W+H Media Mashup old version
A true test of an individual or an organization really comes to light in a crisis. COVID-19 is certainly one of those times when individuals, groups, communities and our Wardlaw+Hartridge family are being tested.
Schools with international students are facing many challenges because of the COVID-19 crisis, and these challenges may continue into the recruitment and admission seasons for the next year or two. Last Friday, I was honored to represent Wardlaw+Hartridge and make a presentation during the National Association for Independent Schools (NAIS) webinar titled Recruiting International Students During and Post COVID-19.
Here at The Wardlaw+Hartridge School, the word inclusivity means that you are given the opportunities to simply be yourself.
As we hit the end of January and the last of the holiday decorations are put away for another year, we look ahead to 2020 to make our promises to be better at this, to do more of that and to make more time focus on this. You get my drift, so fill in the blank as needed. The one thing you should consider is: What am I doing to provide my child the best educational experience possible?
Gerard Gonnella travels to China each year to visit with international families -- both current parents and prospective families. His blog followed his recent trip there in 2019.
As the crisp air begins to descend on New Jersey, we’re gearing up for our annual Fall Fair and Homecoming Day a longstanding tradition at The Wardlaw+Hartridge School.
At W+H, students are provided the tools necessary to stimulate rigorous inquiry, in depth research and writing skills so they can express themselves thoughtfully.
The International Student Program at W+H has recently launched E-Mentoring, an online learning support project that aims at empowering students with their learning.
When I was a senior in high school, I missed eight weeks of classes - two months - starting in late September. Actually my entire public school district and many others in the Wilmington, Delaware area did not have school because our teachers went on strike.
As Upper School Head, I have the privilege of witnessing acts of care, joy, selflessness, support, giving and love, to name a few, every day from students, parents and faculty. Let me share a few from the past several weeks that keep me encouraged and demonstrate the indomitable W+H spirit.
Over the last couple of decades or so, the words diversity and inclusion frequently appear together. Yet I am not sure many of us have taken the time to parse their meanings and understand the important distinction between the two.
Early last spring, when COVID was newly-arrived and we were all just beginning to figure out how we could teach and learn remotely, I shared with students a bit of wisdom from Mr. Rogers: "Look for the helpers.”
“I just want to say thank you. I had a good time. I would still rather be at school for Field Day, but I had fun dressing up my dad and playing the fun games. So, I just wanted to say thank you.”
Quotes and verses help us find words when we don’t have them ourselves. Rumor has it country singer Dolly Parton is quoted as saying, “Storms make trees take deeper roots.” Though, recently I found another reference that it was the poet George Herbert who deserves the original credit saying, “Storms make oaks take deeper root.”
Last Thursday, May 27, was one of those special, memorable days on the Wardlaw+Hartridge calendar. Although I spent an exhausting 15 hours on campus that day, it was my favorite school day of the 2020-2021 academic year. Two signature events highlighted the final day before a much-needed and well-deserved long Memorial Day holiday weekend – Lower School Field Day and the 12th annual Cookin' Cabaret. If you love games and live entertainment, May 27 was a great day to be a Ram.
Two of our finest teachers and departmental leaders deserve an enormous amount of credit for leading two events that rank among my annual favorites on the school calendar. Lee Nicholls, whom Head of School Andy Webster called the "benevolent deity of Field Day" in a social media comment, orchestrated another outstanding Field Day. Sharon Byrne, Performing Arts Department Chair, introduced our community to the Cookin' Cabaret 12 years ago when she arrived at W+H and it has become a popular staple ever since. She and the students took it to another level this year.
What some folks may forget is that Mr. Nicholls and Mrs. Byrne are full-time teachers who work with students most of the day. Planning and executing these events are additional duties that they consistently fulfill with style and substance.
Our Lower School students had a blast playing with their classmates and friends on the rear athletic fields. It was great to see the camaraderie and friendly competition in person, while remote students also participated in challenges from home. Mr. Nicholls absolutely thought of everything to make this an awesome day for the Lower School. He even found a way to get the faculty involved in the final event, an egg and spoon race, which was very competitive and a little controversial.
