The Admission Blog addresses topics that frequently come up in conversation with inquiring families. It is frequently updated. Please browse to learn more about Oak Hill Academy’s mission and approach to a boarding school environment encouraging growth.Mike Rodgers '87
Oak Hill Academy: Church Attendance is Valued at this Small, Christian Boarding School (“Evergreen Values” Series Post #4)
In 1878, Oak Hill Academy was founded with a belief that introducing a foundation and encouraging spiritual growth is an important part of the school’s mission. So we attend, and always have attended, church services–along with the local congregation of Young’s Chapel Baptist Church each Sunday morning.
The student body that attends our Baptist Boarding School is of a very diverse faith background, so our services emphasize respect: Respect for each other’s differences and similarities, and ultimately a respect for community. Attending church and intentionally considering all that goes along with that is an important part of being a student at Oak Hill Academy. It affirms life lessons such as how to behave in a group, how to be on time, how to reconcile personal beliefs within a community, and how to spend some time each weekend in quiet contemplation during a service.
We know that not all of our students want to be in church each Sunday. We also know that many of our teenagers naturally question the purpose, but we hold the line on this “Evergreen Value”: Church attendance is a valuable part of our students’ growth.
Attending Oak Hill Academy, and boarding school in general for that matter, is not easy. The example of mandatory church attendance is just one way that our students are pushed, and are often outside of their comfort zones. They are learning to get good at the “have to’s” and move beyond the world of just the “want to’s.” Our work is often demanding and difficult, but holding the line on “Evergreen Values” is not just an important tradition, that steadfastness plays a major role in encouraging the character growth we desire for our students. If you are seeking this kind of partnership with a school in providing growth for your student, I invite you to explore Oak Hill Academy further. Please call the Admission Department to discuss your boarding school goals.
Oak Hill Academy Admission Department: email@example.com or (276) 579-2619
I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately. The extra hour of daylight savings has allowed me to see some awesome sunsets here on “The Hill.” From our vantage point in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, you want to plan your evenings around these Blue Ridge sunsets–trust me. The longer days have also allowed our kids extra opportunities for Spring sports that are just starting. We look to have an unusually strong Tennis Team this year! It’s easy to mark the time with the appearance of the daffodils. We are on Spring Break right now and the pace on campus has slowed way down.
One place where time has NOT slowed down a bit is in Admissions. As we’re heading into the graduation season, I reflect on another class of Oak Hill Academy students who have grown and transformed during their time here. We have lived together (some for 3 or 4 years) and shared experiences, and I have watched them redefine themselves in ways they first laid out in the admission process. Looking back, you can believe I’ve got “Time” on my mind. Time marches on and inquiries are coming in as parents are taking a deep breath and evaluating how the school year has gone and the possible need for a new approach for next year. Parents just like you are looking at boarding school options RIGHT NOW.
You may have been led here by your research for a small, relational, college prep boarding school that will provide a change of direction for your student. You may have contacted us in the past and may still be seriously considering boarding school as a good option for your student. Please consider this my invitation to connect, or to revisit the idea with you. There are a lot of approaches to boarding school–I’d like to discuss ours and explore the possibility that we are a great fit for your student’s transformation.
The short version is this: We are entering into the very busy Spring Campus Tour Season at Oak Hill Academy and I’d like to know more about your student and your boarding school goals. If we both are encouraged by our conversation, let’s find a good time for you and your family to schedule your own individual campus visit.
The Admission Department can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling Mike Rodgers, Director of Admission at (276) 579-2619.
We had a very early departure time to meet our ferry. We had a two-hour ferry ride from Belfast port to Cairnryan. After seeing some of the idyllic Scottish country, we toured the home of Robert Burns, considered the poet of Scotland. We then visited Glasgow on a very windy afternoon, saw some of the newest street murals painted by local art students and took in the architecture of the city center. The early wake-up call took its toll, so we settled in early to our hotel in Edinburgh.
