SOMERSET, NJ - When parents choose to send their children to Cedar Hill Prep School, it is primarily due to their unilateral focus on the school’s reputation in terms of their academics and rigor.  When students leave Cedar Hill Prep School, they talk mostly about their experiences at Cedar Hill Prep School – The sense of community, their overnight trips, friendships, and the attention bestowed on them by every member of the community. It is the memories that stay with them for life.  The people, environment and relationships, the extra-curricular activities on campus, the conversations they have with adults. 

During COVID times we the staff at CHP were confident about our teaching and student learning, we had conviction in our commitment that the circumstances would not compromise their education.  What we were all concerned and worried about was – The socio emotional well being of every student.  Learning is socio-cultural. A famous Russian psychologist Vygotsky said – If I had a little thought and one word, I could begin to generate meaning between the two.  The words would multiply and the thoughts would grow.  The dynamic relationship between the two would grow to create new meanings.  Meaning making is accelerated with social interaction.  And our concerns were – How will we duplicate the vibrant discourses and engagement in a virtual environment.  We looked at the calendar and saw all the communal activities that had been planned for Spring and were devastated that we could not have them.  Therefore, most of our energies were spent designing activities to keep students spirits high and to mimic the school experiences as closely as possible.  Schools are social institutions for learning, growing and forging friendships, navigating through social interactions and learning socially acceptable norms of engagement. 

Individual achievement is hollow when we cannot celebrate with a community, our families.  Individual achievement can make us isolated in a competitive world.  The class of 2019-20 can be rest assured that they were a community – with all the elements and spice of being a family – being mad with each other, celebrating each other and at some points not liking each other, but when the rights to all these emotional expression was taken away by Virtual learning – each one yearned for the time to physically be with each other.  That is the most valuable lesson from COVID 19.  Human beings need human beings to share and celebrate.  Today we are gathered together to do just that – celebrate seeing everyone, meeting everyone and saying farewell knowing that the connections will remain.

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We have 26 graduates today, each unique, special and assured of being successful in whatever they plan to do.  Remember, you are now going to explore a much bigger world – endless opportunities and possibilities.  There are new fields being created as we speak, and some of you might create many other.  Remember academic disciplines and subjects were created to foster a deeper understanding and research that was narrowly defined, but to be successful in life, one needs to find the connections between these disciplines.  Adult life is about finding ways to make human beings more comfortable – and this means – understanding the sociology or the structure of society, anthropology – understanding why there are so many cultural practices and how it came about, history – to know the past to make sense of the present and finally STEM to understand humanity, create better ways of living and towards equitable living for all people.  As you can see, we need to work in teams, bringing our different skill sets together to bring about big change and improvement in our lives.  I sincerely hope the biggest take away from a CHP education is to celebrate all cultures, promote equality and equity, focus on doing good for mankind and to refrain from prejudice and hate.  Unless, we get to know other cultures, we are not truly getting educated, nor will we experience life to the fullest extent.  As we travel, meet people from different cultures, eat their food, engage in conversations, we realize that over the 275000 years of the human race, there have been many iterations of civilizations and cross pollination – our lifespan of 70 years needs to be about adding value and not fomenting hate. Hoping each of you will be a change agent, doing good and spreading tolerance and love.

And now to the parents of the class of 2020, some of you have been with the school for 11years and some others just for a couple of years, but a good majority of you have been with the school for at least 4 years.  Many of you have entrusted the school with educating more than one child.  I sincerely hope you will leave today remembering the good times and knowing that everyone in the school worked 100% to ensure your child received a great education.  Please keep in touch, continue to reach out to us to help navigate the educational system, and remember even if your children are in college, we can still support their needs by connecting them to our network.

Congratulations Class of 2020.

The author Nan Menon is currently the Chief Education Officer of Cedar Hill Prep School located in Somerset, NJ.  For more information on Ms. Menon or Cedar Hill Prep School please contact 732.356.5400 ext 32 or visit our website at www.cedarhillprep.com.