Tag Archives: boarding school

Residential Life

by Vanessa Baker ’19

Living in the dorm has been the best part of my George School experience. Being from Michigan, I was pretty homesick when I first arrived at George School my freshman year, but the dorm staff and my friends made me feel unbelievably comfortable. There are four adults that live in each dorm and there are also four senior prefects who are leaders in the dorm and they help the dorm staff run the dorm.

Both my freshman and sophomore years I formed strong relationships with the seniors that lived with me, particularly the ones on my floor. The seniors had the almost awkward role of older sister while also being an authoritarian, but they were important role models for me while I was an underclassman. I also got to know some of the adults in the community through their role as dorm parents. One of the jokes I’ve laughed the hardest at is one my sophomore dorm head told me one night after check-in. I don’t even remember the joke, all I remember is physically rolling on the ground howling with laughter with another one of my friends.

The best part of living in the dorm, however, is getting to live with my friends—basically a nonstop slumber party. The bonds I’ve formed with the girls in my dorm are most definitely the relationships I’m going to cherish the most when I leave George School, which unfortunately will be sooner rather than later.

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Filed under Admission Office, dorm life, Students

Choosing Boarding School

by Shaina Gonzales ’19

The funny thing is, I never planned boarding school to be my future.

In fact, I didn’t even know it was an option—and even when I did find out halfway through my middle school years, I waved off the very thought of it. Besides, I thought, aren’t boarding schools for kids who want to get away from their families? A thing that only exists in books? A place for bad kids? A place that certain people had the privilege of attending?  I had a limited perspective on boarding school, but nevertheless, I was already dismissing this possibility out of the picture.

Most importantly, boarding school was impossible for me to consider, since I’m an only child of a single mother. My entire life, it’s always been me and my mom, and I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her alone for four high school years. She was on the same page with me, until eighth grade, when my high school placement program came into effect. I think the pivotal moment where both of our minds changed was when we listened to an alumni’s parent share her experience with sending her daughter to boarding high school—she was a single parent with an only child, making it instantly relatable for us.

Intrigued, I recall the mother telling her story— the pains of sending her daughter off to a faraway place, having to continue daily life without watching her daughter grow through high school, being a distant figure from her teenaged child. But then, she stated she doesn’t regret the choice she and her daughter made, and would do it all over again. She saw how happy and satisfied her daughter was from attending boarding school. The mother understood that the boarding experience was an experience that benefited her daughter— an experience day schools can’t offer.

I think that personal story was the catalyst for choosing boarding school. I was moved and intrigued by it, but still a little hesitant. In my twelve year old mind, it didn’t matter what I wanted – what mattered was if me and my mom mutually agreed, because we are a team. However, my mom was also gripped by the alumni’s parent experience.

I remember clearly her turning to me, taking my hand, and whispering, “Let’s give this a try.”

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Filed under Admission Office, dorm life, Students

Coming Full Circle

by Kim Major, associate director of admission

Last week was my favorite week of the year, hands down. While my children think I am crazy (they think the last day of summer vacation is the worst!), I know I am right. You see, last week was orientation for our new students and the start of our new academic year here at George School.

So, why was that the best? I mean, the start of the academic year to faculty and admission officers means back to long workdays. It means many, many meetings. It means late nights, tired eyes, and no more trips to the beach or the pool. I already miss those trips to the beach and the pool. HOWEVER, what it also means is that I get to see the fruits of last year’s labor. All of the students with whom I worked so hard last year – at admission events, in interviews, in follow-up phone calls, meetings, and emails – I get to see all of them on campus, here and now as students!

Over the last year, I got to know 170 new students, most of them in person in some capacity. I knew we admitted a rocketry wizard, and I got to make sure our robotics and engineering faculty knew about her. I knew we had at least four students who count ukulele as a big-time hobby, and I got to let them know about one another (some pretty cool jam sessions are about to go down in our dorms). I knew that one of our students had a really challenging summer and was feeling a bit down, and I got to make sure his advisor was prepared to offer a little extra love. I got to understand, before the rest of the school, that our new students are going to knock the socks off of our faculty and returning students. Now everyone gets to know it and I get to see the joy that brings.

Many people see admission officers as gatekeepers, standing at the school doors and judging who gets to come in. While we certainly have a difficult task in making admission decisions, we aren’t gatekeepers. No, I see myself more as a matchmaker. Through the admission process, I help students to navigate the admission process (and sometimes that means helping them to find a match that is better suited to their particular needs). And, when the school year starts, my matchmaker skills kick into high gear as the entire school prepares to welcome them. I help in the faculty advising and roommate pairing processes and work with families to match them with the resources they will need to get started here at George School.

So, when move-in and registration days roll around, it all comes together, and it is magic. The best part? I know that I have two, three, or four years more with these students and I get to see all the dreams they talked about in the application process come true – and I get to see them discover new dreams they didn’t even know they had!

