Lauryn is a rising senior at Pingry Day School and is currently looking for the college she would love to attend. Since she is an alumna of Cedar Hill Prep’s original graduating class, we asked her to share some of her experiences and how they have shaped her academic career so far.
This is Lauryn’s story:
CHP: Tell our readers a little about yourself.
Lauryn: I am currently a rising senior. I went to CHP from 3rd through 8th grade and was Valedictorian of the first graduating class in 2013. I was there when the school moved from the Ukrainian Center to its current building.
I’m not sure how many of the teachers we had are still there, but all of the teachers I had were great. They were all really good at explaining the material and making sure we understood it. This helped me to develop a study habit that works for me, one that has carried me through high school.
CHP: During your years at CHP, what was the achievement you were most proud of?
Lauryn: We were required to write poetry, do poetry recitals, write papers, and also read them out loud. Looking back, I hated it at that moment. I still hate public speaking, but I’m really happy that they made us do that because it helped me a lot, especially now that I am involved in theater. I still hate getting up in front of a crowd, but now I don’t have a problem with it. I don’t get those jitters. I’m more confident talking in front of crowds. It also helped me with memorization because we had to memorize all of the material we recited.
CHP: What impact do you think attending CHP had on your future education?
Lauryn: We had very small classes. My graduating class had only ten kids. My smallest class was in 3rd grade where we had seven kids, and my largest class size was 13. This created a sense of community that has impacted me a lot, especially after going to Pingry. Pingry has their community, and the theater group has their community, Now, I’m looking for a community vibe.
When I did a semester away, it was that small, tight-knit community that became something I realized I value a lot. It’s good to know that I value that now while I look for different schools.
CHP: It sounds like, in addition to arming you with the skills universities are looking for, CHP has also empowered you to be confident in what you are looking for in future opportunities.
CHP: In addition to this new perspective, as well as the skills you learned in the classroom, is there any one aspect of attending CHP that you appreciated?
Lauryn: I think it was just the way that the days were scheduled. We had long days. Our day would start at 8 am and end at 4 pm, but I think that’s how I got close with Ms. Nan and Mr. Seeley. I still go back to visit, and I still work there. I got close to the teachers and saw them as extended family. I still talk to my Math teacher.
It’s great to have such a network of people. Ms. Nan has been such a great help with choosing high schools and now colleges, by giving me insight into what I should be looking for. She’s been a great inspiration. I mean, she created her own school. She gives me the feeling that I could truly do anything.
CHP: What skills do you think will be most useful in your future academic career?
Lauryn: Problem-solving. When I was in middle school, we used a core math curriculum that was very problem-solving based. In my freshman year, they had given us several problems to solve which were all word problems. Although many students would typically get lost, I learned a lot of skills to help me tackle these problems. They taught us to divide the problem itself into sections and to identify which parts of the problem were most important, what parts were needed and which parts were irrelevant. These skills not only apply to math but to everything else. Oh gosh, I love problem-solving! It’s so much fun!
CHP: I know that you’re nearing the end of your high school career. Have you made plans for college?
Lauryn: I’m in the middle of a college search right now. I’ve been talking with a college counselor, and I know that I either want to go into engineering or the engineering field. But I’m also thinking of computer science and getting into video game design. That’s something that recently caught my interest. I also know that I want a small school, not so small that I won’t be expanding my comfort zone, but I am certainly still searching for that sense of community. I’d like to go to a liberal arts school in an urban area.
CHP: Do you have any top choices?
Lauryn: Not at the moment. I’m trying to stay away from top choices until I visit everything on my list. My college counselor gave me the advice to “fall in like with a bunch of schools, not in love with one.”
CHP: You said you were exploring both engineering and computer science. Is there one job or career you have in mind at the moment?
Lauryn: My ideal career right now would be something in chemical engineering, maybe pharmaceuticals. With computer science and video game design, I haven’t gotten the opportunity to explore those fields since I have only recently become interested in them. I’m looking to take some computer science classes in my undergrad year. If I were going to go down the video game design route, I would like to create an alternate reality. I know we are very far from that kind of technology, but I would like to create something that involves all five senses in a different world… that type of experience.
CHP: What an amazing aspiration! I believe we are closer now than ever before so how incredible would it be to create something so advanced and have your name on it?
Lauryn: I know… that’s actually my dream.
CHP: You had previously mentioned how involved you were with theater, so what was it that made you want to get involved in this field?
Lauryn: Well, getting into the theater was an accident. I had previously played recreational soccer in the 5th grade and always thought I would continue playing in high school. I had not realized how competitive soccer was at the high school level! I never wanted to quit anything, but the friends I had made were all in drama and performing in shows, so I thought I would try something new, audition, and hopefully get in. I ended up loving it a lot more than I ever thought I would, so I wound up doing the musical, as well.
This year, I had just returned from a semester away in Colorado when the musical started, so I thought I would try my hand at stage managing and realized that I enjoyed stage managing, too! Our drama teacher, who was directing the fall play, asked me if I would be taking drama the next year. When he heard I wasn’t, he told me to connect with him if I was serious about getting involved. After we had talked, I ended up being allowed to take Drama 3 which is usually unlikely without having taken Drama 1 and 2 first. It’s a lot of fun!
CHP: Did your experience stage managing inspire you to get involved in computer science or engineering?
Lauryn: It was entirely separate. I got into engineering when I did a program at Rutgers called TARGET, an engineering camp for girls. It’s a week-long program that I joined in 6th grade and participated in through my freshman year. That’s when I got really into engineering, and I thought, “Hey, this is cool!”
The way Pingry structures our science education is that we take half a year of chemistry and half a year of biology in our freshman year. Then, in our sophomore year, we do half a year of biology and a half year of chemistry. After I had been exposed to chemistry in my freshman year, I realized that I love chemistry. I also love engineering. Since chemical engineering is a career, I just thought, “Here we go!”
The video game design came in because I’ve always loved playing video games. I’ve always wanted to see an alternate reality be created, but it wasn’t until recently that I started thinking, “Why should I wait for it to be created when I can make it myself?”
CHP: If you got to meet a prospective student who was thinking about attending CHP, what would you say to them?
Lauryn: I’d say definitely go for it. If you’re looking for a school that will prepare you to go on to high school and will set you up with strong networks and good study skills and good habits, definitely go for Cedar Hill Prep.
Ms. Nan always wanted to deal with younger kids because their brains are still young, so they are ready to learn good habits. She always wanted to pave the road for them to be successful in life. It’s definitely a good opportunity.
CHP: Thank you Lauryn – we wish you well on your journey. We know it will take you to amazing places!