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Where Everybody Is Somebody

The Rutgers Preparatory School Class of 2017

Sometimes the end of the school year feels like one long season of celebration at Rutgers Prep, and this year’s graduates helped bring the reasons behind that celebratory feel into sharp focus. At both the traditional Senior Parent Reception, where the seniors are given an opportunity to reflect on their Rutgers Prep experience, and at graduation, where the Commencement speaker is a senior chosen by his/her peers to speak on behalf of the class, the themes of Rutgers Prep’s commitments to excellence and community rang out again and again.

The Senior Parent Reception is typically an emotional affair. Many students preface their remarks by saying, “I probably don’t say this enough,” and then go on to express their gratitude for the people who made their attendance at Rutgers Prep possible, and to the classmates, faculty, and adminstrators who made it life-changing. Here are just a few excerpts from the many moving and impromptu comments made by our seniors this year:

“Whenever anyone asks me what I’ll miss most about Rutgers Prep, I always say ‘the people’… you all have made my four years incredible, and I wouldn’t have traded them for anything.” Baasil Ebrahim ‘17 (Johns Hopkins University ‘21)

“I would like to thank my classmates, the faculty, and all the other parents, as many of you have played a significant role in my life. You have provided me with an environment in which I could both find myself, and grow in both character and knowledge, in a community filled with both love and compassion.” Lance Bean ‘17 (Rutgers University ‘21)

“To my teachers, I’d like to say thank you for helping me become the student I am today, and for continually pushing me to reach my full potential while never giving up on me.” Hannah Merges ‘17 (Ursinus College ‘21)

“To my parents… beneath it all, you held an unabating, deep-rooted love for me, and the strong foundation you built at home is the only reason I was able to believe in myself and achieve all that I did in high school.” Bekah Park ‘17 (Princeton University ‘21)

“The fact that there are so many people to thank shows what an impact this place has had on me! I feel ready to leave, as a strong, powerful young woman, and I definitely didn’t enter as one. So I really owe it to Rutgers Prep… thank you.” Gita Ganti ‘17 (Wesleyan University ‘21)

At Commencement a few days later, the Rutgers Prep tradition is to feature a speaker who the seniors themselves choose as their designated spokesperson, and in a typical year there are several highly accomplished young people vying for this honor. This year’s final selection was Joshua Kutner ‘17 (George Washington University ‘21).

Commencement Speaker Joshua Kutner ’17

In a well-crafted speech that had the assembled crowd alternately laughing with recognition or bursting into spontaneous applause, Josh laid out his vision of Rutgers Prep as a place where “Everybody is somebody.” He closed his remarks with a stirring tribute to the close-knit nature of this particular class, as well as an acknowledgment of the support that made their impressive accomplishments possible.

“Whoever said that blood is thicker than water never dipped their hand in the Raritan – here, on the banks, we have grown to be an interdependent family and a support system for all of us.… for every obstacle we overcome and new milestone we reach, we will have the ‘giants whose shoulders we stand upon’ to thank for the life lessons they taught us which will help us to thrive. We must remember the teachers and coaches who instilled in us the values of determination, cooperation, perseverance and competitiveness. We must be grateful for our family and friends for the moral support they have provided us and for always being there for us. And we must never forget each other, because regardless of how much we realize it we will forever carry with us the lessons we learned and the memories we shared, and we should never hesitate to reach out to one another.

So again, thank you to my classmates for this amazing opportunity of speaking for you all today. Here at Rutgers Prep, clearly, it is true that everybody is somebody, and I know that great things are in store for each and every one of us. And to invoke a quote that our Class President shared at a class meeting earlier this year, from the oh-so-philosophical Winnie the Pooh, ‘How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.’ Thank you, God bless you, and congratulations to the Rutgers Preparatory School Class of 2017.”

“That’s the great thing about the Rutgers Prep community and experience,” shared one smiling faculty member over the fresh berries and cupcakes provided at the close of Commencement. “We know these kids so well. Some of them have been here for their entire academic careers. We see how much they care, how deeply committed they are to learning and making a difference. We already think the world of these young people… and yet, here they are, surpassing our expectations again!”

Congratulations one more time to the Rutgers Prep community in all its dimensions, and especially to the Class of 2017 as they head off to join some very exciting learning communities next fall. We hope and expect that they will also uphold one more Rutgers Prep tradition by coming back to visit and sharing what we’re sure will be their stories of success.

Rutgers Prep Students Engage With Their Future

Student Council President Gita Ganti ’18 (Wesleyan ’22) welcomes attendees at our Career Night

Traditionally, Rutgers Prep’s School Council has hosted a Career Day every other year; this year’s students were faced with a scheduling challenge and successfully rose to meet that challenge with a creative solution. This year’s event represented Rutgers Prep’s first-ever Career NIGHT.

Close to 150 people attended the popular event, starting with dinner and networking from 6:30pm to 7:00pm.

John Wisniewski, local legislator and NJ gubanatorial candidate, kicked things off with an enthusiastic and encouraging set of opening remarks that focused on the satisfactions of public service, and who shared the throughline of seeking to be “good”… from his perspective, if you commit to being good at what you do as well as good to the people you work with, good things will happen.

