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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.)

History Very Much Alive At Rutgers Prep

In keeping with its designation as New Jersey’s oldest independent school, a group of 8-12 graders at Rutgers Preparatory School have been immersed and engaged in an Innovation Program entitled “Hands On History.” Under the guidance of teachers Tim Cohen and Arika Easley-Houser, The Hands-On History Innovation Program gives students an opportunity to engage with various subjects within the field of history. The program’s aim is to help students take the skills they’ve been learning in the classroom–critical thinking, analysis of facts, and interpretation of multiple points of view–and apply them to real situations. These could include investigations of local history, family history, architecture, digital history, archiving, historical reenactments, etc.

Recently, four first-person historical interpreters and historical re-enactors came to campus to connect with our Hands on History students, who in turn had some great questions for our visitors.

During their visit, the roles of John Adams, Harriet Beecher Stowe, a local civil war soldier, and NJ colonial Gov. William Franklin were taken on, respectively, by Peyton Dixon, Kim Hanley, Scott Saunders, and Kurt Epps.

After interacting with the historical figures in character, students asked the interpreters and re-enactors, “What drew you to play the particular characters you were playing today?”

Kurt Epps answered, “William Franklin and his father, Benjamin Franklin, wound up on opposite sides of the revolutionary war, one of the defining struggles of our nation. I do think that an understanding of history is essential to any understanding of our current situation, so I’m happy to have an opportunity to bring this history to life, especially for young people.”

Kim Hanley (the Executive Director of the American Historical Theatre) said, “I went to school for ballet and history, and was very involved in theater. I found my way to this work through a couple (the Summerfields) who had been portraying George and Martha Washington and who thought I could probably be a creditable Abigail Adams, and then once I started doing it, more characters kind of found me as a need or outlet arose.”

Peyton Dixon shared: “I have a friend who plays Thomas Jefferson, and in learning about my friend’s process, I found that no one seemed quite as invested in John Adams. Because I’d always been interested in Adams, I decided to try to get to the point that I could try to do him justice.

I also play Theodore Roosevelt now, which happened through a call for look-a-likes. I saw the notice and thought, ‘Could I look like Theodore Roosevelt? Probably?’ and sure enough, I was able to get close enough that it seemed like something worth working on.”

Finally, Scott Saunders explained that with re-enacting, “different people select different regiments, depending on what period of history they’re interested in, or what they feel they have a connection to. I met a group that was portraying a regiment in Georgia, but it included some guys from New Jersey and Connecticut. So of course I called them traitors, but we all hung out afterwards.”

Students were also curious about what advice the guests would give to someone who is interested in getting started in this kind of work?

“Research, research, research,” said Peyton Dixon with a smile. Of course only time will tell if the next great living embodiment of Abigail Adams or Alexander Hamilton will be a Rutgers Prep graduate!

Rutgers Prep’s Innovation Program offers students in grades 8-12 an opportunity to engage deeply in an area of interest for them in ways that go beyond a typical classroom approach. This year’s Innovation strands are giving Rutgers Prep students a chance to engage an impressively diverse set of topics, ranging from Business and Entrepreneurship to the [st]ages project, which will connect students with elders in our community, both in person and through the creation of a work of art. The Sports Analytics group will be coordinating their own conference, while another group of students has been in the process of auditioning prospective speakers for their upcoming TEDx Conference. The Hands on History group, along with all the other Innovation Program strands, will culminate in an Innovation Capstone event in May, which will give members of the Rutgers Prep and broader community a chance to marvel at just how much these students have learned.