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What does good learning look like?

RAMbassadors Formed to Personalize Admission Process

An interview with four members of the RAMbassadors club.

Student voice is part of Watkinson’s DNA.  Our students are encouraged to speak up, step up, and lead in myriad ways from the moment they enroll.  Not surprisingly, when Watkinson’s admissions process turned to a virtual one as a result of COVID, a new student group called the RAMbassadors helped to shape the process.

The club is led by Mrs. Riemann and Mrs. Martino from our Admission Office who asked the students to reflect on various parts of their own admissions experiences in order to improve the new, virtual one.

Caroline G. ’26 shared, “My elementary school (a magnet school) was bigger than Watkinson, so when I first visited Watkinson I loved how small these classes were. It seemed easier to learn because the students were able to get the help they needed from their teachers individually.” Amanda K. ’26 agreed, “ When I was considering Watkinson, I got to actually participate in classes on my shadow day visit; I felt comfortable enough to raise my hand. The work was challenging, but the perfect amount… I could tell Watkinson would push me to become a better student.” Remembering her day visit last year, new 6th grader Desteni D. ‘27 added, “I enjoyed walking around the campus; I felt like I was on a college campus because the buildings were so spread out, instead of every class in the same building. It was so cool that there were different teachers for each subject; at my school, I was in the same room all day.” Talia H.’26 recalls being struck by how nice the other students were, “Everyone introduced themselves, and it made me feel happy because I got to know people even before I came to the school.  Now that I’m here, I have friends in other grades.”

The student RAMbassadors meet weekly with their advisors and have agreed that it is imperative to devise ways to make prospective students feel the warmth of the Watkinson community and the personalization that is foundational to the community. Talia’s reasons for joining the group were personal, “Watkinson is a safe community where you don’t have to hide, you can be yourself, no one will judge you. I want to share that with others so they will know this is a place where they will be happy going to school.” While Caroline joined the group because she likes helping and meeting new people, Amanda’s motivation went deeper, “It’s important because the admissions staff can get to know the parents, but kids will be more comfortable getting to know other kids. Last year, everyone in my class wanted to be a tour guide when we had visitors for shadow days. Since we can’t do that this year, RAMbassadors lets us feel connected with students who might want to come to Watkinson.” With a spark of enthusiasm, Desteni added, “This club has helped me to share my school pride and become a leader of my new community.“

The work of the club has varied as the students look to support a virtual admissions process that is still evolving. Desteni has written personalized notes for a few students, “The Admission Office tells us a little bit about some of each student’s interests, so we are able to share specific examples of how they can keep their interests going at our school. For example, one student I wrote to loves history, and I was able to tell him about what I’m learning in Social Studies and about our teacher for that class and some of the projects we’ve done.  We hope that they will feel amazing when they get the card in the mail, and that they’ll be excited that we know their name already!” The RAMbassadors have also made welcome videos for families who will be coming for individual COVID-safe tours. Caroline hopes, “…these videos will help them feel connected. They’re not scripted; we greet the student by name in the video so each one is unique and personalized.”  

To date, the admissions office has conducted 25 on-campus tours. “There have been a few times when families have been on campus for outdoor tours, and I got to come outside and say hello. I got to see someone who may be a student, and they got to see how we’re still able to do classes and activities even when following social distancing guidelines,” Talia added.

Club moderator Carol Martino added, “We’re not at all surprised that our students are picking up this work.  Watkinson students have always gravitated towards work that makes others feel welcome. We are pleased, though not surprised, by the enthusiasm they have brought to this new RAMbassadors club.”  

Head of School Teri Schrader is simultaneously extremely grateful for and proud of the work of the RAMbassadors. “I am humbled that these middle school students intuitively know the importance and the need to help new students, they understand the gravitas of the moment. They bring their genuine knowledge of what the transition to a new school looks and feels like and thus know how to help make it better, easier for applicants.  We have a school of amazing adults, but these students are using the very real wisdom of their years…and it’s perfect.”

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