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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

Director of Admission

Oak Hill Academy – a Small, Engaging Boarding School Set in the Virginia Mountains

If you are looking for an opportunity for your student to redefine themselves in a small, engaging boarding school community, visit Oak Hill Academy.  You’ll be struck by the beauty of our campus and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains, but you’re sure to come away most impressed with who we are.  Let Chase ’18 and Josh ’17 show you around our campus in the tour video below.  – Mike Rodgers ’87, Director of Admission


This time of year, there is tremendous media coverage surrounding our nationally-ranked (at or near the top, usually!) boys’ basketball team.  Oak Hill’s Gold Team Warriors travel the nation (and occasionally abroad), playing frequently on national TV in large arenas.  It is intriguing for people to imagine that such a team comes from a small, college preparatory boarding high school set in the rural Virginia Blue Ridge mountain region.  They wonder what that looks like, and in fact, almost everyone who visits Oak Hill Academy finds a uniquely beautiful campus, and a student body that is much more than expected.

The vast majority of our students don’t play basketball.  Visiting our campus, you’ll find students engaged in learning and finding passions that range from horsemanship to the arts, most notably music, theater and visual arts.  We continue to expand the ways students are engaged–the first-ever Oak Hill Academy wrestling team competed this past weekend with Edson ’21 taking the historic first win!

Oak Hill’s program fosters organization; its surroundings provide a sense of peace; and its people offer engagement and a sense of belonging.  Our 240-acre campus becomes “home away from home” for our students.  It is an ideal setting for struggling teens to hit the “reset” button; for unengaged students to become engaged in community; and for underperforming students to focus on school in a supportive learning environment that helps them make school a priority while balancing academics with a lot of fun and discovery.  If you are considering boarding school for your student, put Oak Hill Academy in Virginia on your short list.

Contact the Admission Director to discuss your family’s needs, and schedule your own campus tour.

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Oak Hill Academy Virginia Boarding School Addresses Learning Challenges in a College Prep Program

The most successful Oak Hill Academy students are enrolled with a belief that our approach will allow them to change their direction.  This includes changes to their peer group, family dynamics, and other social challenges, but most often the common thread is that they are looking for new academic outcomes.

For many students, accomplishing this change is a matter of returning themselves to a time when they were motivated, and felt competent in the classroom.  Some of our students, however, have always seen school as a struggle to learn in a way that worked for them.  Large public school classrooms make it difficult to recognize that all of us don’t learn the same way; that there are learning differences. A one-size-fits-all approach in the classroom can leave some students frustrated and taking the short trip to becoming unmotivated or oppositional.  In some cases this learning style disconnect can lead to behavioral issues in the classroom and at home.  Not doing well in school is the cause of a lot of family tension and personal angst.

Struggling in school can lead a student to an identity crisis, and most definitely can impact how they see themselves socially.  At Oak Hill Academy, we are very intentional in our efforts to instill a “growth mindset.” This openness to personal growth leads to finding strategies that work for them, and students begin to see that they do have the power to create positive outcomes.  The opposite of this attitude is a “fixed mindset” wherein students miss out on feelings of competence, perpetuating a negative self-image.  It is in this situation that many families, seeking a new approach, find Oak Hill Academy. We may be a great fit in changing this dynamic.  If you are a parent who is relating to the struggling student scenarios outlined above, please read on.

Learning differences come in many forms, and while Oak Hill Academy is not specifically a “learning differences school” (with special classes based on IEP recommendations or labels), we do provide a uniquely supportive and relational approach to academics. Our hallmark is meeting students where they are, addressing their areas of weakness, and moving them forward.  We rely on our small class sizes and our experience working with students with a variety of learning challenges such as ADD, ADHD, processing issues, dysgraphia and dyslexia, to name a few.

Almost all of the accommodations I see in the IEPs of our incoming students are things that we already do as a part of our approach here.

