Class of 2020’s Last Day

By Emily Shen (IV)

Blasting music in the senior area, taking selfies with their friends, and putting on their college shirts to show off their pride and incredible accomplishments––this was how the seniors imagined their last day to be like. However, given the current circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, that day had to be remote, which was, predictably, quite frustrating for the seniors. When asked about her last day, Ola Weber (VI) described it as “disappointing” and said, “Brian Li’s final morning meeting announcement concluded with rolling credits of all the senior student government members’ names. I hadn’t cried at all up until that point, but when ‘Hello, Goodbye’ by the Beatles started playing in the background, I was overwhelmed with so many emotions I couldn’t help but cry. But I guess that reaction says it all, doesn’t it? It shows how much this community has impacted me and shaped me into the person I am today.” Another senior, Alison Lee, commented that although she could not physically spend the last day with her friends, “Pingry did a really good job of keeping the Pingry spirit alive with Zoom calls and balloon deliveries by Pingry staff. It reminded everyone that we are part of a bigger Pingry community, and we will get through this.”

When asked about the favorite part of their last day, many mentioned the first-ever virtual SAC assembly. Weber, as a principal member of the SAC, shared the process of putting together this assembly. “When Dean Ross mentioned putting on the virtual SAC assembly, I thought it was a great idea. I think humor is so important and laughing through these times can really help us cope with this strange reality.” One of her biggest challenges and fears was that it wouldn’t bring comedic relief. “Obviously the technical component is tough because you’re not able to interact with people and in anything you do, but especially in comedy. After you’re finished with a project you crave feedback. You can really pick up on whether people think the stuff you’re putting out is funny or not and my biggest fear was that people would nod their head and smile and tell me ‘yeah this is good stuff’ but not really think it was.” 

After the disappointing cancelation of the winter SAC assembly, the club aimed to utilize this new platform to provide the best content possible. When asked about the effects of the cancellation of the winter assembly, Nic Gambello (V), another organizer of the virtual assembly, responded, “It was disappointing, but I think it motivated us to work harder this time around. We knew people were upset in the winter, so we felt that we had a responsibility to make up for it.”  Despite the challenges that came their way, the SAC did a great job to alleviate the students’ stress and many students gave feedback saying that it was something that they looked forward to and thoroughly enjoyed.

Given the circumstances, seniors were not able to go back to school and participate in many exciting events, such as an in-person graduation ceremony or their senior dance. Many commented about how much they are going to miss the Pingry community. “I’m going to miss the teachers and I’m just going to miss the familiarity of it all. It’s really a lovely thing when you know a community so well, yet you can still learn so much from it each and every day.” Weber shared her most cherished moments at Pingry, “I always loved, during the spring, the days when it would be humid and then a couple of hours into school there would be a thunderstorm and you’d be in class and you’d crack the windows and you’d listen to the rain and the thunder and the trees––the school had this really distinct smell––and you were just in your little secluded Pingry bubble. I’d say those days I’m going to miss the most.” Similarly, Lee noted that she is going to miss the energy that Pingry has. “I am going to miss conversations with my teachers and high-fives with my friends. We’re not going to have the famous senior day bouncy house,” she remarked, “but I hear next year’s reunion is going to be huge!”

Despite not being able to say goodbyes to the seniors in person, every one of us in the Pingry community is sending our love and wishes to the graduating seniors. Dear Class of 2020, no matter where you go, or what dreams you decide to pursue, please know that, while disappointing, this period of time has brought us closer together as a Pingry community and that we will always be thinking of you. We will miss you, and best of luck!

New Plans For Class of 2020 Graduation

By Meghan Durkin (V)

Following NJ Governor Phil Murphy’s announcement that school closures would be extended through the end of June, Pingry needed to adjust plans for graduation, which was originally supposed to be held on June 7. While the traditional in-person Commencement is not permissible amid the COVID-19 pandemic on the original date, the Pingry administration is working hard to celebrate the senior class in creative ways. 

To replace the typical Commencement, Pingry will release a video for the seniors on what would have been graduation day. Upper School Director Ms. Ananya Chatterji, who helped organize these new graduation plans, hopes the video will honor the seniors’ achievement until an in-person graduation is possible. Ms. Chatterji acknowledges the difficulties of truly celebrating seniors in the way many had hoped: “I keep feeling that no matter what we do, it’s not enough. Nothing replaces in-person hugs or conversations or special moments.” 

Despite these challenges, the Pingry community has worked to make the senior’s last months of high school as special as possible considering the circumstances. During May, seniors were sent balloons and their caps and gowns; each member of the senior class was also invited to campus to take photos with their families. On the seniors’ last day before starting their ISPs, Pingry released a video of messages from underclassmen and faculty celebrating the accomplishments and impact of the senior class. 

The significance of Commencement isn’t going unnoticed. Ms. Chatterji and the rest of the administration are dedicated to providing them with the experience, even if it is unconventional. “[Commencement] really is the dividing line between childhood and adulthood.  We have watched them grow up.  We have traveled this road with them.  The relationships that the seniors have formed with the faculty, with each other, and with the underclassmen is remarkable, important, and true. We want to mark this transition from childhood to adulthood, but we also want to celebrate with them,” noted Ms. Chatterji.

A traditional graduation is still in the works. Pingry has set aside three alternate dates for an in-person Commencement, either August 2nd, November 25th, or December 20th, depending on the extent of restrictions in New Jersey. The continued effort to offer this year’s seniors the true graduation experience is a testament to the importance of the event within the Pingry community. As Ms. Chatterji states, “Graduation is the biggest school event of the year.  It is the pinnacle of all that we stand for and believe in. The faculty, the senior class, and their parents — in one room — to mark the end of one journey and the start of a new one.” She hopes that, in the end, COVID-19 won’t stand in the way of honoring the seniors properly. 

