service, worked hard to put the day together and finds that it’s important to “recognize as a community that we are part of a community . . . part of many communities” and that Rufus Gunther Day is an opportunity to “work with so many organizations that are diverse in what they do.” Ultimately, she hopes that this day of community service “builds bonds and tradition for students.” Ms. Hartz’s dedication to building relationships with organizations, in conjunction with Pingry students’ active involvement in community service, made Rufus Gunther Day, once again, a uniquely rewarding day.
By Eva Schiller ’21
Robotics is not often in the spotlight, and many members of the Pingry community haven’t heard much about what we do. However, even those who do not know where the robotics room is or those who just assume we make battlebots may have noticed that the robotics team is stepping out into the public eye here at Pingry, starting with our own competition.
After weeks of planning, Pingry hosted its first ever FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics event on October 27. Our event, Bear-ly Built, involved sixteen teams. Two of them were Pingry teams: the veteran team (6069) and the rookie team (14543); both had been designing, building, and coding their robots since the challenge was revealed in September. “Endless hours of hard work have been put into both robots in order to be ready for our first home competition,” says captain Brian Kaplan (VI), who has been guiding underclassmen on both teams along with co-captain Alex Strasser (VI).
The robots were designed for the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), which requires teams to build small robots that can perform a series of tasks. During a thirty second autonomous period, robots attempt to lower themselves from a hanging position and perform a few simple activities, all from pre-programmed instructions. Then, for two minutes, two members from each team operate the robot using controllers and attempt to place balls and cubes into a “lander” in the middle of the field. Each match consists of two competing alliances composed of two teams each, and the highest scoring alliance wins.
Both Pingry teams were ultimately very successful; both teams advanced from the qualification rounds. Furthermore, the veteran team, along with its alliance partners, emerged victorious in the finals! However, despite their success, it is still quite early in the season and there is a long way to go. True to the name of the competition, many robots were a bit rough around the edges, but it was still valuable for the students to see other teams and designs. “We are glad to have done well, but we look forward to making further improvements, continuing to grow as a team, and learning more about robotics in the future,” remarked Alex Strasser.
In addition, the competition provided an opportunity for the girls on the team to convene with other girls from the robotics community. As a team of mostly girls, Pingry Robotics hosted a luncheon for New Jersey STEM Girls, an organization that encourages girls interested in science and engineering to share ideas and build relationships. The event, led by Eva Schiller (IV), Monica Chan (IV), Jemma Kushen (IV), Alesia Paliwoda (IV), and Jamie Wang (V), featured a round-table discussion about team sustainability and recruitment. “It was interesting to see how different teams used different strategies to recruit and structure their team,” reflected Monica, a builder and coder for the veteran team.
Overall, through hosting the competition, the robotics team hopes to reach out to the community and raise interest within the student body. “Seeing how well the robotics team has performed recently has really made me aware of how strong the team is,” says Rosemary Collins (IV).
While our robots do not have legs and faces, and unfortunately aren’t battlebots, robotics is still a cutting-edge field that has only recently entered the spotlight. With hard work, determination, and commitment from all team members, Pingry Robotics is ready to take on a bigger role in the community and in the movement towards a more advanced and technologically-oriented world!
By Noah Bergam ’21
The Big Blue football team had an impressive 20-0 win against MKA at the PSPA’s annual Friday Night Lights event on October 12. Students and Faculty from both the Lower and Upper Schools came to support and cheer the team on to victory.
Middle and Upper School singers kicked off the evening with the National Anthem, and, thanks to Middle School Athletics Director Gerry Vanasse, young fans enjoyed a variety of games, activities, and prize giveaways before and during the game. Middle Schoolers ran an impressive flag rush, as well as a Mega-V-Ball game, at half time.
Nate Hefner (VI) and Zach Dobson (VI) led the team to an impressive +4 on turnovers. Scorers included Luke Engelke (III), James Wang (V), and Joe Shilts (VI) in the 2nd quarter, and Peter Nicoletti (VI) in the 3rd quarter. Pingry football had a great showing, on both offense and defense, according to Head Coach Christopher Shilts.