Here are some are some of the academic and “growth mindset” approaches found in our program:

  • Daily 8th-Period Tutorials.  As a follow-up to very small classes (8-10 students, on average), there is also time built into each day for teachers to work shoulder to shoulder with students.  If a good grade is in jeopardy, a student is scheduled for standing appointments, twice weekly.  However, we don’t wait for that to happen. We are able to call students in (they often take the initiative themselves) to address needs as they occur.  This proactive approach is an important part of teaching responsibility and consistent organization, as homework issues are frequently addressed in tutorials.  We do not let our students dig a hole with missing assignments.

 

  • Consistency, Structure and Routine.  Executive functioning issues often accompany attention issues like ADD or ADHD.  We are very intentionally consistent with our schedule and use the traditional 7-period school day (no block schedules here!) to promote a regular routine in which assignments are divided into manageable chunks and assessments are scheduled. Daily homework interventions are in place to help students experience how to stay on top of their work.

 

  • A Schedule that Promotes Good Habits.  Academic support is supplemented with our nightly study time in the dormitories, giving students a chance to exercise personal responsibility in managing their academics.  From 8:30 to 10:30 each evening, homework is a priority as students work in their rooms, doors open and computers stowed away (unless an assignment requires internet research).  By prior arrangement, students may take advantage of peer tutoring, group study, or class project work using dorm common areas designated for study.  This “Quiet Time” is monitored by our Resident Managers who live in the dorms with the students and supervise resident life, including checking homework assignments.

 

  • Targeted, Intentional Help With Areas of Weakness.  Within our college prep curriculum, there are class offerings that include specific study skills development, including a variety of organizational and learning techniques that students can apply directly to subject work.  These classes go beyond the concept of “study hall” in that while students often do work on homework, they also get an opportunity to put into practice the techniques they are learning.  In addition, our Critical Reading class specifically addresses areas of weakness in reading and writing.  In all of our classes, our instructors are doing as much “coaching” of study skills and techniques as they are teaching the class content.   Throughout our approach to education there is an intentional recognition of distinct learning styles. Our staff uses a dynamic approach that covers material in multiple ways so as to engage the strengths of the visual, kinesthetic, or auditory learner.

These are just a few examples of how we intentionally work with students needing academic growth and support.  Ours is a college prep curriculum, but with the added layer of recognition that we need to uncover how our students learn best.

If your student’s learning differences have become an obstacle in their current school setting, and you are looking at boarding school options that address those differences, please look closer at Oak Hill Academy.  To paraphrase a core value here, We truly believe that there is no such thing as an “underachiever,” just a student who has yet to find the motivation and connection that will make all the difference.  This belief is the foundation of our approach with our students, and I’m excited to share more with you as I learn about your child’s challenges and the need for a great boarding school experience.  

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Oak Hill Academy Boarding School for Teenagers

Oak Hill Academy offers a boarding school opportunity for teenagers to redefine themselves academically and socially.

Working in education, and being a parent myself, I can state the obvious:  During the high school years, many teenagers struggle to define themselves.  This fact is at the heart of many of the conversations I have with prospective students and their families.  The struggle reaches a point that a change of school setting, family dynamic or peer group is needed. Families decide to research boarding school options, and they find Oak Hill Academy–a small, college prep boarding school in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia.

Most often, parents who call on Oak Hill Academy are looking for a boarding school option that affords a fresh start, a “Turning Point.”  Change occurs outside a comfort zone, and for most of our inquiring parents and their students, the idea of boarding school can be uncomfortable.  However, our most successful applicants are those who recognize this option as a chance to leave an unproductive situation behind, redefine themselves, and become who they want to be.  This kind of change almost always starts with a change of environment and peer group.  If you have reached this same conclusion, then finding the right new approach becomes all-important.

Oak Hill Academy is a uniquely-positioned college prep boarding school with the structure and support to offer this chance to “hit the reset button.” Our approach is specific to students needing growth in a range of areas. Our design addresses the need for growth in academic performance, which is often the most visible evidence of the need for growth in other areas: maturity, responsibility, self-esteem, and confidence, to name a few.  Being open to improvement in these critical areas is the most common thread I see among applicants who are successful here.  If you believe your child’s boarding school needs include this pursuit of growth, we invite you to take a closer look at Oak Hill Academy.

