BT and Gerstell Grads Look Forward to College Challenges


Jonathan Arking, 17, is a Beth Tfiloh High School graduate who is heading to Princeton University in New Jersey this fall. Arking grew up in Pikesville and attended BT since the second grade, before which he attended Yeshivat Rambam. A recipient of a Bronfman Fellowship, Arking said the program helped prepare him for the wide world of “people and ideas” he will encounter at college and beyond.

Arking’s favorite field of study at Beth Tfiloh was history, both American and Jewish.

“I find it fascinating to learn the history upon which our modern world is built,” he said. “In understanding the past, we can glean greater insight into why our society looks the way it does. History also teaches valuable lessons to us of both pragmatic and moral nature — from what economic systems have worked in the past, to the perils of intersectional conflict within Judaism.”

Although he first thought he might want to pursue science in college (his dad’s a geneticist), his recent involvement in the Beth Tfiloh AIPAC club has him leaning toward majoring in public policy and international relations.

Princeton became a shoo-in choice for Arking, as his older brother attends, but he also found on visits that Princeton has thriving and vibrant Jewish and Orthodox Jewish communities.

“This was apparent through the constant bustle at the Center for Jewish Life, the overflowing room during Friday night prayer services, and the daily programming run by the Center for Jewish Life and Chabad on campus,” he said. “This sense of community, along with the fact that Princeton has a stellar public policy and international relations program made Princeton University the perfect fit.”

He is looking forward to the diversity of students he will encounter at college and tackling the challenge of managing his free time.

“Up to this point of my life, I have largely interacted within the Jewish community, but college will grant me an opportunity to join a student body that is racially, culturally, religiously and philosophically diverse,” he said.

Arking’s experiences on the Bronfman Fellowship program heled him “develop a greater openness to new people and new ideas,” which he sees helping him with his college experience.

“Through learning with and from people who were religiously, philosophically and theologically different from myself, I grew in my ability to build meaningful relationships and learn from others,” he said. “I foresee this aiding me as I build new relationships and strive to learn as much as possible from all I encounter at Princeton.”

Carly Merlo is looking forward to attending Towson University in the fall, where she will be pursuing a double major in psychology and criminal justice.

The Reisterstown 18-year-old, who attended Chatsworth Elementary, Franklin Middle and Franklin High schools, before transferring to Gerstell Academy in Westminster, is also a standout athlete.

Carly was recruited to Towson for their well-known lacrosse program and received an athletic scholarship. Sports-oriented all of her life, she also played soccer, basketball and field hockey. She committed to Towson during her freshman year of high school when she was only 14.

“I’ve been playing sports since I was four,” she said.

When asked what subject she most enjoyed while studying at Gerstell, Carly quickly answered “the leadership classes.”

“The topics in leadership weren’t necessarily focused on one topic,” she said. “One unit would be psychology and the other unit would be government. I liked how there was a variety of topics.”

She got interested in her double-major fields when attending classes at CCBC during her senior year at Gerstell. “I’ve always wanted to do psychology because my mom’s a psychologist, and I’ve always thought that was an interesting topic,” she said. “But once I took the criminal justice class, I liked learning about the different cases and the different ways the courts work and they always connected it back to psychology.”

Carly is looking forward to starting the lacrosse program at Towson, but she’s also excited by the range of classes she will be able to take and choosing her own schedule. As far as being prepared for college, Carly said Gerstell really helped her develop her leadership skills, which will come in handy in higher education and beyond

“I definitely think Gerstell’s leadership skills training and the way they taught me public speaking will help a lot,” she said. “In a lot of classes in college you have to present. In my CCBC classes I always got good grades on my presentations because of the way Gerstell taught me how to present projects and do well in public speaking.”

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