Boarding School VA
It is time for a parent to parent blog entry. This is the time of year when parents around the country are having those late night, kitchen table discussions to evaluate how this new school year has begun. Initial grade reports may have already, or soon will, come out and all of the intentions going into the school year are being checked. Because I have kids of my own, I’m very familiar with this time-honored ritual. Also, because Oak Hill Academy has rolling admission AND our wheelhouse is in working with students who are not working to their potential, I am very attuned to this time of year. I understand the frustration, felt by some at this point in the year, as the goals and good intentions agreed to during the summer appear to be slipping away. Your student may even be entering that pattern of de-motivation at the prospect of another year of disappointing grades and habits that you’ve seen before. Deep down, they know they are capable of so much more and you’ve probably determined that a change in setting may in order.
Our approach at Oak Hill Academy rests on a very important principle: “There is no such thing as an underachieving child, only an unmotivated one.”
The intentional structure and support, found at Oak Hill Academy, enables us to work well with a variety of learning challenges and mindset challenges and to provide the opportunities for real academic, personal and spiritual growth. Our small school size means small classrooms where students and teachers establish meaningful relationships. The feeling of being away at school is often empowering to the Oak Hill Academy students. They own their successes, develop pride in taking care of business with the learning support and organized structure we provide and they begin to expect more from, and for, themselves. This is a very real opportunity for the student to redefine themselves.
If you are considering a change for your student at this critical juncture, let’s have a conversation about Oak Hill Academy. We are very experienced with integrating new students throughout the first semester and some of the greatest success stories begin this way. It is very easy to find out more and I welcome this personal discussion and opportunity to learn more about your student’s needs, challenges and goals. Oak Hill Academy is The Turning Point for many students and this may be precisely the point in time to consider a change in their trajectory.
A new class has been added to the English Department at Oak Hill Academy in response to the identifiable needs of our students as they enter college: Critical Reading for College. This course is designed to assist students in improving their skills in critical reading specifically as it applies to types of reading they will be doing as college freshman and as applicants for college. A special emphasis will be placed on the redesigned “Evidence Based Reading and Writing” section of the SAT.
The relationship between writing skills and improved reading skills is the basis of this class. Students will review a variety of writing conventions – persuasive, research, comparative, and editorial to name a few. Due to the heavy volume of reading and writing, especially in introductory level college classes, we’ve identified this as point of emphasis in preparing our students for college. This new class represents a response to information we’ve received through a continued contact with our alumni base and feedback they’ve provided as to the most practical preparation we can offer to our students as they become college freshman. The goal with this class is continue to grow our student’s preparedness with an increased understanding of sentence structure, flow, and transitioning elements in the kind of writing (and by extension, reading) they will encounter most in college.
You’ve read in past blogs that the Arts Department at Oak Hill Academy provides great opportunities for discovery and mastery of the various arts for our students. With the addition of the new outdoor theatre on campus, there is an excitement building among the faculty involved in music performance and drama. We are pleased to announce two new courses in our music department that represent an acknowledgement of both our place in the local community of southwestern Virginia and the growing trend of students wanting to continue their love of music beyond Oak Hill Academy.
The new Appalachian String Band class is an extension of the highly successful Advanced Guitar Class that has been offered to our students. This course will now include instruction and incorporation of upright bass, banjo, dulcimer and autoharp to compliment our guitarists. I had the pleasure of tagging along with this class last year as they sat in with the weekly local musician’s jam at the Grayson County Courthouse. What a unique opportunity for our students! Our music teacher, Ms. Jean Callison, is very well-plugged into the rich, local music scene. There is no better place in America to study Old Time Music than where Oak Hill Academy is located here in the Grayson Highlands of the Blue Ridge Mountains!
I’m equally excited by the addition of the Music Lab course. This will expose our music students to mixing, arranging, and other production techniques. We often have students who pursue music study in college and have the need to produce demos for other reasons as well. This class is designed to meet that need by allowing students to work on performance and recording of modern music. Instruments will include electric guitar, electric bass, keyboards and drums among others.
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.
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.
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or simply call me in the Admission Department at (276) 579-2619.
Regards, Mike Rodgers
Director of Admission
Some of the many sides of Keith Hornsby at Oak Hill Academy shown above
When Keith graduated in 2011, I knew he was going to have an interesting path ahead of him. As the president of the senior class, a student in my class and key component of some of the best teams in recent Oak Hill basketball history, I knew his presence would be missed. I had come to know Keith as a sixth grader attending Coach Smith’s summer basketball camps and had seen how, when he puts his mind to something, he finds a way to achieve it. My pleasure was getting to know Keith well off the court as a student and part of the Oak Hill Academy campus community. I knew the combination of personality (he has a ready smile that often hides how driven he really is) and work ethic was going to bring big things his way.