Dear Pingry

Dear Pingry

By Brynn Weisholtz 


In this time, we are surrounded by unknowns, unsure of whatever comes next. The media outlets have analyzed this pandemic from every angle, scrutinizing each viewpoint… except, it seems, the positive one. It is with this sentiment I find myself longing to share what I believe to be Pingry’s greatest quality: its deep commitment and dedication to the student body.

As I walked out of the clocktower on March 6th, my backpack filled with books, I was prepared to depart for my final Spring Break at Pingry, ready for the exciting conclusion to my senior year. However, this year, that anticipatory aura was not present. Preparing for COVID-19, teachers and administrators instructed us to bring everything home. When my extended Spring Break turned into a permanent quarantine, I feared this marked the end of high school. Nevertheless, while my time inside the Pingry walls came to a close, the faculty, staff, and administration refused to allow this to be our official end of high school. Even apart, we were able to stay connected as a class and community.

From this point, we went online. Teachers willingly made adjustments to their disrupted personal lives. The Pingry family grew, children and pets being a welcome inclusion into the virtual classroom. They helped us retain a sense of normalcy, even from our bedrooms and kitchen tables. Outside of the classroom, we were still able to participate in quintessential senior events. From the comfort of our homes, the Virtual SAC Assembly was as humorous and witty as ever. Dressed in spirit gear in our living rooms, the athletic awards were a welcome reminder of all we have accomplished over these last four years. The Pingry faculty and staff was instrumental in allowing us to keep these traditions, but that was not all these wonderful individuals did for us.

We, the Class of 2020, will go down in history for the world we are graduating into, but in our minds, we will fondly remember the special gifts and events we got to have, unique to our class. On the morning of May 1st, each senior woke up to balloons on our front steps, commemorating our final day of classes. Later that day, we were welcomed back to the Pingry parking lot, social distancing from our trunks and sunroofs. We received surprise packages, filled with bookstore memorabilia and graduation regalia. The Pingry community ensured that I could still display the Pingry colors proudly.

The teachers gave us lasting memories, bringing the student body and faculty together in unity. Whether the special videos with messages, the college shirt video, or the advisor Spotify playlist, we were able to get a window into the lives of our beloved teachers. No other class had received these special senior gifts, and they are ones my peers and I will continue to cherish.

Then came the senior picture day on campus. My family packed into our car and made the journey west on Route 78, perhaps for my last time as a high school student. We turned the corner past the stone entrance, and were met with familiar faces: ours, smiling back, all together. The car slowed to a crawl down the driveway as I scanned the images of my friends and peers. This was quite the surprise, and such a special one at that. The Pingry community had given us this treasured gift, one even my brother, Class of 2016, laments he did not receive. Although we missed out on the last few months in Basking Ridge, we received innumerable and immeasurable gifts, specially curated for our class, that we will take with us forever, uniquely ours.

There is a theme throughout these activities: connection and community. While we certainly did not envision ending our Pingry career this way, we, the collective Pingry community, have not allowed quarantine to rob us of our traditions. From the award ceremonies over Zoom to the senior photos on campus, we maintain a positive and unified group. The Class of 2020 will certainly be remembered, and the teachers and administration are sending us off with unprecedented fanfare that will propel us into our future colleges with courage and resilience. Things may be more different now that ever, but we are still going out strong. Thank you Pingry and congratulations to the Class of 2020 once more.

Belonging

Belonging

By Emily Sanchez

I have a vivid memory of sitting in the senior area as a newly accepted eighth grader and listening to a panel of students talk about Pingry. It was the first time I had ever actually visited Pingry, and knowing absolutely no one, I was nervous out of my mind. I remember a parent asking a question along the lines of, “What are easy ways to make friends at Pingry?” My interest piqued as I started to take mental notes of everything that the students said. One student’s response stuck with me throughout high school. He couldn’t think of any additional thoughts that were not already mentioned by his peers, so all he said was: “I don’t really know exactly how I made my friends. All I know is that one day I looked around and realized that I finally belonged.”

As freshman year rolled around, I kept reminding myself that I just had to wait out the awkward part. Everything would eventually come together before my eyes, and I’d just belong. Although admittedly a little bit slower than most, I joined clubs, played sports, and found my friends. However, the moment promised to me by the student on the panel did not come until my senior year.

I’m sure the rest of my grade would agree when I say that we always felt like a lesser grade than those before us. The grade directly above us was considered one of the smartest to ever go through Pingry, and we were the grade that had a Juul scandal and two kids who were expelled. While other grades generally got along with each other, our grade was very cliquey. This all changed senior year.

For some reason, our grade really flourished this past year. We consistently went to sports games and theater performances, the cliques faded to simply groups of friends, and we helped each other through the college process with hardly any sense of competition.

Cut to February and there had been a string of suicides at various surrounding schools, some of which deeply affected members of our class. A lot of us felt like the school wasn’t doing enough to address it, so the peer leaders decided to organize a form meeting in which a handful of students sat on the edge of the stage in Macrae and shared their stories regarding mental health. Usually, there is a slight hum during form meetings due to the large number of people in a relatively small space. But this time, every single person in the theater was absolutely silent. The vulnerability from the seniors that spoke and the respect from the rest of the class created an atmosphere in the room that everybody involved will never forget. There was an unspoken sense that we were all struggling in our own ways, but that everyone in our grade was there to help us get through it.

After the seniors who shared their stories were finished, we did something that the peer leaders call “shout-outs,” which is exactly what it sounds like. People started standing up, without any prompt and thanked somebody else in our grade for something small that they had done in the past. Seniors from every friend group in our grade ended up shouting out their friends, or sometimes people they barely knew. 

In the middle of the shout-outs, the student from the panel popped into my head. I found myself looking around the room and thinking that I could, with one hundred percent confidence, say that I felt like I belonged in the Class of 2020. That feeling has not left since. 

