Grades 6-12; Boarding 8-12


Forging the Future Starts with a Purpose

With the shifting landscape of graduation and college fast-approaching for Pennington’s seniors, the School’s annual, month-long Horizon program provides ample opportunities for the Class of 2024 to step outside the classroom for activities, internships, and events which are designed to help the students best prepare for all the challenges and changes ahead.

Johnson & Johnson’s Head of Global Talent Management, Dr. Michael Ehret P’30, spent the morning of May 7 with the soon-to-be graduates, offering sage career and life advice centered around the concept of success. Ehret, who grew up in nearby Trenton, recalled a pivotal moment in his own high school career when his Grade 9 pre-algebra teacher wrote some essentials for success on the board: “confidence, communication skills, and sense of humor.” From that moment on, Ehret became intrigued with the idea that success was a formula which could be achieved by focusing on a particular mission or purpose.

Ehret extolled the importance of soft skills, open loop learning, adaptability, and differentiated skill sets to ensure flexibility and latitude along a professional path, but perhaps the biggest career advice the J&J executive had for the seniors was to consider carefully the people they wanted to bring with them on their journey. Citing a famous photo of the 1927 Solvay Conference on Quantum Mechanics featuring renowned scientists such as Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, and Niels Bohr, Ehret explored the idea of a "coalition of support." Of the 29 people in that photograph, 17 were awarded the Nobel Prize, a staggering percentage which helps illustrate the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people. “In life,” said Ehret, “we need others who are going to be each other’s biggest champions and supporters,” and publicly recognizing and showing gratitude for those individuals goes a long way, according to Ehret. After passing out lollipops to all the students in the audience, Ehret asked them to gift those sweet treats to a faculty or staff member who had made an impact or a difference in their life or to send a personal message of gratitude via text to that person. “A lot of people helped you get to where you are on the road to success and it can be pivotal for them to know the impact they have had on your life.” 

While most colleges and universities now ask their incoming students about their intended major well before they even set foot on campus for their first semester, Ehret believes this is a mistake: “Don’t feel like you have to have it all figured out,” he said. “Declare a mission, not a major. Figure out what’s important to you, what brings you energy and joy, and then embed that into everything in your life.” Among the questions Ehret suggested the students ask themselves were important queries like “What is my leadership style?,” and “What are the motives and drivers for me?” With that last question in mind, Ehret led the students in a small letter-writing exercise; the letters, which functioned as a self-addressed mission statement, were sealed like time capsules with a plan to open them in one year’s time.  

Ehret’s visit was just one of many guest speakers planned for the seniors as part of their Horizon Experience, which aims to prepare the students for college and their future careers. Featuring a full month of activities, speakers, and hands-on internship experiences, there are numerous ways for alumni and parents to get involved and mentor the seniors, including hosting internships, serving as guest speakers, or providing unique experiential opportunities within niche business sectors.