We recently welcomed an enthusiastic group of alumni for our annual Homecoming & Reunion festivities. Beyond the joy of reconnecting with friends and faculty, alumni gatherings provide an opportunity to reflect on the enduring influence of formative school experiences. The academic components of a Newark Academy education are extremely important, of course, as they set our alumni on a course to succeed in college and in their careers. Those outcomes are well-known and much appreciated. But perhaps even more impactful are the self-confidence and the courage our students develop while at NA, which they often recognize only long after graduation.
One memorable reflection came from Denise Jamieson, Class of 1983, who recounted her experience on the cross country team. NA had only a boys’ cross country team when Denise was in ninth grade, but she approached the coach, who allowed her to join and run that season with the boys. In later seasons, other girls were recruited and a girls’ team was formed. Looking back 35 years later at our Alumni Awards Ceremony, Denise explained that this experience had a profound and lasting impact on her because it showed that regardless of her gender or other personal characteristics she could compete in any setting. That realization was an enormous boost to her self-conﬁdence, which she has carried with her on her path to a distinguished career as a groundbreaking obstetrician-gynecologist at the Centers for Disease Control.
“…empowerment comes not only from achievement and success but also from exposure to novel experiences, ideas and interactions with people from diverse backgrounds.”
Our school culture asks much of students, but it also affords them significant freedom in their course-work, in their choice of activities, and in leadership opportunities. The intellectual depth and breadth of the NA classroom is reinforced by activities designed to stretch students, including some that may make them uneasy. Performing in a dance concert, playing a big game in front of a raucous crowd, making an announcement at morning meeting, or traveling to a distant country on an immersion experience are for many students big and daunting steps. While these challenges can be intimidating at first, NA students invariably discover that they are more than capable of succeeding, often at a level beyond their expectations. This simple recognition of their own capacities leads immediately to greater self-confidence and a clearer understanding of their strengths, and it can herald the discovery of new interests and talents.
One lasting result of a Newark Academy education for all graduates should be empowerment: the confidence that they have the skills and qualities of character to succeed if they put their all into a pursuit. This empowerment is earned because they have met challenges in many different arenas. Importantly, empowerment comes not only from achievement and success but also from exposure to novel experiences, ideas and interactions with people from diverse backgrounds.
The alumni featured in this issue of LUMEN are wonderful examples who have succeeded in remarkable and original ways. They also remind us that our graduates have the imagination and courage to pursue interests that may fall outside of traditional paths.