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.
Meet the Director
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.
- 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.
Concentrations in reading comprehension, writing, grammar, and conversation.
Explores the important people, events, and themes that have shaped the country’s heritage and geography.
Encompasses many aspects of life in the United States, including the development of the country’s traditions and customs.
A creative yet demanding approach engages students with formal and conversational speaking and listening skills.
Concentration in library research, time management, test preparation, note taking strategies, organizing and handling homework loads, and navigating the Internet for research purposes.
A significant amount of time is devoted to test preparation exercises and strategies for the TOEFL examination. Each participant will also take a TOEFL practice test during the final week of the program.
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.
Shopping at local malls and outlet centers as well as trips to amusement parks, performances, cinemas, and professional sporting events. ESL+ utilizes Mercersburg’s extensive athletic facilities to play American and international sports such as basketball, flag football, soccer, tennis, and squash. In addition, afternoon electives can include dance, music and visual arts, yoga and crafts.
Students live on campus in one of Mercersburg’s modern, air-conditioned dormitories, typically with a roommate. Members of the ESL+ staff live in the dormitories with the students. All academic and extracurricular facilities on campus are available including the student center. Students are allowed to use cell phones during breaks and in the dorms, but are not allowed in the classrooms.
Dorm living features include:
- Spacious, air-conditioned rooms, carpeted hallways, tiled bathrooms with private shower areas
- Dorms are divided by gender
- Telephone and data connections are available in each room
- Laundry facilities on each floor
- Common rooms with kitchen areas and multimedia components (tv and dvd)
- 24-hour dormitory supervision by ESL+ staff members
Day trips on the weekend to major U.S. cities can include Washington, DC, Philadelphia, and New York City. Weekday trips to points of historical and cultural interest are used to extend the learning experience and to assist students in their introduction to U.S. culture and schooling.
Participants will have the option to travel to at least one American university. ESL+ students have the opportunity to take tours, attend informational sessions and gather materials from the school.
Mercersburg is home to some of the finest teachers in the country, and the ESL+ staff reflects that excellence. The experienced staff understands boarding school life and they assist students with each endeavor and challenge. The faculty is diverse, with extensive language and multi-cultural teaching experience. Qualified instructors guide each class, with teaching assistants providing extra support and supervision beyond the classroom.
Safety is our priority at all times. The Mercersburg Summer campus is patrolled 24 hours a day by security personnel, access to dormitories is limited to summer participants and all summer staff are required to receive full state and federal clearances as required by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Not only is our staff certified in CPR/AED, many also have first aid training.
Our on-campus Health Center is managed by a team of RNs and we work closely with a local family practice for campers that may need additional care. There is also a full time Health Service Assistant available for all internal programs. Although rare, if a situation demands it, the campus is approximately 25 minutes from 3 local hospitals.