by Rus VanWestervelt
I have a confession to make. As a dad, as well as an educator, I was probably a little too excited in being a part of the process of selecting the best school for our middle school-aged daughter. Although we did not initiate the search (that was our daughter’s doing, thanks to the great sell by one of her friends who had just been accepted to NDP), my wife and I jumped in with spreadsheets, late-night conversations, and pro/con charts that pitched our four chosen schools against each other.
I’m glad that we did invest the time, and I guess I shouldn’t ask for forgiveness for being too involved.
On the surface, each of the schools we looked at (two public, two private) was impressive. All boasted (and with earned bragging rights) high scores, individualized programs, beautiful facilities, and national recognitions.
How in the world were we going to determine the best school for Maddie when they all looked so good?
We started looking deeper at the finer aspects of each school, beyond the stats and the awards, and when we did, NDP began to emerge as the best choice for our daughter. Here are three clear reasons why we are thrilled that she is a member of NDP’s Class of 2020.
- The multi-layered and individual academic, personal, and career focus offered each student.
I have been a teacher for nearly 30 years, and I understand the need for unique instruction and personal focus when it comes to navigating the challenges in high school as our children prepare for college. While all schools offer strong academic and counseling services, NDP emerged as the clear choice because the curricula are scaffolded to provide challenging coursework for each student. With a combination of conducting relevant testing and personal interviews, NDP placed students appropriately to ensure each has the opportunity to work out of her comfort zone and be challenged in ways that provide success and advancement. The scaffolding also allows students to excel in specific areas while they work at a different pace in a different subject. Although other schools have similar programs, most are more generic or do not take into account the “whole” child to the level that NDP did.
In addition to the individualized academic focus that each student receives, I was most impressed with how NDP divides the counseling responsibilities. NDP defines the differences between personal and academic counseling, where college preparation is isolated and provided by specialists who can focus all of their attention in matching each student with the right schools. If a student is struggling with personal issues, she can see a personal counselor that can focus entirely on her immediate needs. No other school we looked at could even come close to this exceptional individual service and attention.
- The faculty and leadership team.
With each school that we toured, we found that NDP had the greatest energy and focus on empowerment and innovation, which is very different from tracking students on a narrow path toward the same goal. Each teacher and administrator presented him or herself as a leading professional who showed compassion toward each student. They knew the students by name (even in casual passing in the hallways), discussed deeper aspects of the curriculum as it was relevant to the students (in and out of the classroom), and showed an investment in each child’s well being beyond the content or the activities being taught. They were challenging, organized, confident, and supportive. When we, as parents, had questions before, during, and even after the admissions process, we received personable responses that were both enthusiastic and informative. The dedication and commitment they have to the school, the students, and the parents was simply unparalleled by any other school we considered. Even now, after all of the “selling” is over, the faculty and leadership team continues to be enthusiastic in every aspect of communication.
- The students.
Let’s face it: schools and school systems hire the best people to market and sell their programs. They have been trained well to be energetic, optimistic, and responsive. Ultimately, though, you need to look at the students and see how happy they are and what they have to say about the school.
In all four facilities, the selected students we met were solid individuals who were dedicated to their respective programs during their open houses. There was something different about the NDP girls, though. They didn’t come across as “coached” or “trained” for the events. We chose to visit each school several times, and our interactions with the NDP students – every single time – was what sold us that NDP was the best fit for our daughter. The students were articulate, they communicated with confidence, they were polite, and they were honest.
Most of all though, they were happy. They believed in their school. They believed in themselves. They were proud to wear the dress.
In short, NDP girls are genuine and authentic examples of the school’s mission and belief in empowering girls in a challenging and nurturing educational program to become women who transform the world.
This is what we want for our daughter: the opportunity to be a confident and independent woman who, through charity and international stewardship, can and will make a difference.
And now, as our daughter is a member of the class of 2020, she is proud to wear the dress and represent NDP as she prepares to transform the world. We are thrilled that she will spend the next four years surrounded by challenge, support, and sisterhood that will last a lifetime.
Rus VanWestervelt (www.baltimorewriter.wordpress.com) is a writer/educator living in Towson with his wife and three children. His daughter, Maddie, is a member of NDP’s class of 2020.