In place of traditional class trips this year, each form in the Upper School had a special orientation day the week before school started. These orientations started with briefings on Pingry’s new safety procedures and were followed by a team bonding activity centered on diversity and inclusion.
Afterwards, students spent time with their advisory groups and reconnected as a grade in the new Pingry “Student Village” tents. Spikeball nets and ping pong tables were also set up, such that students were able to mingle with each other outdoors in a safe and distanced manner.
Traditionally, Form III students would go on an overnight retreat in Pennsylvania with their peer leaders to bond as a grade. However, this year, they stayed on campus at Pingry, participating in back-to-school safety procedures and spending time with their peer groups. “Despite the unusual circumstances, [the] peer leaders did try to make it a fun day for us all, with activities like UNO, icebreakers, and Jeopardy,” Divya Subramanian (III) said.
The way the Pingry community has adapted during these times is an example of our resilience and commitment to the Honor Code. The administration and students put in a lot of effort to ensure that the events ran smoothly and everyone stayed safe. Even though orientations and class trips were not the typical experiences students have had in the past, students could still catch up with other members of their grade while also having some time to relax and enjoy the last week of summer before the start of school.
By Mirika Jambudi (IV) On Wednesday, September 30, the Upper School gathered together in Hauser and over Zoom to celebrate student achievements and exceptional academic effort in the 2019-2020 school year.
The ceremony started with recognizing the Form VI students who were distinguished for their scores on last year’s PSAT/NMSQT exam by the National Merit Scholarship Program. This year, thirty-three Pingry students were named National Merit Commended Students, a significant increase from last year. A total of fifteen seniors were recognized as National Merit Semifinalists, allowing them the chance to advance in the selection process and potentially become finalists in the spring. These seniors were Noah Bergam, Joseph Castagno, Monica Chan, Zara Jacob, Rhea Kapur, Aneesh Karuppur, Dean Koenig, Jemma Kushen, Julian Lee, Justin Li, Guanyun Liang, Helen Liu, Katherine Overdeck, Eva Schiller, and Avidan Shah.
Following these distinctions, Upper School Director, Ms. Chatterji, presented the Citizenship Prize, which is given to one student in each grade who best represents the Honor Code’s spirit. Afterward, the Faculty Prize was awarded to students who showed dedication and commitment to their school work during the past academic school year. Finally, the Scholarship Prize was awarded to the student(s) with the highest GPA in each grade.
Next, seniors excelling in math and science were recognized with awards from the respective department. The Rensselaer Mathematics and Science Award and the Whitlock Prize for Math were among some of the awards given.
As per tradition, Mr. Levinson and Dr. Dinkins went on to present the College Book Awards. Each award is given to a senior class member who best meets the selection criteria provided by the particular college. Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Mount Holyoke, Penn, Princeton, Smith, Wellesley, Williams, and Yale were represented this year.
On behalf of the English Department, Dr. Dickerson announced the winners of the annual Justin Society writing contest. Students submitted their entries last spring, which the English Department then reviewed. Writers and poets from each grade received awards for their creative writing, poetry, memoir, and more.
The annual Fall Awards ceremony is a celebration within the Pingry community of student achievement, excellence, and honor. It serves to recognize the efforts that every individual puts into school every day. The Pingry community looks forward to another year of student achievement and hard work, and congratulates all the students honored at the ceremony.
By Andrew Wong (V) As a tumultuous 2019-2020 school year came to an end this past June, and the COVID-19 pandemic stretched into yet another month, many members of the Pingry community were questioning if in-person learning would be possible in September. With teachers, administrators, and students desperately wanting to go back to school, Pingry Anywhere, the framework to try and facilitate school in the era of COVID-19, was created. The goal of the project was simple: get Pingry safely back in session this fall. However, it was less clear at first how this would be done. Head of School Mr. Levinson underscored the complexity of the task, summing up how Pingry Anywhere needed to “strategically [align] all dimensions of the School, from teaching and learning to technology to operations and facilities.” A leadership team, consisting of various teachers, administrators, and outside consultants, overseen by Mr. Levinson himself, was formed to manage this Herculean endeavor.