Let’s start a conversation about how our approach is intentional in these areas, and how the things that Oak Hill Academy does well can benefit your student.

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Boarding School And Family Dynamics – Oak Hill Academy Understands

One of the most frequently voiced “pain points” in my conversations with prospective families is the notion that choosing boarding school as a new approach is an emotional proposition.  It often is a scary and anxiety-inducing topic of conversation for the student.  It is a journey that is unsettling for the parents as well—there are feelings of guilt, financial pressure, and a sense of having to “let go” before being prepared to do so. These concerns are expressed over and over in the discussions I have with families.

I will not diminish these feelings.  It is a tough decision.  But today I want to share 3 points of hard-earned insight in this area.  My own mother went through this as I headed off my senior year to enroll at Oak Hill Academy in the late summer of ’86, so I saw the raw jumble of emotions first-hand.  In my tenure at Oak Hill, I’ve worked with hundreds of families and students. And Oak Hill Academy’s mission of offering a “Turning Point” opportunity means that families consider our school as a solution to a problem, often at a time of great frustration and some angst.  I get it.

  1.  A prospective student’s natural fear of the unknown is to be expected, no matter how appealing the benefits.  I often help applicants understand that while change is scary, choosing to attend boarding school is the equivalent of walking through the first ‘Big Door’ of many to come.  The confidence and personal growth that come from successfully walking through that first Big Door is life-changing, and an experience they will draw on for the rest of their lives.
  2. The move to boarding school can be a difficult choice for parents, too.  Our children often know which buttons to push with us parents, and voicing resentment over being “sent away” is a really effective strategy I see fearful applicants use.  Sidestepping a decision, and keeping the status quo with hopes of getting a different result, is tempting.  Doing the harder thing—choosing boarding school in order to achieve the growth needed—is a trust that we don’t take lightly.  A visit to campus will bear out that we only accept students who, on some level, see attending Oak Hill Academy as an opportunity, not a punishment.  We, including current students who assist on admission tours, are good at helping applicants see the possibilities, and, overwhelmingly, they come away with a different mindset.  They recognize that if their parents were seeking to punish, they would not be considering Oak Hill Academy.
  3. I often see tense family dynamics, which is understandable.  By the time boarding school is a serious consideration, families have tried many approaches to motivate their students academically, or steer them away from unproductive behaviors, and have been fighting the battle for change for quite some time.  These attempts often result in strained relationships. And that is exhausting.  In my 14 years at Oak Hill Academy, time and again I’ve seen damaged family relationships repaired, and I used to think it was as simple as “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”  The longer I’m here, the more I know that is not it.  The repairing has everything to do with how students see themselves.  As they feel more competent, confident, and proud of themselves and the success they’ve worked for away from home, their mindset and interaction with family takes a turn for the better.  They’ve redefined themselves in a positive way, and it changes the family dynamics.

If you are relating to what I’m sharing today as you consider and research boarding schools, I urge you to take a closer look at Oak Hill Academy, where we understand these issues.  Better yet, please contact me to discuss your student and our approach to providing a college prep boarding school experience for students needing growth.

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Oak Hill Academy – A Christian Boarding School in Virginia

Oak Hill Academy, a small boarding school in Virginia that is coeducational and college prep focused, has a mission to provide growth in many areas, including spiritual growth in a Christian setting.


Many of the families who choose Oak Hill Academy placed a high priority on finding a college prep boarding school that addressed their student’s needs, and had a foundation in Christian principles.  These families found Oak Hill Academy through the search filter of “Christian Boarding Schools” and discovered a small, close-knit school community nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwestern Virginia.  Our small school (approximately 150 students and over 60 faculty and staff) has been providing a Turning Point, since 1878, for students who were struggling in their previous school setting.  Our mission is to provide a boarding school education that focuses on growth—academic, social, personal, and spiritual growth.

