It’s hardly unusual for a school to recruit students based on their athletic gifts. But being recruited while still in elementary school came as a tramadol no prescription of a surprise to Christopher Kuselias.
Photo: Hamden Hall Head of School Robert Izzo (front right) with students (clockwise from front left) Joan Frost, Timothy Swensen, Austen Kim, Michael Izzo and Ana Geismar.
Â“I was a sixth-grader at Alice Peck School [in Hamden] and we were playing a football game against Hamden Hall. I scored six touchdowns,Â” recalls Kuselias.
The rival-team coach was impressed enough to suggest that Kuselias consider transferring to Hamden Hall. Kuselias cheap xanax the following year. Not only did he end up excelling buy valium online no prescription the field at Hamden Hall, he went on to attend the University of Connecticut and become a member of its storied basketball team.
Today, Kuselias is a proud Hamden Hall alumnus who, like so many other alumni, enthusiastically sings the praises of his alma mater. He thinks so highly of the school, in fact, that he’s entrusted it to educate his three children, ages eight, 11 and 13, who now are students there.
“It’s such a great community,” says Kuselias, echoing the sentiment of several alumni, parents and other affiliates. “It [consists of] a welcoming group of people, and it’s a place where you get a lot of personal attention.”
This year Hamden Hall Country Day School is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Established in 1912, it emphasizes excellence in academics bolstered by a team spirit reflected in its sports programs and other extracurricular activities.
Kuselias especially remembers, for example, out-of-classroom academic and cultural enhancements such as a trip to Europe as part of a student-athlete exchange program and excursions to New York City to see Shakespeare works and other plays.
“We got that experience. It was wonderful, being exposed to that,” Kuselias recalls.
“It goes back to our charter,” explains Robert Izzo, Hamden Hall’s head of school. “We’re the oldest co-ed country day school in New England. The concept came up at a time when public schools were not equipped to prepare kids to go to college.” For that, boarding school was a popular option for families that could afford it, Izzo explains. It was in this climate that the country day school emerged.
“It had strong academics, lunch in the middle of the day and field athletics in the afternoon. So we became an alternative to boarding school.”
Family involvement and high expectations of students were then, and are now, essential components of Hamden Hall’s core values, Izzo says.
“We really expect our kids to strive for excellence in everything they do. It doesn’t always mean achieving excellence. But they strive to do the best they can.”
That includes developing a variety of skills. Sports, for example, are paramount to the school “because it’s an issue of a healthy lifestyle. The more healthy the body is, the more healthy the mind is,” says Izzo. With such extracurricular activities “they learn teamwork, they learn about helping each other.”
And inside the classroom, Hamden Hall’s nurturing environment is supported by its size, academic rigor and flexibility.
“Classes are small, about ten to 12 students, 15 max,” notes Sanda Lujic Tomak, a 1989 alumna of the school who went on to undergraduate studies at Yale and medical school at George Washington University. She also earned a fellowship for post-graduate fellowship study at Emory University.
“As a student, it was a very warm and welcoming atmosphere,” she recalls. “You were not a number. You felt you were part of a family and that the teachers really cared about you. At the same time, it was very demanding and they expected a lot out of you.”
For Tomak, Hamden Hall has become an indelible part of her family. She has three boys — a first-, a third- and a fifth-grader — attending the school. Currently a total of 11 of Tomak’s relatives, including siblings’ and cousins’ children, attend Hamden Hall.
“They all love it,” says Tomak of her boys. “They’re really thriving both socially and academically.” The “nurturing” atmosphere — a term heard repeatedly from alumni and parents — is especially appreciated now, when social pressures have the potential to negatively affect a youngster’s development.
“It’s a very kind environment,” says Tomak, adding, “I really truly love the school.”
\drop cap\So does Blake Acquarulo, a senior who has spent all of her academic career so far, from pre-K on, at Hamden Hall. The “community feel” of the school is what led her parents to believe it would a good choice for her, says Acquarulo. “They instantly knew it was somewhere I could stay, and I haven’t left.”
Acquarulo, who intends to concentrate in biology/pre-med in college, likes the small classes and campus. She says she enjoys the seamless interactions the institution’s intimate size helps foster.
“I have very close friends who are freshmen,” she notes.
She adds that she found as much academic direction as she needed from teachers and counselors, and the school’s offerings helped draw out previously untapped leadership potential when she got to high school.
