Global Programs Go Virtual to Explore Yugoslavia

Global Programs Go Virtual to Explore Yugoslavia

By Mirika Jambudi (IV)

Over Winter Break, students were given the opportunity to participate in Pingry’s first ever virtual Global Program. Ms. Julia Dunbar, Director of Global Education and Engagement, and Dr. Megan Jones, History Department Chair, worked together to convert this Global Studies Program into a three-day virtual course with the help of Atlas Workshops. 

This program was based on the previous Global Studies Program, “Nations at a Crossroad: Nationalism and Religion in the Balkans,” which was a thirteen-day travel course. In that course, students visited areas of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, learning about the Yugoslav Wars and the underlying nationalist strife that caused the regional divisions. 

In this year’s virtual recreation of the trip, students were able to meet and speak with actual residents of the countries. Many shared that these conversations were one of the most valuable aspects of the Program. For three hours each morning, from December 21st through 23rd, Pingry students dove into the history and politics of the former Yugoslavia, meeting and interacting with locals, participating in group discussions and activities, and ultimately working towards an answer to the overarching essential question, “What makes a nation?” 

Ms. Dunbar and Dr. Jones remarked that they were very pleased with the virtual program. Although the “power of in-person travel is irreplaceable,” the Global Education and Engagement Department hopes to offer more virtual courses to Pingry students as “a complement to [Pingry’s] travel programs.”

Girls’ Swimming

By Mirika Jambudi (IV)

The Girls’ Swimming team is looking forward to an exciting season, despite current uncertainties surrounding COVID-19. Led by Coach Deirdre O’Mara, and co-captains Lily Arrom (VI) and Amanda Pina (VI), the team is eager to get back into the water. They have seen lots of success in previous years at events including the Skyland Conference, Somerset County Championships, and the Prep “A” Championship at Lawrenceville. Though Preps and the State Championships have been canceled, the team is still hoping to swim at dual meets with Mount St. Marys, Ridge, and Watchung Hills. Coach O’Mara’s goals for the team this year are to maintain an “environment of positive enthusiasm, swim fast, and stay safe!” With that enthusiasm on their side, as well as several freshmen members bringing new levels of talent, the team is ready to work towards a successful and fun season!

The Pingry Admissions Process

The Pingry Admissions Process

By Mirika Jambudi (IV)

The Pingry Admissions process is a somewhat mystifying one, as a lot of the decisions are, quite literally, made behind closed doors in the Admissions Office in the Upper School foyer. The Form III entry year is the most competitive, with around fifty to fifty-five open spots. The school typically receives around four or five applications per spot, indicating a 20-25% acceptance rate for the freshman class. Recent years have also seen a steady increase in the number of students applying each year, making the selection even more competitive. To gain more insight into exactly how these students are chosen, I spoke with Ms. Lorian Morales, the Assistant Director of Admission. 

As part of the application process, students must first submit their actual application. This consists of family and applicant information as well as the Parent and Student Questionnaires, which include a few short essays. Then, three recommendation forms, transcripts and report cards, and standardized testing results need to be submitted from the student’s previous school. For the final stage, the applicant usually visits campus on a specific “Buddy Day,” during which they are paired with a current freshman to experience a day in the life of a Pingry student. 

The application process also consists of an interview with a member of the Admissions Office. Both the student and their parents have their own interviews, which is a great opportunity for the family to ask questions and learn more about Pingry. Ms. Morales also mentioned that it allows the Admissions Office to “get a true sense of the applicant during their interview … whether it be their sense of humor that comes across, or something they care deeply about. Getting a glimpse into the student beyond their activities helps see how they may connect with others at Pingry.” Currently, the interview and visit days are virtual to ensure community safety, but all components of the application must be completed by late January. Decisions are typically announced in early to mid-March. 

The Pingry admissions process is similar to the college admissions process, as there are a “limited number of openings compared to the abundance of great students” who would thrive and enhance the school community, explains Ms. Morales. Pingry values both well-rounded and “spiked” students (those who particularly excel in a certain area). When looking to add students to a grade, the Admissions Office “is truly working to craft a class.” Both types of students play a role in enriching the Pingry community, but the Admissions team really looks for students who “will come to Pingry and be eager to get involved in the community,” whether that is through athletics, the arts, STEM-related activities, or clubs. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has also impacted the application process at Pingry in that there is an influx of applications from families who do not typically explore private schools. With this year’s remote learning and hybrid models, many families who are no longer satisfied with their public school system are now turning to Pingry and other institutions. The smaller class sizes, teacher accessibility, and safety precautions around COVID-19 are very appealing, leading to an increase in applications for the incoming class. 

