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Boarding School Spotlight: Fay School

Allin Bond says his parents were always big believers in education. At the age of four, he was already enrolled at the Montessori School in his hometown of Marlborough, Mass., which led him on the path to attending Fay School (Southborough, Mass.) -- a junior boarding school that educates its students and lives by the motto of 'Porteris Modo Velis' (Latin for 'You can if you will').

Fay School has been around since 1866 and its rigorous curriculum challenges each student to their fullest potential. In those 142 years, there have only been eight heads of the school, according to Jamie Ramsdell, director of admissions at Fay School. "This is certainly a testament to the stability of our programs," he says.

Inside Academics
As for the curriculum at Fay, students have course flexibility and the autonomy to pick their own classes as long as they meet the requirements that will fulfill each semester. "Our kids have a say in their programs," says Ramsdell. "They can pick the type of art, music, or sports they participate in. And when they reach the seventh grade, students can build their own schedule, which gives them a sense of responsibility and is very exciting for them."

Effort is a value that is certainly emphasized and encouraged by the faculty and administration at Fay. A mentoring junior boarding school that looks out for the highest potential of each one of its students, Fay students receive effort grades in addition to grades for the academics. "It is important for us to assess kids on effort and not just the numerical grade from their math test," explains Ramsdell. "Our students really are evaluated and praised, regardless. Even an 'A' student may not be working to capacity."

Bond says that he received an effort grade every two weeks. "Each class/sport/activity gave you a grade on a one through nine scale. So you could be the smartest kid, but if you didn't try, you got low effort grades," he says. "It was also a competition. The school was split into two teams: reds and whites. They competed for the best effort grades. It was fun."

Fay School aims to give its students individualized attention, as the faculty to student ratio is 12:1. Faculty members at this junior boarding school ensure that students have a strong grasp on the material and help those who may need additional assistance.

Outside the Classroom
It's not all just about academics, though, at Fay School. Students are encouraged to take part in extracurricular activities. In fact, the athletics program is part of the reason students may decide to attend Fay School, according to Ramsdell. "In other environments, kids are asked to make choices because they can't do everything. However, here they can do art, music, athletics, and their school subjects without having to make choices." Additionally, all these activities are completed under one roof at this junior boarding school, which makes it easier on families. "Soccer moms may drive everywhere, but we are a one-stop shop where everything is under one roof," Ramsdell says.

Not all students live on campus, however. There are also a large number of day students that come to Fay each day and go home at night. Ramsdell explains that there are a finite number of beds available for students who wish to board, and these students actually have a different kind of experience due to the fact that they eat dinner together, have study hall, and have a universal bedtime. Bond, a day student, says he would have only done one thing differently: "My only regret was not bonding more with the students who lived there. They had a different experience."

For Those on the Hunt
The search for the perfect school at any level may be a difficult and time-consuming process. Ramsdell advises that each prospective student visit the different junior boarding schools they are considering. "You can spend time on the Web and see if [the school] has what you want. But you have to get on campus. One of the biggest misconceptions is that junior boarding schools are all the same. People are surprised at how different they actually are."

For Bond, he says he and his family made the right choice back when he was about to begin the first grade. He now works in business development in Massachusetts and says that Fay really shaped him into who he is today. "Fay gave me that confidence to know that I could do anything. They knew exactly how much to push me," he says. "They definitely shaped the way I carry myself in the classroom and in the boardroom."