Meanwhile, under the tent, students, parents, faculty, staff, and alumni enjoyed a mouth-watering tailgate of pizza, meatballs, mozzarella sticks, pigs in a blanket, wings, hot apple cider, and a wide range of desserts, all provided by the PSPA
It was a fun night for everyone. Congratulations to Big Blue football, and thanks to all the Pingry fans for their support!
By Praesana Danner ’19
On September 4th, the class of 2019 began their first unofficial day of school at the Pocono Valley Resort in Reeders, Pennsylvania. The seniors were able to kick off their final year of Pingry by bonding, relaxing, and beginning the college application process on their overnight Senior Retreat.
The seniors arrived by noon after an hour-and-a-half drive; they were then set free to enjoy all of the activities the camp had to offer, including zip-lining, rock climbing, volleyball, and playing on obstacle courses and inflatables. Some even took a dip in the pool! A favorite amongst the seniors was the zipline – “I went on the zipline twice. The first time I was pretty scared, and then the second time I was a pro,” said Nicole Toney (VI).
After dinner, everyone ran back to their cabins to get their costumes ready for the royalty-themed dance (inspired by the Class of 2019’s slogan “RE19N”). Tutus and glitter were everywhere as students dressed up as Disney princesses, the kings and queens on playing cards, and many other variations of the dance theme.
After the dance, the whole grade met around the campfire to make s’mores before going to bed. “It was a ton of fun hanging out with people who I had known for 4 years, as our time together is coming to an end; they feel like family for me,” said Nabeel Jan (VI).
The next morning, students were divided into three groups and shuffled between various college workshops led by college counselors Mrs. Amy Cooperman, Mrs. Meghan Finegan, Mrs. Susan Kinney, and Mr. Timothy Lear. One workshop dealt with working on college essays and crafting the perfect first line and another involved a Q&A about the truths of the college process. The third workshop dealt with leadership roles and our privileges as both students and leaders of the Pingry community, which was led by heads of diversity Ms. Alexa Lopez and Mrs. Eva Ostrowsky.
After these workshops, the seniors had one last meal before heading home, ready to ease into their first official day of school. Overall, the experience “was such a fun way to start off the year! We got to reunite with friends and relax together. It was great to get our minds off the college process,” said Ethan Malzberg (VI).
By Natalie DeVito ’22
On the morning of August 29th, a large party of anxious freshmen and eager seniors departed from Pingry. They crowded into four buses and enjoyed a long drive across state lines, bound for the Bryn Mawr Mountain Retreat and Conference Center in Pennsylvania. Here, the freshmen would take on challenges meant to help them connect as a class.
When the freshmen emerged from the buses at Bryn Mawr, the stifling late August heat was obvious, and they realized within minutes that none of them were dressed properly for the weather! Despite this, the students pushed forward and unpacked at their cabins, ready for the first set of challenges. Working in groups consisting of two senior leaders and eight freshmen, the students collaborated to construct chariots capable of holding a freshman. Each group also decorated a banner that reflected their peer group pride!
The next obstacle peer groups faced was a stretch of woods dubbed ‘The Gauntlet,’ a trail with an array of challenges that tested their logic, strategic skills, and stamina. Everyone spread out around the course and raced to finish with the lowest time. Although we were not the fastest team by far, my peer group had a blast; we were all cracking jokes together, even though many of the students had just met. The stress of competition helped us break down barriers and trust each other more.
The biggest surprise of the trip was the impromptu dance held in the dining hall that night where the freshmen all found the energy to get on the dance floor and have fun. Adding to the surprise, the seniors, in costume, ran onto the floor when the freshmen least expected it and started dancing. Sarah Kloss (III) says, “The seniors really brightened up the dance and added excitement.” Another student enjoyed “kicking off the school year with a really happy and entertaining festival.” Others, including Evan Berger (III), were happy to share some quiet time outside the dance, but everyone found a way to enjoy the late-night festivities.
The next morning, everyone woke up early and tested their constructions from the day before, including chariots made from PVC pipe and blankets. As the “lucky” freshman who was forced into my peer group’s chariot, the chariot race was an event that I certainly won’t forget!