Keith has been relatively easy to keep up with post-graduation as much of his journey has been played out with media coverage. After a very successful two years at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, Keith took the rather controversial step of fulfilling his potential of playing at the highest levels by transferring to LSU and a much higher athletic profile. As per NCAA rules, he sat out a season but, true to form, did not “take a year off,” instead transforming his body and skills in preparation for making an impact on his new team. His 35 minutes of playing time per game, ranking among the top in the SEC, indicates his value to the team. Along the way, Keith has been taking care of business in the classroom as well. As a mass communications major, Keith is gaining a tremendous amount of on the job training in front of the camera. Becoming a fan-favorite on a successful team in one of the biggest conferences in college basketball (and hitting some game winning shots!) means a lot of media attention. I’ve really enjoyed seeing Keith’s poise and humility in front of the cameras as I frequently see him on ESPN and I take pleasure in knowing that his success on the court and in the classroom has not been handed to him.
I recently caught up with Keith to discuss his experiences at Oak Hill Academy and the perspective of that time that 4 years have given him.
In what ways did your Oak Hill experience help you grow?
The thing that stands out to me, looking back, is that it forced me to build social skills. Because the student body is so diverse, I really enjoyed learning to relate to so many different kinds of people. Of course, learning to live without your parents looking over you is a necessary development too. I really look at it now as a true “pre-college” experience. For me, college was not as big a jump as it would’ve been otherwise.
Is there anything specific that Oak Hill did to help prepare you for college success?
I had teachers like Mrs. Bonham who were demanding. She was tough but it made sure you got the job done. However, I really learned that having a relationship with a teacher is key. That really prepared me to take the initiative with my college professors even though, college is, obviously, a much bigger setting.
What are some of your favorite memories of your Oak Hill days?
It’s funny, I was just looking at a yearbook and remembering the fun we had. The weekend activities were great – I appreciate now how hard the staff works to provide those off-campus trip opportunities to haunted houses, movies, local attractions, etc. On campus, I really remember Karaoke Night as a great time. Remembering Spirit week brought a smile to my face. Also the devotions in homeroom. I remember some really thought-provoking messages. I also remember the experiences I gained in public speaking at Oak Hill, which obviously helps me in my major (Mass Communication). It was a great training ground for being a leader in that it was small enough to know I could really make a difference. In fact, I’ve continued in that having been selected by my peers last year to serve on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee at LSU. I also remember the plays at Oak Hill which, little known fact, I was in the Theatre Department at UNC-Asheville before I transferred. All of that stuff started at Oak Hill for me.
What do you feel makes Oak Hill Academy unique as a boarding school?
At first the restrictions on cell phones and technology seemed like a punishment, I’m not going to lie. However, having limits on that really produced a beautiful thing: we became such a tight-knit student body – like family – and I don’t think many people get to go to a school with that kind of bond between classmates. I still keep in touch with many of my classmates – not just my former teammates – but people I share the Oak Hill bond with. There’s a pride that comes with being an Oak Hill graduate because it is a pretty exclusive club. You really don’t understand how beautiful it is to be part of something like unless you come to Oak Hill. I truly miss how simple and pure life was at Oak Hill without a lot of the distractions that typically face kids.
We wish Keith much continued success on the court and in the classroom. His many fans in Mouth of Wilson, Va will be rooting for him and the Tigers this upcoming season, his senior year!
Oak Hill Academy is in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, in the Appalachian Highlands. I live in a beautiful place. This is a fact that I often took for granted until I started giving tours in the Admission Department and seeing the campus and surrounding beauty through the “new eyes” of prospective parents and applicants changed that.
As I write this, the rushed excitement of our final school days of 2014-15 and the “pomp and circumstance” of graduation is now 3 weeks past. Campus has gotten extremely quiet and this has put me in a reflective mood. Most of the faculty and staff live on campus, but the first several weeks of summer are a time for family vacations. Have I mentioned that campus is quiet?
I am accepting applications and conducting tours throughout the summer – I’m available and keeping regular office hours. If you are considering Oak Hill Academy for your student, I encourage you to contact me to set up a campus visit as I meet with families individually and do not do “open houses.” However, I encourage you to target June 22-July 24, during our summer school session, for your visit. Our summer session brings students back on campus, allows new students a great place to start, and offers an excellent opportunity for visitors to see school in session. I’m very excited to welcome students back on campus June 22 because, as I show campus between sessions, it makes me miss the impressiveness of “who” we are. Students, I miss you, and I look forward to seeing the campus look like this again soon:
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 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!)
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!
Ben, we believe you. We’ve got the footage to prove it.
Oh, and some things never change: