One Last Hurrah: Celebrating Lawrenceville's PGs

This year, Caoimhe O'Reilly '20 joined the long list of over 30 scholars who had attended Lawrenceville through the Protégés of Peace program, initiated by Katie McMahon '92.

Caoimhe O'Reilly:

This year, Caoimhe O'Reilly '20 joined the long list of over 30 scholars who had attended Lawrenceville through the Protégés of Peace program, initiated by Katie McMahon '92. To honor the peace that was finally established after three decades of violence between the Catholic nationalists and Protestant unionists, McMahon created the Northern Ireland scholarship in hopes of sending people from each branch of Christianity to Lawrenceville annually.

Although O'Reilly had already committed to attending Liverpool John Moores University

(LJMU), she decided to pursue a PG year at Lawrenceville in the spur of the moment. Initially, she was anxious about her transition to the School, especially given her initial perception that the students excelled in all aspects of campus life. O'Reilly imagined "everyone [being] good at everything" when, in fact, she realized that every "Lawrentian's strength tends to differ from that of their peers." Coming to Lawrenceville from an all-girls Catholic school located in Derry, Ireland, she truly appreciated the School's diverse community and enjoyed meeting people of all religions, genders, races, and nationalities. According to O'Reilly, the best part about attending this program is that now, she can brag to her Irish friends about meeting people from all over the world.

Not only does O'Reilly value the friendships she has formed at Lawrenceville, but she also recognizes the profound ways in which the School's shaped her mindset. According to O'Reilly, Lawrenceville taught her to achieve her fullest potential both in and out of the classroom: "When the people around you are working hard, you want to work hard too. Back home I pushed myself, but not to the boundaries I pushed myself at Lawrenceville."

In fact, O'Reilly attributes her decision to try a new sport to Ciara Hoover '20, co-captain of the Girls Varsity Softball team. "I remember in during my third week at Lawrenceville, I heard this batting noise from the field outside of Reynolds. I looked out my window, and it was [Hoover]. She asked me if I wanted to try, and she taught me how to bat." From that day on, O'Reilly knew she wanted to pursue softball and spoke to her math teacher at the time, Girls Varsity Softball Head Coach John Schiel H'78 P'97 '08 '10, about being a manager for the team. The announcement of a virtual Spring Term left O'Reilly disappointed as she looked forward to "going to the games and [partaking in] the team spirit" as well as spending her evenings watching uniquely-American sports, such as lacrosse and baseball. O'Reilly said she and her fellow Irish scholar, Amy Logan '20, would remember their PG experience as the "class of COVID-19," but she is nonetheless grateful for Lawrenceville and the experiences that pushed her out of her comfort zone.

Gunn Wanavejkul:

Gunn Wanavejkul '20, a postgraduate (PG) student from Thailand, was awarded a selective government scholarship to attend Lawrenceville, following an arduous application process detailing his extracurricular activities, reporting test scores, and writing several essays.

While most PG students choose to attend a school after weighing their options, the government scholarship program assigned Wanavejkul to Lawrenceville. Nevertheless, his experience here "exceeded [his] expectations," and he was particularly struck by the School's "open and supportive community." Reflecting on his interactions, Wanavejkul described his appreciation for the student body, who always has "something to say, something to write about, and something to show." In addition, Wanavejkul believes that what truly sets Lawrenceville apart from his previous school is the administration's and teachers' receptiveness to feedback, as they are always willing to improve student life.

From an academic standpoint, Lawrenceville has changed Wanavejkul's perception of education and community living. In Thai schools, teachers encourage students to listen and memorize rather than participate, but Lawrenceville's approach is different. Harkness learning, according to Wanavejkul, "is a strange arrangement but inspires new ideas and prepares people to discuss abstract [ones];" in addition, students can practice their speaking skills, which are important for future endeavors. Ultimately, his time here has prompted him to realize how drastically different the School approaches teaching and learning, and it is rather difficult to replicate these two features in the Thai educational system.

A talented pianist in the Lawrenceville Jazz Band, Wanavejkul has taken full advantage of the resources offered to him in the Performing Arts Department. Before arriving on campus, Wanavejkul did not think much of his abilities: "When I perform, it's something I just have to get done. I bow, I play, and that's it." At Lawrenceville, he was pleasantly surprised when fellow students, teachers, Housemasters, and even Head Master Stephen S. Murray H'54 '55 '65 '16 P'16 '21 congratulated him after recitals, noting that these experiences served as a testament to the School's supportive atmosphere and "proof that community members truly cared about [him]." Through his involvement in the music program at Lawrenceville, Wanavejkul learned to enjoy his performances instead of viewing them as another obligation.

