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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 Boarding School Stories – Chase’s Story of Personal Growth

Many Oak Hill Academy students come to us already motivated to get good grades.  But that is just the beginning of their goals.  They are also choosing boarding school for the opportunity of self discovery, and as a giant step toward maturity and college readiness.  Chase’s story represents the Oak Hill Academy student who recognizes the opportunities of a small, relational campus where students are challenged to want more for themselves than the minimum.  The chance to try and succeed at new things is, for many, the Turning Point reached at Oak Hill Academy.  Along the way, she has learned who she is and has found her voice–two of her expressed goals in the admission process, as I recall.

Listen to Chase as she describes this growth and the great options she’s opened up for herself by becoming involved on our campus.  In the process, she’s learned a lot about herself and the direction she wants to take in college–and in life.

Oak Hill Academy Boarding School Stories – Andre’s Story of Improved Grades and Improved Self-Image

Oak Hill Academy’s mission is to offer a Turning Point opportunity for students seeking personal growth and positive change.  Many of our students come to us to break a pattern of poor school performance that has led them to disengage and become unmotivated.  They’ve reached a crossroads where they recognize that in order to change their direction, a change in environment is needed.  This pivotal realization often comes with a measure of trepidation.  For many, Oak Hill Academy is that place to start anew–with new expectations and a new approach.  For Andre, the objective was not just improved grades, but also an improved self-image.

It is often said that if you want different results, you must change your behaviors.  This is very hard to do without also changing one’s environment, which means new physical surroundings and a new peer group–a fresh start.  Andre exemplifies the Oak Hill Academy student who chooses to attend boarding school, even with a lot of hesitation and some reservations, and seizes the opportunity to adopt a new mindset.  Hear how he explains how Oak Hill Academy has enabled him to redefine his habits and academic outcomes, and to experience success.

Oak Hill Academy College Prep Boarding High School With Successful Outcomes

A quick look at the Oak Hill Academy website reveals that we are a school that is very good at meeting students where they are and helping them grow.  Most families (and their students) choose Oak Hill Academy because they are seeking a “Turning Point” experience. For many, what that looks like is changing bad study habits and developing a new engagement in school that results in vastly improved grades.  For others, that Turning Point comes when they find themselves in challenging and engaging classes–where “floating” is no longer sufficient.  What is striking about our students is a shared focus on college readiness, and the desire to open up opportunities for themselves through growth and improved transcripts.

Our college counseling department shares a lot of credit for our successful track record of OHA graduates securing great college and university options.  With two counselors working with a graduating class that averages approximately 45 students, there is a high level of personal attention and individualized planning. This contributes greatly to the 95% college acceptance rates Oak Hill Academy seniors have achieved over the last 10 years.  To see where our students are going, please see a list of acceptances for the class of 2017 HERE. The number and value of scholarships offered to our students is also impressive.  The 2017 class in total earned $2.6M in academic and merit scholarship offers–over and above the $650K in athletic scholarships offered.

Our college acceptance list reveals many prestigious,well-known schools alongside several small schools with which you might not be familiar.  The approach in our college counseling department, and with the college-going culture found on our campus, is to “go where you can grow.”  There is not a cookie-cutter approach to college applications here.  We encourage, and in almost every case, personally guide, students through research, application completion, essay writing, and interview preparation to create possibilities for themselves.  We even help our students establish personal relationships with admission professionals through phone calls and campus visits.  This year, for example, our senior class completed and submitted more than 283 applications, which have resulted in 162 acceptances for our 39 seniors.

We recently experienced another “first” at Oak Hill Academy.  Senior Jackson Redmon, from Montana, received the high honor of an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he will also be playing Division 1 basketball.  Jackson has always had a strong academic record and he continued that at Oak Hill Academy by taking college-level courses, the most rigorous of our curriculum, while playing an almost 50-game national schedule on our Gold Team.  We are very proud to have been a part of Jackson’s continually developing success story!  We wish him well on his academic and athletic journey as he prepares to serve his country.  For more on Jackson’s appointment, please see the following press release that appeared on the official website of U.S. Senator from Montana, Steve Daines.

Jackson Redmon with OHA Gold Team
Assistant Coaches Bryan Meagher and Taylor Conn

Finding the Right Boarding School Fit: Oak Hill Academy Student Profiles – International

This post is the second in our series of student profiles that represent the kinds of students who find success within of our mission-appropriate enrollment each year.  Today, we are focusing on the very important and valued international student population at Oak Hill Academy–a key feature of our unique campus life each year.  International students are attracted to study in the U.S. for a variety of reasons, but here are a few of the main themes:

  • Entry into U.S. universities and colleges is more practical coming from a U.S. high school.  At Oak Hill Academy, our College Counseling department is very personal in helping students through this process.  Our international families are especially appreciative of this highly individual approach.
  • Many of our students report that their home educational systems didn’t value the kind of learning and personal development they were seeking.  They see the U.S. system as far more holistic and a better fit for their personal aspirations.
  • Some of our international families are first and foremost seeking a safe, nurturing environment that may not be easy to find at home.
  • The goal of developing independence and maturity is a theme shared by both our international and domestic students.  It is just much more dramatic for our students who are thousands of miles away from home, and might speak little English when they arrive here.