Field Day ended with the traditional large group photo, which provided a challenge for me this year. Instead of taking a few small steps up the sideline bleachers to snap a photo of the participants on the turf field, I had to climb to the top of the tower to capture a wider angle of a socially distanced group of students and teachers. Although I was a bit winded and overheated, I'm proud to say I made it up and back without any pulled muscles.
After working up a sweat during Field Day, I'm grateful that Mrs. Byrne provided me with a new Cookin' Cabaret T-shirt for the evening performance. It was wonderful to see parents join students live and in person at the Cookin' Cabaret, which was held outdoors for the first time since its inaugural performance in 2010. And what a show it was!
All the performers were impressive and it was great to see the seniors who have endured a difficult final year of high school enjoy one final chance to shine before a live audience. Ensemble performers Simone Erachshaw '21, Brian Machado '21, John Papetti III '21, Leila Hernandez-Webster '21 and Neil Shah '21 and smooth saxophone player Nicolas Hernandez-Webster '21 left the W+H stage in style under the stars on an absolutely perfect weather evening.
From the warm sun of the afternoon on the fields to the comfortable cooler conditions of the evening in the amphitheatre, the W+H campus was alive with excitement. Although people wore face coverings, it felt like the good old days to see our community come together again.
The end of any school year is filled with many events such as graduations, awards ceremonies and final presentations, yet some of my annual favorites at this time of year are not at all related to receiving a diploma, trophy or grade. This is the time when creativity takes center stage.
You’ll see creativity everywhere in the W+H classrooms, hallways, stage and athletic fields. Students, artists and athletes, along with their teachers, directors and coaches, are showcasing a virtue that’s among the most important within the field of education.
Creativity is defined as “the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.” Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” Many years later, Einstein has been proven correct. In a digital age during which knowledge is at everyone’s fingertips, the elements of creativity and imagination stand out as more important.
I’ve seen countless examples of creativity on display recently at W+H. Earlier this week, I watched a group of eager fifth graders build a coin drop for the school’s India COVID relief fundraiser. They worked together under the guidance of STEM teacher Erin Maciorowski but conducted their own collaborative problem solving skills to build the structure.
In the Middle School, creativity is infused in many activities and one of my traditional favorites in the sixth-grade cell project. Students are asked to prepare a model plant cell but to use items for the organelles that resemble the function of that cell part, rather than focus on its appearance. This year’s students continued that tradition with another round of stellar presentations in classes taught by Andrea Barnett.
One of this year’s most interesting Upper School projects was offered to AP Human Geography students in Jean Castellano’s classes. The students literally “cooked up history” in a three-week partnership with City Labs in which they explored culinary history, shared their family recipes and created their own cookbook. I can’t think of too many better examples of creativity than cooking.
I started my scroll of creativity examples with academic projects from all three divisions for a reason. Creativity is most typically associated with the fine and performing arts, as exhibited by the definition listed earlier. However, at W+H, creativity is not confined to artistic works.
Our singers, musicians and visual arts students have been working hard in a year that has been particularly challenging for performing artists and their teachers. Despite the many restrictions imposed by the pandemic, the shows have gone on for our choir and band ensembles. Last week’s combined Middle and Upper School Virtual Spring Concert was a real treat. The creativity of the sound and video professionals who edited more than 500 individual recordings to put together a one-hour concert was amazing. Kudos to choral director Sharon Byrne and band director Rick Fontaine for their work in delivering the next-best thing to a live show. Their creativity and vision yielded a wonderful final product.
The exclamation point and culmination on our recent splash of creativity will come next Thursday night, June 3, when W+H unveils its first-ever All-School Art Show. This virtual showcase of fine art will include work from all students in PreK-Grade 12. I’m really looking forward to what the students of our fine arts teachers, including Middle School veteran and Department Chair Tanda Tucker and newcomers Sara McDermott (Lower School) and Andrew Sullivan (Upper School), have in store for us.