The Legacy of the Class of 2020

By Burke Pagano

When I look back on this past year, one memory of our grade comes to mind before any others. The grade began to funnel into Macrae Theater at 10 o’clock for a routine form meeting. A few seniors had the idea that we should get together as a grade to talk about mental health; it was a pertinent topic. It was a stressful time for everyone. The semester was ending, anxiousness about college was growing, but more importantly, there was a tragic, unexpected stress that loomed over the community. Over the past month, there were a series of suicides among seniors in the northern New Jersey area. Many in the class knew or knew of these students and felt we needed to address this as a whole senior community at Pingry. 

The leaders of the meeting were brave. They opened up about personal experiences with mental health and emphasized the importance of supporting one another. Their message was clear: we have an obligation as seniors and members of a community to look out for each other and lift each other up. The student leaders challenged us to move outside our friend groups and show that we appreciate those that might not even know it. To put this in action, they asked anyone who was willing to stand up and give a shoutout to someone who had a positive influence in others’ lives. For the next ten minutes, dozens of students shared what other people in the class meant to them. It was the epitome of a community supporting each other. It was a genuine experience, and the grade carried a new energy from that point on.

This moment together in Macrae showed the growth we had as a class. During our freshman year, the only reason we would have had a form meeting in Macrae was to be lectured after making a mess in the freshman area. Now, we entered Macrae in support of our fellow classmates in a forum, where we sought to improve the culture of our school. We could have ignored this challenging subject and continued with our lives, but we addressed it head on. This is the character of the Class of 2020. We started high school with teachers and administrators asking, “What are we going to do with this grade?” and by the end had them asking, “What are we going to do without them?” 

We did not get the ending to high school we were hoping for; that is obvious. But the Class of 2020 is undoubtedly leaving a legacy at Pingry. Throughout our four years of high school, and even just six months as seniors, the ability of this class to come together when times are tough and shape better versions of ourselves and our communities is truly remarkable. They have made a positive impact on the culture at Pingry and will surely continue to do so in college and in life. Congratulations to the Class of 2020.

Student Body President Li Reflects on Time at Pingry

Student Body President Li Reflects on Time at Pingry

By Brian Li

I did not want to come to Pingry. When I first received the phone call from the Admissions Office as an eighth-grader, I was ambivalent. The thought of being a new student in a new school in a new town was an incredibly daunting one. I remember the first night in a new home, the surprise of seeing bookbags strewn across the floor, and the angst of finding a seat in the lunchroom. My freshman advisor Ms. Lily Wang noted bluntly to my family that I had a penchant for isolating myself in the library during my free time, where I could slide into a cubicle and go unnoticed.

 

For the longest time, I struggled to identify with Pingry, and there were many nights when I questioned if the Admissions Office had erred. A friend once commented that I am an introvert who acts like an extrovert, and so it was extremely uncomfortable to feel like I could only see the community through a window. “People at my old school aren’t like this,” I would quietly think to myself. Although I am loath to admit it, there was a bitterness within me that bordered on animus.

 

Without realizing it, I had squandered my first weeks at Pingry making three foolish mistakes: first, I had a deep-seated impatience within me which desired for everything to happen instantly; second, I thought that I could become a part of the community without effort; and third, I was blind to the deep-seated humanity present in Pingry at large, as well as in the Class of 2020 in particular.

 

Pingry is a fast-paced community, but amidst our impulse to reach our goals, we often forget to appreciate that which can be gleaned from the journey. Like I said at Convocation, failures and setbacks are not frightening—they are fertile experiences for positive personal growth and transformation. My advisor Mr. Drew Burns’ exhortations to “slow down” and “run your own race” has become a calming mantra that has accompanied me during the stresses of junior and senior year, and I wish that I had known that as a freshman. It takes courage to see beyond the diktat of unchecked and half-baked ambitions that run on unreasonable schedules, and I lacked that as a freshman.

 

Despite my impatience, by Thanksgiving, I had found my people. I still vividly remember those people who welcomed me into the Pingry community as soon as I began to branch out: my freshman Art Funds class with Mr. Peter Delman, English 9 with Dr. Reid Cottingham, World History 9 with Dr. Ryan Staude (where I dropped an f-bomb after a very bad review Jeopardy bet), and the Quiz Bowl team.

 

Becoming a part of any community takes a bit of effort and a leap of faith. I have a calligraphy scroll hanging over my desk which reads “盡人事 順天意”—do what you must and then follow the will of heaven. Everything happens in due course, and with a little bit of patience, I was able to find a community which was teeming with humanity, spirit, and compassion. I have been so privileged to serve our community as a member of Student Government and to have come to personally know so many other amazing people through the other hats I wore over the past four. I am ever grateful to my peers and teachers for accepting me with my eccentricities, clumsiness, and flaws, and for motivating me to work hard to better myself.

 

The Pingry Record has asked me to think and reflect on the defining moments of my time as a part of Pingry and the Class of 2020. I find it difficult to do so, as the friendships and bonds we share are a constant presence in our lives, even when we are apart. Pingry and the Class of 2020 have created a dynamic and resilient community which has celebrated each other’s successes, comforted each other during setbacks, and bravely weathered both the Pingry Plague and COVID-19.

 

This is a community which has squashed my naïve skepticism with its warmth. This is a community which seeks out the most meaningful and unique parts of each person who has passed through its doors. And, over the past four years, there have been all too many moments when the members of this community have looked at each other with a mix of disbelief and pride at the ways we have enriched each other’s lives, created lasting memories, and grown in ways we could have never imagined.

I did not want to come to Pingry. When I first received the phone call from the Admissions Office as an eighth-grader, I was ambivalent. The thought of being a new student in a new school in a new town was an incredibly daunting one. I remember the first night in a new home, the surprise of seeing bookbags strewn across the floor, and the angst of finding a seat in the lunchroom. My freshman advisor Ms. Lily Wang noted bluntly to my family that I had a penchant for isolating myself in the library during my free time, where I could slide into a cubicle and go unnoticed.