All too soon, it was time to depart Bryn Mawr, but not before reflecting on the trip together as we sat on the grass. My classmates came forward with their favorite moments – Samuel Henriques (III) recognized every experience in the trip as valuable, “even at night, when we suffered together in cabins with no air conditioning.” Ram Doraswamy (III) took the opportunity to get to know new members of the grade (and of course, play Heads Up) during the long bus ride. Zoe Wang (III) says, “I got to see what the Pingry community is like outside of school. As a new student, it opened up my eyes.” The freshmen class relished the chance to connect with their peers, let loose, and prepare themselves for the year ahead!
By Meghan Durkin ’21
Over the summer, groups of Pingry students traveled to Peru, Belize, Croatia, Bosnia, and Germany to learn about and explore these countries’ cultures outside of the classroom. Whether by meeting locals, visiting cultural sites, or exploring the sea, these travelers immersed themselves in their research. This year, for the first time, students received academic credit for their learning abroad.
Students in Belize spent most of their time exploring coral reefs in order to research how changing environmental factors have affected the reefs and the aquatic life that surrounds them. Between snorkeling and collecting data, the group worked to compile their research for a final project.
In Germany, another group traveled to discover the differences between how Germany handles immigration and the Syrian refugee crisis compared to the United States. Students immersed themselves in German culture during homestays, visited Berlin, and spent time at a local German school. Zara Jacob (IV), reflecting on her experience throughout her time in Germany, explained that she learned, “America is not the center of the world.”
In Peru, students investigated the work of nonprofit organizations and their missions of sustainability while visiting Lima, Uratari, and Machu Picchu. Working with the Denan Project, a nonprofit that assists isolated communities in countries like Peru, Ethiopia, and Mongolia, students examined these organizations while enjoying a parade in their honor, an invitation to the Peruvian Congress, and homestays.
While in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, another group of students talked with locals and explored cities to learn more about nationalism and national identity in the Balkans. Within the Croatian cities of Zagreb and Dubrovnik and Bosnian cities of Sarajevo and Mostar, they investigated the impact of the countries’ history on their state today.
Mr. Jewett, the Director of Global Education, led the cause in allowing academic credit to be given to the trip-goers in order to “increase the curricular connection between off-campus programs and on-campus ones.” He wishes to offer students “a good chance to reflect on something they learned.” Along with the academic goal of each individual trip, Mr. Jewett strongly emphasized the critical life skills that develop while students are abroad. In addition to independence, travelers “build empathy, recognizing that other people in the world have perspectives about the world that are different than yours”.
By Vicky Gu ’20
On October 11, an array of guest speakers increased awareness about the realities of being LGBTQ+ by sharing their coming out stories for National Coming Out Day at Pingry. The event also included time for students and faculty to volunteer to share their past and present stories. Although the nature of the speeches and discussions was serious, there were plenty of lighthearted moments. Overall, the event was not only informative, but fun and enjoyable as well.
In addition to shared stories, the event, held in the multi-arts room, also included food and rainbow-colored desserts like cake, cookies, and cupcakes. Fun music helped to enliven the atmosphere as well. Instead of only receiving a lecture about the difficulties of being LGBTQ+, the audience received first-hand accounts of its realities. These realities were sometimes about very sensitive and difficult times, such as when a speaker was realizing for the first time that they were gay. As one student said, “the hardest part for me was coming out to myself.” However, the accounts were sometimes cheerful as well, such as when a speaker came out to their family, and they accepted them wholeheartedly. “A lot of times, we hear about only the bad side” about being LGBTQ+, says Ethan Malzberg (VI), who leads the Gay-Straight Alliance along with Veronica Williams (VI) at Pingry. “A lot of times, there are good, happy parts as well.”
This year, National Coming Out Day at Pingry emphasized this more positive aspect of being and learning about being LGBTQ+, and the atmosphere was thus extremely conducive to both learning and sharing personal experiences. “It’s a time of both learning and fun,” Ethan says. The leaders of the Gay-Straight Alliance at Pingry wanted it to be an “overall happy event”, and they were more than successful with that.