Throughout the summer, Pingry was transformed into a construction site, as facilities staff worked daily to install plexiglass safety barriers, set up massive outdoor tents, and convert the Hyde-Watson gym into a massive cafeteria. Student volunteers and faculty members spent countless hours packaging and distributing thousands of face masks and shields for the entire Pingry community. Meanwhile, the tech team installed speakers, microphones, cameras, and TV monitors in the classrooms to facilitate Pingry’s new hybrid learning model. Teachers rewrote their curricula to make sure that their plans for the year could handle both in-person and remote environments.
After a great summer-long effort, Pingry Anywhere was ready to be unveiled to the community. On September 14th, Pingry students walked back into campus to begin a school year like no other. Each student was required to fill out a pre-screening form before arriving on campus, wear a mask and shield, and try their best to spread out. Classes were hybrid, with some students joining via Zoom from home. After so many months of preparation, Mr. Levinson said of the occasion, “it was just so uplifting and gratifying to see months of planning come to fruition to bring our community back together.” Students were also extremely happy to be back.
“It was by far the oddest school day I’ve ever had,” said Dean Koenig (VI). “Seeing hundreds of faces in the same building for the first time in months, I thought there was no way in-person learning would last more than a few weeks.” While many students and faculty were initially doubtful about how long Pingry Anywhere would last, the new hybrid model proved to be extremely successful and resilient, in even the face of an uptick of local COVID-19 cases. Daily information on the spread of the virus was provided via the Pingry Anywhere Dashboard, and the addition of weekly pooled COVID testing provided by Mirimus Labs has helped to further ensure student safety.
Now almost two months into the new hybrid model of learning, Pingry Anywhere has proven to be a reliable system for learning during the COVID-19 era. As Mr. Levinson stated, Pingry Anywhere has “strengthened the sense of belonging that students feel as part of the Pingry community and has allowed us to come up with new ways of delivering on our promise of excellence.” Mr. Fahey, director of Pingry’s Health and Wellness Task Force, agreed, speculating on how “maybe the future of Pingry Anywhere is the future of education!” In the weeks that lie ahead, the limits of Pingry Anywhere will most definitely be tested, as the nation prepares for a possible winter spike in COVID-19 cases. Nonetheless, thanks to the flexibility of Pingry Anywhere, regardless of what happens, Pingry students and faculty can be assured that they will be well-protected, and the school will adjust to whatever circumstances arise.
One of the most memorable and cherished traditions at Pingry is Convocation, a ceremony marking the school’s commitment to the Honor Code and a kick-off to the academic year. It was started in 1987 by Mr. John Hanly, the headmaster from 1987 to 2000. Mr. Hanly’s passing this year is a considerable loss, and Head of School Mr. Levinson acknowledged his significant impact on Pingry.
Each year, students arrive at the auditorium in formal attire, sitting alongside their peers and teachers. However, due to new social distancing measures only seniors could be seated in Hauser. Other students and faculty members watched the ceremony remotely, either in their advisory locations or at home. Senior faculty member and Magistri Mr. Miller Bugliari ’52 delivered the invocation, emphasizing that this year is a year of “testing” — a test of our community’s determination, resolve, and will.
After Mr. Bugliari, Student Body President Nolan Baynes (VI) lightened the mood by telling the Pingry community about a movement he started called “#respectfulsnowday,” an Instagram hashtag that demanded for snow days in a “polite” manner. However, the movement halted when it shifted from a hilarious tradition to serious conversations with Mr. Jake Ross, former Dean of Student Life. Although the fire of his first social media movement was extinguished, Baynes used that experience to fuel another one. Baynes spoke up about the racial injustices in the country, specifically the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor. In contrast to #respectfulsnowday, this story stemmed from genuine concern, confusion, and pain. When he expressed these emotions to the Pingry community, he found immense support in meetings, emails, and messages between the school’s leadership and students. This time, supportive actions were taken; Baynes emphasized the importance of voicing one’s genuine concerns and speaking out against injustice to spark change. The Honor Code teaches us that it is our responsibility, as members of the Pingry community, to use our strengths to create substantial impact and stand up for what is right.
