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Episcopal Academy’s Lilley Fellowship

Modeled after a Yale University program, find out how two students are using independent study projects to make a positive impact.

Each year, students in the Upper School at Episcopal Academy–a prekindergarten through twelfth grade, independent, co-educational, day school located in Newtown Square–  participate a two-week intensive study program. During this time students choose from a listing of 30+ course options and are immersed in a subject through hands-on exploration, day trips, expert speakers, and even international travel.

Inspired by this unique program, Mr. and Mrs. William Lilley III ’55 proposed a Fellowship program–aptly named the Lilley Fellowship. Modeled after a Yale University program that ran for fifty years, the program provides Episcopal students the opportunity to dig deeper into a finite area of study–it’s often an extension of their prior coursework.

Students competing for the Lilley Fellowship complete a rigorous application process culminating in a comprehensive presentation to a faculty led committee. This past year’s Fellows, seniors Jessica Hao and RJ Glaser, were paired with a faculty mentor and worked on their projects throughout the school year and summer.

Jessica came to Episcopal at the start of eighth grade–wanting a more individualized education.

“Episcopal offered smaller class sizes, allowing the teachers to focus on each student,” said Jessica. “I wanted more opportunities, like the Lilley Fellowship, so I could explore my interests.”

After studying the cardiovascular system, Jessica is exploring the causes and available treatments of bacteria-induced atherosclerosis. She is conducting her research under the guidance of Dr. Kelley Bethoney who, in addition to earning the 2018 Pennsylvania Outstanding Biology Teacher Award from the National Association of Biology Teachers, teaches biology, honors anatomy and physiology, as well as oversees multiple independent studies at Episcopal.

“My classroom is a collaboration” said Dr. Bethoney. “Having enthusiastic students like Jessica allows me to create content that is stimulating, engaging, and very hands-on.”

Jessica’s Fellowship project is being conducted in the well-equipped science labs at Episcopal and the University of Pennsylvania.

In addition to her lab experience, Jessica is doing community service at a nearby Ronald McDonald House and completing an internship at a local dental office.

“I hope to learn how medical professionals interact with their patients and really get to understand the human side of the story as it relates to my project,” said Jessica.

RJ has been at Episcopal since he was in kindergarten–affectionately called “a lifer” within the school community.  

“By birth I am an only child, but I consider my classmates at Episcopal to be my siblings. We are a family.” said RJ.

RJ’s project was inspired by a course taught by Mr. Max Kelly. Kelly, an Episcopal graduate himself, teaches pre-modern and military history and is the coordinator of the Lilley Fellowship Program. He guides students from initial concept through periodic panel reviews and the final presentation made in front of experts, faculty, and classmates.

Under the mentorship of Mr. Perry Zanki, who teaches AP environmental science and chemistry, RJ is researching the history and culture of Montana’s Blackfeet Nation, one of the country’s largest Indian tribes.

“I want to find a way to create sustainable, eco-friendly, and renewable housing that incorporates the rich culture and history of the Blackfeet,” said RJ.

As a component of RJ’s research, he took an independent trip to Montana. He met with regional architects who helped him think through the challenges associated with building on the reservation. He worked directly with local stonemasons to learn about specific building materials that could withstand the frigid, windy winters.

RJ also spent time talking with and listening to Blackfeet tribe members to understand their housing needs and the cultural components they valued.

Back at home, RJ is interning with local architect Warren Claytor. Together, with input from experts from The Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University, they are developing a blueprint and creating a scale model of what RJ hopes to one day build for the Blackfeet.

As for his future, RJ’s is clearly a bright one. When asked what he would like to study, he excitedly said “environmental engineering, architecture, or maybe entrepreneurship. My end goal is to be able to give back to my community–including seeking funding for the Blackfeet housing.”

If you think Episcopal Academy might be a good fit for your child, consider attending and upcoming open house:

  • Tuesday, April 16 (All Grades)
For more details about the open house events, and to register please go here.

If you have a question for an Episcopal Academy parent, please leave it in the comments section below.

Photographs by Sarah L. Bender

Episcopal Academy is a coed, pre-K to grade 12 day school in Newtown Square. Challenging and nurturing Mind, Body, and Spirit, we inspire boys and girls to lead lives of purpose, faith, and integrity.