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​As schools begin to wrap up another academic year, exploring the details behind a school’s success stories can be helpful in planning your next educational step.


An evolving landscape

“At Immaculate Heart Academy, we find that a major key to our success is to remain on the cutting edge of educational programming,” says Jason Schlereth, principal of Immaculate Heart Academy. “We recently introduced a College Counseling Department to better serve the needs of our students. This new department allows us to have a more focused, individualized plan for each of our students to ensure they are attending the colleges that will allow them to attain their goals. Our College Counseling Department also works diligently to educate parents about the ever-changing landscape of college admissions.”


Education to empower girls

When it comes to empowering girls, schools are making significant progress. According to Erin Pihlaja, head of communications for Emma Willard School, “For over 200 years Emma Willard School has been a leader in girls-first thinking. At Emma, we empower each girl to serve and shape her world. This year, we became the first high school in the country to engage with Culture of Respect, a NASPA affiliate, to ensure that we are on the forefront of preventing sexual assault and violence — issues that impact women and schools everywhere.”


Preparing for a brilliant future

For some schools, preparing students for success outside of the classroom includes focusing on their spiritual growth. “Kennedy Catholic High School is Northern Westchester’s premiere college-preparatory high school, serving young people from the surrounding region,” Fred Compton, director of advancement, explains. “Kennedy Catholic follows a rigorous Regents curriculum, while also training students in the sound doctrine of Catholic faith — a combination that makes students well-prepared not only for college, but also for a successful life. Kennedy Catholic offers academics, fine arts, and athletics that equip students with the exceptional strengths colleges value.”


Canterbury School is a college preparatory, coeducational boarding and day school for students in grades 9-12, situated on 150 acres in New Milford, CT. Founded in 1915 and guided by its Catholic heritage, the School prides itself on creating a community based on its Five Values: Honesty, Respect, Compassion, Spirituality, and Self-Reliance. The Canterbury community is comprised of students and faculty of many faiths and backgrounds, and approximately 320 students come from 18 states and 20 countries. The School’s educational environment fosters academic rigor, athletic development, artistic enrichment, spiritual growth and strives to ensure a superior experience that prepares students for leading colleges and universities and for life.


Meeting the challenges of science and math

The STEAM Jr. Room at Doane Stuart School has become a maker-space, art room, math class and invention center all in one! This year, it has added another focus of discovery and exploration including the very basic tenets of computer coding. Students ranging from early childhood through fourth grade are learning to code with a variety of tech tools, apps, robots, and good old-fashioned paper! STEAM teacher, Kate Skivington, presented at this year’s Future of Technology in Education Conference in Orlando, FL. Her main focus was using the Scratch Jr. app in multiple content areas, in a lower school classroom.


Bringing the world to students and students to the world

Participating in Model United Nations (MUN) can help students appreciate how governments collaborate on the global stage and better understand the subtleties of diplomacy. In January, Dutchess Day School sent 22 delegates from the 7th and 8th grades to Boston. “Model UN provides practice with public speaking, research, parliamentary procedure, and writing a position paper,” history teacher and MUN advisor, Donna Fedele, notes. “The students develop global awareness and understand the nuances of their assigned country’s positions. Collaborating with students from all over to accomplish a goal is a huge learning experience.”


At Oakwood Friends School, experiential global education includes service learning in the local community, cultural exchanges, and a course of study that stresses collaborative work and depth over breadth. “It allows an opportunity for ethics to be experienced, which is an emotionally powerful thing,” says Anna Bertucci, associate head for academics and student life and head of the upper school. “It is more likely to transform the learner. Students gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of the world when they are challenged to study and understand certain world views that are sometimes vastly different than their own.”


Defining success on a higher level

At the college level, the stakes can be even higher and the experience more intense. For example, Bard College Master of Arts in Teaching (BardMAT) is an intensive graduate teacher education program leading to a discipline-based master’s degree and teacher certification in grades 7 to 12. As Cora Roberts, BardMAT alumnus and high school English teacher, explains, “I have spoken to a lot of teachers who went through a wide variety of teacher training programs. Honestly, I’ve never heard anyone describe an experience that seemed to rival what I got at the BardMAT. I’ve also had the pleasure of knowing and working with other BardMAT graduates in my school and through professional and social networks, and they are a highly committed, effective, and intelligent bunch. BardMAT is definitely doing something right!”


Not all learning occurs in the classroom; students also benefit from sharing knowledge and ideas with their academic counterparts.  Courtney Gray, ’17, St. Thomas Aquinas College honors student, and Ben Wagner, PhD, assistant professor of psychology, presented their collaborative research “My news is important to share: Connections between narcissism and social media usage” at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Annual Convention (San Antonio, TX). “The conference provided me with a wealth of information from the most brilliant scientists in the field and confirmed for me that conducting psychological research is the right career path for me,” says Gray about the experience.


Achieving success in creative endeavors

After 12 years of offering photo workshops nationally, Digital Photo Academy has opened a location in the Hudson Valley, now that the owners have moved here. Snow or sun, Hudson Valley is among the most photogenic regions of the country. Participants learn camera mechanics and post capture computer techniques in the 200- year-old stone home/headquarters, with private and group options. The real fun? Spectacular in-the-field shoots led by talented photographers who are adept instructors. Options include a day session, night shoot, or sleeping in one of the charming antebellum rooms of the mansion for a multi-day experience. There is a state-of-the-art darkroom on premises for those who reject digital. See http://digitalphotoacademy.com/portfolio/hudson-valley/.

Anthony DiBattista, like hundreds of students who have graduated from The Art Effect’s Art Institute, will be attending college next year on a merit-based scholarship in the arts. “Each year the level of what our students achieve astounds me,” says Art Institute Director Todd Poteet. Since its inception almost 22 years ago, The Art Institute has helped high school students throughout the region develop professional college arts portfolios and receive scholarship offers totaling more than $43 million. Art Institute graduates have gone on to prestigious art careers at companies such as Tiffany & Co., IBM, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Fisher Price, Victoria’s Secret, and so many more.




The Art Effect

45 Pershing Ave


Bard College Master of Arts in Teaching

30 Campus Rd


Canterbury School

101 Aspetuck Ave
New Milford, CT


Digital Photo Academy

15 Powder Mill Rd


The Doane Stuart School

199 Washington Ave


Dutchess Day School

415 Rte 343


Emma Willard School

285 Pawling Ave


Immaculate Heart Academy

500 Van Emburgh Ave
Township of Washington, NJ


Kennedy Catholic High School

54 Rte 138


Oakwood Friends School

22 Spackenkill Rd


St. Thomas Aquinas College

125 Rte 340

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Hudson Valley Magazine editorial staff.