Meet Pranav. Pranav is an alumnus of Cedar Hill Prep (2nd through 8th grade) and is currently in his sophomore year at Princeton Day School after having completed a successful freshman year.
We asked him to share some of his experiences and how they have shaped his academic and social experiences since graduating from Cedar Hill Prep.
CHP: What achievements/awards at Cedar Hill Prep are you most proud of?
Pranav: In the 7 years I was at CHP a lot happened in terms of things to be proud of. In Middle School, a few of my friends and I made it to the national level of the History Bee, where I placed 15th. We had very strong History Bee and History Bowl teams when I was in Middle School.
In my graduating year, we focused a lot on debates. We went to debate competitions in the region, and we went to Nationals in my 8th-grade year, as well as the year after I graduated. While I was there, we won a lot of awards in debate competitions.
CHP: Do you think that CHP had a direct impact on your education to date…and leading up to your decision to attend Princeton Day School?
Pranav: Yes, definitely. In fact, I look at my education at CHP as my formative years in education, especially my time in Middle School. My education at CHP has been and will continue to be extremely valuable and contributes to my success at Princeton Day.
One thing in particular that I really benefited from was the Language Arts program at CHP. My teacher, Mrs. Steiner, educated my classmates and me and brought us to a very high level of writing. This resulted in the fact that now, at Princeton Day School, I have no problems writing papers for English, History or Science. In fact, I consistently score highly on these papers. This is due to the experience Mrs. Steiner gave me in writing essays, short stories, scientific research reports, and more.
Another significant impact on my education came from my participation in debate at CHP. Debate class helped to improve not only my critical thinking skills but also the critical thinking skills of the others in the class. My classmates have told me that debate at CHP has benefited them in their high school careers, just as it has benefited me at Princeton Day and in the Model UN that I now participate in.
Since CHP is such a small school and is a close, tight-knit community, CHP was the foundation for the growth of my social skills. I used to be extremely introverted, but at CHP I formed relationships with every kid in my class. There were 12 of us and, when we graduated, every single one of us was close with each other, and we still remain in contact today. CHP helped me develop socially and personally.
CHP: Is there anything else you appreciated about CHP?
Pranav: I really appreciated how personal and caring the school could be. I was close friends with a lot of students, and there were amazing teachers like Mrs. Steiner, Mrs. McAdams, our Social Studies teacher, and Mrs. Tuazon, our Math teacher. They were very encouraging and close to us, personally. It’s one of the things you usually can’t get in public schools because their class sizes are so big, and so you don’t get as closely acquainted with your teachers.
Because of the close relationships with the teachers, there was a very nurturing environment at CHP. They paid close attention to our lives to make sure that we were doing well. I remember specifically that I used to struggle significantly with organization of my locker. The teachers would team up together and force me to clean up my locker, but they’d assist me! So, little things like that happened every day with the teachers at CHP, and that defined my experience there.
CHP: What would you say are the skills that you learned at CHP that will be the most useful in your future education at Princeton Day and beyond?
Pranav: As I mentioned earlier, the Language Arts program with Mrs. Steiner was incredible and has more than prepared me for Princeton Day. I was astonished at how, even though Princeton Day is a really good private school, I probably learned more in one year with Mrs. Steiner than in English 9 at Princeton Day.
Also, in spite of the fact that I transitioned to high school, I was really well-prepared for History and English because of the level of writing that we had to do at CHP. It has translated directly into the research papers we now prepare and the essays we now write. That really made my freshman year go much more smoothly.
In addition to the Language Arts program, participating in debate developed my critical thinking skills. Debate was run by Mrs. Nan, our school’s founder. She coached us personally and paid careful attention to our 8th grade class in particular, since debate started the year we were graduating.
She taught us to prepare our points and to carefully present our arguments, our reasoning, and our evidence. This translated into my making it onto the Model UN team at Princeton Day as a freshman, without too much difficulty. I ended up winning a 2nd place award for my committee at a Model UN conference. At these conferences, my friends and I have said that the debate program at CHP was really strong, was really important to our development, and really prepared us well for high school.