Today, I want to focus on our approach to spiritual growth, something that has been an integral part of Oak Hill’s mission for nearly 140 years.

Our school was founded by members of several small Baptist churches in the area, including the local congregation of Young’s Chapel Baptist Church, a beautiful, quintessential country church that still thrives today.  Located on campus, services here have been an important and meaningful part of our students’ overall boarding school experience for generations.  Throughout that time, the Oak Hill Academy student body has joined local church members for Sunday morning worship, providing a mutually beneficial overlap of local community and school community. Our students get to see faith at work in a real-world setting. The pastor of Young’s Chapel also serves as our Campus Minister and religion teacher, further cementing this relationship. Students are welcome in Young’s Chapel’s Sunday School and Bible Study; some have even joined the church choir.   Some of our musically-inclined students participate in the school’s Praise Band.  Under the direction of our music teacher, this group provides an avenue for students to become more involved in the Young’s Chapel services, and to provide music at our vespers services.

For our students who seek to grow their faith while on our campus, there is no shortage of opportunities.  Weekly student devotions and quarterly vespers services over the years have blessed us with great messages.  In recent years, the Oak Hill Academy Youth Group has emerged as another chance for students to explore spirituality and its implications for our lives. Service to others is a component of many spiritual philosophies, including the Christianity practiced here. Service projects are sponsored by various campus and community groups, and service activities are incorporated into our advisory program, allowing students to put their desire to serve others into action.

Another underpinning of campus life is the daily morning gathering in Fletcher Chapel that we call “Homeroom.”  Our school community starts each day in prayer followed by a short devotion that sets our eyes toward God and prepares our minds for the day ahead.  Homeroom represents a great example of the community focus that is reinforced daily in our small school.

Many of our students do not come to Oak Hill Academy with the conscious goal of spiritual growth. That’s fine. We know that, for some students, this may be the first time in their lives that they intentionally consider their own spirituality. We are proud to have a student body with diverse spiritual backgrounds.  But however diverse, we come together in a community where we all are reminded that we are children of God, created by God, and loved by God.  We pray (and often witness) that in this special school community, many seeds of spiritual growth are planted.

Oak Hill Academy Occupies a Unique Place in the College Prep Boarding School World

Oak Hill Academy is the college prep boarding school where students are met where they are and grow forward, changing their trajectory.

About three years ago, a student summed up, very succinctly, something I speak about at length every day to prospective families.  He described his Oak Hill experience as “college with training wheels.”  I remain struck by the simplicity and accuracy of that statement.

One of the biggest impacts of a boarding school education is the independence and confidence that come from successfully navigating a focused educational and social experience without the familiarity of home.  It can be somewhat (or a lot) uncomfortable, especially at first.  That discomfort is important, as we all know that growth occurs outside our comfort zone.  It also takes a certain amount of courage to jump into a new, unfamiliar lifestyle, and when students look back on their time at Oak Hill Academy (on a campus surrounded by beautiful Virginia mountains) there is an overwhelming sense that this courage was rewarded.  It is said that few things worthwhile are easy, and it is apparent that our students learn that at Oak Hill Academy.

While we don’t intentionally make it harder for students – boarding schools, by nature, have rules – there are routines and boundaries that our students work within and sometimes bump up against.  Our approach in working with students,  many of whom had not been having the kind of success they crave (and of which they are capable), means that there is as much coaching going on here as teaching.  It’s an important distinction:  Effective teaching and academic rigor is important, but our students are looking for a new approach to school which also includes support and a sense of engagement that comes from relationships, both with teachers and peers.  We are very good at that kind of school community.

Our students are bright, and routinely find themselves wanting more for themselves; wanting more out of a high school education than they used to.  Seeing other students around them feeling good about being on top of school (for a change) encourages their desire for that same feeling. And as they set their sights higher, they develop improved interpersonal skills and an overall maturity.  A structured boarding school environment with boundaries and routines that promote good habits leads to self-discipline and a sense of competency.  That is the Turning Point.

Wanting more for themselves also means that our students open up college options that would not have existed with their previous transcripts, and perhaps more to the point, their previous mindsets.  It is a core belief at Oak Hill Academy that once students taste success, they want more of it.  That doesn’t mean our school is “easy.”  Far from it. Our students know the pressures of deadlines, the need for time management, and the challenge of changing gears after socializing or sports practice and shifting into the business of study time.  Academic preparation is key, so our curriculum engages and challenges, with some very rigorous classes that include dual/college credit and AP options for the many students who grow into that. But for students in serious need of changing their trajectory, it is the personal growth–the kind that allows them to see themselves in a new light–that is at the heart of the Oak Hill Academy mission.  These are the students we seek to enroll.

If you are reading this and see your student being described here, I want you to contact me to discuss, in more detail, our support pieces and intentional approach that may relate directly to the kind of change you are seeking for your student (and more often than many realize, they are seeking for themselves).

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Therapeutic Boarding School or Oak Hill Academy’s Approach?

While not offering clinical therapeutic services, Oak Hill Academy’s supportive, relational environment promotes academic and emotional growth

I receive a lot of inquiries from families who initially thought that the issues facing their child needed to be addressed in a therapeutic setting.  Upon researching therapeutic schools, they did not see their child fitting that model.  They expanded their search for boarding schools that, while not therapeutic, did offer a structure and support that fit their child’s needs.  It’s a small list.  Oak Hill Academy is on that short list, so they inquired or picked up the phone to find out more about our approach.

To be clear, if your child’s needs call for a clinical setting or clinical therapy, Oak Hill Academy may not be a fit.  We are also not a fit when there is an issue of drug or alcohol dependency.  While we are vigilant in providing a drug and alcohol free campus, we do not offer the clinical treatment often necessary to address underlying issues.  When we do see a fit, it is often because what a family actually is seeking is a structured, caring, and a supportive environment – not group therapy. There are a lot of support pieces in place here, such as a school counselor, resident managers, caring teachers, and a set of Deans who are great resources for coaching and offering emotional support.  I often make the statement that there is as much coaching going on at Oak Hill Academy as there is teaching.  To clarify, what I mean is that we know our students don’t need another sink-or-swim environment – that approach has already been shown not to work for our students in their previous school situations.  Instead, they need a relationship and a level of investment from those around them to become more engaged and motivated about their studies, about personal growth, and about the big picture—their futures.

A small boarding school environment is at the heart of what works at Oak Hill Academy.  It allows for relationships to be real, both with peers and with teachers.  It also allows us to be very personal in our approach with each student – to nudge, to advise, and to hold to higher standards, without feeling punitive.  Far from a sink-or-swim environment, we don’t expect our students to “just figure it out,” but instead view our mission as helping students grow as they find their way, one student at a time.  It’s a partnership that, for generations, has allowed Oak Hill Academy students to find their Turning Point.

Please call or inquire below to discuss your student – their needs, challenges and goals.  Let’s also discuss your goals for a great boarding school fit and the approach you are looking for.  We may be that fit, but it starts with a conversation.

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Choosing the Right Boarding School for Your Student

Oak Hill Academy’s school mission is offering a “Turning Point” for students who are struggling or not being engaged fully in their current environment.  Given this mission, offering rolling admission – often referred to as “open enrollment,” is important.  As we head toward the second semester of the school year, many families are evaluating how this school year is going for their students.  Oak Hill Academy receives many inquiries from families who are expressing frustration that old, recurring patterns of under-performance have resurfaced and their students appear unmotivated.  Seeking to salvage the year, they have determined that a change is needed.  The question becomes, “What should that new approach look like?”  Here are three important considerations to help guide your search for a good boarding school fit for your student:


How much structure is present in the school?

