Exeter's Immediate Priorities

April 14, 2020

While Exeter continues to attract remarkable young people from every corner, gifts to the Exeter Fund allow the Academy to expand its academic support resources to ensure that all students can access the resources they need to thrive. The Learning Center in Phillips Hall is the hub for many of these resources, where students can drop in during open hours any weeknight to get help from peer tutors in Latin, Spanish, Chinese, French, and German. Adult instructors are also on hand to provide assistance in math, the sciences, and writing. The Learning Center program is a student-focused pillar of The Center for Teaching and Learning (Harkness outreach and programs for educators are the others) and is an expansion of what began for writing and math a few years ago. The recurring evening hours at one location are meant to provide structure and predictable opportunities to seek help, or to keep kids on track.

Phillips Exeter Academy students have long been touted for their bright minds and ability to take on a rigorous course load while juggling multiple extracurricular activities. Gifts to The Exeter Fund’s Immediate Priorities designation provide the Academy with vital, flexible resources to maintain the school’s margin of excellence.

Meg Foley, the Michael Ridder ’58 Distinguished Professor in History who spearheaded the center’s development, has described The Learning Center as a support to aid every student at any time, not just when a student is struggling. “We want to build on our existing culture that asking for help is just a regular part of a good education,” Foley said.

However, asking for help can be difficult for students who are new to Exeter and are used to excelling. The intentional inclusion of peer tutors makes The Learning Center more approachable and is in the spirit of Exeter’s long-standing tradition of students helping students, which happens organically in many of the dorms across campus.

“I think often, when meeting with teachers, there can be pressure to seem fully prepared, and to understand what's going on right away,” reflected Kira Ferdyn ’22, who served as a Spanish peer tutor during her time at Exeter. “But with peers, you can be a little bit more candid. I think this helps people actually get the help they need, and potentially connect with someone new along the way.”

Exeter's academic support resources extend beyond The Learning Center, of course. Jonathan Nydick, the Academy’s Learning Specialist since 2017, works with students in select content areas and in study skills development, including memory, note taking, test taking, and reading. Nydick has jokingly referred to his role as “somewhere between an emergency room doctor and a relief pitcher.” In other words, he helps fill in the gaps by delivering highly-individualized student support.

Thoughtful gift to The Exeter Fund’s Immediate Priorities designation sustains the Exeter experience for each and every student. By choosing this designation, you ensure your gift goes toward the Academy’s greatest operational needs each year. Phillips Exeter Academy is grateful for your generosity, and your trust in our work to support our students' educational journey.

Nydick, who earned his master's degree from Harvard's Graduate School of Education and has worked in a variety of academic settings, spends much of his time networking and communicating with Academy students, teachers, and parents. He provides direct support to students through tutoring and teaching a study skills class, arranges for learning accommodations (such as ensuring distraction-free test spaces), and handles neuropsychological testing and evaluation.

We want to build on our existing culture that asking for help is just a regular part of a good education.
Meg Foley, the Michael Ridder ’58 Distinguished Professor in History

“Exeter students are intelligent and have a high capacity for work. They also have endless options when it comes to co-curricular activities. With so many choices, it can sometimes be difficult to prioritize,” Nydick said. As such, he sees his role as helping students manage their time efficiently in order to enhance their overall academic performance.

In addition to academic support resources, Exeter students receive college counseling beginning as early as ninth grade. The counseling process in the first two years focuses on developing student interests while building strong study habits. Students are encouraged to explore a wide array of interests ranging from academic areas to the arts and athletics.

Come eleventh grade, students are paired with a counselor who offers an individualized approach to the research and preparation required by the college application process. Group workshops are also held to provide further guidance. The overall goal of the college counseling process is to graduate students whose collective experiences, time, and effort will culminate in options that enable them to leave Exeter and embark on their next journey towards making the world a better place.

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