Our students have even found a way to combine fine art and athletics in their creativity. Claire Lu ’24, one of the stars of our state championship girls’ golf team, won the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA) Great Junior Golf Design Challenge in April. Claire and her talented teammates have also shown lots of creativity on the course, leading to many impressive scores and championship trophies.
While trophies and accolades are wonderful to receive, creativity is a vital part of any successful process. Wardlaw+Hartridge students and teachers are displaying creativity every day.
Personal attention has long been one of the hallmarks of a Wardlaw+Hartridge education. It’s an important strength of small schools like ours. Students know their teachers and, perhaps more importantly, teachers know their students. These connections lead to relationships that help guide our students, not only during their W+H years but often long after they graduate, attend college and embark on successful careers. Many of our students genuinely appreciate these connections, not only while they are here on campus, but also later in life as alumni who come back to visit us.
Imam Khalid Latif, a W+H graduate from the Class of 2000, spent the day here on April 14 for the Upper School Symposium as a keynote speaker and panelist. Imam Latif is one of our most accomplished graduates and a recent recipient of the W+H Distinguished Alumnus Award. He is the Executive Director and Chaplain for the Islamic Center at New York University. In 2005, Latif was appointed the first Muslim chaplain at NYU. In 2006, he was appointed the first Muslim chaplain at Princeton University. His accomplishments and accolades are too vast to list in this blog post – Google him if you want to learn more.
Several times during his contributions on the morning panel and keynote address in the afternoon, Iman Latif mentioned how fortunate he felt to have been educated at Wardlaw+Hartridge and how it set him up for future success. He offered words of motivation to the students in the audience and challenged them to take advantage of their similar educational privilege and be active participants in the solution: “When you graduate from this place, you take your degree and you go and change that kind of foolishness. You can hear stories all day but if you treat them just as stories, you’re going to sit back and be a part of the problem.”
Iman Latif clearly believes in the Wardlaw+Hartridge education, but his warm feelings for our school go beyond the fact that he has become an enormous success in life. Walking through the halls with him during Symposium Day, I had the pleasure of watching him reunite with several former teachers. Latif met with Gerard Gonnella ’89, our current Director of Admission and Financial Aid, who taught him history in the late 1990s. He ran into Jim Howard, who has been teaching mathematics for more than 40 years at our school, and Tanda Tucker, a Middle School art teacher for more than two decades. Finally, Latif reconnected with Lower School veteran teacher Ellen Ritz as he was departing campus. Latif and his two older siblings were W+H lifers.
Clearly, the personal attention Latif received during his years as a student made an impact on him. He dropped dozens of names of teachers and classmates throughout the day as we walked past the science labs, art displays and athletic fields.
At the conclusion of his keynote, Iman Latif generously offered to help any W+H students who needed assistance and provided permission to contact him via email. This personal connection will be a valuable resource for students wishing to pursue it.
The word Community is often overused and has become somewhat trite and cliché, especially during these challenging times. Community is one of our school’s Core Values and certainly represents a strength of our institution. I have survey data to support that claim – many Wardlaw+Hartridge students, parents, faculty and alumni say that our community is one of the things they love most about the school.
The description of Community as one of our Core Values reads as follows:
When faculty members, students, parents, or graduates walk through the doors of Wardlaw+Hartridge, they have entered a home. Our community is distinguished by an ethos of care and mutual respect, and a strong partnership with families.
Our Community, along with the rest of the world, has been put to the test in the past 10 months. When COVID-19 changed the world last March, it forced us to live differently and sacrifice many things to remain safe.
The 2020-2021 school year has been much different from any other in the 138-year history of this fine institution, but it has not stopped us from living our mission and embracing the one Core Value that is most significant now more than ever. Our community has found safe ways to move forward, stay together and lead productive lives.
