In an occasional series about education, writer Fiona Whitney explores schools in the Greater Wilshire, Hancock Park, Hollywood and Larchmont areas.
At the core of Pilgrim School is the belief that students should be encouraged to grow into their own, individual potential. In fact, the tagline for Pilgrim School is “we grow students.”
Pilgrim is a private city school, with a strong reputation for solid academics, a fantastic arts program, and (a real rarity these days) small class sizes. The average high school class size is fifteen students, and some of the specialty classes, Music Theory or Digital Media for example, may have between five and ten, allowing students to get deeply involved in the subjects, and enjoy one-on-one faculty time. The size of the student body is an important element to the success of Pilgrim from preschool, with 56 young students, to elementary, with 140 students, to middle school (grade 6-8) at 68, and a total of 100 in high school.
A visit to the Pilgrim campus makes you instantly aware of the close relationships between faculty and students, the families, and between the students themselves. Pilgrim seniors often know the names of kindergarteners. The Head of School, the charismatic Mark Brooks knows all of the students’ names, as does Susie, in the front office. This close knit community infuses students with a sense of belonging. This is not the school where students must fit into the mold. “I think what makes Pilgrim special are the students,” shared Brooks. “There is a sense of respect and the students are gracious. There is no sense of entitlement, but a sense of possibility.” This is a school that provides a top college preparatory education embracing technology and opening the doors wide for future education.
Three years ago, Pilgrim opened a state-of-the-art art center. The center, perched on top of one of its buildings, with views from the Hollywood Sign and the Griffith Observatory to downtown L.A., has become the place where artists grow, and students go on to some of the very top art schools in the country, including Rhode Island School of Design, Art Center, San Francisco Art Institute, and Chicago Arts Institute.
A visiting writers and artists program invites artists and writers to work with students at every grade level from kindergarten through twelfth grade, and students meet working artists who are thriving within the Los Angeles community. Pilgrim supports a student’s search for identity, encourages pursuit of individual interests (one student just placed fifth in fencing at the Junior Olympics this past month) and encourages students to dream big while making sure they have practical tools to help them get there.
In addition to the top-notch education, residing next to but never in the shadow of the First Congregational Church (the same group that brought us Harvard University), Pilgrim encourages students to be thoughtful, to develop a sense of self through reflection on the core values and meanings by which people live. Community service is an important part of the curriculum, and students from kindergarten on up participate in supporting various charities and philanthropic organizations in Los Angeles, and throughout the world. The school has themes that are addressed throughout the year in age appropriate ways, themes like gratitude and empathy.
One hundred percent of Pilgrim seniors go on to college at Ivy League schools, independent liberal arts colleges, the best art schools in the country and international universities. I expect great things from Pilgrim students.