There is a spectrum of structure in the boarding school world.  From military structure all the way to very little structure in some academically elite boarding schools – there are many choices.  Oak Hill Academy’s approach falls somewhere between those two extremes, but is skewed toward the highly structured end of the spectrum.  A student recently described our environment aptly as feeling like “college with training wheels.”  Being away from home fosters a sense of independence that is a catalyst for many students, but the boundaries provided by things like mandatory study hours, cell phone and social media limitations, tutorials, dress code, keeping a clean dorm room that is inspected daily, and a high degree of adult supervision help our students develop the positive habits that change their trajectory.  While Oak Hill is most definitely structured, there is room to make choices within these boundaries so that it doesn’t feel “punitive.”


What is the amount of academic rigor offered?

Oak Hill Academy is a college prep boarding school with well over 90% college acceptance rate historically.  It is important that colleges know that our curriculum prepares students for success. Some of our students are going on to very competitive colleges and universities, but we do not portray ourselves as an “Ivy League Prep School.”  Our students are coming to Oak Hill Academy to grow academically.  This usually involves changing the way they view themselves. We are very good at meeting students where they are and moving them forward – by tasting success, developing relationships with their teachers that is supportive but with high expectations, and by gaining experience following a good routine.  We recognize different learning styles and work with a variety of learning challenges in a very intentional way.   It is important to know that Oak Hill Academy is not a “sink or swim” environment, and that we do as much coaching as teaching in our classrooms and dorms.  As students grow and want more for themselves, we are able to meet them with challenging AP and Dual-Credit College classes.


What is the right size?

Bigger is not always better, especially when it comes to a student body.  It is important to our mission of helping students grow to maintain small class sizes – 8-10 students on average, with many classes smaller than 10.  The relationships that develop with a small student body are often life-changing.  As a young person grows, so too should their peer group.  At Oak Hill Academy, with a student body made up of students seeking self-improvement and personal growth, a positive peer group is found.  Our students want to study together because they want to see each other do well.  Our teachers know our students’ individual strengths and weaknesses and work to develop strategies that are very personal to the student.  Having a student body that is approximately 150 is central to Oak Hill Academy’s mission.


As you find yourself considering a boarding school option for your student, we hope you look closely at Oak Hill Academy and our unique approach.  The beginning of the second semester has been a natural starting point for many of our students. There is, however, limited space available in our second semester enrollment and now is the time to consider Oak Hill Academy.  There is still time for proper consideration and a campus visit while our current semester is in session between our Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks.   I would love for you to meet our students and staff and see a regular school day on The Hill.

 

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Small Boarding School Oak Hill Academy Reflects All Regions of the U.S.

Almost all boarding schools seek to create a diverse school community.  Oak Hill Academy, with a current student body that represents more than 25 States and 15 countries, has incredible diversity.  As a Baptist boarding school, you might be surprised at the spiritual background diversity found among the student body at Oak Hill.  Being situated on the low end of national boarding school costs means there is a great deal of economic diversity here as well.

From my seat in the admission office, I notice trends.  We have a lot of inquiries from certain regions of the country and I’ve uncovered some thought-provoking dynamics to explain these pockets of frequent interest.  For example, we recently enrolled a student from a large metropolitan area of Texas. The challenge this family faced when beginning their boarding school search is reflective of somewhat limited choices in their region.  There were plenty of highly academic, rigorous college prep boarding school options closer to home, but they were seeking a college prep environment that would meet their student where they are, and not overwhelm them with a competitive climate.  Many of these Texas boarding schools are very LARGE, raising the question: is everything really bigger in Texas?  The small private Christian day schools they searched in their area seemed not to offer the individual approach they were seeking.  So, they expanded their search and realized that geography should take a back seat to finding the right fit.  (To address these parents’ pain point of “when will I get to see my child?”, Oak Hill Academy’s school year is scheduled to mirror that of colleges, which allows for periodic long holiday breaks and transportation coordination.)

