Oak Hill Academy
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.
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!
Young’s Chapel Baptist Church, is pictured on the left, alongside The Rev. J.F. Fletcher Chapel, on the right.
I often receive questions regarding Oak Hill Academy’s religious life and the spiritual opportunities provided here. Many parents want to know what that looks like. Today, I’d like to take some time to more fully address this important facet of Oak Hill Academy‘s mission and the educational experience we provide our students.
First, some background: Many of this blog’s readers may know that I attended Oak Hill Academy – I’m a proud member of the class of ’87! I did not grow up in a traditional Sunday service attending household, so in many ways, Young’s Chapel Baptist will always hold a place in my heart as my first “home” Church. From it’s founding, Oak Hill Academy students have been welcomed to worship service each Sunday morning by the Young’s Chapel congregation and it is our gateway to the broader community around us. Little did I know the seeds that were being planted as I attended mandatory Church Service with my classmates way back then.
The fact is, our student body comes from many different faith traditions and backgrounds, including no background at all. So for our students, this is a great opportunity to explore spiritual growth in a “real world” setting. Our mandatory Church attendance on Sunday morning brings our students together in respectful attendance. Doctrine is not forced upon our students, as this would likely build walls. Our approach is not “heavy handed.” Instead, through a demonstration and acknowledgement of God’s love, we grow as a community. Along the way, many students naturally begin or continue a personal journey of faith, fully supported by those around them. Our campus minister, also the pastor of Young’s Chapel Baptist, and a faculty member (gosh we wear a lot of hats!) is a great resource for those who reach out seeking spiritual guidance or clarification. Our Youth Group, open to all interested students, is another source of spiritual growth and community involvement – it also provides a venue for leadership development. It’s not mandatory, and that probably explains some of its popularity!
The Fletcher Chapel is the site of our daily homeroom and offers another opportunity to remind students of God’s love for them and is a reminder of a life of faith. We open the day in short prayer, followed by a short devotion. This positive thought or word brings us together on a topic of character development and the feeling of community is reinforced. Typically delivered by our campus minister, faculty member or administrator, the devotion allows the students to see the personal side of us. On Fridays, members of the senior class take turns delivering the devotion and, let me tell you, some of the most profound and relatable messages come directly from the students!
I’m now 46 years old, having raised a family (really, are you ever “done”?) and my faith has played an incredible role in my adult life. Of course, I was not anticipating this when, as a 17-year old student of Oak Hill Academy, I first experienced Church in Young’s Chapel Baptist.
Alex Rodgers attended Oak Hill Academy for three years and was a highly visible member of the Lady Warriors basketball team, served as an honor court member and was active in many other groups on campus. She was fortunate to have quite a few college options with her combination of great grades, active campus involvement and basketball ability. She eventually chose the opportunity of attending Princeton University, a decision she calls “the best decision I’ll probably make in my life.” As she fast approaches graduation in a couple of weeks, we take the opportunity to catch up with her.
What have been your biggest memories during your college experience as you look back?It would be obvious to talk about the tremendous success I’ve been able to be a part of with the women’s basketball team at Princeton (The Tigers finished the season 31-1 and made history with the highest national ranking and NCAA seeding ever for an Ivy League program and Alex’s senior class has amassed a record 98 wins), but I’m really going to remember most how I’ve grown. Coming out of Oak Hill Academy where I had friends and interacted with people from so many backgrounds, I was prepared and had the confidence to take advantage of those kinds of opportunities here. Oak Hill is where I first learned to step outside of my comfort zone and take leadership roles. I’m glad I did! Through the PU Religion Department, I’ve been able to participate in a human rights conference in Cuba, and through the PU Athletics department, I was able to spend significant time in Senegal and Paris. But lately what I feel like I’ll remember most is writing my senior thesis!
What was your favorite class at Oak Hill Academy? I’m graduating with a degree in Religious studies and I’m sure that was influenced by how much I enjoyed Reverend Turnmire’s Survey of World Religion course my Junior year at OHA. That class did a lot in inspiring me to develop a world view and get a lot of college level writing experience. I feel the same way about the World Cultures class I took with Mr. Hill.
Alex and her teammate participated with her coach and a professor in a short film analyzing the physics of the three point shot.
What was the most valuable thing you learned from your Oak Hill Academy experience? The power of relationships is easily the best lesson I learned at OHA and something that has continued through my college experience. There is a special bond that you share with your classmates and teachers at Oak Hill Academy – it’s a special community.
Do you feel that boarding school prepared you for a better transition to college ?I think it did, yes. A lot of boarding school relied on routine, responsibility, and accountability. Oak Hill gave me the tools to be able to establish all 3 principles on my own in college which is an even more intense and demanding environment.
What advice would you give a new student to prepare them for success at Oak Hill Academy? Know that you can redefine yourself once getting to Oak Hill. If you commit to the process you will hone in on study skills, personal skills, and life skills. Growth in all of these areas will add to any and all of your future endeavors, whether you want to be a professional athlete, politician, business person, or whatever.
These sentiments were echoed by Courtney Banghart, Head Coach of the Princeton Women’s Basketball team: Alex came to Princeton as a confident learner. She had valuable time management skills and was accustomed to the independence of living away from home. She was used to learning alongside a range of students from diverse backgrounds. Also, Alex knew how to ask for help. She understood the power of relationships, something she surely learned in her time at boarding school, and began building connections in her first days at Princeton.
150 (average number of students), 10 (average classroom size), 9 (number of national championships won by our top basketball team) 3 (times our coach, Steve Smith, has been named Naismith National Coach of the Year, 14 (countries represented in our current student body). These are all numbers of which to be proud. I’m most proud of 95. That is the percent of graduating Oak Hill Academy students over the last 10 years who have been accepted to college, many of them first-choice colleges and universities. Please see our website for a comprehensive list of where our students go on to college!