The leaders of the Gay-Straight Alliance hope that people who aren’t a part of the LGBTQ+ community will be able to be able to better sympathize with those who share their stories. To those who are LGBTQ+, they hope that the event will help remind them that they are not alone. To everyone not out of the closet yet, no matter their situation, the leaders hope they will be inspired by others who have shared their stories to someday come out when it feels appropriate for them.
The event also made clear that the LGBTQ+ affinity group is not limited to those who have come out but also welcomes those who are questioning their identities. The overarching goals of Pingry’s Gay-Straight Alliance are essentially to identify and increase the visibility of issues concerning those within the LGBTQ+ community inside and outside of Pingry. As Annaya Baynes summarized, “you just have to be who you are,” and National Coming Out Day tries to help address that struggle each year.
By Zara Jacob ’21
The class of 2021 eased into their sophomore year with a trip to New York City, exploring exhibits in the Museum of Natural History and and seeing the Tony Award-winning “Best Musical,” Dear Evan Hansen.
With not a single textbook or laptop in hand, the grade split up onto four buses and headed on a 90-minute ride to the city. After reaching the museum, they were divided by advisories, perusing the various exhibits at the museum. Unlike previous years, when a scavenger hunt was assigned, the students had the freedom to pick which exhibits they wanted to visit with their advisories. Many of the students appreciated this change; Meghan Durkin (IV) explained, “I enjoyed the museum more than I anticipated because I got to see exhibits that I thought were interesting, as opposed to a plan created by our advisors.” From fossils to dioramas filled with cavemen, the first segment of the trip maintained a good balance of fun and education.
After eating lunch in the museum, the students made their way back to the buses and headed to the theater. Despite a slight accidental detour, all 150 sophomores eventually made it to the correct theater, where they watched the 2 o’clock showing of Dear Evan Hansen. As the students crowded up the stairs, many stopped for snacks, waiting anxiously for the musical to begin.
Dear Evan Hansen tackles themes of bullying, loneliness, and suicide — daunting topics that many teenagers face today. Sanjana Biswas (IV) said, “The musical was relevant to the modern times we live in, and the portrayal of social media and its platform was very accurate.”
The musical begins with showing two teenage boys who struggle with depression and anxiety. Evan, the protagonist of the musical, desperately seeks to step out of the shadows and be noticed. We see Evan’s yearning for true care and appreciation through the passionate performance of his song, “Waving Through a Window.” His mother, juggling school and work, struggles to be there for Evan, and his therapist suggests he write letters to himself to help his self-confidence (hence the name Dear Evan Hansen). The other teenage boy, Connor Murphy, is briefly introduced to the audience before committing suicide.
Through a series of unfortunate events, one of Evan’s letters to himself, which discusses his troubling thoughts and anxieties, is with Connor on the day he commits suicide, and is misconstrued as Connor’s last words being addressed to Evan. Stuck in an impossible situation, Evan hopes for everything to blow over, but ends up meeting with Connor’s family almost every day and pretends to have known Connor as a best friend. All of Evan’s dreams begin to come true – he lands the girl of his dreams, feels the warmth of a loving, present family, and becomes famous on social media. To know how Evan fares throughout the rest of the musical, you will have to go and see it. From the actors to the captivating music, it is no wonder that Dear Evan Hansen has won so many awards.
After the show, the sophomores headed back to Pingry, their first day of school having come to an end.
By Rhea Kapur ’21
On September 7th, Upper and Middle School students and faculty came together in Hauser Auditorium to commemorate the beginning of the new school year with the annual Convocation ceremony. A traditional, deeply-valued event in the community, Convocation allows all students and faculty to formally recognize the Honor Code and set the tone for the upcoming school year with a number of speeches.
