“Pinecrest Helped Me Figure Out Who I Am”: Life After Pinecrest

Transitioning to elementary and middle school can be filled with anxiety and feel like a mysterious next step for students and parents alike. Our Pinecrest community is strong, and we work to prepare our students for the next steps by supporting our students daily, especially during this big transition.

Each year, Pinecrest offers a special event called “Life after Pinecrest,” where recent graduates of our school come back and participate in a panel conversation. Life after Pinecrest for the 2022-23 school year consisted of a panel of nine alumni ranging from 7th grade – 10th grade (recent graduates of our classes of 2020, 2021, and 2022). These students represent a mix of ages and experiences as they are currently in different independent and public schools. Current students and parents had an opportunity to hear the valued perspectives of these students about how Pinecrest prepared them for middle and high school. 

Topics range from the practicalities of the transition, such as what it’s like to have a locker, how different the timeframe of waking up and getting to school is (often leaving the house before 7am!), and walking to class (the hallways can be hard to navigate and time management is important!). The conversation also dips into the challenges students may face and how Pinecrest prepares them to be ready. 

Pinecrest School is a tight-knit community where students are taught to be considerate and inclusive members of the school. When leaving the Pinecrest community, alumni students mentioned how they were worried it was going to be different and that it may be hard to make friends. Several students on the panel mentioned how they were able to meet up with friends they knew from before attending Pinecrest and/or from Pinecrest Pavilion summer camp at their new schools. They also mentioned how Pinecrest prepared them to “know I have a voice” and how they felt ready to meet new friends after having many opportunities to “intermingle with other grades and classes” during their time at Pinecrest. Our classrooms have many opportunities for students to collaborate across different grade levels and peer groups. 

Other thoughtful responses were about finding good people with whom to surround yourself. This was perhaps the most telling of the impact a Pinecrest education has on our graduates: the strong sense of self our students develop! Everyone on the panel referenced how they looked for friends who reminded them of how people were at Pinecrest – kind, caring, and curious community members. They mentioned tips such as using common sense, looking for students who care about studying and school like they do, who enjoy the same electives and after-school programs, and who are always on time for class. One student said, “Pinecrest helped me figure out who I am,” which is an invaluable lesson, especially when navigating finding new friends who are like-minded and share the same interests. Pinecrest’s practice of equally uplifting social-emotional and academic growth supports students in shaping strong values that stick with them for years to come.

Alumni students also shared how academics aren’t too much different from the lessons and activities from elementary school. One student shared that  “Pinecrest did a fantastic job” in preparing them for coursework in honors classes. Pinecrest’s focus on hands-on, project-based learning was an asset for one student when he mentioned that “all the group projects we did at Pinecrest made it easier for me to get started with a group I didn’t know, and it prepared me for active work.”  Students reflected on being ready to take on challenging coursework in honors and AAP classes in the county because they had already gone over many topics covered in class in Pinecrest’s upper elementary grades. One student referenced learning about cells and mitosis at Pinecrest, which prepared her for bio class. One student summed it up by stating, “Pinecrest sets you up perfectly for taking that challenge and prepares you well for harder content and a fast-paced environment.”

All alumni students assured their younger peers and the Pinecrest community that there is support at their future schools as well. There are many opportunities offered by both independent and public schools to get help when they need it. All panelists agreed that self-advocacy is very important to receive help. Students mentioned that “Pinecrest helped me have confidence to always ask the teacher for help” and “Pinecrest prepared me not to be scared to ask the teacher a question,” which is necessary for getting the support needed. Students all spoke about how they email their teachers directly and reach out when they need help or have a question to ask (not their parents doing it for them). 

There was a meaningful sense of pride in the room during the event – both towards the Pinecrest alumni who volunteered their time to share their experiences and from these students themselves as they shared how Pinecrest gave them skills and character-building opportunities that they now use daily. We heard how Pinecrest was influential in instilling strong values and confidence that attributed to these students’ success. Parents and future middle schoolers left learning something new and having more resources to ease the transition. Pinecrest raises good kids, and while that’s clear every day, it was exceptionally apparent that evening.