You may recall that last year, Oak Hill Academy embarked on a European trip during Spring Break through the highly respected EF (Education First) Tours company. It was a tremendous success with our nearly dozen students coming away from Spain with a memorable cultural experience and friendships that will last a lifetime. One of our chaperones, Oak Hill Academy English teacher, Chris Tobin committed to make this trip an annual offering–but with a caveat: Let’s see another part of Europe – Ireland and Scotland!
This year’s trip will be chronicled here as updates and pictures come from Ms. Tobin and her group, comprised of 8 students. We hope you enjoy seeing their journey unfold as much as we do!
Post #1 3/14/18 Hello, from the land of rain… A trip to this part of the world wouldn’t be complete without some rain. And rain, and rain, and rain.
It was a very wet day, and we walked more than five miles around the city center (Dublin). We visited St. Patrick’s cathedral, saw the Book of Kells at Trinity College, did some shopping, and took in some art at the National Gallery.
We leave pretty early tomorrow, heading north to Belfast. The kids had no problem turning in early tonight!
Today’s guest blogger is Mr. Aaron Butt, Director of Student Affairs. He shares the lessons of February at a boarding school – the “in between days” are the stuff life is made of.
From the Director of Student Affairs:
February is a notoriously tough time at boarding school. Christmas Break is far in the rearview mirror and Spring Break seems achingly distant. We, like many other boarding school communities will understand, celebrate the completion of February. March has arrived at Oak Hill, and in typical March fashion, yesterday the daffodils were blooming and robins were chirping, and today we have snow. I call this time of year “Here, but not here.” We are just over a week away from Spring Break, and a few days into our last academic quarter. Basketball is winding down, and more students can be found on the tennis courts and soccer field. Spring is here, but not here. It is easy to wish away the days, to look down the road to vacations, warm weather, and graduation. Our encouragement to students right now is to live in the present.
Dr. Groves gave a devotion on Monday morning in which he referred to this time as the “in-between days,” and about the importance of living for today and not wishing the moment away. I was reminded of the movie “Click” with Adam Sandler, where he fast forwards his life through the dull moments, and realizes too late that life is made up of those small, seemingly insignificant events.
At this point in the year, students know what it takes to be successful at Oak Hill. We know the value of discipline, routines, structure. The hard part isn’t knowing what it takes, it’s doing what it takes – on a daily basis. It is no surprise to me that the students who have their bed made each morning and wear their shirt tucked in are the students who are on the honor roll; that the best athletes are the same ones who get up at 6:30am to go to the gym.
Oak Hill is a unique blend of accountability and individual responsibility. We ask students to abide by our structure, but also ask them to take ownership for their decisions, and be responsible. This is who we are, and who we will continue to be as a school. Our approach may occasionally change, but our mission will stay the same.
As we move into Spring Break, as spring weather actually does arrive and as the year winds down, my encouragement to students is that we are always “here.” We have already arrived. Take advantage of today, and as Dr. Groves says, “Grow where you are planted.”
Fresh off a “Pump Up Talk” from our partners at The Social Institute, Oak Hill Academy senior Abby Osho has responded with her own version of positive social media use. “When Ms. Tierney challenged us to step up and be leaders on campus in the area of positive social media use, I knew exactly what to do,” Abby says. Wanting to promote her family’s foundation, JNJ Foundation, she knew that she had a great opportunity with her peers here at Oak Hill. Our campus has a long tradition of supporting socially responsible causes. From Breast Cancer Awareness fundraisers to sponsoring children each year through World Vision, our students have historically been quick to respond to a worthy cause. Abby’s idea to take her family’s foundation to social media is an example of how Oak Hill Academy students can be positive users of social media, and it makes her presentation of a worthy cause even more beneficial. “I wanted to give a real life example of how we, as students at Oak Hill Academy, can use our social media access, even though it is limited, for good.”