The next speaker, Honor Board Chair Meghan Durkin (VI), began her speech by describing a news broadcast, which consists of 25 minutes of news and a kicker: a 5-minute positive bookend that leaves viewers “a sweet taste in their mouth to walk away with.” Although this year has felt like the negative news of the first 25 minutes, Durkin argued that we are now at the kicker, where the Pingry community has the opportunity to “redefine and bolster our values.” This year, the Honor Code is growing with the community to create a positive and compassionate environment; when there are challenges or obstacles, the Pingry community still upholds the Honor Code’s fundamental values of honor and integrity. At the end of Durkin’s speech, advisory and Honor Board representatives from the Middle and Upper School came to the stage to present Durkin and Baynes with copies of signed pledges that affirmed the students’ commitment to the Honor Code.
Then, Board of Trustees Chair Jeff Edwards ’78, P ’12, ’14, ’18 delivered his speech; he used Einstein’s saying of “in every difficulty lies opportunity,” but one’s mindset determines if a situation is one or the other. Despite the unpredicted difficulties, what lies at the heart of Pingry remains unchanged — our support and care for one another. He encouraged the students to approach the difficulties with an open mindset and an opportunistic outlook.
Mr. Levinson then recognized the twenty-five Magistri faculty members, who have served at Pingry for at least 25 years. He recounted a story about flat tires, highlighting the importance of seizing opportunities to learn from and understand each other.
Following Mr. Levinson’s remarks, members of the Pingry community joined together to listen to, and hum, “Old John Pingry.” As students and faculty exited Hauser and their advisory locations, each community member was reminded of our community’s values and traditions.
This year’s freshman retreat, held on Thursday, September 3, kicked off an unprecedented school year. Instead of visiting Bryn Mawr Mountain Retreat as originally planned, this year’s retreat was held at Pingry to respect coronavirus guidelines. Although masks and shields brought an unusual element to the retreat, the goal of the day remained the same: provide freshmen an opportunity to interact with their classmates, as well as their peer leaders, before the official start of the school year.
Leading up to the retreat, this year’s 36 peer leaders met to prepare during a retreat of their own. They participated in bonding activities, found out who their co-leader was, and created various icebreaker activities for the freshman. Typically, the freshman retreat is planned by Bryn Mawr; however, this year, the activities were left to the peer leaders. As a group, they brainstormed ideas such as “icebreaker UNO” and Jeopardy.
With all that preparation, Thursday kicked off with a quick coronavirus safety briefing by Mr. Graham Touhey and an introduction to the peer leaders. Then, each peer group, consisting of about eight freshmen and two seniors, went off to get to know each other. Each group did their own activities, from charades and kickball to Jenga and “Shark Tank.”
The day did bring many new challenges, as this was the largest number of students on campus since March. Peer leader Zara Jacob (VI) described these difficulties: “There were quite a few bumps and some moments where the last thing I wanted to do was talk with my mask on, but I still got to meet my freshmen in-person. I got to know them on a level you just can’t through a screen.”
Like many others, Jacob was able to make the most of the day, even though it was different than anticipated. Her favorite activity was the peer leader hunt: each peer group and one of their leaders used clues to find the other leaders hidden throughout the building and campus. “When I was with my peer group, we were all just walking together, listening to music, and talking,” Jacob recalled.
Throughout the day, the peer groups also competed in a TikTok challenge. These videos had to reflect how they hoped to be defined as a group; at the end of the retreat, all the TikToks were viewed in Hauser and voted on. Ultimately, this challenge allowed the groups to explore their creativity and work together.
