Competitive athletics begin!

May 2023

Dr. Sally Mingarelli

Head of School, EF Academy Pasadena

Dear Families,

I am writing to you today from my desk on a very quiet campus. When I look out my window, I see so many fantastic memories of our founding year against the backdrop of the beautiful San Gabriel mountains. It has been a tremendous first year on our Pasadena campus, and we couldn’t be more grateful for having shared that year with your children. Our founding students will hold a special place in this school’s history, something we commemorated with a photo on the Strong Hall steps during the last week of school. In future years, the tradition of posing for annual photos in front of Strong Hall will be reserved for our graduating seniors, but for this year we captured our entire founding student body.  In future years, our graduates will engage in the classic tradition of throwing their graduation caps, but for this year our founding students threw birthday hats as we celebrated turning one year old!

It is a tremendous privilege to serve as the Head of a young and growing school within the EF Academy family. With our sister schools in New York and Oxford, we have more of a legacy than a typical start-up school can enjoy, which helps with both our student recruitment and college admissions efforts. While experiencing all the benefits of both the strong reputation and the collaboration opportunities among our family of schools, as the start-up campus we also fully embrace our ability to be uniquely nimble, iterative, and responsive. We take great pride in modeling for our students the true spirit of design thinkers and innovators, who constantly prototype ideas, evaluate outcomes, and propose alternative solutions. As a faculty and staff we use the language “1.0” and “2.0” heartily as we prepare for next year, and I can promise you that EF Academy Pasadena Version 2.0 is going to be even more incredible than this founding year!

In this final family newsletter of our first year, we want to share with you some celebrations from each area of the school: Academics, Student Life, and University and Academic Advising. We want to highlight some moments and accomplishments of our Version 1.0 that really stand out. And we also want to forecast some of the additions and expansions of programs that will serve our Year 2 students. Please enjoy reading some previews of Version 2.0 below!

As always, I want to close by thanking you for the privilege of entrusting us with your children. As a campus community, we are committed to exploring the sometimes fraught relationship between perceptions of success and student well-being. We will continue to prioritize above all else the ways that we care for our students and the ways in which we teach them to care for themselves and each other, as we know that wellness is foundationally important for deep learning to occur. We will continue to prioritize an educational program that is personalized and allows for students to grow at their own pace and focus their attention on identifying their strengths and passions. We share the same dreams for your children as you do, for them to have a life that is both successful and happy. We look forward to continuing that amazing work together in the fall!

Milestone of Year 1


The biggest celebrations from our academic program derive from the ways in which students have fully embraced and flourished within our Competency-Based Learning (CBL) approach. Students have become adept at seeking, interpreting, and incorporating feedback to set learning-focused goals. Students have committed to both process and product, accepting that many iterations of a process helps to create a quality product. Students have shown appreciation for our Project-Based approach, which allows them to explore topics that are relevant and apply their learning in projects that connect to their interests. On our Showcase of Learning day, students selected the piece of work from this year of which they were most proud and presented it to our school community. When asked why they selected that piece of work students named one of three reasons: (1) because I worked really hard on it, (2) because I am really proud of how it turned out, and (3) because this topic was personal and meaningful to me. We are so excited to keep designing next year to create more opportunities for students to experience that intrinsic motivation, that pride in their work, and a sense of personal connection and relevance in all that we do!

We also must celebrate the success of our first year of Global Leadership. As you read in the last family newsletter, the first year of that program has resulted in some amazing student projects! On our very last day of school we enjoyed our first annual Global Leadership Symposium. Open to the public, our students enjoyed sharing their work with an audience that included our school community, neighbors, reporters, prospective students and families, and an entire class of students from a local charter middle school.  It was the perfect way to end our first school year!

Among the biggest changes for Year 2, is our newly reimagined schedule. This schedule is tuned for student wellness, deeper learning, and the ability to prioritize Field Study. The schedule features 14 “sessions” across the school year that are 2-3 weeks long.  Sessions alternate between offering periods 1, 2, & 3 and periods 4, 5, & 6, with Global Leadership occurring on Wednesdays all year.  By focusing on fewer classes at a time, students are able to immerse themselves more deeply in the subjects and experience less cognitive overload from continuous task switching.  This modified block schedule is designed to enhance and deepen learning. You will see in the graphic below, that the schedule also allows for Field Study to occur three days per week with long class periods followed by WIN (“whatever is needed”) time in the afternoons on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Our campus will boast 6 new EF Academy vans in the fall, and we can’t wait to expand the walls of our classrooms to include all of the amazing urban and outdoor education opportunities in Los Angeles!

