A Fenwick father explains why his highly regarded twin daughters — student-athletes Caroline and Cecilia Jenkins ’19 — are staying put at Fenwick instead of transferring to an elite, East Coast prep school.
By Paul Jenkins ’81
I can’t tell you how I felt when the call came in. I knew it was coming, and yet I hesitated to pick up the phone when I saw the number in my caller ID. One of the country’s premier boarding schools* was calling to offer my twin daughters scholarships for their senior year. Juniors at Fenwick, they needed only to say ‘yes’ to be carried away into the ivy-covered embrace of East Coast privilege.
They’re hockey players, and the head coach at the prep school had been recruiting them for years. We’d been to visit the school several times. The coach had come to watch them play in tournaments around the U.S. and Canada. My wife and I had always said ‘no;’ we couldn’t see sending our youngest off to boarding school.
But the truth is, we all love that school. Imagine Hogwarts, filled with students who open every door; who greet every stranger by looking them in the eye and smiling; who almost uniformly go on to elite schools and then achieve greatness in life. Centuries of intellectual and athletic prowess seem to cling to the old stone walls of the place. The list of alumni reads like who’s who of American politics, literature and industry.
And we love the coach. He’s one of the most impressive people we’ve ever known. His athletes and his students adore him. We’d love to have our girls play for him.
I hung up the phone and told them it was official: They’d been tendered an offer and were on their way east. I was proud. I was sort of shocked. I was a little sad. My youngest would be moving away a year early.
But the girls said ‘no.’
They couldn’t hold back their tears. They choked on those tears and it took both of them, together, to say, “We want to stay at Fenwick.” The floodgates opened:
- They named teachers they wanted to thank at graduation.
- They talked about their teammates — both hockey and water polo — and what they wanted to achieve with them as seniors.
- They talked about classmates, coaches, carpools, dances, school plays, lunch-table discussions, the German Club, the Write Place and all the little things they’d be leaving behind if they took the offer.
All of those things, together, are the Fenwick experience.
I didn’t need to ask if they needed time to think about it.
In half-year’s time (God willing) there will be a couple of twin girls who will earn their diplomas with their classmates in the Fenwick class of 2019. Their parents will likely continue to reflect on what might have been, but I don’t think they will. They made a mature, informed decision, and they’ve never looked back.
Fenwick is in their blood.
* The Hill School is a coeducational preparatory boarding school located on a 200-acre campus located approximately 35 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Annual tuition is $59,050 (for boarding students) for the 2018-19 academic year.
Editor’s note: The Fenwick girls’ hockey team presently is undefeated (11-0-2) and ranked among the top three in the State of Illinois. Called the Friars, it is actually a combined team comprised of players from Guerin Prep, Fenwick, OPRF, Trinity and York high schools. “The travel team is ranked #20 (of 60) in the country,” reports proud hockey dad and alumnus Paul Jenkins ’81. Defense-woman Caroline Jenkins recently committed to play NCAA D3 hockey at tradition-rich Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. She also is captain of the Milwaukee Junior Admirals AAA team. Meanwhile, “Cecilia holds out hope for the Naval Academy and has turned down D1 offers to play [forward] at some very nice schools in the hope that she’ll get her appointment,” her father says. “Her Plan B is to go to St. Thomas in Minnesota for a year, largely because the coach there will let her play and do Navy ROTC. No other coach would let her play and do ROTC. She would reapply to Annapolis while there.” The twins’ older brother, Emmett, is a member of Fenwick’s Class of 2016, the U.S. Naval Academy (Class of ’21) and an American Collegiate Hockey Association (D2) forward at Navy. The Jenkins family resides in Chicago.
Also visit www.fenwickfriarhockey.com/
About the Author
Paul Jenkins, Fenwick Class of 1981, is CEO of Bancroft Architects + Engineers, a service-disabled-Veteran owned small business. The firm is headquartered in Elk Grove Village, IL. “I started the company with 10 other disabled-Veteran engineers,” Jenkins says. “We’ve since grown to more than 55 architects and engineers working from nine offices around the country. Most of my original disabled-Veteran partners have re-retired, leaving me as the sole person in the company who forgot to duck when they were in the military,” he jokes.
“We always have a Veteran-first hiring policy — and currently have two reservists deployed on active duty),” Jenkins continues He built the company to specifically do work for the Veterans Administration. “The VA remains our largest client, but we also do private and public hospitals, labs, research facilities and other highly-technical spaces around the world,” he explains. Bancroft has designed a mobile emergency medical clinic for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and a bio-safety lab for the World Health Organization in Outer Mongolia.
“My mother used to tell me that if didn’t like something, I shouldn’t complain,” Jenkins notes. “Instead, I should work to fix it. That’s what we’re trying to do. Everybody in the company who is eligible for VA care (myself included) MUST go to the VA and not use the company’s BlueCross/BlueShield. That way, we recognize on a regular basis how big the challenge is, how much of an impact we’re having, and how far we have to go.”
Interestingly, Fenwick auctions off Bancroft internships to parents of students who are interested in careers in architecture or engineering. “One of the first interns is close to graduation from architecture school, and we’ve already made him a full-time offer,” Jenkins reports. “He has worked with us every summer and Christmas break since he was at Fenwick.”