Boarding School TN

Oak Hill Academy: East Coast Boarding School in the Blue Ridge Mountains

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There is a broad spectrum of factors to consider when looking at boarding school options for your student.  Just as people have unique personalities, so too do boarding schools and finding the right match requires some research that often goes beyond the website.  Oak Hill Academy has a busy campus tour season that coincides with students being present on campus for our summer session running from June 20-July 22 and when families visit us, here are the top 3 things I want them to see that go beyond what is found on our website:

  1. The people.  While our website does a decent job of relaying the tidiness and beauty of campus, only a visit can truly showcase of most outstanding feature – the people here.  Our location in Grayson County, Virginia makes us one of the most rural boarding high schools on the east coast, but it has the side-benefit of helping to create an outstandingly tight-knit faculty and student body.  I’ve raised my 4 children alongside my colleague’s children as they’ve grown up in faculty housing on campus.  Our students rely on each other to create, in the classic sense, community – as there is no surrounding town, so each year, we create our own community.  This is something that is easily felt during a tour as our students stop to speak with families throughout.  Spend 5 minutes in the Alumni Campus Store and the easy relationships are evident.
  2. Diversity.  Many boarding schools tout an international population and that is one of the classic benefits of a boarding school experience.  I urge you to look a little deeper at those numbers.  At Oak Hill Academy, we are not relying on a single source of international students.  The result is an international population representing 16 countries.  Economic diversity is another thing that is hard to convey through numbers, but Oak Hill Academy’s position on the affordable end of the boarding school spectrum is an important contributing factor to diversity on campus.  Our student body does not feel entitled, instead we are a “roll your sleeves up and work together” environment.
  3. Mission.  Our mission statement is very clearly communicated on our website.  However, what this “feels” like is much more effectively communicated through a visit.  Faculty sharing a snack with a student on the Alumni School Store deck after school, a college guidance counselor helping a student connect with a college admission representative on the phone, and a teacher loading a van of students to visit a local elementary school are three vignettes a recent tour noticed.  As the overwhelming majority of our faculty and staff live on campus, their investment in our students knows no time clock.

The Admission Department will be conducting campus visits and interviews throughout the summer.  Please contact us to discuss a good time to visit and you are urged to “go beyond the website.”  It is the best way to truly know what is special about Oak Hill Academy.

Oak Hill Academy -Boarding School with late enrollment

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At this time of year, many of my admission calls begin with the question, “Is Oak Hill Academy still accepting applications?”  We are, and I would like to take some time to explain the philosophy of late admission and rolling admission.

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A review of our school’s website will uncover that Oak Hill Academy is a small, coed, college-prep boarding school that serves the very unique niche of focusing on the student who has not been having the kind of success of which they are capable.  As grades come out at the end of the school year, parents and students are having the conversation that a change is needed.  For some, poor grades expose a need for a change of academic environment, a change in peer group, or even a change in home dynamics.

When a student (and family) recognizes that attending Oak Hill Academy is an opportunity to make these kinds of changes and to redefine themselves in a new environment, we want to be available.  We also intentionally keep space available for families who are having these conversations early in the school year.

Please visit our website http://www.oak-hill.net  to understand these opportunities in greater detail. Our enrollment cycle accounts for families who are making these decisions at this time of year – well into the summer months.  As the Director of Admission, I am happy to consider applicants who are a fit for this mission and I am currently conducting campus visits and interviews.  Contact me now to discuss.

 

Learning Differences are in Oak Hill Academy’s “Wheelhouse”

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As I often say, Oak Hill Academy occupies a very unique place on the boarding school spectrum.  We are college prep without being “sink or swim.”  We are skilled and experienced at working with students who have the intentions but, for a variety of reasons, have not learned to execute effectively.  Our kids are smart, they often just learn differently.  What we find, over and over, is that once a student tastes success, they want more of it.

While I do not portray Oak Hill Academy as a specific “learning disability school,” the fact is that we have a lot of experience in this area.  Oak Hill Academy’s small size and relational approach historically attracts a lot of inquiries from families with a student who may be struggling academically and are seeking a change in environment that addresses learning challenges.  It is not uncommon for applicants to come to us with a specialized learning plan, or an IEP as it is commonly known, and we often find that the majority of suggested accommodations are part of our normal course of business here.

In a classroom of 8-12 students, we can do that.  Individual strengths and comparative weaknesses are known, and more importantly addressed, by our teachers.  Relationships based on trust and a sense of investment abound in this environment, especially since most of our faculty live on campus with their own families.  The kids know us too!

This unique dynamic – students and teachers living together in a small community – also shows up in the amount of time we can dedicate to “shoulder to shoulder” coaching in addition to the classroom instruction time.  Our schedule includes a dedicated “8th period” for subject-specific tutorials, organizational check-ins, and homework remediation.  Our principal is also hands on through her management of the Resource Center, an administrative study hall to address executive and learning challenges across the curriculum.

Perhaps the most dynamic situation comes in the form of structure and a positive peer surrounding.  While we are definitely a college preparatory school (95% college acceptance for our students over the last 10 years), we are not the hyper competitive situation many associate with boarding school.  Our students like to study together and support each other’s success.  It is “cool” to do well and handle academic responsibility here.  Our students high-five each other as tests and quizzes are returned in class, often because they studied together!

The structure of afterschool support is complemented by the mandatory “quiet time” in the dorms where students are required to be in their rooms, independently working or in arranged peer tutoring.  The library is also available for use during the mandatory evening study time.

In small classes, learning styles are also recognized.  Material is presented in a variety of ways – visual, auditory, hands-on for example – before teachers move on.  The predominate teaching style at Oak Hill Academy is to facilitate dynamic class discussions.  The diversity of our student body makes this method particularly engaging and our students develop their “voice.” An emphasis on coaching the processes of writing across our curriculum means that they better express themselves and develop necessary skills to write well in college.

In this setting, maintaining this mission since 1878, Oak Hill Academy has developed an intentionality of working with students whose learning differences and personal habits flourish in our structured, supportive environment.  If you are seeking such a “turning point” for your student, please contact the Admission Office at mrodgers@oak-hill.net or call (276) 579-2619.

 

 

Boarding School – “At Oak Hill Academy, nothing is invisible”

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I heard the above said by a student at Oak Hill Academy yesterday and it struck me as significant.  It stuck with me most of the day and the more I thought about it, like peeling the layers of an onion, its truth became more and more apparent.  I don’t think he was trying to be profound, and the context in which he said it was pretty mundane, but he said it with sincerity and a sense of surety – he was stating a fact.

From an academic standpoint, at Oak Hill Academy nothing IS invisible.  Our small class sizes (8-10 on average) mean students can’t hide from a teacher or “take a day off.”  Good luck getting away with incomplete homework (I think that was the context of the original statement).  Learning styles are not ignored – as our teachers learn each student’s strengths and weaknesses, we can become very personal with our approach.  With our webgrader program, daily performance is communicated back to the student AND THEIR PARENTS, cementing the idea that every day matters.  Back to the small class size, if a lesson doesn’t land on a student, our teachers know it – that is what the 8th period tutorials that happen every day are for (think of it as “office hours” for our teachers).  Students can be brought in, notebooks are checked, and a student receives personal attention.  They know they are not invisible – and our students like that!

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From a social standpoint, students are not invisible to their peers.  Nobody sits alone in our cafeteria – grade level doesn’t matter socially here.  Our students are engaged in each other’s lives and actually enjoy helping each other through the inevitable bumps of a school year.  They often study together.  Our location contributes to this.  We are located in a beautiful area of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwestern Virginia and there is no “mall across the street.”  Our kids look around and know that we are all they’ve got, so we had better take care of each other.  And they do.

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From a community standpoint, there is a lot of structure and a lot of “eyes on campus.”  The majority of our faculty and staff live on campus with their own families and faculty housing dots campus.  We are everywhere!  We enjoy knowing our students outside of class as much as in class and they get to know our own children and even our family pets!  This gives incredible opportunity to be there for our students with unlimited, informal, teachable moments.  There are resident managers who live with the students in the dorm.  Yes, we are everywhere.

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We are a small boarding school and this is significant.  Everyone is plugged into one or more of the many clubs and activities taking place each afternoon.  Weekends are filled with on-campus social activities and off-campus trip offerings. Students discover their talents and interests and each student has a real place in our community.  As one student put it to me recently, in my old school I was my “school self” and then I had my “home self” but here, I can BE MYSELF.

“At Oak Hill Academy, nothing is invisible.”  What a true statement!

 

 

Sunrise at Oak Hill Academy

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sunrise at OHA

Our Head of School, Dr. Groves shared this photo with me of the sunrise taken from the back of campus this morning.  First of all, what a view we have up here on “The Hill!”  Secondly, it was very apropos of the great start to the school year we’ve enjoyed this week.  The sun is rising on the 137th school year at Oak Hill Academy and we couldn’t feel more blessed.

 

Late Boarding School Admission – Oak Hill Academy

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The decision to consider boarding school as an option frequently follows a period of frustration with a student’s current situation with school, peer group, or even family, dynamics.  Today, I would like to address some of what I consider to be very legitimate or valid reasons to consider boarding school, and Oak Hill Academy in particular, for your student.  Also, I want to emphasize that it is not uncommon that this decision is reached in August after a summer of family conversations.  In fact, August is a particularly busy time of year for me in Admission given our mission of offering a turning point for students who need a change.

I often tell prospective families that Oak Hill Academy‘s “wheelhouse” is in working with students who have not had the kind of success of which they are capable.  Often times, this has absolutely nothing to do with ability or academic intelligence.  Sometimes, the most successful Oak Hill students come to us because they are seeking a smaller, more personally engaging educational experience because they are either not being challenged in their current setting or they learn best in a way that is not conducive to a larger classroom setting.  While we do not try to be all things to all people, the fact is we work well with both types of students.

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Small classes simply provide a more engaging experience and a more personal approach by our teachers.

The combination of structure and a relationship-based approach allows us to do this.  For the unmotivated student, an environment of structured study hall, built-in tutorial opportunities, and accountability (one cannot hide in a small class) allows them the chance to experience success that comes from staying on top of academic responsibilities.  Once they experience this success, they want more of it.  Case in point to which parents of unmotivated students can surely relate:  getting zeroes on homework, piling up as the semester goes on and putting a “good” grade out of the picture is often the most obvious demotivating factor.  This does not happen at Oak Hill as we have a built in “8th period tutorial” in the schedule where homework deficiencies are addressed with as much “coaching” as “teaching.”  Our mandatory evening study hall times reinforces that no matter how “busy” our students get, they have a consistent time built in to take care of “business.”

For the student who seeks to be challenged to new academic heights, the small class environment enables us to push students on a very individual and personal basis (See the blog posted on 3/17/15 “Benefits of Small Classes”).  Our core courses come with an honors option that provides enriched assignments and additional depth.  Also, our several dual college credit classes that span the core offerings provides a real college-world rigor.  That same structure, outlined above, provides an opportunity for students to become more achievement-oriented.  They learn the feeling of pride that comes with staying on top assignments and begin to appreciate the act of learning.

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Tutorials offer an opportunity to “coach” a student to a better approach to studies

An underlying theme is also the growth that comes for a student at Oak Hill Academy where a desire for more independence has led them to consider boarding school.  The Oak Hill boarding school experience is empowering for our students.  They “own” their success.  A new peer group, away from home allows them to pursue a new self-image.  I often see students here who are becoming who they want to be.  Many times, that can only happen in a brand new environment.