In addition to the new schedule, we are so excited to launch 30 new or reimagined classes next year, welcome 18 new faculty, and redouble our commitment to Project-Based Learning through our partnership with the Buck Institute! One final Version 2.0 innovation worth sharing here is the growth and development of our Design Labs. Next year we will have 4 distinct creative and creating spaces for students: a Prototyping Lab, a Fabrication Lab, a Media Lab, and a Robotics Lab (as we launch our participation in competitive FIRST robotics next year). We can’t wait to see what students make possible in these spaces!

Student Life 

It has been joyful to see our campus come to life in our opening year, with students, faculty and staff filling our campus with the sounds of community-building, friendship-making and learning. One of the highlights was Culture Fair, where our students celebrated cultures from around the world with gratitude and pride – we all enjoyed experiencing traditional dances, music, singing, story-telling and cooking. Our first formal Student Council took shape this year and our students have taken on this responsibility with gravitas and honor. We have felt inspired by the way in which our student leaders are growing and fine-tuning their skills to listen, hear, express and problem-solve for the community in which they serve.

Year 2 promises to be even better with exciting clubs, sports, activities and excursions planned, opportunities for students to become more involved as student leaders in the dorms and the chance to begin to explore goals about which they’re passionate. We want our students to continue to have the opportunity to try new things and find what makes them happy. As our student population is growing next year, we are looking forward to moving into two residence buildings in September, which we plan to make homey, welcoming spaces for students to live in. Our Residential Life and Student Services Team will also continue to grow to ensure that we are here to support students every step of the way on this exciting journey. We hope you have a wonderful summer together and we can’t wait to see you in August!

University and Academic Advising

Final report cards for the 2022-2023 academic year are now available in PowerSchool. Please see the email sent to students and families on June 6 with instructions for how to access the report cards.  

Class of 2024 – We could not be more excited to welcome our first seniors back to campus in the fall after a well-earned restful, fun, and meaningful summer. In preparation for next year, our new grade 12 students and families will receive regular messages throughout the summer from the University & Academic Advising team to keep them on track with important tasks and helpful resources to prepare them for success in the university admissions process. The first of these messages will arrive on Friday, June 9, sharing a summer checklist and upcoming deadlines. It is important that students stay on top of these tasks to be prepared for a successful journey through the university admission process.

Class of 2025 and 2026 – Students returning for grades 10 or 11 should do what we’d ask any student to do: have a restful, meaningful, and fun summer. The most important thing they can do with these months is to try new things, spend time with friends and family, and indulge in the hobbies and passions that they don’t have enough time for during the school year. Don’t worry about structure or “impressiveness” – the things that bring students joy and feel like they’re worth your time will be wonderful parts of their story when it’s time to apply to college. Have a wonderful summer (we can’t wait to hear how you spent it!) and we’ll see you at the end of August!

Updates & Reminders

Campus Arrival

Students should plan to arrive to campus on August 29 or 30. Flights should always be booked to arrive between 6:00 am and 8:00 pm. Please send your arrival details to [email protected] by no later than August 1.

Winter Break
  • Students may begin departing campus at 12:00 pm PDT on December 13 and must depart by no later than 3:00 pm PDT on December 14. Flights should be arranged to accommodate these campus departure times.

  • Students should plan to return to campus on January 10. Flights should always be booked to arrive between 6:00 am and 8:00 pm PDT.

Spring Break
  • Students may begin departing campus at 12:00 pm PDT on March 6 and must depart by no later than 3:00 pm PDT on March 7. Flights should be arranged to accommodate these campus departure times.

  • Students should plan to return to campus on March 26. Flights should always be booked to arrive between 6:00 am and 8:00 pm PDT.

End of Year Departures
  • Grade 12 students must depart after Graduation on May 18 and should plan to leave campus by no later than 10:00 pm PDT.

  • Underclassmen may start departing from campus on May 25 and must depart by no later than 3:00 pm PDT on May 26. Flights should be arranged to accommodate these campus departure times.

2023-2024 School Year Calendar 
  • For your convenience, you can find next year's academic calendar: here. It can also be found on EF Academy Pasadena's News and Info page.

  • Stay up to date on everything happening at EF Academy Pasadena with our Instagram @efacademypasadena!

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