Intern from Princeton Seeks and Finds a Purpose at Eagle Rock School

Jason_Bateman_Eagle_Rock_SchoolEditor’s Note: Jason Bateman — not to be confused with the star of the television sitcom Arrested Development and the Netflix’s series Ozark — is a Princeton University student who is interning with us as part of Princeton Internships in Civic Service (PICS). This program operates in the belief that community service is essential to the welfare of society. More than 800 Princeton University undergraduates have participated in the program since its inception. A dozen such ‘Princetonians’ have served as interns since our school opened back in the early 1990s. Below, Jason describes his recent arrival at Eagle Rock and what he has learned so far from the experience, while to the right we see a photo of Jason (L) alongside Eagle Rock’s first head of school, Robert Burkhardt (a Princeton Univ. grad) and current Eagle Rock Director of Curriculum, Sarah Bertucci (who first arrived at Eagle Rock in 1994 as our very first PICS intern).

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What is it, exactly, that I do — and am doing — here at Eagle Rock?
By Jason Bateman

It’s a question I asked myself — and several of my supervisors — when I arrived on the Eagle Rock campus last month. What was my role? What was my purpose? What was I going to do with this incredible opportunity?

What I discovered was that what I needed to do was hunt down aspects of this educational community that most interested me, and then I needed to figure out which of my talents would best be of use to the students and staff members here at Eagle Rock.

To be honest, this unanticipated quest to find purpose has been among the most rewarding and challenging experiences I’ve faced outside of the classroom.

In the past, I’ve actively applied myself to everything from electrical engineering and computer science to education policy and data science. I’ve taken classes on human rights and urban development as well as classes on Spanish film.

But what I discovered when I arrived here is that there is so much more to what people bring to Eagle Rock than just their transcripts. The Public Allies fellows, full-time staff members, and all of the students bring their experiences and their energy — a combination of which is completely unique. Never before have I experienced a community that encourages that so forcefully. This internship practically demands that I bring much more of myself to the table than I expected.

Since my arrival, I’ve been participating a great deal in Life After Eagle Rock — the on-campus office that prepares students for future endeavors once they leave campus. This office seemed like a good fit, and it ties in with my work with Matriculate, a New York City-based organization that’s on a mission to empower high-achieving, low-income high school students to make the leap to great colleges and universities.

I’ve brought what I’m learning in Matriculate to my work with Eagle Rock School students in order to support their aspirations and goals, in addition to working with staff members to provide resources for more advisers to have these types of supportive interactions.

In addition, I’ve become active in Mastermind Society, which hosts on-campus discussions on a variety of matters, ranging from the ongoing civil war in Syria to mental health issues here at Eagle Rock. Watching students successfully execute a lesson plan and facilitate discussion over sensitive topics has renewed my faith that discussions like this can happen for people of all ages. In fact, a personal objective of mine is to bring this society to the Princeton campus.

One thing I’ve noticed is that the staff and students here at Eagle Rock encourage discussion and introspection on topics often left unsaid because they are too sensitive. I’ve ended many evenings reflecting on topics like race, privilege, politics, and purpose. The objective of this reflection — like so many other things on campus — is personal growth. Students and staff alike are pushed to grow in ways that I had previously thought impossible. In just the short time here on campus, I’ve changed so much because of the conversations, reflections, and experiences that I’ve had.

The best part of being part of the Eagle Rock community is by far the students. I was placed into Ponderosa House and at first, I was nervous that I wouldn’t connect with the students. However, I could not have asked for a better house. The students and staff have been most welcoming and wonderful. They encourage me to be adventurous, they constantly make me laugh, and they are some of the closest friends I’ve made on campus. Outside of Ponderosa, I’ve had many long discussions with students about their plans, their stories, and their life on campus.

(the author — far right — with students from Ponderosa House)

(the author — far right — with students from Ponderosa House)

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Eagle Rock, and the week I arrived, the school was in a celebratory mood, welcoming back previous staff, students and graduates. The experience was one that framed my experience, in part of an organization and team that has touched so many lives. Almost immediately upon my arrival, I had the opportunity to celebrate Princeton’s involvement at Eagle Rock with Robert Burkhart (the first head of school), and Sarah Bertucci (the first PICS intern). I also had the opportunity to meet many previous students who said they were extremely grateful for their experiences.

So, when I am asked “What do I do here at Eagle Rock?” I find myself on long-winded rambles about the amazing staff members, the determined students, and my opportunity to call myself a part of this wonderful campus family.

Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in participating in an internship like Jason’s, you can start your inquiry by clicking on our Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center intern link, which opens a PDF file.

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