Today, I would like to turn things over to guest-blogger Mr. Chris Hill. As one of the two college guidance counselors at Oak Hill Academy, he has a lot to be proud of this time of the year:
This is an exciting time of year at Oak Hill, the weather is changing, seniors are getting excited about graduation, and our College Advising Department sees more and more college acceptances every day. At this point 100% of our seniors have submitted applications to their desired schools, and are awaiting news from those schools or making important commitment decisions.
We are proud of all our seniors and their accomplishments during their time at Oak Hill. The application process is truly a team effort. College lab bustles with activity from September 1st until the last week of school. As the College Advisor I would like to spot light one student in particular. It has been my pleasure to have him in class for two years as my ESOL student. I have watched him grow academically and become a much loved and respected member of our community. Koh “Peter” Hatekeyama, although currently living in China, was born in Japan. Peter has embraced his mixed cultural heritage. It gives him a uniqueness that is rare amongst our International students. He has certainly faced challenges here in the US, but as a Japanese speaking student growing up in China he overcame great cultural challenges as well as linguistic ones. Now tri-lingual, he has been an asset to our student body. As one of the managers of our undefeated Warrior basketball team, Peter challenged himself in and out of the classroom. He has had a daunting schedule this year. Keeping up with admissions deadlines, traveling the country with the team (as far as Hawaii on one occasion), all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA throughout his senior year. He is a member of the Nation Honor Society, he was a member of the Junior Marshalls at our 2014 graduation, and has been a starting player on the Oak Hill Academy Soccer team for two years.
All of his accomplishments and hard work culminated last week with his acceptance to Seattle University. Peter is especially proud that Seattle University took the last line of his college essay; “I am certain that confidence together with my hard work will lead me to a bright future”, and created a poster for distribution for its admissions department. Peter is still awaiting word from a few other schools as admissions departments send out their final letters. Regardless of where he chooses to attend college, we believe that final line of his essay says it all, and that his confidence and hard work will indeed lead Peter to a bright future.
As a new feature to our Admissions Blog, I will be profiling some recent graduates and current Oak Hill Academy students in the coming weeks.
Kekoa Iskandar, Class 0f 2013
In the past several years, our Art Program has experienced serious growth and several benchmark successes. We have added an AP Art class, started a Creative Innovations club and have helped a few of our recent students prepare for, and navigate the art school admission process. Kekoa, now in his second year at Parsons New School of Design, represents one of our more interesting stories. His dream of entering the fashion design world presented a challenge to our art teacher. We do not have a formal class for this specific field. Instead, Ms. Luksic helped Kekoa, through our advanced art classes, develop an independent study program which enabled him to create the portfolio and academic transcript that opened the doors to the prestigious Parsons New School of Design. This was Kekoa’s dream school, and the campus in New York City, his dream location.
I believe Kekoa’s Oak Hill story illustrates a couple of keystones of our school. We are relational and personal in our approach to our students. His relationship with Ms. Luksic paved the way for the many personal hours she spent challenging him and helping him “tailor” (pun intended) his course work to highlight the skills necessary in fashion design. We are also very individual and offer a great deal of flexibility in developing a course of study that meets our students interests and future plans. By partnering with other departments on campus, Kekoa found opportunities to make the costumes for our Theatre productions and he was encouraged to display his work on campus. For example, some of his creations were even seen on some classmates at our spring formal dance!
I caught up with Kekoa recently to discuss his experience at Oak Hill Academy.
Mr. Rodgers: Why do you think you were so successful at Oak Hill Academy?
Kekoa: I think it was my individuality – I’m so different from everyone. I was the art kid, I brought a new perspective but I was able to immerse myself in the environment at Oak Hill Academy and that was encouraging.
Mr. Rodgers: You grew up living in Indonesia. Describe the diversity on our campus and how that feels to an international student.
Kekoa: There is so much diversity at Oak Hill Academy, we were all adjusting and accepting of each other. It helped knowing I wasn’t the only one adjusting. I would definitely recommend Oak Hill to other international students. The small environment allows you to really find yourself.
Mr. Rodgers: Describe the relationships you remember from Oak Hill.
Kekoa: Ms. Luksic (Art Teacher) will always and forever be the most insightful, reassuring and encouraging teacher I have ever had. She pushed me to a point where I could produce work I was truly proud of – I’m eternally grateful. She took the time to develop projects that pushed me in terms of fine art and illustration along with my fashion work. Also, Mrs. Groves (Guidance Department) was my guardian angel in the college acceptance process.
Mr. Rodgers: Do you feel your experience at a small boarding school like Oak Hill Academy prepared you for college?
Kekoa: I definitely felt prepared. My time at Oak Hill Academy, looking back, was quick and it was intense. I basically grew out of being the awkward art student to a more confident person. I developed high expectations for myself. I knew I wanted to pursue fashion and there I was able to set my mind and goals. I wouldn’t change a single thing about it.
Please continue to check in with our blog or contact me to find out more about our school. We would love to be a part of your student’s success story!
Kekoa was commissioned to create the cover art for his nation’s most popular design magazine in 2013 for their series on Patterns in Design. It showcases his versatility as an artist.
Here are some brief interviews with a few students returning to campus after our recent Christmas break. Stay tuned for more Oak Hill Academy on-campus videos!
Currently conducting tours and accepting applications for limited spaces for 2015 Spring Semester, which starts Jan. 5 for new students.
Also considering applications for Fall 2015!