Aside from the humanities, the personal and social skills we learned were probably among the most important aspects of our education because they gave us the ability to relate to other people. We were in a small environment — I spent the whole day in all my classes with the same 12 people. Since we all went to the same classes at the same time together, it was an experience which, I believe, helped all of us. It shaped our ability to form relationships with people in high school.
Also, there were numerous other classes that were pretty unique to CHP and were run by Mrs. Nan. We had a Thinking Skills class and an Engineering class. Both of these classes focused on the practical integration of what we learned in our other classes.
Our Thinking Skills class was an extension of debate. We would research and debate various topics; we would think about various ideas. This is also where Mrs. Nan tried to improve our organization and time management skills.
There was also an Engineering class and a Design class, which integrated various aspects of our Science curriculum. Mrs. Nan would assign us a problem and, to address and solve it, we had to design a project.
CHP: Do you think there were any benefits to the school founder being in the classrooms and spending face-to-face time with you and your peers?
Pranav: Yeah, definitely. Mrs. Nan, even though she is the school’s founder, has had a direct hand in all of our educations, and is still directly involved in the development of the school today.
Before she started the school, she was an engineer, worked in textile research, and had participated in debate as a student in India. She had a wealth of experience, connections, and resources which she used to educate us. Mrs. Nan was even, at times, able to arrange things like having the Township Planning Committee come in and talk to us. We had a project about designing our own community, and the committee discussed with us the ins and outs and intricate details of community planning, ranging from detention basins to how each house has to be placed in order to follow regulations to create a safe and sustainable community.
Mrs. Nan showed us TED-Ed videos and gave her own presentations on time management and cognitive thinking, which were interesting, to say the least. They were given to us throughout Middle School, so in the beginning, we didn’t fully grasp what she was talking about. However, as time went on, more and more of what she said started to become useful in our practical daily lives.
Between her experience and resources, and how much she cared about our education, she had a very positive impact on our education.
CHP: So, beyond being the school’s founder, Mrs. Nan is an educator and a good networking resource for years to come as you move forward in your education and career.
Pranav: Yes! Actually, I am still in contact with her today because she organizes events for alumni, gives us opportunities, and connects us with her contacts. She arranged a law internship for one of my friends, even though he just finished his freshman year.
CHP: Do you have plans for college? Are there prospects you are considering?
Pranav: I hope to become a physicist and a researcher. So, the university I am most interested in is Princeton University because it is right next door to where I live and has one of the best physics programs in the world.
CHP: What made you choose being a physicist? Did anything specific get you into that?
Pranav: So, it started when I was 6 years old and in the first grade. My uncle is a Science journalist. He came over to my house once and explained the subject of Physics to me. That is the event that got me interested.
Even before that conversation, I was always interested in Science and Math, but after the conversation with my uncle, I started gravitating more towards Physics. Throughout my time at CHP, I got familiar with more kinds of Science, and I used to do stuff on the side as well. I read books and watched documentaries, and this was encouraged. Now that I am in high school, my decision has become more definite. In my freshman year, I took Physics along with Biology, and I am certain Physics is what I want to go into.
CHP: What would you say to any new students who are thinking of joining the CHP family?
Pranav: I suggest going to CHP because there are great opportunities that you can find only there, and it’s a unique kind of experience that you can’t get in other schools that are of a similar caliber to CHP. Because of the class sizes, teachers, community, opportunities, and experiences that exist at CHP, I highly recommend that new students join CHP, especially those going into Middle School.
CHP: Did going to CHP have a significant impact on you ending up at Princeton Day School?
Pranav: Yes, definitely. First, Mrs. Nan and other teachers helped us with our applications to high schools, prepping for the SSATs, and letters of recommendation. CHP tends to send a lot of students to the top private high schools in the area after Middle School is over. So, Mrs. Nan has seen a lot of people applying to these high schools, has contacts at all of them, and stays in touch with the Admissions Departments.
CHP definitely played a really important role in getting me into Princeton Day School and my friends into other private high schools.