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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 journey. 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.

Oak Hill Academy: Small Boarding School Campus

Today’s Admission Blog post is inspired by many recently asked questions about our campus.  Many people want to know what a 150-student campus looks like.  I know from the comments on tours that we are much bigger, and have many more buildings than most expect to see.  With campus empty during Spring Break, and a little time on my hands, I decided to take a golf cart and show prospective families a bit of our campus. Oak Hill Academy is a 240-acre campus, so this video just highlights the center part of campus–our Administration Building and Dining Hall, the Chapel, Alumni Campus Store and on out to the soccer field.

For generations of alumni, this small but scenic campus has been a part of their success story.  Students and families seeking a new approach for their students choose Oak Hill Academy’s emphasis on academic and personal growth to change their trajectory and to open options to college.  To schedule a full tour of campus, or to discuss Oak Hill Academy as a fit for your student, please contact the Admission Office at  or (276) 579-2619.  Tours are conducted throughout the Spring for individual families on an appointment basis.


Oak Hill Academy: Virginia Boarding School Tradition Since 1878

In 1878, the congregation of Young’s Chapel Baptist Church in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, started a school.  Some 138 years later, Oak Hill Academy carries on the mission to provide a structured, Christian-based education for personal and academic growth here in the Grayson Highlands, a particularly scenic portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Southwest Virginia.  We are very proud of our heritage and our development over the years into a school that provides these opportunities and opening doors to college success to students from more than 20 countries and 23 states this year–all the while staying true to the mission of the school.

Perhaps inspired by “Throwback Thursday,” I want to share with you today the Ussery Archives Room, in the lower level of the Rev. J.F. Fletcher Chapel on our campus.  In this space, we honor the past and remind ourselves of our place in the scheme of a long tradition.  The Archives Room is a rather formal, well-appointed, multi-use space.  Various campus groups from Leadership, to the Honor Court, to the Board of Trustees use this space to meet.  It is also home to the Admission Department and most tours start here to get a sense of this history.

Please enjoy this admittedly lengthy video (I’m a history teacher by trade) as I take a walk through the years in the Ussery Archives Room to share some of the history of Oak Hill Academy.

If you are considering a boarding school option for your student and are looking for a boarding school with a long tradition of helping students with academic, personal and spiritual growth, I encourage you to contact the Admission Department at or (276) 579-2619 to discuss your goals for your student and the possibility that Oak Hill Academy is a good boarding school fit.


Oak Hill Academy: Boarding School as a Chance for a New Direction

One of the most common themes I encounter in admission inquiries is a desire to make a change.  As Oak Hill Academy’s position in the college prep boarding school world is to offer a unique opportunity for a “Turning Point,” this is the kind of inquiry I consider a fit for our mission.  This change in direction often involves academic performance, but it can also be a need for personal growth.  Oak Hill Academy’s small, structured environment means that there is a relational component here that may be missing in a student’s current school setting.  These positive relationships are the catalyst for growth.

Small class sizes means that our teachers know their students–their strengths and relative weaknesses.  In small classes, we address learning styles, and there is greater opportunity to individualize our approach to teaching and motivating.  The small school population means that peer relationships are strong, and that is often the “x-factor” in helping students find their motivation.  In a structured routine, our students emphasize to each other the opportunities to get organized, to stay on top of things, and to be proud of the improvements they make.  The abundance of support and extra help opportunities (such as 8th period tutorials) assist our students in following through on their goals for themselves.

Why do we emphasize the phrase “The Turning Point?”  Because it is one of the key elements our students identify as part of their Oak Hill Academy experience.  A short few years ago, our student leadership group was challenged to develop four core values that define their experience at OHA.  “Transformation” topped the list. This is the most important aspect of our calling as a school, as voiced in our Mission Statement:

Oak Hill Academy is a coeducational, Baptist affiliated, boarding/day school committed to excellence in education and adolescent development in a non-military setting.  The mission of Oak Hill Academy is to offer a safe, secure, nurturing environment for girls and boys needing a change in school, peer, community, or family relationships.  Oak Hill provides a structured college-preparatory program to students in grades 8-12.  Our curriculum challenges the brightest student and encourages those who are unmotivated, who are underachieving, or who are experiencing difficulties in their school setting.

As families are reviewing the course of the current school year, now is the time many are considering a need for a change in direction.  I invite you to take a closer look at Oak Hill Academy as a potential good boarding school fit to help that happen.  We are currently considering applicants for both our summer session and the upcoming Fall enrollment.  Please contact the Oak Hill Academy Admission Department at  or call (276) 579-2619.

Boarding School Experience Preps For College Life

As I watch our students preparing to depart for our two-week Spring Break today, I’m reminded that one of the greatest similarities between boarding school and college is the flow of the school year.  Like college, Oak Hill Academy’s schedule is punctuated by significant breaks.  This is important for a few reasons:

  • The Oak Hill Academy student body currently represents 24 states and 20 countries.  That’s a lot of plane travel!  Logistically, students need considerable stretches of time to make travel home worthwhile and meaningful.  To this end, in addition to our Spring Break, we have a 10-day Thanksgiving Break and a two-and-a-half week Christmas/New Year’s Break.
  • Because our students all board (we do not have a lot of day students from the surrounding area in rural Grayson County, Virginia), it is healthy to reconnect with family and friends after an extended period of focused study and busy campus life.  We attend school on most Saturdays (half days) and frankly there just aren’t any “days off” in the boarding school schedule.  These breaks are equally important for our parents and families, as they are excited to catch up and reconnect with their students as well.
  • An important part of our students’ experience is learning to finish strongly while anticipating scheduled breaks.  Our students have to guard against, in the words of a past OHA principal, “mentally packing their bags too early.”  With the college calendar of breaks preceded by deadlines and exams, this is vital training.  We are intentional in helping our students learn how to see things through and delay the gratification that comes with breaks.

By the way, there is a lot of planning and coordination involved in providing shuttle service for over half of our student population.  Buses are chartered to get kids to flights from Charlotte, North Carolina’s Douglas International Airport.  Travel plans are confirmed with each family.  More local families (a relative term) are coordinating ride sharing permissions with each other as we have a strong contingent of students from Northern Virginia, Maryland and the D.C. area.  In the midst of the excitement, there are a multitude of details that are handled by our transportation coordinator.  A big THANKS to you, Mrs. Cooper!


Right now, as I brace for a much quieter campus over the next few weeks, I’m still excited about the current admission cycle.  As more than a quarter of our student body graduates in a typical year, I’m enthusiastic about how next school year’s enrollment is shaping up already.  I’m also very involved in working with summer session applicants.  Oak Hill Academy’s summer school session is a great opportunity for grade improvement and for new students to gain momentum and settle in heading into next school year.  Please feel free to contact the Admission Department, especially during Spring Break, at or simply call (276) 579-2619.

In the meantime, A Happy Spring Break To All!  Bring on the snow!