It has been nearly eight weeks since I stepped onto campus in my new role as Executive Director of College Counseling here at Ransom Everglades School and the one word that keeps coming to mind is extraordinary. Having spent 23 years in Ithaca, New York, I find it remarkable, if not somewhat disorienting, that I pass by palms on my way to work each morning. Driving onto the RE upper school campus each day and seeing the Biscayne Bay in the distance is also a rather astonishing view even as I consider the gorgeous views of Cayuga Lake that I had from my office at Cornell. It is hard to believe that this extraordinary backdrop fades to the recesses of my mind the more that I learn about the exceptional educational opportunities available for Ransom Everglades students.
As I continue my work on a strategic plan to reimagine college counseling at Ransom Everglades, I have been thinking about how we as a school will elevate RE students in a way that differentiates them in this increasingly competitive national admissions environment. One way is to better tell the story of how RE students engage in learning through our signature programs and distinctive courses. As I have met with students and parents over the past several weeks, I have learned how our students are earning the Ransom Everglades Seal of Biliteracy – in some cases, we have students who will graduate with some level of proficiency in three, even four languages. I have also learned about research being conducted by our Dan Leslie Bowden Fellows in the Humanities, students pursuing a passion through independent study, and participating in distinctive courses like Marine Field Research and Linear Algebra. Students are also challenging themselves through 600-Level courses like Advanced Machine Learning. These educational opportunities are not only unique among independent schools, but they attest to the rigor of the RE educational experience.
As I have met with RE seniors to discuss their college plans, I have also been struck by their extraordinary level of engagement in activities outside of the classroom. Students are serving as teaching fellows, engaged in educating others about compassionate leadership, building technological infrastructures for corporations abroad, interning for mechanics, producing serious podcasts on important events of the day, and many other noteworthy activities. What’s more, they often tell me about these endeavors as though they are rather ordinary. In fact, sometimes I find myself saying in conversation, “Wait a minute – can you back up and repeat what you just said?” I often call these exchanges “headline moments” because they provide the headline for the stories of these accomplished students as we develop the counselor letter.
I recently found myself at 4 a.m. searching some of my still unpacked boxes for a book called Breakfast at the Victory. The author, James Carse, a former professor of religion at New York University invites the reader to find the extraordinary in the ordinary of everyday life. As I’ve thought about my conversations with students, it occurred to me how important these seemingly ordinary student experiences are to knowing just what is extraordinary about RE students. Admissions officers seek to better understand applicants through their experiences. Identifying these unique experiences and events that tell the story of individual students will be a central focus of strategic planning.
As you have ideas about elevating RE students, please contact me by email or by telephone 305 460 7956.
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.