Oak Hill Academy, a small coed, Baptist-affilitated, college prep boarding school in Virginia has a relatively strict set of boundaries governing cell phone and social media use for its approximately 150 students. Until recently, the school’s policies regarding technology have been admittedly focused on limitations and providing a buffer against the social media trends affecting teenagers–such as overuse, anxiety and distractions to academic performance. Beginning with its association with the Durham, NC-based Social Institute, the school plans to add positive social media use coaching to the campus lifestyle. “We felt that simply providing boundaries and limits during the week and then granting almost unfiltered use on weekends was missing the goal of teaching responsible use,” explains Dr. Michael D. Groves, Oak Hill Academy’s President. “By encouraging the kind of positive use that Abby is demonstrating with her social media campaign for her family’s foundation, we know we are going further in helping our students see the benefits of our weekend technology policies, not just the limitations of them.”
Abby plans to follow up her social media campaign with some on-campus awareness and fund-raising activities including a homeroom devotion and movie night. Here are some excerpts from her planned devotion:
Who We Are
My family foundation, founded in 2017, is run by my parents, Jamil and Nyanga Jaward. They started the foundation to give structure to their deep belief that “being a blessing to others is not only expected of us but required,” as we strive to be doers of Matthew 25:34-40. The Jamil and Nyanga Jaward Foundation is on Christ’s mission to assist impoverished children and widows, and help them rise above the challenges of poverty and rejection, through education and economic development.
The Jamil and Nyanga Jaward Foundation was established to advance education and relieve poverty, which we believe are interrelated. In poor nations, children do not have access to education because their parents cannot afford it and hence they end up in the same poverty cycle as their parents. The goal is to empower parents, especially widows, to start up small businesses that will give them the earning power to send their children to schools, in order to have a better chance of becoming economically independent.
Their scholarship programs help the less privileged get an education that will help them overcome poverty. Furthermore, constructing schools helps a wider community to have access to education where there is none, especially in Central African Republic. The foundation provides other assistance, such as school bags and supplies, lunchtime meals, all taken for granted in developed countries, and which are unavailable to so many students in impoverished nations.
Poverty relief is no longer consigned to third world countries. With the economic downturn, there are an increasing number of homeless people in England. Hence, the foundation works with churches in Kent to provide essential groceries and clothing for the homeless.
• Establish scholarship programs for the less privileged with high academic achievement in secondary schools in Africa, especially in Sierra Leone.
• Construct and donate school buildings for poor communities in Africa, especially in Central African Republic and Sierra Leone.
• Provide school meals and school supplies for the less privileged primary school students in Africa, especially in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
• Provide small business grants to widows in Africa, especially in Central African Republic and Sierra Leone.
• Provide parcels of food and other essential grocery items to homeless people in England, especially in Kent.
• Provide clothing to people who are homeless in England, especially in Kent.
In order for the foundation to gain wider public exposure, we need your help in disseminating information about the foundation by sharing our social media pages as they become available.
Spread the word!
The foundation is working to raise money to fund more projects that will help overcome the scourge of rampant poverty in Africa and beyond. The goal of the foundation is to gain partners who will fund specific projects of their choice, and to raise funds to support education initiatives and poverty relief. Please consider donating on our website using PayPal: https://jnjf.org/home
It is Campus Tour season at Oak Hill Academy! Coming for a campus tour at Oak Hill Academy is a low pressure step toward helping your student see the big picture and to gauge the possibilities that exist for them here.
Two things have prompted this post today:
- We are already off to a very busy admission season, having received record numbers of inquiries and applications for the month of February. We have already completed the admission process for more than 20 families that have resulted in acceptances for either Fall 2018-19 or a Summer Session start this June. For a school whose enrollment is intentionally small (approximately 150 students), this is a fast start. Our mission is providing a “turning point” for students who need to change habits, mindsets, or environments. This means that, typically, many of our families wait until summer to contact us–after seeing a school year finish disappointingly. So it’s good to see so many families being proactive. They are already identifying a need for boarding school, and choosing to look closer at Oak Hill Academy as a unique fit for that need. We anticipate a Spring busy with campus tours. And we love it!
