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Oak Hill Academy Boarding School Offers a “Fresh Start” For Struggling Students

Oak Hill Academy’s mission to offer a “Turning Point” opportunity means that many of our most successful students begin through “rolling admissions.”  Throughout the first several weeks of the school year and beyond, space is held intentionally so that we can still consider students for whom we are a good fit. Perhaps your student has begun the year (in their same school environment) with great intentions to make significant changes–academically, socially, emotionally, or even spiritually–but he or she is finding that those changes are harder to make than anticipated.  Many parents who find their student in this situation think they have limited options, and they brace themselves for another uphill school year. In cases like this, it is often necessary to change the environment and find a new approach to school in order to effect significant personal growth.  As one of few boarding schools with rolling admission, Oak Hill Academy offers an option to take that new approach, and I invite you to contact us to discuss your student and what we do well here.

What is considered a “good fit” at Oak Hill Academy from an admission perspective?  Simply put, students who recognize a need for personal and/or academic growth do very well here.  If students see the opportunity a fresh start gives them–to redefine themselves in ways that make them feel more competent, positive about their futures, and proud about themselves–they typically do very well here.  Is it easy?  No.  But with our structured, nurturing approach, many students find it easier to take care of business and work harder and more consistently than ever before–because they can see the results tangibly.  Small class sizes mean more engagement, but it also means a higher level of accountability: a student can’t “hide” in a class of 10-12 students.  Individual attention and a faculty that takes a personalized approach give a student a sense of support that is a game changer.

Rolling admission is a long-held practice at Oak Hill Academy.  We understand that there are circumstances that call for a mid-stream change in strategy. This means our teachers are experienced at meeting students where they are and moving them forward.  It also means that our students, each of whom was the “new kid” at one time, relate very well to the challenges of making a change during the school year, and they are welcoming and supportive, making the transition less socially-intimidating than you might imagine.

If you have determined that the school year has not gotten off to the positive start you and your student hoped for, it is a good time to consider Oak Hill Academy for a new, and proven, approach.  You may even have inquired in the past and want to revisit the possibilities.  

We welcome a call or email in the Admission Department at this time of the year.  Some of our greatest success stories began this way.

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Finding Motivation and Direction at Boarding School – David Uponi, Oak Hill Academy Class of ’13

I first met David through the admission process at Oak Hill Academy.  He had very good intentions; habits he wanted to improve; and, beyond his love of basketball, he was largely unclear where his passions lay.  In many ways, David was the quintessential student, and person, we seek to enroll at Oak Hill Academy–one with good intentions, but needing structure and a relational environment to gain confidence and motivation.  During his time here, David embraced small boarding school life–he took advantage of the opportunities at Oak Hill to be engaged in the classroom, on campus in leadership positions, on the basketball court and in the weight room.  I recently caught up with David to find out what he’s been up to since graduation.


David attended the University of Waterloo in his native Canada since graduating on The Hill in 2013.  Now, in an Honours Bachelor of Arts Program (the equivalent of grad school in the U.S.), he is wrapping up a Sports Business Major and picking up a minor in Corporate Entrepreneurship.  “I’ve taken advantage of the robust Co-Op education program here and have gotten to work with some amazing companies in real world situations–sort of an internship experience,” he explains.  As you can see in the photos above, David had the tremendous opportunity at one of his placements, Microsoft, to make some valuable connections and add to his resume.

David points to his experience in Oak Hill’s Leadership Program, and the collaborative aspects of a small student body, as inspirations to make a contribution at Waterloo.  “I’ve also started a student organization that has helped students in my program get internships in the sports industry.”

One of his goals at Oak Hill Academy was to see how far his passion for basketball could take him.  He played for the Oak Hill Red Team (second varsity) for two years and found an outlet for his talent and desire to work hard.  He was a member of the Men’s Basketball Team at Waterloo for a couple of years, before his academics became more focused, and demanding.

I asked him how his experience at Oak Hill Academy, in hindsight, impacted his future.