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Back to the point of this post at this time.  Often families come to the conclusion after much soul-searching at this perceived “late” time of the year.  The fact is, our admission process allows for a very personal, case by case evaluation of applications and this process can be fast, while not rushed.  In short, you are not too late if you are considering placement at Oak Hill Academy.  For example, I do not conduct the “open-house” model of tours, instead I meet with families individually.  I encourage you to contact me to arrange a tour this August.  I am also available to discuss your student’s particular situation at length by telephone.  I invite you to take the first step in addressing the question that may have been on your mind for some time – is boarding school a better option for my student?  Please contact me via email (mrodgers@oak-hill.net) or simply call me in the Admission Department at (276) 579-2619.

Regards, Mike Rodgers

Director of Admission

 

Oak Hill Academy Stories (#5): Ben Powell ’05 – TV Reporter

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Some students have so much personality that you know their story is going to be interesting.  Ben Powell was that kind of student at Oak Hill Academy, making his mark as the student body president and official “hype” man of the Warriors basketball program before graduating in 2005.  As he has been an on-air news reporter the past 5 years in North Carolina, he has been fairly easy to follow.  I was very excited to learn recently that his talents have brought him to WFMY News 2, in nearby Greensboro, NC.  Imagine how proud we are to see our guy, Ben, on an almost nightly basis now!

Ben Powell reporting

Ben received his Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies from UNC-Wilmington and hit the ground running.  Starting off as a production assistant at WECT-TV 6 in Wilmington, NC, Ben quickly worked his way up to Weekend Anchor.  He earned several awards for broadcast excellence from the Radio Television Digital News Association during his time there.  He is now the Multi-Media Journalist for News 2.

I recently caught up with Ben to discuss his time at Oak Hill Academy and the impact he feels that has had on his life.

What have been the lasting benefits of Oak Hill Academy?

Looking back, I know I developed several character traits there.  Character, integrity, discipline and respect – just to name a few.  I was pretty direction-less when I arrived in 8th grade.  Being part of a close-knit community allowed me to grow.

Now that you have some perspective, what makes OHA special?

It’s special because the teachers there really care about you.  Everyone from Administrators to dorm parents really want you to succeed.  All a student needs is the effort because you have the resources and support – and you leave with a huge reward…your dignity (and a meaningful diploma!)

635576065809585426-ben-powell-wfmyBen Powell behind the scenes

Would you recommend Oak Hill Academy to prospective families with a student like you were?

I would definitely recommend this experience.  Although it is a huge lifestyle change and it does take some getting used to things like Saturday school and cell phone restrictions, in the end it is so worth it.  You’ll never forget the things you learn about yourself and the relationships you form there.

From your bio, I see that you’ve done some pretty cool things in reporting, from interviews with convicted killers to A-list celebrities.  What’s the coolest thing you’ve done in the job?

My job once took me to the red carpet premiere of “Safe Haven” a major film based on the romance novel by Nicholas Sparks.  It was filmed in our backyard in Wilmington.  It was really cool to be in Tinsel Town interviewing all the stars.  But the most rewarding thing about my job is telling the stories that create change in the community.  I love getting feedback from someone who thanks me for telling their story and raising awareness about the issues that face our society.  I feel like I’m helping the community one story at a time.

Now the tough question:  Do you miss performing at the halftime of Gold Team games?  You had some serious dance moves.

(Laughs) Well, despite attending school with Carmelo Anthony, Josh Smith, Rajon, Ty Lawson, Kevin Durant and all the other big name players, I think there is no doubt who the real star of the show was.  It’s been 10 years, but I think I still have some gas in the tank.  I think I’ll visit “The Hill” soon and shake off the cobwebs!

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Ben, we believe you.  We’ve got the footage to prove it.

Oh, and some things never change:

ben