 

For the longest time, I struggled to identify with Pingry, and there were many nights when I questioned if the Admissions Office had erred. A friend once commented that I am an introvert who acts like an extrovert, and so it was extremely uncomfortable to feel like I could only see the community through a window. “People at my old school aren’t like this,” I would quietly think to myself. Although I am loath to admit it, there was a bitterness within me that bordered on animus.

 

Without realizing it, I had squandered my first weeks at Pingry making three foolish mistakes: first, I had a deep-seated impatience within me which desired for everything to happen instantly; second, I thought that I could become a part of the community without effort; and third, I was blind to the deep-seated humanity present in Pingry at large, as well as in the Class of 2020 in particular.

 

Pingry is a fast-paced community, but amidst our impulse to reach our goals, we often forget to appreciate that which can be gleaned from the journey. Like I said at Convocation, failures and setbacks are not frightening—they are fertile experiences for positive personal growth and transformation. My advisor Mr. Drew Burns’ exhortations to “slow down” and “run your own race” has become a calming mantra that has accompanied me during the stresses of junior and senior year, and I wish that I had known that as a freshman. It takes courage to see beyond the diktat of unchecked and half-baked ambitions that run on unreasonable schedules, and I lacked that as a freshman.

 

Despite my impatience, by Thanksgiving, I had found my people. I still vividly remember those people who welcomed me into the Pingry community as soon as I began to branch out: my freshman Art Funds class with Mr. Peter Delman, English 9 with Dr. Reid Cottingham, World History 9 with Dr. Ryan Staude (where I dropped an f-bomb after a very bad review Jeopardy bet), and the Quiz Bowl team.

 

Becoming a part of any community takes a bit of effort and a leap of faith. I have a calligraphy scroll hanging over my desk which reads “盡人事 順天意”—do what you must and then follow the will of heaven. Everything happens in due course, and with a little bit of patience, I was able to find a community which was teeming with humanity, spirit, and compassion. I have been so privileged to serve our community as a member of Student Government and to have come to personally know so many other amazing people through the other hats I wore over the past four. I am ever grateful to my peers and teachers for accepting me with my eccentricities, clumsiness, and flaws, and for motivating me to work hard to better myself.

 

The Pingry Record has asked me to think and reflect on the defining moments of my time as a part of Pingry and the Class of 2020. I find it difficult to do so, as the friendships and bonds we share are a constant presence in our lives, even when we are apart. Pingry and the Class of 2020 have created a dynamic and resilient community which has celebrated each other’s successes, comforted each other during setbacks, and bravely weathered both the Pingry Plague and COVID-19.

 

This is a community which has squashed my naïve skepticism with its warmth. This is a community which seeks out the most meaningful and unique parts of each person who has passed through its doors. And, over the past four years, there have been all too many moments when the members of this community have looked at each other with a mix of disbelief and pride at the ways we have enriched each other’s lives, created lasting memories, and grown in ways we could have never imagined.

Lewand Reflects on Her Time at Pingry

By Martha Lewand

In my first journal assignment for Mr. Keating’s Freedom-Honors class, I defined what freedom means to me and how I exercise that freedom on a day to day basis. I wrote:

“For me, freedom means having the ability to make choices. This feeling of independence and self-reliance intensifies when restrictions are lifted or when additional privileges are awarded. However, it is vital not to neglect the responsibilities that are attached to the privileges our freedom permits. The freedom to make decisions is ultimately bounded by responsibility.”

Nine months later, despite how much my life and the world has changed, I still agree with my definition. Further along in the journal, I spoke about how I did not have as much freedom a normal teenager should possess due to my hectic and restrictive academic and athletic schedules. However, considering how I have been trapped in my home for the past 2 months due to a deadly global pandemic, I realize I would sacrifice almost anything to return to the amount of freedom I once held. 

Now that my senior year is completed, I can finally reflect on the past four years of my life with a more cultivated perspective. To be quite frank, my high school experience was definitely not like the movies. Transitioning from an average public middle school in a middle-class town, to the rigorous and demanding academics, along with a horrendous commute, of Pingry was difficult for me. I had and still have issues with the school and how they handle certain aspects. The exhausting demands of school and club swimming, among other things, took a heavy toll on my mental health and sleep schedule. I do not even know where to begin regarding the adversities of the college process either; taking the ACT six times in order to receive a manageable score was not the most enjoyable process. 

My high school experience was not perfect, to say the least. Nonetheless, I learned a great deal from each moment of hardship, which I truly believe will greatly benefit me for the rest of my life. For example, there is no doubt I will be extremely prepared for college; if anything, I am probably over-prepared for the amount of studying and work I will have to complete over the next four years, which I am extremely grateful for. In addition, I was deferred from what I thought was my dream school back in the winter, which was a blessing in disguise. A week after my deferral, I was unexpectedly accepted into what would turn out to be my true dream school—the University of Michigan. Although cliché, I now understand everything happens for a reason. 

However, it would be naive of me not to credit some of the amazing experiences during my high school career. I made some of my best friends and learned loads about the world during my time at Pingry. I have watched my friends, including myself, grow tremendously as strong individuals, prepared to conquer the world. I feel blessed to have created relationships with some superb teachers. I discovered my passion for journalism among other academic subjects. Last summer was easily the best summer of my life; I made so many friends and connections which will last a lifetime, through a journalism conference and summer program. I had the opportunity to be a captain of the almost 30 diligent and amazing girls of the Pingry Swim Team, whom I adore. I cannot discount the Snowball dances and prom either; those were undoubtedly a blast. 

My high school experience was not exactly as glamorous as Ferris Bueller’s per say, but I am grateful for such life-changing moments and my growth as an individual. Obviously, I have had what seems to be an infinite amount of time to ponder about my future due to the fact that I have not left my house in a couple of months. The future is very uncertain at this point. In addition to blatantly freaking out over the uncertainty of in-person instruction at my university this fall and whether I will have the glamorous college experience I have always dreamt of, I have been able to not only reflect on my past but also reconsider my plans for the future. I am an organized individual who likes having a schedule or plan, but I also like change. COVID-19 has shown me that anything can happen and change within the blink of an eye. So, I must be prepared for adjustments in the future and be comfortable with them.

