Oct 30, 2008 — This fall, Yeshiva University High School for Boys (YUHSB) inaugurated its Honors College, a forum for enriched spiritual and intellectual stimulation geared to engage gifted students.
Twenty-four students were recruited from the top echelons of their elementary school classes for the incoming class of the Honors College. The program reflects a synergy of Torah principles with the broader intellectual world.
Edward Berliner, director of the Honors College, said the program will establish an “intellectual hothouse for participating students.”
“We spend a lot of time at yeshiva high schools with students who need extra attention but the question is how much time are we spending with students who need and deserve special attention to further their intellectual growth?” Dr. Berliner said.
After eight months of planning, the program was developed with four academic features in mind: investment in academic excellence, interdisciplinary studies, experiential learning and directed mentoring.
Throughout their four years in the program, students will have additional thematic readings and will read perspectives of various authors ranging from Mark Twain to Rav Joseph Soleveitchik. They will also go on field trips, which will include preparatory research and debriefing. They have studied both the biology and politics that play a role in the preservation of the Meadowlands wetlands in preparation for a scheduled pontoon boat tour of the wetlands.
Members of the Honors College are selected based on academic achievements and interpersonal skills. During their first semester at YUHSB, candidates will be observed and counseled by members of the Honors faculty to determine if the program is a fit. It is only then that the student will be invested as an Honors College chaver [member], a term that Dr. Berliner explained that was meant to indicate “a combination of brotherhood, peoplehood and responsibility.”
The program will be adjusted as it progresses based on student feedback. Taking into account the transition to a heavier workload and longer hours of high school, the faculty want to be careful not to overburden the students, Dr. Berliner said.
Meir Hirsch, a freshman from Teaneck, NJ, said he joined the Honors College in the hope of a deeper challenge in both secular and Judaic studies. “I saw the opportunity as a chance to gain knowledge and skills from sources that are not available to all the high school students, such as advanced fieldtrips and speakers,” Hirsch said.
Dr. Berliner and his colleagues were pleased with student participation at the program’s opening event, a seminar discussion on the boys’ summer reading assignment, ‘Huckleberry Finn,’ led by Dr. Fred Sugarman, associate dean of Yeshiva College.
“Students made comments that were so profound,” Dr. Berliner said. “These kids want to be challenged and it is our job to live up to that.”