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Every experience makes us grow — nowhere is this more true than at North Country School. For Jeff Wang, joining NCS started with a big change. He moved from the fast-paced ultra-urban Shanghai to the serene six-million acre Adirondack  Park. 

From his first day, friends and teachers were warm and full of support, allowing him to adapt to his new environment comfortably. This, paired with exciting learning opportunities, positively contributed to Wang’s personal growth. 

To achieve such a feat, the NCS experience fuses both classroom and experiential learning. Their curriculum is uniquely structured in ways that are unmatched, helping every child unlock their hidden potential and passions. 

For Wang, his discovery and new found talent for Photography led to his acceptence into St. Marks, one of the top 10 boarding schools in the US. Here, he can now practise and improve his skills within a nationally recognised art department. Despite once having an affinity for the sciences and maths, he was amazed by the therapeutic effect of slowing down while working in a darkroom processing photographs. 

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North Country School biology class outdoors on a spring day exploring pond life. Photo by Nancie Battaglia. Source: North Country School

NCS was just as eye-opening for Sam Shi. He discovered his passion for biology as he learned about the wildlife and ecosystems within the Adirondacks. “The hands-on, placed-based teaching styles were wildly engaging,” he says. “A whole new type of appreciation occurs when you learn about living things while actually being surrounded by it.”

These are just some of the impactful learning that an NCS education guarantees and which positioned me for admission and prepared me for success at Duke University. NCS is a junior boarding and day school for children in grades four through nine. Situated in one of the most dramatic areas of the Adirondacks, the stunning High Peaks, NCS prides itself on educating and nurturing the children of today to develop the resourcefulness and skills they need for tomorrow. 

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Source: North Country School

A humanistic education rooted in respect and responsibility for self and others, paired with unique experiences in the arts, outdoors, community, as well as farm and garden, make this possible. NCS students grow and learn effectively thanks to the direct experience they get. Led by multi-talented teachers, they aren’t just learning by doing — they’re knowing by doing. 

Shi got a taste of this as early as his first day in the Design and Build class with Larry Robjent. “No NCS class operates like your standard, textbook classes,” he says. “Larry laid out our year-long project of deconstructing an on-campus bridge and plans to build a new one. A year-long project, where we actually got to work outside, with our hands, and build something practical? No chance you’d find that anywhere else.”

Shi described everything about that class as “special.” He got to be creative, use tools, and most notably, appreciation for physics and engineering expanded in practical ways. “At the end I got to stand alongside my classmates and admire the product of our efforts, something that would remain a piece of NCS for many years to come,” he shares.

Such breakthroughs happen daily at NCS. They span the social and personal spheres too. “The journey of discovering how to trust my abilities and competence as well as that of my peers is a life lesson that has remained with me and likely always will,” says Shi. “The teachers always encouraged me to try new things and to trust myself. Being resourceful and identifying or creating tools for success gave me a sense of independence I probably would not have gained until much later in life.”

Without NCS, Shi would not have sought out an EMT certification prior to starting at Duke University. He is thankful for its value in his college activities these days and NCS for unlocking his passion in biology. He’s now leaning towards majoring in the medical science field. 

Shi is now part of Duke’s Event Medical Services team, which offers medical support during sports, functions, and so on. This unique organisation is an all-volunteer, student-run division of the police department and Duke Life Flight that provides event medical services at Duke University sporting events. “The pressures of college pale (slightly) in comparison to those of being an EMT, and that’s benefitted me in not getting overwhelmed.”

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North Country School is surrounded by 30,000 miles of rivers and streams, 2,300 lakes and ponds, 2,000 miles of hiking trails, and the tallest mountain in the state, Mount Marcy. Source: North Country School

Such altruism and confidence can be attributed to NCS’s 9th Grade Leadership programme. The oldest members of its student community learn how to become  curious, responsible members of the community, setting the tone for the younger students on campus throughout the year. They serve as mentors in their houses, at the barn, completing daily chores and community work-jobs, leading council at mealtimes, hiking or camping on the weekends, participating in sports and other outdoor activities, as well as its annual all-school spring theatre production.

With such programmes, is it little wonder NCS students gain confidence, creativity, mastery, and knowledge. As Shi says, “There truly is no place like NCS. I had no idea how cool this place would be, and certainly didn’t anticipate my time there impacting my life as prominently as it did and continues to do.”

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