Dr. Uchenna Akosa, Director of Rutgers Health Dental Associates, and dentist at AZ Dental Care, LLC, stressed the importance of the students’ high school experience as a foundation for everything that comes after.

Alumna Christina Harkar, who now works for Audible, focused in her remarks on the role of failure in her journey, and as a two-time “stop out” college student, shared the idea of all the non-linear paths to success. “Don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to do; what you want to do may not even exist yet!”

Additional speakers included Financial Consultant Joel Spangler and Computer Science professor Dr. Bahman Kalantari. The guest speakers’ remarks were finished up by about 8:30pm, but our enthusiastic students were deeply engaged with them in small informal conversations for quite a while afterwards. “We really felt as though were were kicking people out at the end of the evening,” said Dean of Faculty Nandini Dutta. “The students just didn’t want to leave!”

Echoing Mrs. Dutta’s comments, senior Joe Ramallo ‘17 said, “I really love the new format for Career Night this year,” while junior Samatha Kodali ‘18 shared: “I would have to have to say that my favorite moment from Career Night was the time after all the speakers had given their talks when there was time for the audience and speakers to mingle, discuss the content of the talks further, and connect in general. This really allowed for relationships between different generations and parts of the RPS community to cement. The takeaway from this moment in particular is that everyone in the RPS community, no matter what age or occupation, always learns from each other. A close second on my list of favorites would be trying the dessert.”

The event was deemed a success by all who were able to attend, once again demonstrating the ability of Rutgers Prep students to organize and lead for the betterment of their community.

Many interested students stayed afterwards for the chance to exchange ideas and questions with our speakers

Complementary Schools Network: Haley and Hayley On the Go

Haley Prusa ’17 and visiting student Hayley Cartwright

Hayley Cartwright ‘17 is usually a student at the Putney School in Vermont, but last week you would have found her here at Rutgers Prep, because both Rutgers Prep and the Putney School are member schools in the Network of Complementary Schools, which gives students an opportunity to experience another school community as a welcome guest. (Rutgers Prep is one of just two Network member schools in the state of New Jersey.) We took a moment recently to touch base with Hayley and her host sister Haley Prusa ‘17 about their experiences as participants in the Network.

“Well,” began Hayley, “Rutgers Prep was the only school on the list that offered shadowing of a profession as an option (in addition to just attending classes), so since I’m interested in athletic training and PE, I decided to reach out and see if it would be possible to shadow those kinds of people at Rutgers Prep. My mom is very supportive of me getting out and trying new things, and I got a call saying that the week I had in mind would work, so here I am!

One thing I’ve noticed is that everyone in the Rutgers Prep community seems really kind, and I like the way the schedule works here, too. It seems somewhat less stressful than my school, maybe even a bit easier (we have more homework every night, and we have evening classes and classes on Saturday). To be honest, I’m a little jealous of the college counseling here at Rutgers Prep; it seems like the counseling staff here is just able to give more support. And I always thought of my school as pretty diverse, but Rutgers Prep is even more diverse, which is really cool. I also actually kind of like the effect of a dress code… I like that there’s a feeling of an expectation to live up to.

Meanwhile, I’ll have a lot of work to catch up on, once I get back, and I’m also in the midst of trying to prepare for National Personal Trainer certification. Although personal training, and athletic training are not the same, I have still been able to learn a lot by shadowing the Rutgers Prep trainers. I have also been able to connect some aspects of the two together. It has been interesting to see the similarities and differences between the two. Athletic training is more prevention, care, and rehabilitation, whereas, personal training is exercise coaching. I have gotten to watch athletic trainers Jess and Tim prevent injury by teaching the students how to properly stretch for their sports, care for them when students come to for help wrapping injuries, and rehabilitate students when trying to regain range of motion from injury. I have gotten to watch personal trainer Kacy help students create fitness plans, and coach them through exercises in the weight room.

It’s been totally fun and exciting… and hey, I even got to go shopping in New York City yesterday! The ultimate reason to participate in the Complementary School experience is to get out and see something completely new, to make new connections and relationships.”

We also reached out to our own student Haley Prusa ‘17 to see what her experience as a Network sojourner was like. Last year we had a student (Tenzin Crowley from the Bush School in Seattle, WA) come and visit Rutgers Prep via the Network of Complementary Schools, and she and Haley Prusa became close. It seemed like a natural next step this year for Haley to apply to be a visiting student at the Bush School in return. “One big difference for me was that students at the Bush School call their teachers by their first names, which I ended up feeling like maybe provided more of a chance for connection. The campus was really pretty, although also on a hill, so you had to walk up that every day. They had some cool classes that we don’t offer at Rutgers Prep, like Electronica and Metal Design, which was interesting. I also thought that some of their English electives were really interesting; while I was there, I was taking a course in Magical Realism and another one in Poetry & Vignettes.”

Both Network of Complementary Schools participants easily agreed on what they felt should be one of the biggest “takeaways” from their experiences: “More students should do this!”

(If you’re an Upper School student at Rutgers Prep with questions about how the Network of Complementary Schools could work for you, please check in with Mr. Mitchell or Dr. Cooper.)