The current school year at Oak Hill Academy is quite typical:  Nearly 25% of our student body represents 16 foreign countries around the globe.  This kind of diversity, coupled with a small student body of 150, means that we offer a tremendously unique campus life opportunity.  For our international students, we offer a welcoming and secure introduction to the U.S. educational system and culture.  It is very much a “win-win.”

Today’s Student Profile comes from a pair of international students who have attended Oak Hill Academy for more than two years each.  Both students are from mainland China: Jingyi “Carritah” Cai is a senior from Xiamen, China, in her fourth year at OHA;  Alice Wang, also a senior, began attending Oak Hill Academy  as a sophomore in 2016, after spending a year with her adoptive host family in Northern Virginia.

For Carritah, choosing Oak Hill Academy from among her many initial options came down to our size and location.  “My family and I liked the fact that Oak Hill Academy is a small boarding school.  Since I didn’t have a family here, the most important thing to my family was to find a place that can ensure my safety. Oak Hill Academy’s location means that we make our small community together and there are no strangers–I figured it would be easier for me to bond with people.”  Alice reports that safety was her family’s number one priority, too.  “Boarding school became an option because my family wanted a broader social and cultural experience, beyond what my host family could provide. But it had to be a safe environment or my parents would not agree to it.”

Both students point to the benefits of adjusting to a new culture and the U.S. style of education in a small school.  Alice says, “Another priority for me choosing boarding school was for personal growth–independence and the ability to relate to people from a variety of backgrounds. Oak Hill Academy helped me to broaden my circle to meet more people from other cultures and since we all live together, we have plenty to share.”   Carritah agrees, but points to an interesting byproduct of boarding school life:  empathy and acceptance of others.  “Living together, we have enough time and opportunity to see each others’ merits and flaws. We come to accept those flaws in others and ourselves, but working to improve them is how I’ve learned to build strong relationships at Oak Hill Academy.”  As Alice observes, “School and academic achievement have always been important to me, but at Oak Hill Academy, I’ve also placed an additional importance on personal goals, like getting along with people who have different views, and taking care of myself outside of the classroom by becoming more athletic.”  Alice continues, “I feel that I used to be a selfish person.  I was spoiled and did not think about others as much as I should have. Attending Oak Hill Academy, I realized that everyone has important dreams, not just me.  I started to do a lot of community service work in and outside of the school campus, and in the process I learned a lot about myself and who I want to be as a person.”  

Alice also points to many educational benefits of the relational, small class environment provided here. “Academically, teachers pay close attention to every student in class–the small teacher-to-student ratio ensures attention and focus.  For me, this was also important as I became more fluent and English became more natural. The relationships I had with my teachers gave me confidence to ask for help when I needed it. Teachers are always available for one-on-one afterschool help.  My experience at Oak Hill Academy has helped me discover my potential and interest in learning business as my planned major next year in college.”  

Oak Hill Academy’s structured environment, on the conservative side for most U.S. college prep boarding schools, was another attractive feature for these two international students’ families. One of the biggest concerns Chinese families have, I’ve learned, is the ability to concentrate academically here. Transitioning from a very test-oriented educational system (found in China, for sure, but also in the British System) into what is accurately seen as a more balanced system of critical thinking and exploration, international families often worry about rigor and focus.  Carritah points out, “My parents liked the limits placed on the students here (things like mandatory lights-out times, dedicated study hours in the dorms each evening, and chaperoned trips off campus). These limitations teach us to do the right things, and keep us out of troubles. Oak Hill Academy is where I learned to do things that are productive and good for me–there is not a lot of ‘wasted’ time.”

Both Alice and Carritah have built impressive transcripts filled with interesting classes, clubs, sports and excellent grades.  These transcripts, along with the support of Mr. Hill and Mrs. Groves in our College Counseling Department, have opened up a lot of university opportunities for both of them.  Watch below as they discuss their college plans:

Find the Right Boarding School Fit: Oak Hill Academy Student Profiles

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“I wouldn’t say I’m a completely different person, but I’m a better version of myself.” – Bailey, class of 2019

One of the most common questions I’m asked in my role as Director of Admission is, “What type of student is a fit for Oak Hill Academy?”   Apart from the idea that we are a school for students seeking and needing growth, there really is no one, succinct answer.  Instead, I’ve noticed that there are 4 or 5 big themes that emerge among our successfully enrolled students.  To help you understand Oak Hill Academy better, and perhaps to help you determine if we are a promising option for YOUR student, I’d like to use the admission blog for a series of examples of real students who represent these “mission appropriate” general categories.  Today we will look at the student who needs an academic reset and new view of themselves.

Let’s start with our school’s mission:

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.

Our first profile is of the student who is well-intentioned and capable, but has become disengaged in a large school environment.  This student may be overwhelmed and has lost motivation, or has developed a negative outlook.  This frustration may be leading to conflict or tension at home.  It probably has led to an eroding self-image and confidence.  If students see attending Oak Hill Academy as an opportunity to redefine themselves, they overwhelmingly have a positive experience.  Through the admission process, especially the campus tour, this type of student recognizes how things can be different here.  They see Oak Hill Academy enrollment as an opportunity to “reset,” and to develop a new approach to meeting challenges.