Our Parents’ Association has been faced with the impossible task of replacing live gatherings and fundraisers with virtual events. They have re-imagined and re-invented just about everything on the typical WHPA school calendar, including the most recent International Family Fun Night Dinners. Honestly, I think six nights of food is better than one and I could never eat that much on one evening in a jam-packed AP Room! Kudos to WHPA president Marci Bowman and her eager, spirited band of parent volunteers for doing yeoman’s work on these initiatives. Their partnership with Chef Anibal Rodriguez and the Sage Dining Services crew has been productive and spectacular.
The Admission Office has not been allowed to host prospective families and students on campus. Instead, they are running Virtual Admission Information Sessions almost monthly to boost enrollment. The assistance of our community, including parents, student ambassadors, faculty and administrators, has been critical to the execution of these events.
Our Lower School Virtual Paint Nights were a huge hit during January. Parents are not permitted to come to campus so they met on Zoom with art teacher Sara McDermott and learned how to paint. Some parents, and many faculty and staff members, attended multiple grade-level sessions. While much of the work created was amazing, these evenings were more about connecting our community.
We’ve all been forced to adjust on the fly during this pandemic and the W+H community has even found a way to make things work within the realm of service. Most recently, with about a week’s notice, W+H converted its annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service into a schoolwide food drive. Families donated more than 3,000 items to support two local food pantries during a time in which food insecurity numbers in New Jersey are hitting record highs. We could have canceled the event, but instead, our community found a way to make a difference.
That’s what strong communities do, and at W+H, it’s not overused. It’s who we are.
Many people will look back on 2020 and remember it as the most problematic, uncertain and uncomfortable year of their lives. While COVID-19 dominated the local, state, national and global headlines, it wasn’t the only story at The Wardlaw+Hartridge School in 2020. The pandemic certainly affected most of the school’s operations and programs, but our community rose to the challenge, stuck together and showed amazing resilience during some very difficult times.
Let’s take a monthly journey through 2020 and put this year in the books. I’m confident that if you keep reading, you’ll agree it was a great year to be a Ram.
January– No post-holiday blues around here as recent graduates appeared for the Young Alumni College Panel and Pizza Party on our second day back from the winter break. The young alumni panelists impress me every year with their confidence and poise as they speak with current students and parents about their experiences. The annual Alumni Basketball Game was followed by a well-attended reception in the Oakwood Room after the Winter Games, which were highlighted by our boys’ basketball team’s exciting victory. At the end of the month, the Parents’ Association hosted International Family Fun Night, one of our best community events of the year. As always, the food and cultural performances were outstanding!
February– Logan D’Amore ’20 capped his record-setting swim career by capturing two more State Prep gold medals. Middle School swimmers collected 17 medals in a dominant performance at the Ranney Invitational. The school celebrated Black History Month with a series of events and presentations and recognized Lunar New Year with an assembly in the Berry Performing Arts Center. Longtime math teacher and golf coach Jim Howard was honored at the USGA for 40 years of excellence coaching golf.
March– Things began to change as we approached Spring Break, but not before the Upper School thespians staged a wonderful performance of Mamma Mia!Our Middle School quiz bowl team won the Middlesex County title. Our eighth graders enjoyed an abbreviated trip to Washington, D.C. and members of the 10thand 11thgrade Global Scholars Program visited the United Nations just before the pandemic shutdown. It soon became apparent that we were not returning to in-person instruction, so the faculty, staff and administration worked hard during Spring Break to facilitate a smooth transition to distance learning.
April– Everyone in the W+H community made adjustments during this month as teachers, students and parents transitioned to the demands of distance learning. Zoom sessions became the norm as faculty and students became accustomed to new ways of teaching, learning and connecting. There were many challenges to navigate, but W+H found a way to maintain its programs in the arts and athletics. The school held a wonderful virtual Spring Music Recital and an excellent virtual Earth Day. Students also found creative ways to get involved in service during the pandemic.
May– The community continued to remain connected as the shutdown was extended a few more times before it was finally determined that we would not be returning to in-person instruction during the 2019-2020 school year. While that news was disappointing, it did not stop W+H from holding virtual concerts and art shows in all three divisions. Sahil Mulji ’20 and Mayah Nissim ’20 also won the equivalent of an Oscar with Montclair State Theatre Awards for their roles in the fall play. Students also interacted with celebrities such as Dikembe Mutombo and Rob Resnick on Zoom. At the end of the month, the Lower School ran an amazing virtual Field Day that was one of the highlights of the school year.
