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Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 and varying travel restrictions around the globe, ESL+ has been canceled for Summer 2021. We look forward to hosting the program in Summer 2022!

Extensive English Development

Nationally recognized as one of the top boarding schools in the United States, Mercersburg Academy is a private college preparatory independent school with a reputation for excellence that attracts young people in grades 9-12 from 27 states and 39 nations each school year. During the summer, extensive English development and rewarding cultural immersion experiences draw students who are committed to rigorous academic effort.

This intense and creative program is open to international students who possess a working knowledge of the English language and are able to communicate on at least basic verbal and written levels. It features a comprehensive and stimulating curriculum designed to improve communication skills in English speaking, listening, writing, and reading.

Mercersburg has hosted students from more than a dozen countries in recent summers, including Azerbaijan, China, France, Hong Kong, Hungary, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Spain, Taiwan, and Turkey.

July 11-August 6, 2021

Open To:
Grades 6-12, coed


Application Fee:

Meet the Director

Justine O’Connell

Justine O’Connell is director of global programs at Mercersburg Academy and a member of the school’s language department. Most recently she was exchange coordinator and English language teacher at Colegio Aleman de San Felipe in Chile.

Justine worked as the coordinating assistant for Kids on Campus at Bucks County Community College in Newtown, Pennsylvania, where she coordinated the camp’s programs and held orientation for counselors and camp leaders. In 2016, she moved to Chile to teach English and participate in English summer camp programs through the ministry of education as well as exchanges to the United States. “This will be my first official year working with Mercersburg Summer Programs, but I am excited to get to know the new students who are coming to our ESL camp!” says Justine. “In my free time, I like to hike, kayak, and travel with my husband and our dog, Kobe.”

Justine holds two bachelor's degrees in Spanish literature and global studies from the University of Arizona.


In the classroom, ESL+ students are divided by skill level, regardless of age. All students are evaluated when they arrive and placed into classes based on core English competencies. This proven method for learning introduces students to environments where they are properly challenged, paced, and supported.

While courses are taught according to ability to digest information and to apply acquired knowledge, the use of progressive teaching principles allows students who qualify to easily move up through levels of study as they master essential skills.

Program Features

  • Competitive admission and limited enrollment in each grade level and nationality
  • Diagnostic testing and placement in appropriate skill level
  • Student-to-faculty ratio of 5 to 1
  • Multiple levels of study in English speaking, listening, writing, and reading
  • Test preparation courses
  • Daily help sessions and supervised evening study hall
  • Structured activities beyond the classroom
  • Visits to college and university campuses

An ESL Boarding School Experience

More than 70 percent of ESL+ camp participants typically plan to attend a U.S. boarding school. As such, Mercersburg Summer Programs creates an experience and schedule designed to mimic boarding school life: part academics and part co-curricular/extracurricular activities.

Curriculum and Primary Program Areas 

The ESL+ program concentrates on improving English skills in speaking, listening, writing, and reading. Each course is specifically designed to allow students to learn these skills through different techniques, subjects, and interactive environments. Among many other things, all students will be asked to attend vocabulary and listening labs, create culminating class projects or presentations, and prepare for the TOEFL test. Courses change from year to year for a number of reasons, including keeping the subject matter fresh for teachers and to the benefit of the students.

Beyond the Classroom

The Mercersburg ESL+ experience is about much more than just the classroom. Students studying at Mercersburg Academy in the summer enjoy a variety of activities which lead to a meaningful immersion experience. Academic studies are paired with exciting cultural trips and opportunities to make friends with other students through social and athletic activities.