Unrivaled School Culture

At many schools, middle school students face a common predicament. Fitting in becomes more important than standing out. Conformity and cliques make it hard for students to find a sense of belonging, and the avid learner who once devoured books is increasingly more concerned with social standing than algebra, literature, sports, or extracurricular activities.

Willow students are certainly not immune from the struggles of pre-adolescence and adolescence. The difference we offer is a culture and community unmatched by other schools. Our small size helps children develop emotional intelligence. Students cannot fade into the background, but learn to develop and manage relationships with their peers and others in the school community. 

Our Age 3 to Grade 8 environment reduces the pressure for students to grow up too fast. Smart phones and their accompanying distractions are not allowed in classrooms. Middle school students still get to unwind and be kids during recess, even as they assume greater leadership roles within the school. Moreover, every child is known by faculty members, administrators, and students across every grade at Willow. With the active practice of virtues, support from advisory groups, and a strong community, students develop the skills to advocate for themselves, take risks, pursue their interests and passions, learn from mistakes, and, most importantly, be themselves.

This remarkable culture, in combination with Willow’s emphasis on student-directed learning, bolsters intellectual, social, and emotional growth. By the time our students reach Grade 8, they have led Morning Gatherings, initiated multiple service projects, and presented evidence-based research projects to the school community. In their final year at Willow, our highly capable students can tackle enormous challenges and opportunities because they are:

Grade 8 students understand their strengths, interests, and weaknesses and take an active role in the high school placement process. One of the culminating projects in eighth grade is an autobiographical documentary. Grade 8 students examine the extrinsic and intrinsic factors that shape their identity and produce a film that documents who they are and who they are becoming. 

Grade 8 students take charge of service committees like the Green Team, organize annual Willow traditions like the Talent Show, host community breakfasts to fundraise for their class trip, lead informative tours for visitors, and serve as mentors and role models to younger students.

Willow students develop a love of learning, self-discipline, and deep interest in their academics that inspires them to stay motivated and engaged in their studies in high school and beyond. Grade 8 students consistently perform at or above the national median on the CTP, a standardized test used by private schools, and Grade 7 and 8 students consistently outperform the national average on the National Latin Exam, earning a number of distinctions and awards.

Each spring, Grade 8 students intern with a business, non-profit, government institution, or other organization for one week. It’s a unique opportunity to explore a potential interest or career and connect the experience to Willow virtues. Watch one student’s documentary of her internship experience below:

The Willow graduation ceremony is the culmination of a year of transformative experiences and almost entirely student-driven. Graduating students brainstorm the theme for their speech together, and they workshop their speech individually and as a group under the guidance of an advisor. When each student delivers their portion of the collective speech, it’s a powerful presentation that leaves a lasting impression on all members of the Willow community.

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Director of Admissions Lisa VanderVeen is here to help! Contact her at (908) 470-9500, ext. 1100 or via email.

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