In the Spring Term, Wanavejkul planned on composing a musical piece dedicated to Lawrenceville and intended to perform as part of a jazz trio, during school meeting. Joining a long list of Thai government scholarship recipients, Wanavejkul described how his predecessors "all had something to share with the community" and that he hoped to "offer something new to Lawrenceville," especially through his music.

Bridy Molyneaux:

Prior to attending Lawrenceville, Bridy Molyneaux '20 was a member of the Rumson-Fair Haven field hockey team during her four years of high school. Molyneaux decided to pursue a PG year to increase her chances in the recruiting process and when after receiving acceptances from both The Hill School and Lawrenceville, she followed her gut and picked the latter. During her first visit to Lawrenceville with Mia Mahfood '20 as her tour guide, Molyneaux immediately took note of the School's kind, uplifting culture. Moreover, Lawrenceville's overall reputation, rigorous academic curriculum, and established field hockey program also influenced her decision.

Similarly, Molyneaux envisioned the V Form class to be extremely close and thought it would be difficult to make friends. From the moment she stepped on campus, though, she immediately felt at home. "People would walk me places even if I didn't need help, they would show me around, and [let me] eat lunch with them," Molyneaux said. "I was definitely happy about being so welcomed because that was something I was really nervous about." On the field, Molyneaux noted how welcomed she felt right from the first day of preseason. "Even though I came from a successful high school team and was a part of it for four years, I felt so comfortable at Lawrenceville. It was nice to have that in just one year."

With that said, Molyneaux has also advocated for greater transparency regarding the counseling system and wellness resources: "If I could change one thing about Lawrenceville, it would be accessibility to emotional support. People go through a lot at Lawrenceville but not together… and that's something that needs to be brought to light."

From an academic standpoint, Molyneaux believes she has gained deep respect for her teachers; she would often work hard not just for herself, but for them as well. According to Molyneaux, "The teachers' involvement and desire to see us succeed is different from my previous school. When your teachers live at the same school you go to, it shows they really care, and the teachers at Lawrenceville truly do."

Although Molyneaux arrived at Lawrenceville with a particularly "stressful situation," she is grateful for Director of College Counseling Holly Burks Becker P '06 '09 '12, Girls Varsity Field Hockey Head Coach Lisa Ewanchyna, and her team for being her support system. Above all, Molyneaux's "eureka" moment at Lawrenceville was understanding that "wherever she ended up would be the right place for [her]," which she reminded herself of through the recruiting process. After graduating, she hopes that the "intensity and skills that [she] brought to the team" will inspire incoming female PGs and be a part of her Lawrenceville legacy. This fall, Molyneaux will attend Rutgers University as a member of the Division I Field Hockey team.

Samuel Chang:

Coming to Lawrenceville from Taiwan, Samuel Chang '20 recognized the cultural differences between Eastern and Western countries almost immediately. On one hand, Asian schools value academics over athletics; on the other hand, American schools strive to balance the two.

Although he spent less time on academics at Lawrenceville, Chang acknowledged that he "learned more here than back in Taiwan," and he attributes his newfound outlook on learning to his experiences around the Harkness table. Chang benefited from this method because he not only learned to "analyze and read a book, but [also] the way to enter a conversation effectively." In contrast to the educational system in Taiwan-in which teachers discourage their students from voicing their own opinions or asking controversial questions-Chang appreciates that Lawrenceville operates on almost an entirely different belief. Chang realized that "it is okay to have your own opinion" and that very few Lawrentians would judge his "competence" if he were to make a mistake. On the community as a whole, Chang is glad to have found "people who have his back [and] understand and accept him for who he is."

Chang's found his niche in the Visual Arts Department at Lawrenceville. As a young boy, he enjoyed drawing and painting, and it was comic books in particular that drove his interest in flash art. As Chang grew older, he began to "work a ton on his mechanics," which included shadowing artistic techniques. Upon attending Lawrenceville, he was surprised to witness the presence of artistics ideas in unconventional places. One such instance was in a philosophy class about Karl Marx, in which Chang learned about idealism and materialism; these two concepts "gave [him] a lot of ideas to work into [his] art." Ultimately, Lawrenceville's emphasis on interdisciplinary learning allowed Chang to exercise his imagination and produce abstract artwork.

On All Arts Night, which occurred in late February, Samuel showcased his expertise in flash art by drawing a live painting of Audrey Gruss and Martin Gruss '60 in front of numerous attendees. Two months prior to the event, Samika Hariharan'20 notified him of this opportunity and he accepted the invitation right away. On that special Saturday night, Samuel initially felt nervous, but the show, nevertheless, must go on. Afterward, Samuel reflected that "surprisingly, it went well" and his artwork provided community members a glimpse of the talent of visual artists at Lawrenceville.


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