Ana Luisa and Jens Nystedt

Parents Committee National Chairs

Sarah Pruitt '95
June 7, 2022

Once their son, Erik ’22, made the decision to go to Exeter, Ana Luisa and Jens Nystedt wasted no time in getting involved with the school themselves. They started by attending parent events near their home in Greenwich, Connecticut. “We've always been involved in our kids’ schools since they were young,” Ana Luisa says. “Because we had no background in boarding schools, it was helpful to touch base with other parents who were a little bit more experienced.”

The Nystedts also took advantage of the fact that they were within driving distance of Exeter’s campus. In addition to Family Weekend, where Ana Luisa remembers getting her first taste of Harkness discussion in a history classroom, they attended Exeter Leadership Weekend, the fall event open to parent and alumni volunteers, in both 2018 and 2019.

“You do feel part of the community when you see familiar faces coming back,” Ana Luisa says. “You also get to know more about how to support the school — how things work, and where the needs are.” 

After Andrea ’24 joined her brother at the Academy, the Nystedts saw her flourishing just as he had. “I think both of them really appreciate the diverse student body, the ability of teachers to be almost always available, and being in an environment where they are surrounded by their friends at any moment,” Jens observes.

A bridge between parents and the school

When members of Exeter’s Family Engagement and Giving team approached the Nystedts about joining the Parents Committee, they embraced the opportunity to deepen their participation in the community. “Given the positive changes and the growth we've seen in our kids, when there was an opportunity for us to give back, we really welcomed it,” Jens recalls.

As the current National Chairs of the Parents Committee, the Nystedts see themselves as a resource for their fellow Exeter parents, especially those newer to the community who are in the same place Jens and Ana Luisa were a few years ago. “Sometimes they feel more comfortable engaging with another parent,” Jens says. “We are simply a bridge to help them approach the school when they need some extra help or have some questions.”

In addition to volunteering, he sees an additional opportunity to give back for those parents who can provide financial support to the school. “We're all benefiting from previous parent and alumni donations to Exeter,” he points out. “I think it's absolutely key to realize that there is a funding gap, and if we can help to fill that gap, it's the best way to make sure the opportunities that our children have had is something future children can have as well.”

Feeling connected to their kids

Just as importantly, their work with the school also enables the couple to feel more connected to their children’s lives. A four-year senior and proctor in Main Street, Erik ran cross country and winter track and co-captained the tennis team. He also launched a club at the Academy focused on remote control airplanes. Andrea lives in Dunbar and serves as a dorm rep for Student Council; she’s also on the cross country, track and tennis teams, co-heads two ESSO clubs, and participates in Sans (a cappella group), the Lionettes (dance group), Model UN and The Exonian, where she’s an editor of the humor section.

The impact of the Harkness system is also clear. “They’ve become more independent thinkers, and they can articulate their ideas better,” Ana Luisa says. “They’re taking more initiative in their own learning, which is great to see, and they’re more mature in trying to hear all sides of an argument before making up their own minds.”

“Harkness discussions have made [Erik and Andrea] much better debaters around the dinner table,” Jens agrees. “For good and for bad.”