That, to me, is what makes George School so special. New students aren’t a number. Each new student is a person, a part of a family, a dreamer, a do-er, an artist, an athlete, and so much more. When they start their first day here, they start with many, many people knowing quite a bit about who they are, and they already have a jumpstart in helping them to reach their goals.

Here’s to another terrific year!

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Filed under A Day in the Life, Admission Office, Faculty and Staff, Students

Weekend Boarder Life

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Students build a snowman during a weekend winter snowstorm.

by Bea Feicenbiner ’19

As a boarding student, sometimes I am left wondering what I can do on weekends. Every weekend has a theme, but some have more activities than others. Weekends like Harvest Weekend and Student Council Weekend are jam packed with things to do. All of the weekends can be fun for the students, but some, like Alumni Weekend, have less activities than others.

Of course, my roommate is always there and I have friends in my dorm. On weekends, more often than not, I have a friend sleepover in my room or I sleep in hers. I can walk into Newtown to get some ice cream or go to Starbucks. Sometimes we will walk over to the shopping center across the street and get lunch before running errands to Giant or Rite Aid. Newtown Book and Record has a great variety of entertainment if I need something new. There is a lot to do around town on the weekends.

My personal favorite weekend is Student Council Weekend. SAGE, another club I am a part of, also has a weekend. We do fun activities that include bonding opportunities with members of the community that otherwise you might not have met. Harvest Weekend is super fun, especially for boarders. Day students are invited too, but for domestic boarders who do not get to spend as much time with their family. Carving pumpkins and making buttercream brings people together. For international students, the Harvest Weekend activities might be the first time they are experiencing these things. Other weekends are club affiliated. Umoja Weekend and Footbag Weekend happened not long ago and they both included events that were fun for the whole campus.

There are other things to do instead of weekend activities and day trips to Newtown. The Deans’ office is always open to hang out in and the SAGE room is open Friday and Saturday too. During the warmer months, there is four-square on Red Square and during the colder months, you can borrow sleds from the Deans’ Office and sled down South Lawn. If you’re looking for a quiet place to study, the library is open on both Saturday and Sunday. Sometimes dorm parents and prefects will host activities, like tea parties or clothing swaps.

No matter what the weekend is, there is plenty to do, so you should not worry about being bored.

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Filed under A Day in the Life, dorm life, Student Work, Students, The Curious George

Open Doors and Closed Minds: The Problems the Heteronormativity Task Force Addresses

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Eden enjoying a snow day during February 2017.

by Bea Feichtenbiner ’19

Imagine having a best friend opposite in gender to you. Your friend is a boarder but you are a day student. This friend has recently received traumatic news and just wants to lie in bed. You know they need and want to talk to you, but something is stopping you. And it has nothing to do with either you or your friend. Rather, it is George School’s visitation policy. You and your friend are not the same gender and, since the visitation policy is so limited, they cannot spend time in your room. Not even with the door open. What do you do?

That is the question that the Heteronormativity Task Force has been trying to answer.

Heteronormativity. Let us break this word into its two parts. Hetero means “other,” as in opposite gender couples, and “normativity” means what is expected. Together, in respect to sexuality, the word means the normalization of heterosexual relationships. The use of this word has become more prevalent with the rise of the LGBTQ+ movement.

George School, never behind in the area of social progress, began to recognize this term and its effect on the campus and community. Since then, a task force has been created in order to equally normalize all the different sexualities. Every Sunday, about ten people meet to discuss areas where they see heteronormativity on campus and how to change heteronormative policies. Led by Eden McEwen ‘17, the group works hard to brainstorm solutions to all sorts of heteronormative behavior and policies.

The task force was created last year as an initiative by Sam Balka ’16 through Student Council. To date, there are three Student Council Representatives on the task force, along with two returning members who are also on Student Council.

According to Eden, “The Heteronormativity Task Force was created by Student Council to address concerns from the community about the safety and integration of LGBTQ students in the dorms and in the classroom. Last year the task force took strides towards its goals to identify specific places in George School where there are heterosexist biases, to help create a clear LGBTQ policy regarding students in the dorms, and to raise overall conversation in residential and academic life about the preceding issues. The main goal of the task force is to develop a policy for queer students in the dorms that will make George School an overall safer place.”

Some issues the task force is addressing this year are dorm visitation policies and the inclusivity of the curriculum.

The current dorm visitation policy requires that doors must remain open to discourage sexual activity and limit the possibility of pregnancy and the breaking of a major school rule (no sex on campus). Upperclassmen and women are allowed to have members of the opposite gender in their rooms, but, even then, the visitation times are limited. This system conveys a lack of trust to the students and puts those who are friends with someone of the opposite gender in an awkward position.