While this year’s retreat still allowed freshmen an opportunity to get to know each other, the traditional overnight retreat was missed by all. Ms. Lorian Morales, one of the peer leadership advisors that helped plan the retreat, acknowledged those disappointments: “Having that time away together, whether it’s on the bus, walking the trails, sharing meals, or hanging out in the cabins, allows students the opportunity to interact at their own pace in a relaxed environment.”
However, the retreat’s unusual elements brought many positives as well, as the Pingry community finally came back together. “Watching the day unfold put me at ease. Students were back on campus, making new friends, reconnecting with old friends, and just enjoying each other’s company,” Ms. Morales said.
The Pingry Credit Union is a student-founded and student-run club that aims to increase and promote financial wellness throughout the Pingry community. As Club President Jason Lefkort (VI) describes, “financial wellness” has different meanings for different people – faculty, staff, and parents may interpret it as financial health, while students may define it as “greater financial independence”.
The original team members hoped to meet these varied needs through a “standalone credit union.” However, upon realizing that this was infeasible, the Pingry Credit Union decided to partner with Affinity Federal Credit Union to offer its services to the community. This would allow them to cater to the Pingry community in its entirety.
In a few weeks, the Pingry Credit Union will officially launch its services and go live with their signup webpage, providing the community an opportunity to register for an account and engage with the Credit Union’s services.
When a Pingry community member makes a credit union account, he or she will receive a variety of the benefits that come with a typical credit union. Where banks primarily try to profit off of customers, a credit union works for the individual by redistributing profits to its members. Other benefits include lower loan rates and higher savings rates. The student-led Pingry Credit Union team is also offering specialized merchandise, discounts to local businesses, raffles for amazing products, and even more!
As for the team’s main goals for this school year, Lefkort said spreading “greater awareness throughout the Pingry community is a priority.” The team hopes to have more people understand what the Pingry Credit Union is and what it has to offer. They also aim to expand financial wellness, and ultimately, have it play a “significant role in the Pingry experience.”
During COVID-19, the Pingry Credit Union was forced to reshape its future plans. The official launch would have directly involved people on the Pingry campus with a launch party, but that was infeasible for this year. Discount cards also posed a challenge at first, as the standard process of contacting local businesses could no longer be followed, but the team was able to pivot and successfully connect with businesses remotely.
Furthermore, in past years the group’s partnership with Affinity Federal Credit Union has provided Pingry students with internship opportunities that did not require a separate application process. This was also halted during the pandemic; however, the Pingry Credit Union hopes to begin offering internships again in the near future.
Led by Lefkort, Co-Vice Presidents Julian Lee (VI) and Justin Li (VI), and faculty advisor Mr. David Rushforth, the Pingry Credit Union is looking forward to a successful launch this year, and hopes to see a rapid increase in financial wellness within the Pingry community.
Following the burgeoning civil rights movement over the past several months, seniors Monica Chan (VI) and Luc Francis (VI) are carrying the momentum into the Pingry community with a new student-based group. The Pingry Allyship Collective (PAC) has outlined a specific and defined goal: to better the community in all aspects of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) through collaborative education. “PAC will act as the missing liaison between the administration and the current student-led DEI groups and programs,” Chan said.
While the creation of the club cannot be attributed to any individual event, the ideas behind the club largely arose in response to the tragic murder of George Floyd. Shortly after news of the event was made public, “the leaders of the Asian Student Union (ASU) reached out to all the student leaders saying that [they] should come together to have a meeting and an open dialogue about these issues,” Francis said, “And so we just came together one day as a group—really at that point, we were just friends, leaders within the community—talking and having an open dialogue . . . but eventually, we realized that the action we all felt we needed to take could be answered with the Pingry Allyship Collective.”
