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.

Girls Basketball: In It To Win It

The last few days have been a bit of a whirlwind for this year’s Girls Basketball team here at Rutgers Prep. After an extraordinary season leading into a big win over Manasquan HS last weekend, the team has been attracting increasing attention at the national level. We took a few minutes today to catch up with some of the team’s senior leaders… and their coach, Mary Klinger.

When asked to reflect on her experiences with the team, Senior Captain Olivia Dabney ’17 shared, “Being a member of the Rutgers Prep Girls’ basketball team is most definitely an honor. Throughout my four years on this team I’ve become a dedicated and hardworking athlete, and even a better person. Much of that we owe to Coach Klinger. She has shown every player the value of working hard and the importance of teamwork. From early morning practices to the late weeknight games, we’ve all learned to strive for the same goal; to improve and succeed as a team. I would not trade this experience for anything!” (Olivia has signed to play for Sacred Heart University in college.)

Maddy Stanley ’17, a senior who joined Rutgers Prep as a sophomore and who will be playing for Fairleigh Dickinson next year, explained, “We had a great season last year, but we lost Nikki (Nikki Metzel ‘16, who was recruited to play for Drexel University’s Dragons), so we weren’t sure how it was going to be. When we lost that one time, in the game against Franklin, we kind of all pulled together in this spirit of, ‘Well, we don’t want to do THAT again!’ and it’s been just great ever since. I can’t believe we’re ranked 13th in the country now! If you had told my third grade self – I was actually really short when I first started playing – if you told me then that I would play on a team that was nationally ranked, I would NEVER have believed it.”

A proud Coach Klinger shared that in addition to the national ranking the team has recently received, three recruited senior players have now each been offered an opportunity to play in the highly selective NJSCA “North-South All-Star Game.”

“This is just a great opportunity for Olivia, Maddy, and Gabby. And so well-deserved. I knew that this was a special group two or three years ago, because of the athleticism, the unselfishness, and the talent. After winning the state title last year, we have been so focused on getting there again… it has been clear that they all brought the same level of commitment to being the very best team.”

In closing, Gabby Redden ‘17, who will be continuing her basketball career at Marist College in the fall, shared, “It’s pretty exciting to be ranked #1 in the Tri-State, and number thirteen in the nation by ESPN-W, so this Sunday’s game, against The Patrick School, is going to be really big. They’re going to be coming for us extra hard now. So come out and support, everybody!” the highly selective NJSCA “North-South All-Star Game.”

(For information about results and upcoming games, see the team page here.)

Highly Selective Universities Share Their Insight

What do admissions officers really look for in a letter of recommendation?

Recommendation Insights
Rutgers Prep Upper School faculty members have an even clearer idea of how to help our students stand out in the competitive college admissions landscape thanks to a presentation which featured Admissions Officers from The George Washington University, the University of Pennsylvania, & Princeton University. The Admissions Officers “pulled back the curtain” from their long years of experience, and candidly shared with faculty members in an on campus workshop. The program included analysis of anonymized letters from past admissions cycles – of both the very helpful and less helpful varieties – which were distributed and discussed.

After the workshop, our Dean of Faculty shared, “I loved the session! I have been a teacher long enough that I think knew many of the things that they talked about, but I still liked being reminded. I really appreciated the advice that the counselors had to give, and just being face-to-face with the very people who read every word (apparently) of what we so painstakingly write was a very helpful thing. So this big bad thing called college admissions that we always talk about became more humane, more plausible, and ultimately more do-able. It was also empowering to know how much the admissions people rely on our knowledge of our students in making their decisions. I think I will see the face of each one of those people in my mind the next time I start writing a recommendation letter.“

The members of the Rutgers Prep faculty are proud to support and facilitate the development of our students as life-long learners, and welcome the opportunity to share their insight as a part of the college process. Workshops like this one provide our faculty with powerful and specific tools to compose compelling communications. These tools also help us ensure that admissions representatives are able to translate our unique perspectives into an appreciation of what each of our students will bring to their next learning community.