Summer courses join virtual realm

  • St. Paul's School ELIZABETH FRANTZ—Monitor file

Monitor Staff
Published: 6/20/2020 3:02:37 PM

St. Paul’s School’s Advanced Studies Program for New Hampshire high school students is going virtual next week, with a focus on leadership.

The program, now in its 63rd session, is an opportunity for public high school students from around New Hampshire to get a taste of college life in a challenging 5½ week residential program on the St. Paul’s campus. This year, due to COVID-19, the program has been switched to a two-week online symposium where students will meet with notable leaders in different fields, for online lectures and Q&A sessions.

“Our desire was, even if we cant give kids the traditional ASP experience, what can we give them that will motivate and inspire them after a spring that has for many kids been a real challenge?” said Kathy Giles, rector of St. Paul’s School. “We quickly centered on this idea of leadership. Wouldn’t it be great if we could connect leaders, across industries and sectors, with high school seniors who would be leaders in their communities?”

One hundred-ten rising seniors are signed up for the program, which starts Monday. Each day will begin at 8:30 a.m. with a group session, followed by two 90-minute blocks, one dedicated to college prep and the other to meeting with notable leaders in fields like bioengineering, politics, law, immigration and climate change.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen will be one of the guests meeting with students via webinar to discuss leadership. Other guest lecturers include sociologist Shamus Kahn, bioengineer James J. Collins and New Hampshire State Sen. Melanie Levesque, among others.

“For New Hampshire kids, whether they are watching the shaping-up of the national political conversation toward the election in November, or whether they’re trying to figure out the (COVID-19) policies that differ town-to-town in the state, they are seeing a lot of people making decisions and taking responsibility in a way that is unprecedented,” Giles said. “It seemed like a great idea to have the students talk to some of these people.”

One invited lecturer, Jane Flegal, did the ASP program in 2004 when she was a student at Nashua High School North. Flegal, now a California-based social scientist with a focus on climate change and clean energy, does grantmaking to support climate change at the Hewlett Foundation. In the ASP program, Flegal said she particularly enjoyed the class she took in marine biology.

“I hadn’t really considered myself a student who excelled in the sciences, but that experience kind of shifted my own sense of my abilities because I really loved the class and did well,” Flegal said. She came back as an ASP intern in 2008, and has returned in recent years to give lectures to the marine biology class.

“My hope is to get the students energized about the possibilities for making real change in the world within and outside of New Hampshire on global problems including climate change,” she said. “And ensuring that they have huge understanding of the climate problems.”

Mike Ricard, the director of the ASP program, said one of the goals this summer is to give students a different online learning experience than they may have had in school during their spring semester. Many New Hampshire high schools opted for an asynchronous model of remote teaching, meaning the students completed tasks on their own time, without face-to-face video instruction.

“My sense is that there has been a lot of asynchronous work and not a lot of small group, face-to-face education,” Ricard said. “We try to make it as interactive as we could, regardless of what it was.”

As well as meeting with prominent leaders, students will also be doing remote versions of the college prep workshops that usually happen during the residential program, with St. Paul’s School college advisor Myra Singletary. There will be sessions on crafting a college essay and tips for the college application process.

The cost for the program, which is usually $4,300 for the full residential program, has been reduced to $500 for the two-week online version.

Despite the differences in structure, organizers say they hope the core essence of the program, including the inter-personal connections, will continue to be as valuable.

“It’s exposing them to leaders and content and my hope is that when they go back to their communities they are going to be more informed, better educated and hopefully leading those conversations,” Ricard said.


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