I have a plan for college and post-grad, but I have begun to consider different realities. In addition to majoring in International Studies, I might also major or minor in Criminal Justice, Arabic, Marketing, Statistics, etc. Maybe I will not be a journalist for my whole life. I might decide to take the Foreign Service Exam and see where that leads me, or even join the FBI. 

In order to pursue such experiences and careers, I must exercise my personal freedom more than I ever have. Due to COVID-19, I have realized that I cannot take my freedom for granted. I must take advantage of every opportunity I want to take in the future, even if “the timing isn’t right” or “I’m too busy.” No more excuses to hold off my life aspirations and potential discoveries. Like Chris McCandless from Into the Wild, I need to live, not just exist. 

Even though COVID-19 seized the only period of time in high school to relax with my friends and enjoy the events I have anticipated for a lifetime (i.e. senior prom, senior boat ride, a journalism internship for my ISP, high school graduation, and the last summer before I leave for college), I guess this is my cathartic way of thanking COVID-19. I, along with the rest of the world, have learned at least one significant lesson, positive or negative, from this worldwide tragedy. Although there is uncertainty in what the future holds, I am content with my reflection of the past four years and what the rest of my life will bring, while making sure to utilize and remind myself of the significance of my personal freedom along the way.

Gu Reflects on Her Time at Pingry

By Victoria Gu

As an eighth grader at Pingry, my time management skills were particularly poor. I spent too much time procrastinating each afternoon, causing me to start my homework late at night. I have only myself to blame for these habits, but the consequences were rough. I had to fight to keep myself awake in class, as if dragging myself through some sort of syrupy, incoherent blur. I spent my flexes and any free time catching up on sleep. I think that’s where I developed the reputation that won me the superlative “most likely to fall asleep in class.” I’m glad my peers were generally accepting of this unusual behavior, but I felt out of place. I had friends from some classes, but I did not feel a part of any group of people; rather, I felt like an individual who happened to be in the same grade as others.

In the spring of that year, I met with Ms. Leffler, who had been both my science teacher and advisor for two years. I remember our conversation very well, especially that she seemed genuinely concerned about my sleep schedule and social life. I think it was at that point that I realized I needed to change myself. We talked about how high school would be different—I would have more work, but also more free time. I would have a conference period every day, but also join and invest more time into clubs and other school activities. She mentioned how I’d likely find more people with which I could resonate in that new environment.

What Ms. Leffler said came true, albeit not immediately. At the start of my freshman year, instead of sleeping between classes, I became overly focused on secluding myself to finish work during flexes and conference periods. At least I was sleeping more at home and less tired during the day. I think I started feeling I was a part of the Class of 2020 a bit later in that year. I got better at balancing my time; while I found time to talk to friends, I was still able to acknowledge when I needed to work on something urgent.

What truly made me feel a part of this class, however, extends beyond that. From old classmates asking how I was doing to 8:10 AM calls from students concerned I’d miss class, these little but not insignificant moments made me feel at home in Pingry. While our classes grew more rigorous, I was comforted by the collective support of my fellow classmates. I specifically remember throwing around possible essay ideas with Mr. Shilts and a few other students after class one afternoon. Hearing everyone else’s thoughts let me come up with the rather daring idea of proving that two canonically unlinked characters were the same person. Though I liked the concept, I wasn’t sure it would work, but the enthusiasm I received from everyone in the room convinced me to try. This, and many other moments from outside of class,  helped to connect us. Though we struggled with schoolwork, balancing after-school activities, and finally our college applications and results this year, our celebrations and sympathies for each other made these endeavors more bearable. I’m sincerely grateful for the empathy and warmth this class has shown these past few years, and I hope that I’ll find something similar as I transition into yet another new environment next year.

Students Brighten Up Quarantine at Delbarton Digital Science Fair

By Eva Schiller

On April 27th, in the midst of remote learning and stay-at-home orders, a few STEM-oriented Pingry students staved off quarantine boredom by participating in the Delbarton Digital Science Fair. Complete with expert judges, including IRT mentor Dr. Sparrow, the remote fair allowed hundreds of students to show off their research for the year, attend a panel, and even win awards, all without leaving their homes. 

William Li, a Delbarton junior who helped organize the event, explained its inspiration: “last year, we organized our first Delbarton Science Fair,” he says. “When the whole state went into lockdown, we transitioned to a digital platform.” However, Li realized that students at many other schools were unable to exhibit their research. “When we learned that other schools were canceling their physical science fairs,” he added, “we expanded that platform to include all NJ schools. I myself have done high school research, so I know the amount of work and passion that goes into it. We just couldn’t let that type of work go unexhibited and unrecognized.” 

In addition to helping NJ students get recognition for their research, the fair had a positive impact on the broader community. “All the prize money and fair sponsorships have been given directly to charities or as credit to businesses impacted by COVID-19,” Li said. 

With Pingry’s annual Research Exhibit cancelled, the Delbarton Digital Science Fair represented a second chance for Pingry students to practice speaking about their projects and get expert advice. Although many IRT groups had to leave their experiments unfinished, some had collected enough data throughout the year to share their projects. Three IRT projects were presented at the fair: “Shallow Mind”, “Drone-Rover Communication for Pathfinding”, and “The Effect of KIF11 Activity on YAP Localization.” In addition, one Pingry student participated with individual research. 

Overall, Pingry’s experience at the event was overwhelmingly positive. “I was impressed by the breadth and depth of science presented. A number of Pingry students were involved, which was great to see,” Dr. Sparrow noted. Li agreed: “I’m very happy that Pingry participated in the fair this year,” he said. “You guys really have a renowned Research Program, and learning about its successes was a big reason why I decided to found the Research Club at Delbarton. It was really wonderful working with you all on this, and I look forward to more collaborations in the future!”