As for the task force’s focus on curriculum, the English curriculum has little queer literature and the history department tiptoes around major events in the queer community. Additionally, the health curriculum seems to move too fast to properly address different sexualities, orientations, and genders. The Heteronormativity Task Force would like to come up with ways of addressing these issues and, even more importantly, creating a more inclusive and safe space for LGBTQ+ youth.

Next year, the task force will be open to more members of the community without an application process. Additionally, it has been working on outreach lately, collaborating with Open Doors to get a better feel for what changes the community wants to see.

If you have any questions or concerns about heteronormativity, the task force, or life at George School in general, feel free to approach any member  of the task force. Members include Eden, Brooke Angle ’18, Duffy ’18, Samaya Mayes ’18, Ben McCormick ’18, Ben McCormick ’18, Will Street ’18, Kat Stein ‘18,  Jacob Hoopes ’19, Kalani Chen-Hayes ’20, Sidney Gibson ’20, and me, Bea Feichtenbiner ’19.

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Filed under dorm life, Student Work, Students, The Deans' Office

Life as a Boarder: A Reflection

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Photo by Kim Major.

by Bea Feichtenbiner ’19

Life in the dorms is nothing like I expected. Coming to George School, I was terrified. What if I didn’t like my roommate or what if she didn’t like me? What if I didn’t make friends or I missed home? Questions along these lines ran through my head as I packed my stuff to leave. I don’t know what I was expecting, I think it was probably a combination of the dorm life from Pitch Perfect or Legally Blonde, where everyone meets for study groups, clubs, and parties, and Mean Girls which—to me was an example of what high school was like.

When I got to George School, I was shocked. I didn’t hate my roommate and she didn’t hate me. Making friends was easy. I missed home, but not so much that I actually wanted to go home. But more importantly, high school wasn’t like Mean Girls. It wasn’t full of scheming and plotting against those around me. Living in the dorms was like Pitch Perfect or Legally Blonde. I didn’t have to be part of a clique to fit in. I just had to be myself. I don’t spend a lot of time in the dorm, I prefer being out and about during whatever free time I can manage.

George School purposefully keeps you busy. There is hardly time to think of those “what ifs” that I couldn’t get out of my mind at the beginning of the year. When I do get free time, I use it to get ahead on homework. I call my parents on a regular schedule, so I never really missed them that much.

Of course, there were some things with which I struggle. I miss my dog, my bed, and my friends from home. I miss my sisters and home-cooked meals. I recently got sick and I missed having someone to take care of me. Going to a boarding school changes the way you view things. Things that were once important, take a back burner; especially when you go back home. You begin to appreciate life a little more. Small things become important. Like my Mom cooking my favorite meal when I went home for the first time after my birthday or my Dad getting me something that we were talking about on the phone a couple weeks prior.

Being a boarder at George School was like moving from one home to another. My parents and siblings will always be my family, but now I also have dozens of sisters and handfuls of brothers. My dorm parents are my parents away from home. Of all the things George School teaches its students, boarding or day, the most important is that family isn’t about genetics – it’s about who stands by you when you need it the most but deserve it the least.

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Filed under A Day in the Life, dorm life, Students, The Curious George

An Interview with Dawn, parent ’16

An interview with Dawn, parent ’16 conducted by Chloe ’16. Read on to find out what Dawn’s fears were about boarding school, how she came to terms with them, and the difference it has made for her family.  You can also check out some of Chloe’s other posts on the blog including: Pumpkin Spice Oreos, Filling Your Empty Canvases (Making a Dorm Room Feel Like a Home, Not a Box), and Speaking of Squirrels.

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Chloe and her mom at a George School softball game.

How did you decide boarding school was the right fit for your child?

Initially, I was very hesitant. Sure, Chloe had been to her share of sleepovers and overnight camps. But none of these had lasted for more than a week at a time. And although, as a little girl, she had spent a whole summer abroad without me, she had stayed with family then, not a bunch of strangers at a faraway school.

My willingness to consider boarding school grew over time. At first I was only willing to consider “local” boarding schools — schools inside of the tri-state area. I figured if I could get to her, driving, in an hour or less, the distance wouldn’t be such a frightening thought. After spending a couple of days visiting a school in Connecticut, meeting other boarders there, and seeing Chloe make her way around the campus, the idea of letting her go a little further away began to seem less scary. On the ride to and from Connecticut, I realized how close New Haven was to New York. A couple of my very good friends from college live there, and it occurred to me that even though I would be several hours away, they would be able to get to Chloe in far less time if needed.

Then I started thinking about all of the places where we had family or very close friends who I could count on to be surrogate family in a pinch. I thought of my own experiences as an undergrad (and even a grad student) living far from home. I thought about all of the really strong friendships that came of my time away from home. I realized that those friends became my chosen family, and that college and grad school was my home away from home. That’s when the boarding school decision became an easy one to make. That’s when I realized that it was the right fit, not just for Chloe, but for me, too. Continue reading

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Filed under Admission Office, Parents, Students