By Alexis Elliot (VI)

On my first day of kindergarten, in 2005, as I walked up the mini ramp towards the Lower School gym, I was beaming with excitement. Our entire grade would be together for gym class. As we all changed out of our school shoes and put on our sneakers, our gym teacher Mr. Lafontaine’s voice boomed in the tiny gym. Within a matter of five minutes, I was instructed to “Squad 2,” and our grade was divided up into several unique “squads.” I felt so ready to take on the entire year with a group of people I did not yet know. The main purpose of our squads was to assign places for us to change our shoes and provide a main group to compete with in gym activities and obstacle courses. Looking back, little did we know that the idea of having a “squad” to take on obstacles and challenges would be the theme of the next 12 years we were about to embark on.

Whenever I give a tour or sit on a panel and someone asks, “How would you describe Pingry in one word?”, my immediate answer is always, “empowering.” Each person at Pingry finds a way to overcome challenges and obstacles in every way possible. My journey to being a senior and finishing out my Pingry career has been filled with challenges. Whether it was learning a difficult math concept, finding a way to work on a team project, or preparing for soccer preseason, nothing has come easy. But I am grateful that these challenges made me who I am today. And I am grateful that I had support from so many different places. One thing I love about Pingry is that we all lean on each other for support. Yes, individual growth is encouraged, but Pingry taught me that success feels so much better when it is shared with other people. My first glimpse into this truth was Lower School Field Day. As I dressed in all white for the White team and prepared to compete against the Blue team, I was always excited to see my team win. While there were many individual competitions, everyone got the most excited when their team came one step closer to victory.

As I entered high school, this support was evident on any sports team I played on or club I participated in. When I was a finalist in the Warren Buffett competition, the outpouring of encouragement and support that I received from my friends and teachers was so empowering. Everyone was excited to cheer me on, and it made me proud to represent Pingry as not only my school, but also as my family. Or when I ran down the soccer field, and my classmates would scream at the top of their lungs and cheer me on when I got the ball. Or on our Peer Leadership retreat when we all supported each other during the intense boundary breaking activities.  

Navigating Pingry, and especially high school, has not been easy. There were definitely days when I wished it would just be over and I could get a break from the stress and fast pace. But at those times, I remembered the community I was in and the support I had around me. Some of the best feelings would be walking down to the senior area and getting a big hug from one of my friends. Or when we’d just laugh so hard on the senior couches. Realizing how many close friends I’ve made over the years and the memories we created makes saying goodbye bittersweet.

I am also so grateful for all of the cool experiences and memories. I’ll never forget our trip to the Met in fifth grade or our middle school trips to DC and Philly. And I will always cherish the memories from our epic Spain trip sophomore year and our soccer trip to Italy senior year. Although my high school career is ending, I will always have memories like these to hold onto forever.

With all of these amazing experiences, people, and lessons, the main lesson I would say is to take advantage of the opportunities that Pingry provides. School is really what you make out of it, so try and capitalize on anything that interests you. I never thought I would start to play basketball as a senior, but it ended up being one of the highlights of my high school career. It sounds cliché, but don’t do an activity because you think you should do it or everyone else is doing it. Find things that make you happy even if you aren’t necessarily great at them. And my other piece of advice would be to always try and make yourself available for other people. It’s easy to fall into an individual mindset, but take time to branch out and make friends or check in on other people. Good relationships are so priceless!

I would like to thank everyone who made my Pingry experience so great and helped me along the journey. Thank you, Dr. Artis, who not only was an amazing advisor, but also was like a second mother to me during these past 13 years. And thank you to the wonderful teachers and supporters I had along the way: Dr. Pearlman, Ms. Martin, Mr. Nazario, Mr. Keating, Coach Lauren, and Mr. Lear. And thank you to people outside of school including Professor Fraser, my friends, church, and my family (especially my mom). Thank you Mom for always encouraging me every step of the way, and for being my #1 cheerleader. I could not have done it without the support of those around me, and I will be forever grateful to you all.