By Brooke Chenowoth
Opening a brand new school in Hong Kong is a massive task. But it’s also an incredible opportunity to build a vibrant new community. We sat down with Admissions Director Mary Ewing at the American School Hong Kong (ASHK) to find out how it’s done.
When I meet Mary at the new ASHK campus at Tai Po, it’s just days away from the start of term, and it’s all hands on deck. Among her countless tasks, Mary had been out buying dustbins, traipsing through the New Territories to find just the right ones.
“Starting from scratch, you have to wear many hats – what needs to get done, gets done. It requires a level of humility to make it all come together,” she says.
This is Mary in a nutshell: resourceful, humble and welcoming – all essential qualities in her current role. As Admissions Director, she’s often the first person prospective parents and students meet, and she is very aware that the admissions team sets the tone.
“Admissions can make it or break it for the school. If we do it right, it has long-term implications. We only have one chance to make the right impression.”
Mary has lived in Hong Kong with her family for over 25 years, and she previously worked in the admissions team at HKIS, so she’s well versed in how the education system works. The opportunity to help open a brand new school was one she couldn’t pass up; in fact, she admits she was about to leave Hong Kong before ASHK came knocking.
Mary reviews and oversees every application personally, and she is well aware of the responsibility involved in this.
“I feel I’m a part of the growth of the school. The way we direct admissions now will have a big impact on future applications, and that’s very important.”
For Mary, ASHK isn’t just about putting “bums on seats”; it’s about “balancing nationalities and bringing together families that truly appreciate the American education system and our ethos.”
With that in mind, I ask her about the school’s first cohort of students; what are they like?
“It’s a vibrant group of kids, who are excited about school. They’re motivated and they want to do well. It’s a diverse mix that supports our aim of creating a truly international environment.”
It sounds promising and exciting, and Mary is unsurprisingly looking forward to school starting – “I can walk through the halls knowing I was a part of it,” she says.
If the enthusiasm and passion of the staff is anything to go by, ASHK is set tomake a big impression!
THE ADMISSIONS PROCESS
Thinking of applying to ASHK? Here’s what you need to know:
• The school has open admissions throughout the year, so you can apply (and enter) at any time.
• The school offers classes up to Grade 6 this year, with Grades 7 and 8 to open in 2017, and the high school in 2018.
• The school holds information sessions that allow parents to ask questions and get to know the team in an informal, relaxed setting.
• Testing depends on age. Kindergarten to Grade 1 students, for example, are assessed for reading skills and problem solving in an interactive session that also determines sociability. Older students complete an online test linked to the common core curriculum, to ensure they’re going into a grade in which they can excel.
ASHK is at 6 Ma Chung Road, Tai Po, New Territories. For more information, call 3919 4111, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ashk.edu.hk
This article first appeared in the Oct/Nov edition of Expat Living magazine.
Find out more about schools in Hong Kong.