- I saw this scene yesterday afternoon outside the Alumni Campus Store. Not only is the admission cycle off to an early, fast start, so is the Spring weather that is perfect for visiting our campus. Tucked away in the Blue Ridge of the Appalachian Mountains in Southwest Virginia, our setting is very rural. Throughout the short, gray days of winter, our campus can understandably feel remote. It can be tougher to tour in the winter and come away with an accurate perspective of how engaging and busy our campus is 75% of the school year. Many of the prospective families that we host make the comment that we feel like a miniature college campus. That’s because they see our students going in 20 different directions at the end of the school day. When the weather is nice, especially, those options swell. Whether it is using our academic resources such as tutorials and “8th period,” or heading down to the equestrian center, to sports practices and club meetings, or simply checking in or hanging out with friends (or tossing a football, in this case) at the Alumni Campus Store, our students have options. Seeing students taking advantage of those options makes our campus lively and engaging. I’m happy when touring families can see that. Good weather, of course, helps.
If you are considering boarding school as an option for your student, I invite you to take a closer look at Oak Hill Academy. We don’t use the “open house” model, instead preferring to meet with families individually to get to know your student and the motivations for considering such a big change in school. That approach allows us to personalize the visit. My goals for every tour are straightforward: For our guests to meet as many people (OHA students and faculty) as possible, and to help prospective students see the opportunities here for themselves.
The meeting people part is extremely easy. Our students are outgoing and friendly with tours because they all remember how they felt on their tours–nervous, reluctant, or maybe even downright scared to undertake such a big change. Our current students bend over backwards to share with prospective students how, for them, the giant leap in deciding to attend Oak Hill Academy has paid off.
Helping students to see the opportunity our small boarding school provides, and to envision themselves being successful here is the part I take personally. Many, if not most, of the prospective students I meet with are apprehensive about the prospect of leaving friends, having cell phone boundaries, and an almost endless list of things that make them want to avoid making this move. Our mission is to provide a turning point for students. And taking a tour is the prime opportunity to move a student into the mindset of wanting more for themselves; of seeing Oak Hill Academy as a place where they can make the kinds of changes that are tough to make without also changing their environment. Coming for a campus tour at Oak Hill Academy is a low pressure step toward helping your student see the big picture, and to gauge the possibilities that exist for them here. Often, the experience can also be about blasting through preconceived notions of boarding school as a punishment. You’ll not encounter students who feel, or appear to be, “punished” by attending Oak Hill Academy.
Please call to discuss your goals for a good boarding school experience. If we are both encouraged by this conversation and think Oak Hill Academy may be a fit, we can look at a convenient day for you to visit campus. It’s that easy.
Oak Hill Academy
Mike Rodgers ’87,
Director of Admission
Oak Hill Academy Small Boarding School in Virginia Developing Moral Courage (“Evergreen Values” Series Post #3)
In this series of blogs, Admission Director Mike Rodgers considers “evergreen” values–those beliefs and qualities held to be true and valuable regardless of a changing society.
“Moral Courage” is perhaps the most nuanced of the concepts found in Oak Hill Academy’s “4 Core Values.” Of those four (Community, Responsibility, Moral Courage and Transformation), I find myself spending the most time discussing what we mean by “Moral Courage.” Many of us on campus probably take this for granted, because this is one of those “you know it when you see it” concepts. Still, it is well worth discussing, especially in a time (of ubiquitous social media) and place (our small boarding school campus) with great opportunity for our teenagers to find a voice and take ethical stands regarding important issues. While influences on the development of a moral compass are fast changing, we have long believed that giving our students the opportunity to develop moral courage is an integral part of our mission as a school. Let’s talk a little about our view of what moral courage is, the new opportunities we have to advance it on our campus, and the things our students are currently doing in this arena.