The selection process for applicants is a challenging one. However, it is evident that the Admissions team takes great care when crafting each new class, making sure to include students with diverse backgrounds and talents who are eager to get involved in the Pingry community.

Art by Emily Shen (V)

Pingry Welcomes Dr. Longo to the English Department

Pingry Welcomes Dr. Longo to the English Department

By Zoe Wang (V)

Pingry welcomed Dr. Pamela Longo in January, 2020; as a result, she was able to settle into the community before online learning took place and has “ridden the wave of the COVID experience.” Dr. Longo has loved her time at Pingry and especially enjoys working with her students and fellow faculty members. She commented on how she appreciates “how welcoming everyone has been to me over the last several months, despite all of the uncertainty at home.”

Dr. Longo is a member of the Upper School English Department, where she is currently teaching English 10, American Literature, and Contemporary Short Story. In addition to teaching English, Dr. Longo is a co-advisor to the Christian Affinity Group.  

Dr. Longo attended Drew University as an undergraduate, where she received a B.A. in English. She then continued her education at the University of Connecticut, where she obtained a M.A. and a Ph.D. in Medieval Studies. Before coming to Pingry, Dr. Longo taught English at the secondary and college level.

Coming from a family of teachers, Dr. Longo was inspired to follow their lead and start teaching herself; she saw the influence her mother had on students and wanted to have an impact as well.

Dr. Longo wishes to share her love of learning with her students and hopes that they gain an appreciation for the power of literature. She believes that “literature has value for us by grounding us and giving us a sense of our common humanity.”

In her free time, Dr. Longo loves to read anything she can get her hands on. She also continues to academically write and enjoys playing the piano.

Welcome to Pingry, Dr. Longo!

Princeton Model Congress

By Mirika Jambudi (IV)

On November 20, Pingry students participated virtually in the Princeton Model Congress (PMC), originally scheduled to be held in Washington, D.C. PMC, the oldest model congress in the country, provides students the unique opportunity to learn about and experience the American legislative process. 

Unlike most Model Congress conferences, PMC is unique in that students are not assigned a member of the U.S. House of Representatives or Senate to represent at the conference. Instead, students arrive at the conference with pre-written bills, which they then debate and amend in their committees, with the ultimate goal of passing them. Students can write bills on any topic that falls under their committee’s scope and take whatever stance they would like in the discussions. 

Despite the virtual format, students engaged in extensive policy debate and ultimately walked away with a greater understanding of the process that goes into passing legislation. Vared Shmuler (IV) stated that he “had lots of fun, despite the virtual format.” Olivia Roure-Singh (IV) said that “though this was [her] first conference, it was still a very engaging and informative one.” 

A special thanks goes out to Dr. Megan Jones and Dr. Gillian Johnson for organizing and coordinating Pingry’s participation in the virtual conference, especially in the midst of all the scheduling changes. 

Ultimately, the conference was a success for Pingry students. They were able to participate in a lively and exciting weekend filled with lots of debate, and they are looking forward to returning (hopefully in-person) to Princeton Model Congress next year.

Form Orientations Start New School Year

Form Orientations Start New School Year

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. 

Fall Awards Ceremony Recognizes Senior Class’ Accomplishments

Fall Awards Ceremony Recognizes Senior Class’ Accomplishments

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. 

English Department Welcomes Dr. Feeley

English Department Welcomes Dr. Feeley

By Mirika Jambudi (IV) This fall, the Pingry community welcomes Dr. Feeley to the Upper School English Department, where she is teaching English 9, American Literature, and American Perspectives. 

Dr. Feeley obtained her Bachelor of Arts at Cornell University and her Doctorate in English at Duke. After finishing her Ph.D., she taught history, literature, and American studies at Harvard University at the collegiate level for three years. 

Before arriving at Pingry, she was a teacher at the Northwest School in Seattle, Washington. There, she taught the interdisciplinary humanities, combining history and literature. Dr. Feeley remarks that she has “always had a love for literature.” Even in high school, she was drawn to academia because she “wanted to discuss literature with people who were also engaged and interested in thinking about it.”

So far, Dr. Feeley loves Pingry. “The Pingry environment and community members have been very welcoming, and I am excited to get to know all my students this year,” she remarked. Her goals for this year at Pingry are to create an anti-racist community in her classroom, and to “bring in practices of equity and inclusion.” She hopes to promote an environment where students feel safe, welcomed, and encouraged to participate. 

When she’s not teaching, Dr. Feeley likes to spend time with her family, in nature, and in her garden—where she is experimenting with growing a variety of plants. She is also an avid hiker and is excited to explore New Jersey trails!

