On Friday, December 7, Verona High School alumna Dr. Kathryn A. Foster visited her old high school to talk to junior and senior students about what she knows best: college. The 1975 Verona graduate is now the 16th president of The College of New Jersey (TCNJ).
December is a critical month for high school juniors and seniors. Seniors are finishing up their college application process while juniors are just starting it. But rather than make a pitch for TCNJ, Dr. Foster used her presentation to ease some of the anxieties that students have about applying to any college. She told VHS’ students that even though she did not get accepted into all of the colleges she applied to, she still found her perfect match, which turned out to be John Hopkins University. “I got into a place I really loved,” she said. “My bias is that I loved college and I spent my career in some way in and out of schools.”
Dr. Foster creation her presentation around 10 questions that everyone has about college. She shared her answers, and also the thoughts of the VHS graduates who attend TCNJ now. Dr. Foster’s questions ranged from “how is college different than high school?” to “is college worth it?” The question that earned the most attention from her audience was “Will I make friends?” A chorus of “No” and laughter escaped the crowd when that one flashed across the screen.
Dr. Foster was not surprised at the response and was able to decipher the nervousness hidden under the laughter. She knew that this question was on every single senior’s mind. She assured each and every one that they will “in fact, make friends” and that that is the last thing they need to worry about. “College is the least cliquey place you will go to,” she said. “It is a great experience and you will make friends.”
The presentation was long enough to be informative and effective, but short enough to keep the students’ attention. Throughout the whole period she had people clapping and laughing, and she even sang a Hillbilly song that used to be an anthem for the school. When the presentation ended, Dr. Foster stayed on at VHS to meet with Student Council members and some teachers and administrators.
The meeting included seniors Nicolette Marino, school president; Harrison Keating, vice president; Kate Ryan, Senior Class president; Brooke Cooney, Senior vice president; and Philip Chivily, secretary, as well as Michael Sluck, the Junior Class president; Christian Dionisio, the Junior vice president and sophomores Nia Chesney and Sarah Cole, respectively the Sophomore Class president and vice president.
Guidance Counselor Jennifer Gadaleta gave some general topics to the conversation and the students were able to use these topics to discuss things like college and school and get feedback from Dr. Foster and Grecia Montero, the director of admissions at TCNJ. Charles Miller and Robert Merkler, Verona’s director of curriculum and instruction and VHS’ athletic director, also both attended the meeting because they were graduates of TCNJ. Superintendent Dr. Rui Dionisio and VHS’ three other guidance counselors–Jennifer Dasilva, Nicolas Dillman, and Kristen Tarantola–were also present.
This meeting was a more intimate version of the larger one for all of the students. The questions were similar but now the students were able to elaborate and give more personal statements. Dr. Foster wanted to hear the personal side to each question, which allowed her to have a comfortable conversation with each student. No one was shy and everyone was open to add to the discussion.
Dr. Foster was very attentive to what the students had to say, and the students were focused when she and Montero gave insight on their opinions and worries. A topic that sparked conversation was about the pressure students feel to take difficult classes and go to the best schools. Dr. Foster was very understanding when the students stated their struggles and she gave her own experiences while also acknowledging that her college process was a lot different than what teens have now.
Dr. Foster knew exactly what to say to ease the nerves of the anxious seniors and to prepare the juniors as well. “It was not the normal college talk,” says VHS senior Cecilia Pandiscia, who thoroughly enjoyed the meeting and found it beneficial. “Dr. Foster answered a lot of questions that I was afraid to ask and, overall, made me feel better about applying and going to school.”