Our view of moral courage: Mr. Pease, OHA English Department Chair, explains it this way, “Character is what you do when no one is looking, but moral courage involves what we do when folks are actually looking.” This sentiment is particularly compelling for adolescents who value tremendously (whether they’ll admit it or not) what their peers think of them. Social Media can be a place to form an opinion, announce it to the world and get feedback (lots of it!). But the courage it takes to do this face to face can be daunting for today’s teens. While we do have a lot of boundaries that restrict social media use, we acknowledge that its power can be harnessed as a positive force. With that realization, we’ve partnered with the Social Institute to develop a curriculum aimed at positive social media use, and are developing student leaders on campus in this area.
At Oak Hill Academy, we value moral courage–standing up for others, and arriving at that stance through the empathy and consideration that comes with being part of a small boarding school community. On our campus, it’s much more than signaling a thumbs up or counting the number of “likes.” Having moral courage is about effecting real change in a place where you can see the impact on your peers in real time. It’s also about encouraging our students to create opportunities to do that.
Yesterday in our daily homeroom assembly, two of our seniors took a stand and shined a light on a phenomenon that is not easy to talk about: relationship and dating abuse and violence. As a college prep boarding school, we know our students will eventually be part of much, much larger communities and will be faced with a myriad of choices on where to stand on important and complicated social issues. Mikun and Chase, while exercising their moral courage by taking a stand on this particular issue, are also serving as positive role models for their peers. To keep the conversation going and the issue spotlighted beyond their homeroom remarks, the orange ribbons of Dating Violence Prevention Awareness Month were distributed to any of our students who felt concerned about this matter–and there were many takers!
While this is a large-scale, public example of our students speaking out about a cause, our small boarding school experience provides unlimited daily opportunities to take a moral stance on issues big and small. Because we are a small boarding school of approximately 150 students who live and learn together 24/7, we have the ability to impact each other every day. Our goal is for that impact to be positive and mutually beneficial. Toward that end, we have cell phone and social media limitations that promote interaction and engagement with the people in front of you, offering a real opportunity for students to develop interpersonal skills and practice moral courage. At Oak Hill Academy, this happens in real time, in front of real people, in a real community, and effects real change. This process grows moral courage–a quality of “evergreen” value.
Oak Hill Academy: Virginia Small Boarding School Emphasizes Community (“Evergreen Values” Series Post #2)
Community is one of the 4 Core Values of Oak Hill Academy. We do “community” very well, and we believe it is something that is tremendously needed—now more than ever.
One of the biggest benefits of attending a small boarding school like Oak Hill Academy is the extraordinary opportunity for belonging and shared experience. Developmentally, the teenage years have always been about learning to think beyond oneself, and to connect with something bigger than oneself. The challenges facing teens today threaten this healthy development–issues like an overreliance on video stimulation, and social media pressure for “likes,” to name a few. Studies show that today’s teens are lonelier and cite social anxiety in greater numbers than ever before.
Boarding school, especially a small one, represents an opportunity to hit the “reset” button–not only academically, but socially. Looking at Oak Hill Academy’s Mission Statement you’ll see the unchanging “evergreen” value of community emphasized. We are just as committed to adolescent development as we are academics, and we seek to provide a very nurturing and positive change in peer and community group. Today, I’d like to highlight a few examples of how we are very intentional in keeping the value we place on community “evergreen.”
- Our school community as a whole gathers together each morning in our Chapel for homeroom assembly—a decades-long school tradition. We begin in prayer, a short devotion is offered, announcements are covered, and importantly, recognition is given. The accountability to be on time, the shared experience of an intentional start to the day, and quiet emphasis on togetherness all reinforce the value of community on a daily basis. Personal thoughts and encouragement are shared by administrators, teachers, and students through the tradition of devotion and our students feel, and are reminded, that they are part of something greater than themselves.