The PAC welcomes any students who are interested in learning more about DEI issues in our community, drawing awareness to those issues, and brainstorming solutions. With its group-based education, students can learn about a diverse array of topics in a safe and welcoming environment through the various projects available. These projects encompass all topics relating to DEI, ranging from advisory activities to Pingry publications, in hopes of educating members of the specific project and the greater Pingry community. For instance, junior Isabella Briones (V) has begun work on PAC’s first project: to create a “glossary of terms about DEI that are specific to Pingry, such as defining the differences between an affinity group or student union.” “We can publish that to be accessible to the wider community,” explained Chan, “I’m really excited about our first project which will be presented during our first meeting.” At each of these meetings, students can either join existing projects such as Briones’s or form their own, all under the guidance and support of the PAC leadership team. This team is comprised of roughly 25 student leaders of affinity groups, student unions, student government, diversity groups, and more. Their role is to oversee project assignments, production, and serve as a helping hand to anyone who needs it. As the meetings progress, the PAC hopes to provide a comprehensive list of projects that can meet anyone’s specific interests. While the projects aim to address specific issues extensively, as part of broader discussions about DEI, “the goal of the projects isn’t to grill people,” Francis said, “The main goal of PAC is to make DEI available for as many people as possible and make it commonplace. We’re all Pingry students and we all understand that we have a lot of work to do—we have homework, clubs, sports— so the project structure of our group basically allows people to pick what projects they’re interested in and are willing to commit to.”
PAC was created with the intention of making the opportunity to contribute to DEI accessible to the Pingry community. The leaders have worked for months to provide avenues through which students can create tangible change. Too often community service is regarded as a requirement rather than a responsibility; by engaging the student body with meaningful DEI initiatives, PAC hopes to create lasting change and foster a culture of community-based learning and improvement. Everyone, regardless of previous involvement in DEI, is greatly encouraged to participate. If interested, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for more information!
As the growth rate of the coronavirus begins to flatline, Americans grow tired of a virus that has ravaged this nation for far longer – the racially charged murder of innocent black Americans, including Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, by a systematically flawed criminal justice system.
Since George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25, thousands have taken to the streets across the country in frustration. These protests have called for murder charges against the policemen who killed Floyd, as well as concrete legislative reform to end these homicides. The former request was fulfilled on June 3, when the Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced a second-degree murder charge (upgraded from third-degree) for Derek Chauvin, who asphyxiated Floyd by kneeling on his neck for over 8 minutes, as well as aiding and abetting charges for the three former policemen who allowed Chauvin to do so. In terms of broader reforms, protesters are calling for divestment from police forces, an end to the Qualified Immunity (which make it extremely difficult for officers to be found guilty), and a ban on choke and knee holds.
Within the Pingry community, many students and alumni have joined in on the activism. Most have been helping spread awareness on allyship and petitions via social media, while others took part in peaceful protests in their communities.
The protests across the country are evidence of a desire and pressing need for change. While most of these protests have remained peaceful, some have turned violent, with police provoking protesters and protesters taking part in arson and vandalism. In the case of the former, it is disturbingly unclear how police are being disciplined for their brutality, especially against peaceful demonstrators. In the case of the latter, there has been confusion over who has been inciting the violence, and debate surrounding the acceptable limits to what protesters should do. Some cite the destruction of private property alone as reason enough to condemn the rioting, while others see the rioting as a tantamount reaction to decades of oppression and police violence.
In the wake of the Floyd shooting, Student Body President Nolan Baynes wanted to see allyship and action from the school’s administration, so on May 28 he emailed Pingry’s top administrators, including Headmaster Matt Levinson, asking Pingry to speak up.
After some back and forth, including further student emails which pressed the school to take more direct action, administrators set up a community-wide Zoom meeting on June 3 to initiate more dialogue about the issue.
During the meeting, which was attended by over 300 students and faculty, participants had an opportunity to voice their opinions and frustrations in hopes of improving Pingry’s future responses and actions against racial injustice. Students were able to offer suggestions to the faculty and the administration, while teachers reflected on “action steps” they could take to better facilitate discussion around race in their classroom and beyond.