“I was very shy in middle school,” says Acquarulo. “I came to high school and kind of broke out of my mold,” becoming sophomore class vice president, junior class president and, now, president of the senior class.
Being encouraged to step out of one’s shell and “take a risk,” as Acquarulo puts it, is an element of the school’s philosophy that Kyle Ballou-Johns’ eighth-grader has learned to appreciate.
“My son was looking into starting a club. All he needed was to find a faculty adviser,” says Ballou-Johns. In addition to being a parent, she’s also a Hamden Hall trustee. Another son, now at Providence College, graduated from Hamden Hall last year.
“I love the fact that it’s a very nurturing, caring school, a nurturing community,” says Ballou-Johns. Honors and AP classes help “bolster a child’s strengths” while extra help is available when a student needs it. Like the club her son considered starting, opportunities abound for students to initiate, foster and realize an idea, she says.
“That’s the kind of thing that makes it a great place,” says Ballou-Johns. “We have fantastic faculty and administrators, and we have wonderful parents.”
State Sen. Leonard Fasano (R-34) has had two children graduate from Hamden Hall, with a third to don gown and mortarboard this spring. He himself earned his diploma from the school in 1977.
“The strongest quality is its nurturing environment,” says the North Haven lawmaker. “That’s been there since the ‘60s, when I was there, to the present day,” says the alumnus, who enrolled at Hamden Hall in the fifth grade.
For Fasano, another important school quality is “the individuality with which they approach their students,” taking into account both strengths and areas that might require increased attention. For example, a student might have a flair for science but might not be so naturally gifted in, say, math. Faculty members will work the student to develop that potential, notes Fasano. He, like others, cites the school’s “caring and nurturing” qualities as unique draws.
“I think Bob [Izzo] is doing a terrific job and the faculty is doing a terrific job, and they need to be applauded for their efforts,” Fasano adds.
“The people who work here are outstanding and dedicated,” says Izzo, noting that faculty members are experts in their fields with, for example, published historians teaching history classes, writers teaching English and Ph.Ds instructing science courses. And faculty members are committed to producing outstanding graduates who make an impact.
The school boasts alumni who’ve risen to the top of their fields. Renowned pediatrician Benjamin Spock, who graduated in 1919, is one. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Charles E. Shepard (Class of 1972) is another.. Then there’s Richard Lyman, president emeritus of Stanford University, who graduated in 1940; New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, a 1998 graduate; and David Wade (Hamden Hall ‘93), chief of staff to U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and a former top staff member of Vice President Joseph Biden, among others.
Community involvement has long been an important element of the Hamden Hall experience. Social cognizance and responsibility are among traits the school helps foster.
“More recently,” notes Fasano, “the Class of 2009 set a new standard for the school by garnering more than 2,600 hours of community service, noted by then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
“In 2011, the Hamden Hall Lower School community was recognized for raising more than $100,000 over a 25-year span for the American Heart Association,” Fasano adds. “In addition, we raised foodstuffs for the Hamden Food Pantry and New Haven’s Christian Community Action through various community concerts and events.”
The Hamden Hall environment is “an active learning community” where “we’re academically competitive but socially considerate,” says Izzo. “Part of becoming a lifelong learner is understanding the world you live in. We really promote our kids getting involved in community service” as well as experiencing different cultures.
“We’re very proud of our heritage,” Izzo adds. “We feel that we are an important part of the greater New Haven community. We serve the community well, and we take our role as part of the community seriously.”
While the school as a unit looks to have a positive impact on its surroundings, it also encourages students to learn from one another. That is facilitated by creating and promoting a diverse environment.
“We’re committed to diversity, we’re committed to providing needs-based financial aid,” says Izzo, adding that the school is “always in a fundraising mode, because tuition is expensive.”
Upcoming activities include an April 21 black-tie centennial gala for school alumni and affiliates at the Omni New Haven Hotel. The event will feature the unveiling of a 100th anniversary coffee table book written by Dawn Miceli, the school’s external affairs communication coordinator.
“It’s been an amazing 100 years,” says Izzo. “Things have changed so much, but in some ways they haven’t changed at all.”
Among its fixed characteristics is the school’s commitment to the multi-faceted growth and development of its students, he says.
“We place a lot of value on pushing our kids,” says Izzo. “We produce students who are not only prepared for college, they’ll be prepared for life. They have a sense of social responsibility, a sense of integrity, that will carry them the rest of their lives.”
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