June– Virtual events truly took center stage during what is typically the busiest two-week stretch of the school year. All graduation ceremonies were held virtually, including a modified version of the Upper School Commencement that was renamed the Senior Ovation. That event ran on June 12, the scheduled date for Commencement, four days after a wonderful virtual version of the Senior Dinner. Other June highlights included a virtual Cum Laude ceremony and an enlightening webinar on racial inequality with Alvin Gilmore, Jr.
July– One event dominated this month and it took place Friday, July 17. The Class of 2020, which had missed so much during the final three months of their senior year, returned to campus for an in-person graduation ceremony. The 138thCommencement Ceremony was held outdoors on the front field with social distancing, face coverings and other safety protocols in place. Congratulations again to our most recent W+H graduates!
August– Typically one of the quietest months when many in our community enjoy vacation time, this August proved to be like no other. Preparations for a return to in-person learning consumed the lives of administrators, faculty and staff members. Ryan Oliveira was appointed Pandemic Response Coordinator, the Reopening Task Force continued its hard work and the school presented a Reopening Plan that inspired confidence in a safe return to campus.
September– Preparations continued for the start of the 2020-2021 school year and its many challenges. The W+H faculty and staff attended virtual safety training sessions and opening days were pushed back and staggered to ensure a smooth transition to the new normal. As students began to arrive September 10, it was heart-warming to see the excitement and anticipation of the new school year. By September 17, all students who elected in-person learning were back on campus and we held a virtual Convocation Ceremony and the school year was underway!
October – Lots of good news this month began with the announcement of five seniors being named Commended Students by the National Merit Scholar Corporation. A week later, W+H received the No. 1 ranking among all Middlesex County high schools in the annual listing published by Niche. The installation of Owl camera systems in most W+H classrooms further enhanced the school’s high academic marks. Teachers took advantage of beautiful autumn weather by conducting classroom activities outdoors. Among the most notable of these was the sixth-grade Autumn Exploration Day on campus that replaced the annual class trip to Frost Valley.
November– Bella Wysocki ’21 signed a Division 1 National Letter of Intent to continue her soccer career at Wagner College a few days before her final high school game, a tough loss to Oak Knoll in the state tournament. The W+H girls had finished the regular season undefeated. The Middle School ran an after school STEM workshop that focused on aerodynamics and allowed students to fly parachutes off the old football tower. The virtual fall play, One Stoplight Town, entertained an online audience of more than 300 viewers and represented yet another example of how the school has continued its fine traditions despite many obstacles this year.
December– The three-week sprint between Thanksgiving and the Winter Break included some highlights despite the bad news that the winter athletic seasons had been put on hold until the middle of January. A handful of seniors received good news with Early Decision college acceptances. Upper School students participated in a Diversity Leadership Conference and Teen Hunger Summit. The Parents’ Association hosted a series of interactive events and fundraisers to bond the community. Students found ways to help those in need around the holidays and student ambassadors helped promote the holiday spirit throughout the school.
While so much changed in 2020, many things at W+H remained the same. The stories may contain different details, but the positive news has continued despite much uncertainty. Our community remains safe, connected and strong.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Read it once in a while to remind yourselves that 2020 wasn’t such a bad year after all. Happy Holidays and here’s to a healthy and prosperous 2021 filled with more good news!
The Wardlaw+Hartridge School inducted 14 new members into the Cum Laude Society in a ceremony held Friday, June 4 in the Berry Performing Arts Center. Andy Webster, Head of School, Dr. Bob Bowman, Upper School Head, Dr. Corinna Crafton, Middle School Head, Christine Cerminaro, Dean of Students, and Upper School faculty members Nicole Nolan, Don Kluizenaar, Liz Rooney and Maggie Reiter led the presentation as faculty and staff who are Cum Laude members.