On Friday, June 5, the Pingry Allyship Collective (a newly formed coalition of all the affinity groups, student unions, SDLC, and CASE) sent a letter to administrators requesting more transparency between students and faculty involved in diversity and inclusion (inset at bottom left).
Words from a Pingry Protester
Giles Burnett (IV), who took part in peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Somerset, NJ, on May 31, provided a statement on why he chose to protest:
I’ll tell you what my mom told me. ‘Watch your tone around strangers, don’t wear your hoodie in public, never question or talk back to an officer, turn down your music in the car, don’t bike/drive through that neighborhood, you better be home before dark, take your hands out your pocket, walk with a purpose and don’t linger, you don’t get any second chances in this world.’ Or, I can tell you what America told me. ‘Cross the street or clutch your purse when you see me, follow me in the store, slow your car down when you see me, slow down your cop car when you see me, ask me if I’m lost or in the wrong store, ask me where I got that $20 from, ask me if I play football or basketball, ask me if you can say the n-word.’ That is my everyday life, I march so my black brothers and sisters don’t have to answer those questions. I march so innocent black men and women aren’t killed in the streets. I march to fight the systemic racism that plagues our country. This past week has been one of the most painful and exhausting weeks of my life. I’ve cried, reflected, laughed and everything in between. I’ve been able to channel these emotions into action and change. However, there is no change with only 14% of the nation speaking up. We need allies and we need unity. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Stay safe.
The Record’s Statement
We wholly condemn the police brutality present in this country, as well as the silence that has allowed it to viciously persist. As a publication, we stand for improvements in Pingry’s discourse surrounding race relations. We encourage writers of all identities to tackle these difficult subjects, and we are open to civil discussions around the presence of racial injustices in our School, our nation, and our world.
I am sure you have seen on the news and through social media that the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have resulted in mass outrage throughout the country. This is not the first time this will happen, and I doubt it will be the last. Many members of our Pingry community have felt the need to advocate upon social media discussing possible protests, sending out petitions, and even speaking their own emotions. As a school, during times of crisis, this definitively being one of them, we have been able to address issues that are affecting students head-on. To be direct, in the fall, when commenting upon the suicide of nearby students, the administration was very prompt to address the matter, and all hands were focused upon it. It is odd that even with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, I was the only person upon campus to speak out formally. There seems to be some lack of adult input in these situations, and it’s isolating to the students whom it affects daily. From my perspective, the daily micro-aggressions and events at this school go silenced and unnoticed, especially from the administration As a middle school student, I would feel as though I was alone fighting a fight that would never be resolved, and here we are in 2020 dealing with the same issue. Except now, I’m a senior with a legitimate position in our school. As a Student Body President, an active advocate in our community, and most importantly, a Black boy, I’m asking you to speak out on it. Show solidarity with the people who have been affected by systemic racism for over 400 years who attend your school. If you don’t, I, along with other students in your building, will continue to fight the fight that has yet to be resolved in this country. As adults, you have a platform just like I do, and I hope you find a way to advocate for people who look like me and not just turn a blind eye and become shocked when the next murder occurs. Black tears fall upon deaf white ears.
Nolan Baynes II
May 28 Letter from Nolan Baynes II (V) to Pingry Administrators
We are proud to be Pingrians; we wish to discuss diversity-related issues in Pingry because we want this community to become a better, more inclusive place. We started diversity work in Pingry because we either were displeased with the lack of representation in our school or believed that the existing representation is both superficial and trivialized by the students and the staff. However, the goal of PAC is not to point fingers or merely complain about the past wrongs we have observed. Instead, we wish to progress in collaboration with the administration and contribute to the commendable endeavors of our school. In order to do this, however, certain methods of communication and action must be reformed; one of our main concerns is the lack of collaboration and/or transparency between faculty leaders who make diversity-related decisions and the students who feel the result of these decisions (or lack thereof). As a result, we hope that the administration takes our ideas and perspectives seriously.
Excerpt of June 5 Letter from Pingry Allyship Collective to Pingry Administrators
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!”
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.”