Model Congress Attends Harvard Conference

Model Congress Attends Harvard Conference

By Mirika Jambudi (III)

On February 20th, Pingry students travelled to Boston, Massachusetts to participate in the Harvard Model Congress (HMC) held at the Boston Sheraton Hotel. HMC, the largest congressional simulation in the world, provides students the opportunity to learn what participating in the United States government is like. 

Each student was assigned a current member of the U.S. House of Representatives or Senate to represent while at the conference. Before the event, students researched their roles, learning their delegate’s stance on various issues selected by the conference organizers. 

During the conference, participants from around the country gathered to engage in lively debate, learn how to compromise, and simulate drafting legislation for the passage of bills. “I learned how to work with delegates from the other party to write bipartisan bills and make amends to certain sections of the bill to please both parties. Overall, it was a really great experience,” said Vared Shmuler (III).  Sophomore Sarah Kloss (IV) gave several speeches as Billy Long, a Republican Congressman from Missouri, and was even able to present her bill during a full committee meeting. 

On Friday, students had the opportunity to visit the Harvard University campus during their break. Afterwards, awards for outstanding performance at the event were announced. Ian Larson (VI) was awarded an honorary mention for best delegate in his committee, the National Economic Forum.

 After an educating and engaging weekend, Pingry students are looking forward to returning to Harvard Model Congress next year!

The Mental Health Stigma

The Mental Health Stigma

By Mirika Jambudi (III)

Four out of five people will be affected by a mental illness or neurological disorder at some point in their lives. Whether you or a loved one is affected, the mental health crisis has touched the life of every single human, placing mental disorders in the foreground of global health issues. However, despite the extent to which mental illness permeates our society, significant improvement will not be possible until we erase the stigma surrounding it. Mental illnesses aren’t uncommon, so why are we still speaking about them in hushed tones and behind closed doors? Why don’t we send our ‘thoughts and prayers’ to people suffering from debilitating bouts of mental illness? And why are we so afraid to speak up about our mental health problems?

The answer lies deep within centuries of cultural stigma. In the Middle Ages, mental disorders were thought to be a punishment from God or a form of demonic possession. People who displayed symptoms were burnt at the stake or locked up as a means to control them. Although science and philosophy have since shown that mental illness is a medical condition, thousands were still persecuted in Nazi Germany due to their condition. Even more recently, people with mental disorders have been cast aside and locked away in insane asylums because others were afraid of them. They were thought to be crazy, violent, and dangerous.

Since then, society has shown some progress. Doctors and medical organizations now recognize mental illness as a genuine health problem that can be treated using therapy, medication, self-help, and rehabilitation. Treatment and support systems are more available than ever before; and yet, the people who need them may never receive them because of this prevailing cultural stigma. The false perceptions and stereotypes surrounding mental illnesses isolates victims and only makes them sicker. This is common around the world, with the stain that mental illness carries making people afraid to disclose their problems to their families. As a result, they end up hiding symptoms and sweeping their illnesses under the carpet, which only hinders recovery. People are so afraid of being seen as “crazy” or “weird” that 60% of people with known mental health disorders never end up receiving help from a mental health professional (Worldwide Health Organization). This is even worse in developing countries, where that percentage reaches 90%.

In addition, media and popular culture paint a misleading picture, through fear-mongering movies like “Split,” which present a character with a dissociative identity disorder as dangerous, or shows like “13 Reasons Why,” which dehumanize characters with depression and glorify suicide. With negative portrayals consuming youth entertainment, there aren’t enough positive portrayals that accurately describe what it’s like to have or support someone who has a mental illness. Misrepresentation and underrepresentation are what leave people uneducated in the subject matter, making them perhaps more likely to distance friends who have mental health problems– as we are always scared of things we don’t understand.

So, when someone confides in a loved one that they are suffering, the reactions are often

insensitive. Even in families who understand and legitimize mental illness, there is hesitancy around getting professional help because it makes people feel that they have failed. In reality, mental illnesses are never a personal failure—they are real illnesses that reflect nothing about the character of a person. We must treat sufferers the same way we treat people with other illnesses: with kindness, empathy, and concern. But widespread change can only happen through education and awareness. The issue lies in a lack of knowledge and understanding, and teenagers are particularly afflicted. Especially in high school, the stressful atmosphere and clash of cultures creates a community where illnesses go untreated all the time. Therefore, it is our generation’s responsibility to help educate parents and students on the reality of mental illness. We must stop speaking in hushed tones and, instead, create an accepting and supportive community. As students, it is our responsibility to step up and be there for our friends when they need it, show empathy and concern, and foster an open dialogue between parents, students, teachers, and healthcare professionals about mental health.