 

Pingry Discontinues AFS Program

After fifty years of hosting foreign exchange students, Pingry decided to cancel its AFS (American Field Service) program for future years. This news comes alongside the fact that, over Spring Break, the current AFS program was understandably called off due to COVID-19. 

The AFS program allowed a multitude of students from across the world to be a part of the Pingry community. Exchange students would stay with a host family for a year, take classes, and be introduced to a new, Pingry way of life. Through this program, students from Pingry were able to meet people from all around the world. Exchange students could engage in new American experiences, while teaching students from Pingry about their own culture. 

The program also involved Pingry’s AFS Club, a student-led club that hosted welcome parties and birthday parties for exchange students. The club’s main purpose was to help exchange students acclimate with their new community. This year the club was led by Alison Lee (VI) and Massa Godbold (V), both of whom loved being a part of the club. 

“I think it was very rewarding,” Lee mentioned (regarding her experience as a club leader). “This foreign exchange was very valuable to not just me, but the Pingry community. I’m sad to see it go.”

“I will miss my ability to travel abroad without leaving the comfort of the Pingry School,” said Godbold. She’ll really miss getting to know new people and making new friends, “friends that I will not soon forget and will keep in contact with for as long as possible.”

The faculty advisor for the club, Ms. Julia Dunbar, will also miss the program. “In my opinion, the best part of the AFS program is the opportunity to meet and work with students from around the world,” she said. 

Pingry’s cancellation of the program was not an easy decision, and there were multiple factors that ultimately decided the program’s fate. The first was the search for host parents. “When the program began, many families were eager to host exchange students,” Ms. Dunbar remarked. “In recent years, it has become increasingly difficult to find families who are able to welcome an exchange student into their homes for an entire school year.” This is the main reason Pingry has decided to cancel the program.

The other factor was the expansion of Pingry’s global programming. AFS was one of Pingry’s first global programs, but now there are many opportunities for students to travel around the world, with immersive trips focused on a variety of subjects. Though programs have had to adapt due to COVID-19, the travel program continues to expand. 

“Despite current conditions, Pingry will continue to build its global programming,” said Ms. Dunbar. “By expanding our global travel programs, global education will continue to become accessible to even more Pingry students.”

The program will be missed by Pingry students. Martine Bigos (IV) said, “I think it’s really amazing that AFS gives us the opportunity to meet incredible people from different places every year.” 

This year’s exchange student was Meina Franzius (V), who came to Pingry from Germany. Even though the program was cancelled early this year, she still took a lot away from it. 

“Everyone at Pingry was really nice; the teachers, the students, everybody,” she commented. She talked to me about her experience at Pingry: “It was a challenge at first, but I really enjoyed the classes. The school was totally different than my school in Germany, but I really miss it.

“We did a lot of great things. I really miss everyone.”

 

Positivity During COVID-19

Positivity During COVID-19

By Andrew Wong (IV)

If I had to pick a headline to summarize the entire COVID-19 pandemic here in America, it would have to be “North Carolina Man Steals Truck With 18,000 Pounds of Toilet Paper”. In a close second would probably be our good friend, the Florida Man with, “Florida Man Steals 66 Rolls of Toilet Paper”. In this time of great struggle and uncertainty in our nation, and indeed the entire world, it has become evident that it is fear, not reason, that drives the decision making of not just the two aforementioned characters, but also that of the entire world. We’ve all seen the news. Videos of people fighting over the last bag of rice at the supermarket. Lines stretching out the door of big box stores. As my friends across the world can confirm, there is not a single scrap of toilet paper to be found on store shelves anywhere. People are fearful, and it is evident that hope, just like toilet paper, is nowhere to be found.

      Yes, people do have a right to be scared. The statistics can speak for themselves: Over 2.6 million people have been infected globally, with more than 800,000 cases here in the US alone. The world economy has come grinding to a halt, and American jobless claims are at their highest in the last 10 years. Our everyday lives have come to a complete standstill, as everyone around the world practices social distancing to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Yet, with all of these tribulations and challenges that we face presently, there is a brighter side to this crisis — more than just the infection numbers, death toll, or economy the media keeps yapping about. 

The coronavirus has brought out the best in America, a good side that many in our country did not believe exist. Our entire nation, once derided by political pundits as “hopelessly divided”, is now united in a great crusade to fight back against the coronavirus. On Capitol Hill, for what may be the first time in recent memory, Democrats and Republicans have found common ground in a bid to provide relief packages for all Americans. President Trump and New York Governor Cuomo, once bitter political enemies, now work together daily to direct government policy towards the virus. Governor Cuomo’s daily press conferences have now become regular viewing for millions of Americans trapped at home, as he continues to send messages of encouragement and positivity not just to the state of New York, but to the entire nation. 

Manufacturing companies have put aside their quest for profits to retool the production lines and make much needed PPE and ventilators. America’s biotech firms have now developed testing kits that can diagnose the virus in minutes and allow for more tests to be run, while scientists in laboratories across the globe work at breakneck speed to develop a vaccine in record time before winter arrives. 

           Doctors, nurses, and first responders in all 50 states are working tirelessly around the clock to contain this virus. It is thanks to the valiant work of our healthcare companies and professionals that the rate of infection is no longer exponential, and as Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, said two weeks ago, “we’re seeing [the curve] stabilize, and that gives us great encouragement”. 