While there are many boarding school options found in the Northeast, Oak Hill Academy’s location in Southwestern Virginia, near the intersection of Tennessee and North Carolina, positions us in a region with statistically fewer boarding school options.  It is interesting to note that while we are a Virginia boarding school, Oak Hill enrolls as many, if not more, students from North Carolina as Virginia in a typical year.  We maintain the specific mission of providing an option for under-performing students to find their “Turning Point” in a boarding school environment with a decidedly college-going culture, but one that is not “sink or swim.” So each year we have several boarding school students from places like New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New England.

We are not seeking to become the most popular boarding school in our region. Instead, Oak Hill Academy will maintain its ongoing mission, now 139 years in, to be the area’s best option for a boarding school that provides a specific environment for personal and academic GROWTH.

Very often we are found by families who do not see, in their region of the country, this unique boarding school option.  Please call or email to discuss your student, our unique mission and whether we are “worth the trip.” Many have determined that we are.

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From the Director of Student Affairs’ Desk – October Edition

Today’s blog is a guest post from the Director of Student Affairs, Mr. Aaron Butt.  We are a structured boarding school, but we sure have our fun!  Life gets uncomplicated for our students on The Hill, and our students are not too cool to carve pumpkins or dress up for Harvest Festival.  As a coeducational boarding school, we create a lot of supervised on-campus activities, and our Resident Life staff does a terrific job. Autumn in Virginia means changing weather, eye-catching colors of leaves and a host of campus events before the really cold weather comes.  This is the time of year that our boarding school solidifies the close-knit community feel that will see us through the winter.  Here, Mr. Butt outlines what October at Oak Hill Academy has felt like:

  

We had our first snow flurries on “The Hill” this past weekend – Sunday, October 29th!  The temperatures have taken a dip, yellow and orange leaves are quickly dropping from the trees, and Thanksgiving Break is less than 20 days away.  Despite some torrential rain on Saturday, students gathered at Noonkester Park’s Mississippi Pavilion for our annual Harvest Festival.  The heaters were running and a fire blazing as we ate brats and stew, then on to games, a costume contest, and a well-stocked cakewalk.

I feel we are finally “in the groove” here at Oak Hill after concluding our first academic quarter October 16th.  We still stress the importance of little things – getting to class on time, keeping a clean room, using quiet time effectively, managing technology usage, engaging with others respectfully, clearing the table – all small things in and of themselves, but practices and routines that allow us to grow and develop into responsible, independent men and women who can build on this foundation and find our passions and callings.

As I have said many times, Oak Hill is not easy – it was never designed to be easy.  We often ask our students to do things they don’t particularly want to do.   It is harder to hide here; there are more opportunities for friction, conflict, disagreement, and impatience.  But we grow through friction.  We grow through disagreement and conflict.  I believe we grow even through someone telling us to go back to the dorms on a 30-degree morning to change into the right school pants.

I woke up this morning sore from a student flag-football game yesterday, and didn’t particularly want to get out of bed.  But I did, and I packed my kids’ school lunches, got them breakfast, helped them dress, and stood at the bus stop.  Thirty minutes later I did the same with my other “kids” – monitored breakfast in the Dining Hall, checked school dress, and hustled them off to homeroom in Fletcher Chapel.  One thing I love about Oak Hill is the consistency.  We know what to expect, when to be structured and orderly, and when to untuck and relax.This evening I look forward to walking with my kids from dorm to dorm trick-or-treating as the students hand out candy.

We are a community.  Sometimes we get frustrated with one another, sometimes we say the wrong things or can’t keep our mouths shut.  Sometimes we think things aren’t fair, and sometimes we don’t really want to get up in the morning, clean our rooms, put on uniforms, and head out into the cold.

But Oak Hill is a community, and continues to be a turning point.  Three-fourths of our students made either the “A” or “B” honor roll for the first quarter; 80% of our students had less than 5 missing assignments over the past 12 weeks.  Rooms are (slowly) getting cleaner.

My goal for the next month is for our words to have meaning and value, and for each of us to look for opportunities to encourage one another.

Enjoy a well-deserved Thanksgiving Break with friends and family, and we’ll see you soon!