When sophomore Samara Himmelfarb first gave a tour as a member of STAR to a prospective student, butterflies squirmed around her stomach as she didn’t know what to expect; however, after meeting and learning the student who she would be touring’s excitement about different aspects of CESJDS, Himmelfarb relaxed and proceeded to connect with the student and take her to locations that were relevant to her interests.
The Student Admission Representative program, commonly known as the STAR, provides a platform for students to be the face of the school for prospective and current families at JDS.
The program was curated in 2013 after former college counselor Dorie Ravick borrowed it from a previous teaching setting at George Washington University. The program was introduced to the JDS admissions team and, after consideration, they sought to incorporate it in the 2018-2019 school year.
Earlier in the 2018-2019 school year, the application for the program was sent in weekly high school announcements. The application laid out a multitude of procedures that described the responsibilities and requirements that the students were obliged to follow and included specific tasks such as attending interests meetings, training and open houses to speak at. Of those who applied, 28 students were accepted to the program.
For students in the STAR program, the primary obligation is to give tours to current and prospective families. By presenting their authentic experiences from the school, they hope to persuade students to attend JDS or stay at JDS.
Upper School Admission Associate Emma Hart spearheads the program alongside Director of Admissions Miriam Stein. Together, they work with the STAR members to provide them flexible work schedules and ensure that they telling convincing, yet genuine stories to prospective students and families, according to Hart.
“[Students] are doing real life things in a high-school setting. In other words, you’re telling your authentic story to strangers, and you are pseudo-interviewing, getting to know people, and having those tricky conversations that you have nothing in common with,” Hart said. “It’s neat how students have the ability to have conversations that are not manufactured.”
According to Hart, the best quality of a STAR is “want[ing] to represent the school,” as well as being prepared to start conversations with all types of family dynamics and be able to share one’s authentic JDS story.
Sophomore Carrie Hirsch is a student ambassador and appreciates the flexibility of the program with her schedule, as well as the ability to foster relationships with all students who tour the school, and be a resource for new students, as the STARs were when she toured herself.
“It connects me to new students in many different grades … especially when they’re significantly younger. Next year, I’ll be an upperclassman, so it’ll be harder to get to know freshmen, and this is a good program to [meet other students,] Hirsch said. “[STAR] benefit[s] new students since they will have someone be there for them. I still remember who gave me a tour when I was new, so it’s creating a safe place, connection and someone you can talk to.”
When introducing and organizing the program, Hart wanted to reiterate that the program is what students make it, and they are able to complete as much or as little as they desired, and since all involvement depends on a student’s availability.
Dean of Students Roslyn Landy said the admissions program is doing a “good job using students [to represent the school and provide leadership opportunities.]”
Going forward, the vision for STAR includes reaching out to students who are not necessarily the academic “shining stars” of the grade and also to students who participate in sports and arts in order to create a balance and well-represent JDS in all aspects, according to Hart.
“It goes both ways: in some ways, admissions gains a lot from having students be representative on our team,” Hard said.“The students are the best part of the school; we can talk about the incredible academics or the amazing extra-curricular options, but it’s the students who convince and make known how great JDS is.”