WMS day students comment on community life, teachers, and much more.
BETHLEHEM- Teva Kaplan, of Bethlehem, grew up wanting to attend The White Mountain School. As a kid, her father taught Geometry and Algebra II at the independent boarding and day school and Kaplan was exposed to the campus community. Now, Kaplan is a sophomore at the school and one of the local day students helping the admissions department spread a message: you don’t have to be an outsider to belong.
“It’s really the best of both worlds,” said Kaplan, mentioning the school’s diversity as well as its location in her native White Mountains.
Right now, 16 of the 103 student population are day students, but the school is looking to expand its day student population and they are offering ten $10,000 scholarships to do so and hope that parents who are wary about the tuition and/or the application process, will give the school a chance.
“Some of the most successful kids here are day students,” said Director of Admissions Allison Kimmerle. “We’d be crazy not to encourage more of the same.”
The North Country Scholars Program is a $100,000 fund set-aside specifically for day student applicants who are on the high honor roll at their current school to help cover the $22,000 day student tuition to the school. The scholarship is in addition to any financial aid the family may receive from the school. About 50 percent of the student population currently receives financial aid from the school – anywhere from a few thousand dollars to the full amount.
“This school works very hard to help students afford it,” said Kimmerle. “I think this is sort of an effort in response to that – knowing that $22,000 is a hurdle.”
Fiona McEnany, a freshman from Franconia, said it is was the diversity that initially attracted her to the school. She wanted access to different cultural experiences, and The White Mountain School was her ticket. With students from around the world – from Kenya to Russia to China – the school can offer her something the surrounding area cannot.
Despite the diversity of the student population, McEnany said she has found a tight-knit group.
“We’re a lot more together,” said McEnany, comparing the school favorably to her public school experience. “Everybody’s friends with everybody.”
For senior Victoria Fura, of Littleton, the community focus of the school is paramount, as well.
“I kind of wanted to try a different way of doing school, and I didn’t want to do homeschooling,” said Fura of her decision to attend. Fura said there is not one person she would feel awkward approaching in the hall and initiating conversation with.
“Between sports, classes, and work jobs, there’s no way you cannot get to know everyone,” said Fura, adding that there isn’t a division between grades, either. “When I was a freshman here, my best friend was a junior.”
“It’s just nice being in a smaller school and actually knowing everyone,” agreed sophomore Ashlee Little – a day student originally from Long Island whose family relocated here. Her public school on Long Island had 300 students in one grade – three times the total number who attend The White Mountain School, which boasts an average class size of nine.
The familiarity extends to the faculty, agreed the students, who are accessible to the students at almost all times living on campus and “bend over backwards,” according to McEnany to help their students grow. The teachers aren’t just authority figures, added junior Jody Clark, of Lincoln, but friends.
“There’s a casual aspect that makes it easier to learn,” said Kaplan – the students call their teachers by their first names.
This is not a school where you can sit quietly in the back of the classroom and not participate. The desks are set up in a circle or horseshoe and the small classes encourage dialogue between the teachers and all the students, rather than a lecture, said Kaplan. This creates a learning environment that is comfortable, but also challenging, added McEnany.
“For the first time in my life, I’m like, ‘This is hard,’” she said. “The academics here are so much better. I’ve learned so much in five months.”
Fura agreed the school is for the student who wants a different kind of academic challenge – the kind that does not end when class lets out.
“It’s more realistic towards studies in college,” said Fura. “Rather than having the teacher who tells you what the answer is, you go out and find it – or you find your own.”
This freedom often extends to having students ask their own questions. Fura brings up a humanties teacher who assigns “20 percent projects,” or projects that are 20 percent about what the students choose. When learning about Ancient Greece, for example, McEnany wrote an essay about marathons because she loves to run.
“It’s more open,” said Fura. “We do get all the required standard things – like English and math and science – but you go beyond that, too.” Fura is enrolled in an independent study right now where she is working towards publishing an article in a rock-climbing magazine. She has pitched her story to editors and, under the guidance of a faculty advisor, continues to work towards that goal.
In the coming weeks, the students will be embarking on their field courses. While some – like Fura – will be staying a bit closer to home in a course designed by Fura herself which will explore the inner workings of the ski industry through Cannon Mountain, others will be going around the world. Clark and McEnany will be heading to Nicaragua to learn about the culture, while junior Christian Willis, of Littleton, will be mountain biking across Maryland as he learns about the history of the sport.
The White Mountain School challenges students to get involved in extracurricular activities, as well.
Clark had hesitations about starting at the White Mountain School because of the lack of a softball team, but said she has grown to love lacrosse in its stead. The students note that the school does not have a lot of the team sports available at local schools, but makes up for it in other sports and activities – everything from freestyle skiing to climbing to theater. And for those who cannot live without a specific sport, then they can try forming a team. This year, some of the male students joined forces with the Profile boys basketball team.
Kimmerle said that The White Mountain School might not be the place for everyone – and that many students thrive in public school – but, for that student who is looking for something else, The White Mountain School could be the answer.
“When you find a good, contributing student – motivated, involved – you want to find more of those and, yes, if you only have to look in your own backyard, that’s be great,” said Kimmerle.
Kimmerle said for students or parents who are interested in starting the application process, they should visit the website, which has more information about the school and the application process. To apply, applicants need a student essay, a parent statement, three letters of recommendation, and a transcript. The application for financial aid involves filling out a parent financial statement. Kimmerle stressed that the admissions office is there to help at every step of the way, able to answer any questions and even to make phone calls on a student’s behalf to get a transcript. Once a student has applied, they will have an interview at the school, which Kimmerle said is as much a chance for the student to ask questions as it is for the school – a time for both parties to determine if The White Mountain School is a good fit for the student. Assistant Director of Admissions Molly Radis said there are a lot of different students who find the school to be a good fit for them, but academically-motivation and a real interest in investing in the school community are generally common traits.
Fura, who hopes to head to Marlboro College next year, has no doubt that her choice to apply to The White Mountain School four years ago was the right one.
“Best decision I ever made,” she said.