Senior members Noah Apter, Ariana Di Landro, Anna Razvi, Rihan Sajid and Neil Shah welcomed the 14 new members, some of whom participated remotely from as far away as China.
Congratulations to the new W+H inductees: seniors Kynise Dixon ’21, Samantha Gordon ’21, Jason Kisare ’21, Jiaxin (Lisa) Li ’21, Michele Peruzzo ’21, Mohan (Scarlett) Ying ’21, Heng (Henry) Yuan ’21 and ZhiXing (Mark) Zhang ’21, and juniors Aarush Dharayan ’22, Faizah Naqvi ’22, Grace Lu ’22, Shiv Tickoo ’22, Bo (Oliver) Zhao ’22 and Jia Rui (Garry) Zhu ’22.
W+H seniors Zane Lee-Briggs '21 and Ariana Di Landro '21 were honored at last week's Greater Middlesex Conference Scholar-Athlete Dinner at The Estate at Lake Farrington. The Rams joined representative from all Middlesex County schools at the event, which was attended by parents and athletic directors. W+H athletic director Karl Miran was among those introducing the award recipients.
Ariana's athletic talent and leadership skills became apparent early in her high school career, and she has only validated that impression during her junior and senior years. A lifelong soccer player, Ariana led the Rams' two-time Blue-division championship defense. She also made a strong impact on the basketball program, solely on the basis of her hard-work and competitiveness. A captain of W+H's soccer team, she also served as Wardlaw's representative for the GMC's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. She has been chosen to All-Blue Division Soccer team. Academically, Ariana is a member of the Spanish Honor Society, Cum Laude, and was nominated and accepted to the Governor's School of Engineering and Technology last summer. She will be matriculating at Princeton University, where she plans on playing club soccer and pursuing a Chemical Engineering Degree.
Zane has exemplified the term student-athlete all 12-seasons he has been enrolled at Wardlaw+Hartridge. Zane runs track and field and cross country, serving as captain of both teams. His fast times on the track and the course have earned him All-Division honors. Academically, Zane is a member of the Spanish Honor Society, and has maintained a high GPA. In his school community, Zane serves as a Peer Leader, a highly sought-after role in which committed seniors meet every week with their group of freshmen, to help them adjust to high school. Zane will be going on to attend Amherst College in Western Massachusetts. His plans include his pre-med coursework and competing in track and field.
States from all over our great nation were on display at last week’s Third Grade States Presentations, held outdoors under the AP Room Tent for the first time. Faculty, staff and students visited the displays and learned about many states and their customs and traditions from expert guides who were dressed to represent their state.
The assignment included a variety of components. The students were asked to construct a model depicting either a map of their state or a landmark found there in addition to completing a packet of fascinating facts about that state. Each state "expert" also dressed up as a famous person from his or her state, while others represented an occupation from their area. The activity was designed to enrich a social studies unit about the United States.
Shourya Chhabra ’25 and Luke Tan ’24 recently performed with the Region Jazz Band Dizzy Gillespie Virtual Ensemble. Students who participated in this performance were accepted through a stringent audition process in the spring. Both Shourya and Luke are featured as soloists so please feel free to click on the link below to watch their performance!
As a result of receiving the top rating of Gold on both snare drum and drum set performance for the Arts Ed NJ Solo and Ensemble preliminary round, Luke also participated in the State Festival Gold Star round and received a Silver rating on Snare drum and the top rating of Gold on drum set. Luke's performances were adjudicated by master musicians and educators including the legendary John Riley of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.
Middle School students recently competed in a National Academic Quiz Tournament in their classrooms. Eight teams of three students competed for prizes and the individual and team winners have been announced.
Congratulations to Vinay Karthik ’25, who won the individual competition with 120 points. Vinay and teammates Tanvir Virdi ’27 and Manat Grewal ’27 won the team competition to earn a cupcake party for their advisory. Individual runners-up were Anushka Patchigolla ’27 and Aava Joshi ’27.