- Small class sizes are an extension of the value we place on relationships within our school community. At Oak Hill Academy the teacher/student relationship is often the turning point academically, leading to the kind of confidence that promotes engagement. I’m asked all the time how Oak Hill Academy is successful in motivating the previously unmotivated student, and I first point to relationships—between teachers and students AND among the students themselves. Small classes allow this to happen. It is an important factor in the kind of community we promote here through relationships.
- As discussed previously (Evergreen Values Post #1) we place a comparatively strict set of boundaries on social media and cell phone access, including limiting cell phone use to the weekends. Our students often remark that life gets simple on our campus and priorities are rearranged to include engagement with the people around them. The remarkable diversity found on our campus means that our students often discover an ability to relate to a broader group of people than in their previous settings. These face-to-face interactions mean that the old-fashioned art of conversation is alive and well on our campus. We find that this is a whole new skill set for many of our students.
To consider more on the topic of teens finding purpose and connectivity, I urge you to look at a recent article by Educational Psychologist Amy L. Eva, PhD., published on Greater Good Magazine’s website. (Dr. Eva and Greater Good Magazine have no affiliation with Oak Hill Academy.)
Oak Hill Academy: Virginia Small Boarding School For Character Growth (“Evergreen Values” Series post #1)
Today’s blog post is the first in a series that was inspired by a conversation regarding “evergreen values,” those values that are held to be true, even in a changing society.
Oak Hill Academy was founded in 1878 in rural Mouth of Wilson, Virginia. Growing into a boarding school over its first decades, Oak Hill Academy has remained true to its founding mission to provide a structured, character growth opportunity—a Turning Point. A lot has changed since 1878. Oak Hill Academy’s mission has not. This makes us something of an outlier in the college prep boarding school world. Our approach to technology and social media access is different from that of most boarding schools. Let me explain:
Each and every boarding school you will encounter in your search for the right fit for your student will have a mission statement that communicates the school’s values. Often these values have evolved over time and reflect the challenges to each generation of young people—from the ravages of “rock and roll music,” through the cultural changes of the ’60s, the material excess of the ’80s, up to today’s great challenge of technology’s impact on adolescence. It is here and now that we find ourselves, as a school, having to be firm in maintaining our mission in a changing world. One of our unchanging values as a school, call it an “evergreen value,” is the belief that limiting technology allows for the emotional and social growth our families, and our students, are seeking. Time away from technology is necessary for the development of “soft skills,” those interpersonal intelligence skills such as reading emotions, empathy, reading body language, the ability to “read the room” and adapt – all skills that many experts cite as eroding as communication is taking place more and more exclusively on a handheld device. So we place limits on cell phone use and boundaries on what is accessible through our campus internet.
This means that Oak Hill Academy students can find themselves being uncomfortably outside of their electronic habit. The value we, as a school, place on healthy interpersonal relationships tells us this is a good place to be – outside of an electronic habit. Studies show, and experts continually propose, that anxiety and feelings of loneliness can be closely linked to social media overuse. (See article at PsychologyToday.com) So, we hold the line on technology boundaries – because we see it work. Our students cite higher grades, improved relationships, and an overall better focus as benefits. Alas, they still miss their cell phones during the school week, but they are also learning delayed gratification and perseverance.
We also balance these limits with opportunities for learning how to use social media positively. Our partners at The Social Institute would call this learning to “Win the Social Game.” Beginning with our initial Social Institute Pump Up Presentation, we are implementing a curriculum on campus, and building a network of student leaders, emphasizing positive ways to use social media. Our approach no longer relies only on placing boundaries and limits, but now includes a heavy dose of education and training in positive uses. Social media is not going away—it will continue to be a powerful force for this generation—but our goal is to develop the healthy interpersonal skills described above right next to healthy online skills. We are excited about this plan moving forward.
To further explore this, and other, core values of the Oak Hill Academy approach, please call or inquire with our Admission Department. We look forward to discussing your goals and the values you seek in a boarding school experience for your student.