Oak Hill really helped me unlock my potential.  After living away from home, studying at OHA, and being part of a small community where I could develop my confidence, I became more independent, and more analytical about my future and the opportunities in front of me.  I also became more in tune with my faith (OHA is a Baptist boarding school).  It really helped prepare me for what was to come in university and in the “real world.”  21st Century Skills, a focus at OHA, means that our small student body gives everyone an opportunity–and encouragement–to develop skills in working in groups, speaking and presenting, and taking on responsibility beyond themselves.

What advice does David give to any student considering or beginning as a student at Oak Hill Academy?

Lock in!  OHA puts you in a great situation to succeed, and the faculty and staff care for each student’s individual success. There’s a lot of meaningful activity going on on campus.  If you buy into what is being taught and take an active approach to your academics, you can really do something special at Oak Hill Academy.

Oak Hill Academy Students Assist in NASA Research at CalTech This Summer

Alice and Mikun (back row) work with a team to analyze data collected by the Spitzer Space Telescope


Mr. Gary Duranko, a recent hire in the Oak Hill Academy Math and Science departments, chaperoned a recent exciting trip for two of our students, Alice and Mikun, to The California Institute of Technology this summer.  The Oak Hill Academy trio is now part of a team of teachers and students from around the United States that are doing groundbreaking research with a NASA astronomer using data collected by the Spitzer Space Telescope.  Seeking to identify trants arsitional stages in star or galaxy development, the world-renowned telescope is used to analyze large portions of the sky using infa-red wavelengths.

The team worked 8 hour days at the Spitzer Science Center on CalTech’s campus where the Institute’s engineers work with NASA.  The team got a complete overview of the research project, learned about the software programs in use, and toured the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that controls several NASA satellites and missions.  Being tourists in the area, they also briefly took in the sites along Hollywood Boulevard and ate at the Hard Rock Cafe!

Oak Hill Academy around the country!

The project will be ongoing and, while school is in session this year, Alice and Mikun (with Mr. Duranko’s support) will meet once weekly to look at data and pictures taken by Spitzer.  They will continue to categorize data in preparation for a presentation at the next American Astronomical Society meeting in January, 2018 just outside of Washington, D.C.  Oak Hill Academy is pleased to announce that our science curriculum will now include an Astronomy class and a newly founded Astronomy Club should prove very popular.  Our location, far from the light pollution found in more densely populated areas, should prove a huge advantage to our sky-watchers.

Oak Hill Academy is a Small Boarding School With Big Diversity

On a recent campus tour with a prospective student and his family, we hit upon an interesting theme:  Our campus diversity in relation to our location.  I was struck by the truth and irony, when the Mother said, it is funny that people come all the way out to the country, to a little boarding school, to meet people from around the world!  It is true – most don’t often associate the Appalachian Mountains of Southwestern Virginia with diversity, but my tours are always struck by the multitude of nationalities and variety of kids we have in our little school of about 160 students.  Last year, we had over 25 States and 20 Countries represented in this enrollment.  The ride here, passing Christmas tree fields and pastures full of cows, I assume, does not prepare them for what they find on our campus.

The picture above is one of the best I’ve seen to explain our geographic location – beautiful, serene, and yes, a little remote.  But I always point out that our location is part of the reason our students are so dedicated to the community we make here – “we’re all we’ve got, so we better take care of each other” seems to be the mindset kids adopt quickly.  The fact that the overwhelming majority of our faculty (and their families) live here adds to that sense of community.

If you are considering boarding school for your student, and part of the goal is to find a strong community engagement, I want you to call and to discuss our school.  If we are both encouraged by our conversation. let’s look at scheduling a visit to our little corner of the world.  In our case, it helps to get small if the goal is to grow.

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Spotlight on ESOL for International Students at Oak Hill Academy Boarding School

Today’s guest blog post is by Mr. Chris Hill, our Director of Administrative Affairs, College Advisor, and International Student Advisor.  

ESOL at Oak Hill: A Focus on Support, Academic Progress and Individual Growth for International Students

The ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) department at Oak Hill Academy offers students whose first language is not English a dedicated time to hone their English skills.  With this daily support, students are able to establish a valuable foundation that will be needed on their academic and personal journeys. English proficiency also is key in preparing for a college or university education in the United States.

Our approach to ESOL is direct. While incorporating a standard ESOL curriculum, we strive to support students with their entire academic schedules. Reading and writing are core components of our ESOL program.  Focusing on organization, communication, and effective study skills, we help each student set goals for the year, and work hand in hand with teachers to make sure students make progress in attaining those goals.  Along the way, English grammar and vocabulary is emphasized.

