What’s the best way to promote Country Day? Reading off SAT and AP scores? Or maybe talking about all the clubs and extracurriculars Country Day offers?
It’s a difficult question, but it’s the job of Country Day’s Ambassadors to find the solution.
The goal of the Ambassador Program, started over 20 years ago by director of admission Lonna Bloedau, is to spread community recognition of the school.
Student Ambassadors visit other schools and promote Country Day, encouraging eighth graders to sign up for a shadow day.
After limited success last year, Bloedau decided there had to be a change in methodology.
Last year, when the Ambassadors visited other schools, they stood in a line and talked at the students, reciting a pre-rehearsed mountain of information.
“Beforehand, we had each planned out a topic that we were going to be an expert in, so we wouldn’t be talking over each other,” sophomore Jack Christian said.
“We would literally just talk to them for 35 minutes.”
The remaining time was dedicated to answering questions, but there were rarely any because, according to Christian, it was obvious the students were bored and uninterested.
This year, Bloedau came up with a different, more interactive approach for the Ambassadors. She said she was inspired by head of school Lee Thomsen’s request for all the faculty and staff to craft an “elevator pitch” to introduce the school.
“I so enjoyed the process of crafting my pitch that it got me to thinking about how the Ambassadors have typically pitched to students at other schools,” Bloedau said.
Therefore, this year, the Ambassadors start with a 60-second pitch about themselves, what they do, and what they like about Country Day.
Sophomore Joe Zales, one of the Ambassadors, talks about free periods in his pitch.
“Because I am a competitive swimmer, my free period allows me to get much of my schoolwork done at school,” he says.
Ambassadors might also include their favorite thing about Country Day or one of its extracurriculars in their pitches.
Afterwards, they divide the eighth graders into small groups with one Ambassador in each. There the Ambassadors answer questions and chat with the students.
And the new approach seems to be working.
“The first thing we noticed was how quickly the ice melted and the conversations started,” Bloedau said.
“We added a bowl of M&M’s to each group, and the atmosphere became happy and chatty. We then added a shadow day sign-up sheet and asked them to indicate if they’d like to come to campus.”
According to Bloedau, nearly every student has signed up.
So far, the Ambassadors have visited St. Michael’s Episcopal Day School and Merryhill Middle School in Midtown.
Junior Lily Brown was one of the ones who visited Merryhill.
“I had a group of girls, and they were all very chatty,” Brown said. “I remember they got very excited when I told them about prom on a train.”
With so many students shadowing, Bloedau has set up specific shadow days for each school, unlike last year.
Fourteen Merryhill students shadowed on Nov. 29, including Marisa DeLyon, Annabelle Horan and Rob Lipper.
“I liked how the Ambassadors got really involved with the students and did a lot of fun activities,” DeLyon said.
In regards to the shadow day itself, both Lipper and Horan thought that Country Day’s was more exciting and interactive than other schools’.
“The physics lab was really cool,” Lipper said. “When I saw nerf guns, I was like, ‘What is this class?’ It was super chill and fun.”
“At the shadow days (of other schools), we were just brought around, and at Country Day we actually got to do the stuff with our friends,” Horan said.
“The other shadow days were just a tour of the school.”
After two decades, these aren’t the only changes to the Ambassador Program.
In its infancy, the Ambassadors were partially elected by the student body and partially selected by the head of high school, the admission office and the headmaster. There were 12 Ambassadors selected, three from each grade. Now, anyone who wants to be an Ambassador can join.
“The program also changes from year to year depending on the personality of the group,” head of high school Brooke Wells said.
“And there’s a really reflective and powerful group of Ambassadors now.”