At The Pennington School, children can be themselves, discover new opportunities, and work with a remarkable faculty dedicated to their individual achievements. From day one, they embark on a journey of transformative growth, as the stories of students and graduates consistently tell.
“Having teachers who want to see you succeed and do well in classes is important, and at Pennington, the support is present and always available,” says boarding student Chisom Okeoma from Nigeria, whose future ambitions include medical school. Her sentiment is shared by many who attend this New Jersey coeducational school, present and alumni.
Much of this is due to the school’s suite of academic support. Designed for all students and more comprehensive than most schools, it takes various forms and can be accessed throughout the school year.
The Writing Centre happens four times weekly to help students improve their writing and communication skills across the curriculum. STEM Extra Help sessions are specifically for students to work on their assignments, prepare for assessments, or ask questions about any level of science or maths. “As a boarding student, I also get the majority of my work done with Study Hall, which is a two-hour structured time block between 7.30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. for independent study,” says Cassidy Zelt, a boarding senior who is a prefect and co-president of Green Team, which focuses on sustainability efforts on campus. “These structured times within Pennington have helped me improve my time management skills, and these time blocks demonstrate Pennington’s priority in seeing students succeed.”
For boarding student Lina Ballman, close relationships with faculty are crucial. She takes advantage of the Extra Help programme — which is available Monday through Thursday after school so students can get the help they need on topics or areas they find tricky. “During the second semester, I really connected with my advisor, Ms. Popel, and I found that opening up to her was super beneficial because she was able to help and encourage me to reach out to my teachers, go to Extra Help, and use the support system that Pennington offers,” the German student says.
Zelt looks up to her advisor, Mrs. Balerna, who is her “advocate when needed.” The teacher is a Director of the Junior Proctor Programme and works closely with students in the Cervone Centre for Learning as a Compensatory Skills teacher. “Mrs. Balerna is an all-around great role model and mentor, and she reminds me of why I appreciate being a part of the residential community,” adds Zelt.
For Okeoma, Dr. Van Yperen and Ms. Stern-Leaphart were favourites. “I specifically liked them as educators due to the safe space they provided in the classroom, allowing me to feel comfortable sharing my thoughts and ideas,” she says. “In class, these two always invite me to share what I think, and that sparked my eagerness to share in those classes.”
Motivated by its mission to develop individual excellence in all its students, the school has a team of faculty members, dorm parents, coaches, and activity leaders who guide students to reach their full potential. This includes college counselling, a helping hand through the challenging college application process.
College counselling begins as early as grades 9 or 10 at Pennington. The school believes that thoughtful academic and extracurricular choices at this point can have a positive impact on one’s college search later. This proactive care and individualised attention help Pennington students get accepted to some of the most prestigious and selective colleges and universities in the US, such as Princeton and Harvard.
It’s a key stepping stone for students to realise their ambitions. “I remember in Peter Chase’s accounting class, I told him I wanted to pursue a career in radio/podcasting, and that is what I am doing today,” graduate Sam Goldberg says.
Fond memories, important lessons, and skills from Goldberg’s schooling follow him into his current endeavours. “Pennington had a challenging curriculum, and I quickly learned my key to success at the school would require setting up specific routines and guidelines to keep me organised,” he adds. “These skills went on to serve me in college and my career beyond.”
Students also excel in competitions like the American Computer Science League (ACSL). Pennington ended the year at the top of the leaderboard in two divisions with perfect team scores in the most recent competition. The senior division team is in a four-way tie for first place (out of 107 teams internationally), and the intermediate division team is in a nine-way tie for first place (out of 118 teams internationally).
Some growth is more personal, like what Zelt experienced. “Pennington allowed me to redefine who Cassidy is and even my perception of myself,” she says. “I now get to take Honours and AP classes that I’m interested in, along with getting involved in a variety of clubs that give me the ability to explore my passions.” Zelt now participates in the Peer Leadership Programme too, acting as a role model for incoming freshmen and the school community.
Home to an internationally diverse community, Pennington values and leverages the benefits of having many cultures on campus. “I was surrounded by many different types of people with different backgrounds from different countries,” says Goldberg. “It made me respect differences and appreciate unique cultures.”
In the 2023-24 school year, Pennington is home to students representing 37 nationalities and countries. In this big family, students from various backgrounds and beliefs come together to learn from each other how to lead and live in an ever-changing world. During the annual culture fair, students can share their traditions with the rest of the school.
From its celebration of culture and diversity to the incredible support teachers bestow and the spaces to transform and improve, there are numerous reasons why this institution may be the perfect fit for your child. Both alumni and current students feel its impact strongly.
“I owe the person I am today to Pennington, and I’m forever grateful for the second chance that I was given at a new life with newly founded stability,” says Zelt.