The ceremony was led by senior faculty member Mr. Miller Bugliari ‘52 with the Invocation where he encouraged students and faculty to have “the ability to see the big picture” and to “anticipate outcomes so you are able to make good decisions” this year. He was followed by Student Body President Andrew Cowen (VI) who emphasized his strong belief in the collective community and his desire to contribute, as well as his driving motivations to be a student leader. Acknowledging the many amazing figures who have addressed the community on Hauser’s stage before and recognizing his own relative standing, Cowen shared his reasons for and thoughts on his place on stage. He spoke to how every one of us “want[s] to be a part of something bigger than ourselves,” namely, the Pingry community. He also encouraged students and faculty to “think about what we can accomplish” during this upcoming school year.
Next, Honor Board Chairperson Drew Beckmen (VI) spoke to the immeasurable support, comfort, and guidance a strong community can offer. He used a story about how a group of complete strangers had remained by his side when his bike broke down during a 24-kilometer bike tour, emphasizing the value of a supportive community. He encouraged students to “have the courage to ask questions” and remember that “the Honor Code represents a promise to support those around you. By lifting each other up, we realize our own potential.”
Board of Trustees Chairperson Mr. Jeffrey Edwards ‘78, P ‘12, P ‘14, P ‘18 began his speech by asking the audience about whether our large variety of perspectives on a plastic water bottle shed light onto our personalities. He spoke to how there will be many different viewpoints for students to consider this academic year, but he advised that “when interacting with people, and in your academics, consider possibilities, perspectives, and nuance.”
Lastly, Headmaster Mr. Nathaniel Conard P ‘09, P ‘11 spoke about and connected the lives of John McCain and Aretha Franklin, two unforgettable icons that had different views on the world and recently passed away. Mr. Conard spoke to our own tendency to surround ourselves with those whose opinions are similar to ours. He encouraged the community to “walk out of any echo chamber in which you find yourself, to engage with each other and with each other’s ideas in a respectful manner, to entertain the possibility that you might be wrong, and to assume good intentions on the part of others.”
New student Zoe Wang (III) offered her take on the event, saying it was “a memorable start to the school year and a wonderful tradition that I’ll look forward to for the next three years.” The ceremony closed with a rendition of “Old John Pingry” to establish a thoughtful and energetic start to this school year.
By Brandon Lane ’20
Mr. John Crowley-Delman is a World 9 History teacher at Pingry. He is also a wilderness “addict” who enjoys hiking and backpacking. Most recently he was appointed to a new role: Pingry’s Director of Experiential Education. While experiential education does not have a hard-and-fast definition, it is essentially, as Mr. Crowley-Delman explains it, “learning by doing.”
Experiential education has always been a part of Mr. Crowley-Delman’s life, beginning at a young age by spending summers at Camp Treetops, an outdoor learning institution for boys and girls near Lake Placid. His experiences continued over the years, and in 2017, he led two travel opportunities for Pingry students: Winter in the North Woods in the Adirondacks and City of Rock in Utah. All of these activities helped shape his passion and ultimately his teaching methods.
“Why do we study history?” This was the first question he asked in World 9 History class. Students took their time developing complex answers with the hope of impressing their teacher. Then he shocked the room by saying, “Studying history doesn’t matter. It’s experiencing it that’s important.” Mr. Crowley-Delman was laying the groundwork for his students to learn hands-on and then reflect independently on what was learned. These are the principles of experiential education.
The main goals Mr. Crowley-Delman has for this year in his new role are to “shine a light on how experiential learning is already happening at Pingry, expand opportunities, and improve the program as a whole.” He believes students need to experience a “wow moment” or have a realization about what they are learning. This occurs through reflection.
Global Programs is an example of how Pingry is providing experiential opportunities for its students. For example, the City of Rock Program was a backpacking adventure through Utah’s canyon wilderness that brought students into contact with some of the best preserved Ancestral Puebloan rock art and cliff-dwellings in existence. To see and feel pieces of ancient history, photograph them, and reflect on what was learned helped bring the material to life–something that doesn’t easily happen in a classroom listening to a lecture or watching a PowerPoint.
The principles of experiential education are founded upon the process of conceptualizing, experimentation, experience, and reflection. Mr. Crowley-Delman will work to merge traditional teaching styles with these principles. With a new hybrid in place, he hopes the opportunities Pingry provides will encourage students to pursue experiential education not only while they are on its campus but for years to come.