Oak Hill Academy is a boarding school, and this provides students with a full immersion environment. As students branch out into the wider Oak Hill community, they begin to experience personal growth as well as academic growth. ESOL students can expect not only to become successful communicators, but also to evolve and challenge themselves to do new, exciting things. The best gauge of success for any ESOL student is academic achievement and a new self-awareness that comes with personal growth, leading to confidence and competency.

Perhaps the best part about our ESOL program is that it’s seen by most of the students as just another class. They don’t feel as if they are separate from the student body in a special classroom. It’s part of their day and not an all-consuming factor of their life at Oak Hill. If they do need extra support, the department is always willing and able to work with each student individually outside of the regular school day.  Many come to view their ESOL teacher in the same light they would an academic counselor or tutor.


Academic Growth, Personal Growth, and Social Growth in Boarding School. Oak Hill Academy and The Turning Point.

In describing Oak Hill Academy’s mission since 1878, we hit upon the phrase, “The Turning Point” many years ago. Given our unique mission within the boarding school world of working with students needing growth and a change of trajectory, we believe that “The Turning Point” accurately conveys the transformation many students say defines their Oak Hill Academy experience.  I’m always looking for ways to describe that transformative process to prospective students and their families.  It usually takes the form of a conversation or a Skype call after an initial inquiry.  But today, I would like to share “The Turning Point” in a visual format. The diagram is a distillation of significant exchanges I have with inquiring applicants.  Still, it is only half of the equation in our admission process. The other half relies heavily on getting to know your personal goals, your individual student, and their unique needs.  Please contact us at (276) 579-2619 or at to discuss Oak Hill Academy and the transformation that you and your student seek.

Oak Hill Academy Sustainability Initiative Partners With Gatorade To Reduce Plastic Use

As you may have heard, this year’s Leadership Group launched the Oak Hill Academy Sustainability Initiative to cultivate a campus culture of responsible use of resources.  The initial phase of introducing recycling efforts to dorm life have proven successful.  As a follow up, the Leadership Group distributed water bottles to the student body to discourage our use of disposable water bottles that are prevalent on so many campuses.  Thanks to our Athletic Department’s relationship with Gatorade, we were able to provide high-quality, branded bottles for our students to use throughout the day and as part of campus life.  We appreciate Coach Smith and Gatorade for their generous support of this project!  A special thanks also to the Leadership Group for continuing to shape our mindfulness about responsible use of resources at Oak Hill.

During music class recently, some students stay hydrated with the new bottles.

What does Oak Hill Academy boarding school have in common with ice cream trucks? Diversity.

Each day, after school, our Alumni Campus Store opens and a lot of clubs and activities are happening.  Our kids also have personal business like checking their mail, attending SAT prep class, and checking in with teachers.  It’s a busy time.  But it is also a friendly, social time.  The conversation on the school store deck had turned to, of all things, the ice cream trucks of our childhood (I’m sure it had a lot to do with the weather turning decidedly warm and tons of ice cream being purchased from our store).  Sensing an opportunity for our kids to show their personality and some light-heartedness, I grabbed my iPhone and started filming.  Not everything we do at Oak Hill Academy is as serious as SAT prep class!

What are Classrooms Like at Small Boarding School Oak Hill Academy in Virginia?

In response to continuous inquiries into what makes up a typical day at Oak Hill Academy, we are producing some short videos highlighting various parts of the school day.  Earlier, you saw how we begin the day together heading into homeroom in the Chapel.  Today, I wanted to share with you our classrooms and how those look and feel.  I grabbed my video equipment and spent, literally 15 minutes, popping into various classrooms to capture a slice of the experience of being in our school building.  The results are a video that, while not dramatically shot, shows an honest, real look at our school day on The Hill.

Our teachers treat their small classrooms as their living rooms.  Through this video, you may be able to see the personalities and teaching styles with which our students engage each day.  You are invited to take a walk with me through the English Academic Building, on the campus of Oak Hill Academy, in the small Blue Ridge Mountain town of Mouth of Wilson, Virginia.  Something special is happening here.