Social Media, once criticized as a force that only divided society, has now become the very thing holding everyone together while we are all separated. Crowdfunding campaigns to save local businesses from the economic tsunami caused by COVID-19. In New York City alone, thousands upon thousands of dollars have been raised by New Yorkers on GoFundMe to support local restaurants and stores who have been forced to close due to the pandemic. John Kransinski, of The Office fame, publishes new videos detailing good news happening around the world on YouTube every day to try and keep people positive during social distancing. New quarantine food trends, such as Dalgona coffee and no-knead bread have become popular as a result of these easy but tasty recipes being shared on the internet. Facebook groups have been set up to help provide groceries, toiletries, and home cooked meals to the elderly in order to keep them protected from the virus. 

But the coronavirus hasn’t just brought out unprecedented goodness within our communities. It’s also brought us new opportunities. While COVID-19 may have forced us all to social distance inside, this new reality presents a whole host of opportunities for us. We have been given the gift of many months of free time, so what do we do with it? How about learning a new skill, or experimenting with new recipes? What else can you do with all that stockpiled food anyways?

Perhaps you could build a healthier lifestyle and use this time to build a better you. You could finish those side projects that you never had time for, or maybe start a new lifelong obsession with a new hobby. The choice is in your hands.

There is no way to know how long we will be inside, and based on the current numbers, there will be many more months, if not a year, before things return back to “normal”. But until then, as we witness the first great global crisis of the 21st century, an event that will be forever etched into the collective memory of our generation, let us be reminded that this crisis will be over some day. As we edge closer and closer to the light at the end of the tunnel, let’s put our best foot forward and do our best to remain positive through this tumultuous time. Let’s be inspired by the acts of kindness and humanity throughout the entire world and be our best selves. Let’s not allow our fear to control us, and instead remain hopeful that there are better days ahead of us. All we have to do is stay positive, keep smiling, and just believe.

 

Reflections of Studying Abroad: My Life in Jordan

Reflections of Studying Abroad: My Life in Jordan

By Emma Drzala (IV)

After my year abroad in Jordan was cut short, and I took time to reminisce about all the things I learned and experienced, I realized that I have just finished an epic, once-in-a-lifetime journey. I immersed myself in a new culture, I was introduced to new political opinions, and I visited some of the most beautiful places in the world. The moments and experiences I had will forever be among my most treasured memories.

During my time in Jordan, I was fortunate to visit the many cultural and natural treasures of the Middle East, including Petra, The Dead Sea, Wadi Rum, Salt, Amman, and The Citadel. I have experienced all these places in a personal way. I have walked miles through these wonders taking in their magnificent views, the air, and in every step, I would value the world around me. In Wadi Rum, my friends and I stayed at one of the most questionable campgrounds that I have ever been to, but we still played card games and stayed up all night so that we were ready to see the sunrise. That day, I conquered my fear of heights, to an extent, and climbed what seemed like Mt. Everest to watch the sunrise. It was worth it. Within the next couple hours, we went on Jeep tours around the desert, climbed up sand dunes, and smiled the whole way through––well, except for when my friend Humayd lost his phone in one of the largest and steepest dunes I have ever climbed. On the bus ride back to school, we were all passed out and some of us even slept on the bus floor.

The smaller moments of our trips are what I will miss the most. The weekly trip to the mall, the daily laugh from English class, sneaking into the Model UN party, walking into Arabic class everyday with my closest friend Josie, and hearing our teacher say, “صباح خير” (Good Morning!) and “ أى اخبار” (Any news?!). 

While the COVID-19 pandemic may have cut my time short, I still have a lifetime of memories, my one-second-a-day montage, and new friends who will always be with me. While I wish I had a proper conclusion to my year, this has in some ways made me further appreciate what I had. 

 I want to thank King’s Academy for making my year what it was, and even though it ended in an unexpected way, I still have an entire year’s worth of memories to hold onto. I want to especially thank my fellow students; together we went on trips, spent ninety minutes in Arabic everyday, and bonded in ways I have not with anyone else. So, thank you Josie, Isabella, Louisa, Laila, Taher, Humayd, and the person who brought us all together, Ms. Lina Samawi.

 

In Defense of Gap Years

By Grace Barral (IV)

When my parents told my brother that they wanted him to take a gap year before starting school at Trinity College, let’s just say he was less than pleased. To be more precise, he was mortified. Taking a gap year would mean he wouldn’t be in the same grade as his friends. It would mean he wouldn’t have the freedom that college grants. And, worst of all, it would mean he’d have to wait another year before he could join a fraternity. To my brother, taking a gap year was a social death sentence. 

My brother wasn’t alone in his eagerness to go to college. The concept of college life, with all its glorious freedom, is one that entices many Pingry students. I myself have been talking about college so much that my father had to buy me college guide books just to get me to shut up about it. But while college is exciting, is it smart to rush into college so quickly?

The concept of the gap year––a year spent between the end of high school and the beginning of college, usually for the sake of travel––was popularized as early as the 1960s. Its original purpose was actually geopolitical, not simply for the enjoyment of the traveling individual but more importantly for two countries to exchange religious and cultural ideas in order to maintain peace between them. Although war is less thought about now than it was then, gap years have only grown in popularity and variety. A number of celebrities, including Steve Jobs, J.K Rowling, and Hugh Jackman, took gap years.

But, what makes a gap year appealing? A 2015 national alumni survey conducted by the American Gap Association asked one hundred students from across the country that very question. The data showed that by taking a gap year not only did students’ communication skills and self-confidence increase, but they were able to learn through hands-on experience about different cultures. The data showed that gap years can also improve students’ academic performance. According to a 2017 study of GPA results by Robert Clagett, gap year students tended to outperform in college by 0.1 to 0.4 on a 4.0 scale, with the positive effects lasting the entire four years. Gap years are so effective, in fact, that certain colleges have gone on to encourage them. These colleges include Tufts and Princeton, both of which have been very popular colleges amung Pingry graduates in past years. 

And if traveling isn’t your cup of tea, don’t worry. There are thousands of other things you can do on a gap year. From interning to volunteering locally to enrolling in online courses, the possibilities are endless. A gap year is simply a time to develop as an individual. It’s a time to learn things that you wouldn’t ordinarily learn in a classroom. You choose how and what you want to learn. And that is, perhaps, the most appealing thing about them.

As for Ben, he ended up going on his gap year. He spent five months in Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia, where he did everything from skydiving to volunteering with local youth to scuba diving. When I asked him, he said he couldn’t remember why he didn’t want to go in the first place. 

Of course, gap years aren’t for everyone. But it’s comforting to know that there are options for the future. If the conventional timeline doesn’t appeal to you, then there are thousands of other ways to live your life that are both exciting and educational. All you have to do is find the path that works best for you.

Pingry’s Transition to Online Learning

Pingry’s Transition to Online Learning

Image by Andrew Wong (IV)

By Emily Shen (IV)

Since the conclusion of Spring Break, Pingry students and faculty members have adopted remote learning in order to follow the state-mandated social distancing guidelines. By now, they have finished their first two weeks online. Although this transition has not been easy, members of the Pingry community are working hard to resume the quest for knowledge as they try to find peace during this time of uncertainty. 

According to feedback from some students, most of their classes run synchronously or by using a combination of synchronous and asynchronous sessions. Almost all of the teachers use Google Meet as the platform for “face-to-face” sessions or conversations, and most work is posted via Schoology or sent out through emails. Teachers make themselves available for help during designated time slots or during flexes and conference periods to make sure students can still seek extra help if they need to.

However, although the continuation of block schedules is supposed to help create structure, the switch to remote learning has not been an easy one for the students. Many have reported that remote learning is negatively affecting their productivity, and it often seems like there is less time for students to meet with their teachers for help. Because students and teachers are constantly interacting through their computer screens, some found that online school is more draining than typical school. Many students also report a significant increase in their workload, as well as a lack of motivation to finish it. Moreover, although teachers were guided to cut their 60-minutes periods to 45 minutes, students still spend hours in front of their computers between attending classes and school work.

Students are not alone in having to adjust to virtual classes. Many teachers also find themselves having to alter their usual way of teaching. “The biggest difference for me is that teaching is like acting or stand-up comedy. I respond to the energy of the group. When we are physically all together, I can see and feel so much more. I can tell when you are tired or sad or upset with somebody in the room. I can tell whether you understand or not, so I can adjust my response…Online, it all feels much stiffer.” said Upper School English teacher, Mrs. Grant.

For the last two weeks, teachers reported that they have gotten a little more used to the experience, but they continue to struggle with their lesson plans. “Lesson planning is very different, and it takes a lot longer.  I find myself reaching out to other language teachers, exploring different sources,” said Mr. Benoit, World Languages Department Chair and Upper School French teacher, “The most complex part right now is figuring out what assessments will look like at the end of each unit or theme.” Mr. Grant, a chemistry teacher at Pingry, believes that “if learning isn’t fun, then it will be easily forgotten. We need to help students gain the skills of thinking and reasoning that they will use throughout their lives.” 

When asked how they’ve adjusted to remote learning, teachers listed several examples of how they have had to adapt. “One thing I learned from my first class is that as a teacher, I hate the mute button for my students, and now I have a ‘no mute’ policy,” answered Mr. Grant. Ms. Thuzar, a computer science and math teacher at Pingry, said that she “spends more time planning and making sure that the remote learning experience for the classes is not too different from the actual in-person classes.” Although that is difficult to accomplish, Pingry students and teachers are all trying to find some peace and normalcy during this chaotic time. 

Like their students, some teachers have also found remote learning to be more tiring than a typical school day. “For some reason, this is all so draining,” said Mrs. Grant when asked about her experience, “Instead of gaining energy from being with all of you, I get exhausted. I was talking with some colleagues Friday evening, and they all reported that they wanted to take a nap in between classes.” Many teachers and students end up sitting in front of the computer and barely getting up the whole day. “I feel like all the classes are all lumped together into this continuous-time span where I sit at my desk in front of my computers for hours,” Ms. Thuzar added, “For the days I teach 3 or 4 classes per day, I ended up staying in front of my computers from about 8 AM to 4 PM, excluding lunch.”

Even though the future is filled with uncertainty, spreading positivity and hope has kept us going. Mrs. Grant shared a small anecdote that cheered many of her students up: “On a positive note, since Mr. Grant and I have opposite schedules, there is non-stop teaching going on in my house right now, so my cats are soon going to be ready for college!” Similarly, Mr. Grant shared that “these are definitely strange times. I think that the most important thing that remote learning can try to achieve is our sense of community. We will get through this experience and remember these times for the rest of our lives. With this in mind, I hope we can make some good memories together.”

Please take care of yourselves and continue to spread love and positivity amongst your friends and family! Stay safe!

 

 

Community Service Council Offers At-Home Volunteer Opportunities

By Zara Jacobs (V)

In wake of the devastation of COVID-19, many people have felt a sudden urge to do something, anything to help the community heal. Even though making a thank-you video or completing a Color-A-Smile seems pointless next to the tragedies we face, “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention” (Oscar Wilde). The amount of time it takes to post on Instagram is the same amount of time it takes to fill out the form that sends notes of appreciation to the healthcare professionals at Morristown Memorial Hospital. Though we cannot provide a cure, there is no end to the ways we can support the people in our community. 

The Community Service Council has started making Morning Meeting announcements that present volunteer opportunities, including sharing your appreciation, making sleeping mats out of plastic bags, and so many more. We urge you to at least look at the slides, if nothing else, to simply learn about what you can do to help. It can be really easy to feel helpless, especially in the context of community service. All we want to do is hug our neighbors and our friends and those who are not able to attend their loved ones’ funeral, but we can assure you is that even one thank you video will bring a smile to a doctor who has worked around the clock, putting their life at risk for the sake of the community. Calling your grandma or her friends will bring a smile to their face. When we are able to escape quarantine, we think it would be amazing if every student could come back to Pingry knowing they brought a smile to just one person’s face.