Eric Leung '20 Reflects on the Impact of Princeton Day School
"I entered PDS in 9th Grade, but before that, I went to West Windsor-Plainsboro's Community Middle School. That meant I was transitioning from a massive public school with over 400 students per grade to a small private school just a quarter of the size. I was excited but also pretty worried—wouldn't there be rigid cliques? And how would I fit into the drastically different school dynamic?
"Contrary to my preconceptions, PDS was overwhelmingly receptive and kind, both students and teachers. What really struck me was that the old students were actually really eager to meet all of us, the new students, and within a few weeks you couldn't tell who was "new" and who was "old."
Encouragement Fosters New Interests
"In Middle School, I saw myself as solely a STEM type of student. I was a part of the Lego Robotics Club, as well as Science Olympiad. And so when I came to PDS, I was ecstatic to hear that there were still the STEM clubs I liked. But on top of all the clubs I was familiar with, there were numerous other clubs offered that I had never thought of being a part of. After some serious encouragement from friends and my sister, I first joined the school newspaper. They knew I would like it even before I even knew I liked it, and I'm really glad that they helped nudge me in this direction. Since then, I've had the honor of being elected an Editor-in-Chief. It's hard to believe I might not have ever become so invested in this activity that I cherish so greatly right now.
"At the end of my sophomore year, I was contemplating running for Student Council Rep, but I wasn't even sure if I wanted to run. My class dean and English teacher, Dr. Manzulli, overheard me pondering whether to participate and asked me: 'Why not run for President? I think you'd be a great fit.' I had never actually considered the position up until that point, and that simple line of encouragement set off thinking that eventually gave me the confidence to try something I had never envisioned would happen. Now, I've had the honor of being elected the Junior Class President and reelected the Senior Class President.
The Power of Mentoring
"Similarly, when I first joined Model UN, I knew practically nothing about how to effectively speak in public, and I couldn't talk for more than 15 seconds in front of a room without visibly shaking and stuttering nonstop. But immediately upon joining, I was paired up with an experienced mentor, and they walked through everything from small-talk conversation "tactics" to specific hand gestures to use when speaking. All of that really helped prepare me. I firmly believe that it is through this amazing mentorship system, that you also find in so many other areas of PDS, that allows us to consistently place first at the most difficult national Model UN conferences, competing against thousands of competitors from around the world.
"Because I've grown so much here and since I want to give back, I applied for and was lucky enough to become a Peer Group Leader, one of 18 specially selected seniors who are trained by faculty supervisors to conduct regular discussions with all of the freshmen on topics ranging from peer pressure to academic concerns. As a Peer Group Leader, I can share stories of my struggles and insight on how I navigated through high school.
"To me, the common linking thread here is that PDS has been a nurturing and confidence-building environment for me. And that is exactly what PDS excels at. PDS is a positive, self-perpetuating system. PDS creates a culture where students love taking risks, where we push each other to be our best selves, and where we are willing to give back."