By Mirika Jambudi (IV)
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 Emily Shen (V)
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.
By Meghan Durkin (VI)
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.
By Brian Li (V)
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.
By Brooke Pan (VI)
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 email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!
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!”
In the wake of this devastating COVID-19 outbreak, a lot of people have felt a sudden urge to do something, anything, to help the community heal. Even though making a thank-you video or doing a color-a-smile seems pointless next to the tragedies we face, these initiatives make a difference. As Oscar Wilde put it, “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” 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. Though we cannot provide a cure, there is no end to the ways we can support the people in our community. Pingry’s Community Service Council has started making Morning Meeting announcements that present volunteer opportunities from sharing your appreciation to making sleeping mats out of plastic bags. We urge you to at least look at the slides, if nothing else, to learn about what is available. It is easy to feel helpless in this socially distanced time, but we can assure you that even one thank you video will bring a smile to a doctor who has worked around the clock, or calling your grandparents every so often could truly brighten up their day. When we get out of this quarantine, I think it would be amazing if every student could come back to Pingry knowing they brought a smile to just one person’s face.
By Christine Guo (IV)
The Pingry Record recently sent out a survey to 75 Pingry Upper Schoolers about the school’s academic life. The purpose was to see what aspects of the school could be improved upon from a student’s perspective. Because it was anonymous, students were able to speak out on certain subjects that they may not have felt comfortable discussing before. The information gained from this survey benefits not just students, but the entire community by creating a better learning environment.
To get better results, it was crucial to poll a wide variety of Upper School students. Even though the juniors and seniors may have more experience in course selection, it was ultimately decided that every grade level should have a chance to voice their opinion. However, because the survey was only sent out to a small percentage of high schoolers, the data is not as accurate as it would have been if the entire school was polled. Moreover, only 32 people answered the survey, so the data cannot be considered a perfect representation of the student body. Luckily, a similar amount of people took the survey in each grade (Graph 1).
The majority of the survey questions were answered on a “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” spectrum. Overall, there were some very interesting results. The majority of students agreed that Pingry offers enough art/music/drama courses (Graph 2a). In another statement, the majority strongly agreed that AP courses are important to them (Graph 2b). This is intriguing because it shows how relevant and worthwhile AP courses are to Pingry students. Most also felt neutral or strongly disagreed with the statement that Pingry should do away with academic awards (Graph 2c). However, in a later statement, the majority agreed that Pingry focuses too much on academic success (such as grades) (Graph 2d). Even though the results from Graph 2d and 2c may contradict each other, it is clear that many still see the academic awards as an integral part of the school. Lastly, more than half of the students disagreed that their teachers use Schoology effectively to send them updates (Graph 2e). This data shows how there is still a need for improvement with how technology is used in the classroom, which is especially relevant during remote learning.
The last few questions on the survey were free response. One question asked students whether there were any specific courses that they wished the school offered. A handful of students wanted more finance classes, especially those that could be applied to real-life circumstances (such as doing taxes). Other students wanted more philosophy and psychology courses. Another question asked if there were any extracurriculars that students believe the school should fund/pay more attention to. Some people wanted more attention towards debate, while others wanted funding for the music equipment and set design tools. However, it is important to also note that the majority of surveyed students did not offer a response to these questions.
After reviewing these results, one impressive takeaway is how content students are with the school’s academic program. That said, there are definitely ways to improve the student experience at Pingry.
By Julian Lee (V)
With statewide stay-at-home orders currently issued in at least 42 states, we should take into consideration the factors that could compromise the effectiveness of this quarantine. Inspired by the simulations created by the Washington Post and the YouTube channel 3Blue1Brown, I wanted to further investigate how human behavior––specifically, visiting friends––can impact the spread of COVID-19 under a quarantine environment.
I created a simulated environment of 100 households, where only interactions between family members and one-on-one visits with friends can cause infections. The user can change various parameters, such as the average days between visiting friends, and observe how changing these variables affect the spread of the virus. The simulation can be found here.
The simulation suggests that in the world of social distancing, the frequency of visiting friends has a greater impact on the spread of the virus than the size of a person’s social network (simulation results shown at the end of the article). Someone who visits the same friend every other day spreads the virus faster than someone who visits one friend every four days in a ten-person social network. Based on the simulation, reducing the number of friend visits during quarantine by a factor of two could have an effect comparable to halving the infection rate of the virus.
Below are my findings from the simulation (100 simulations were run for each setting):
- Doubling the average time between friend visits from 2 days to 4 days caused the virus’ average spread to decrease from 51% to 29% of the population.
- Halving the infection rate for both friend visits (from 20% to 10%) and family members (from 40% to 20%) resulted in a similar reduction in virus’ spread from 51% to 27% of the population.
- Decreasing the number of friends (i.e. the social network) from 10 to 1 caused the virus’ average spread to decrease from 54% to 40% of the population.
While someone might think it is completely benign to visit just “one” friend every other day, such behavior by an entire population can still result in an exponential growth of the virus. For example, if someone infects the one friend they are visiting during quarantine, that friend would then infect their entire family, and these family members would infect their own friends.
This simulation helps to quantitatively demonstrate an obvious yet powerful fact about social distancing: to ensure that our quarantine proves effective, it is essential that we work towards minimizing the frequency of visiting others.