Meet current Oak Hill Academy junior, Bailey.  She is today’s guest blog contributor.

Oak Hill Academy’s motto is “The Turning Point.” And I can say that, for me personally, it truly has been. There was no specific day, though, when I thought to myself, “I’ve hit this ‘turning point.’” It’s been a continuous process for me.

The thing I struggled with most was the idea of moving away from everything familiar to a place that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere! At the time I couldn’t see how this relocation would benefit me. However, I’ve learned that the transformation happening now might have started out looking like an obstacle, but then became a really good thing. Leaving my friends, family, house, and even my pets, was difficult at first. Not to mention that I was behind in school. When I toured Oak Hill Academy I was pretty overwhelmed, to be honest. It would be such a big change, and I had trouble wrapping my head around how this could be good for me. In the end it has turned out to be the place where I could change for the better–academically, socially, mentally, and emotionally. And I still continue to change.

I would say one of the biggest transformations for me happened in my academics. I went from almost failing grades to making the Honor Roll. The teachers and staff keep you accountable for your work. They help you, and answer any questions you may have. We even have a period of the day set aside when you can go and get help one on one if you need it. I came from a rather big public school, so the small classes have been a huge benefit for me. I always say I was kind of just pushed along, and never had the resources or support I needed. Oak Hill has provided me with that.

Socially I have transformed immensely. I credit my decision to get involved on campus. Joining in is easy to do here since there are a lot of choices and, since we are so small, it is not intimidating to try new things.   I’m involved in equestrian activities, leadership group, art, the spring play, and I’m an intern with Mrs. Groves (OHA’s guidance counselor). I also participate in an abundance of clubs and activities that we have on campus. I’ve become more involved in the community. Coming to Oak Hill has made me step outside of my comfort zone–and for the better. I’ve made friends and relationships that challenge me to grow.

The biggest thing I’ve learned about the transformation process is that it’s not always easy. I might not like every minute of it, and I get frustrated, but when I take a step back I realize how much I’ve accomplished so far in my two years here. Even though coming to boarding school wasn’t a simple task, I pushed through my struggles and, with support and a new attitude, I am making my time at Oak Hill worthwhile. Dr. Groves (our Head of School) always says “Grow where you’re planted” and that’s exactly what I doing. I made the best of where I was, and as a result I experienced valuable transformation. I wouldn’t say I’m a completely different person, but I’m a better version of myself.

For a discussion of your student’s needs and the potential for Oak Hill Academy to be a good fit, please contact the Admission Department.  Call or complete the inquiry form below to start the conversation.

 

Admission Department Information Request:

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A Boarding School Nurse’s War on Vaping

Today’s guest blog post is written by one of Oak Hill Academy’s school nurses, Betsy Anderson, RN, BSN.  As her life’s work is with boarding high school students, Nurse Betsy is very passionate about health issues that are particularly relevant to teenagers.  

Several years ago I was taking a road trip and my mind was wandering. I was thinking about a law that had been recently passed in Virginia making it illegal for adults to smoke in cars with their children present. As a school nurse, and as a mother myself, I am a strong supporter of this law. I remember looking around as I drove, seeing other people driving or riding in cars, people walking down the street. I looked to see if any of the people I encountered were smoking. …I COULD NOT FIND ONE. The healthcare professional in me felt a small sense of satisfaction. I thought to myself, “You go, America! You are doing it! You are kicking your horrible habits!” Little did I know a new enemy was lurking just around the corner. Vaping.

Although vaping has had a huge increase in popularity in the last two years, the first electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) was invented and patented in the 1960s by Herbert A. Gilbert. The device uses a heating element to turn liquid (e-liquid or e-juice) into a vapor that the user inhales. Mr. Gilbert wanted to market his nicotine delivery invention as an alternative to traditional smoking. But because tobacco companies already had so much momentum in the consumer market, it never took off. Only recently have e-cigarettes exploded in the marketplace. What is alarming to me is that the largest population of e-cigarette consumers are adolescents, and that this number is growing at unprecedented rates. According to the CDC, e-cigarette use in high school students tripled from the year 2013 to 2014. This means that in one year the number of high school students in the United States who vaped increased from 660,000 to 2 MILLION. This number is unbelievable.

Why is vaping so appealing to adolescents? I believe one reason is that the marketing for these products has been misleading for many. E-cigarettes have been marketed as a “safer” alternative to smoking, but there is no real data to support this claim, In fact, studies are continuing to be published that show how very harmful vaping can be. When a people believe that vaping is “less harmful” than smoking, they neglect to consider that it is not HARMLESS. Another reason vaping is so appealing to adolescents is that it tastes good and has virtually no lingering smell. The most popular e-juice flavors in 2017 were Gummi Bear, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Catch Ya Latte, On Cloud Custard, Muffin Man, and Cloud Candy. Clever names. And they sound delicious, right? And some vapes and supplies are so small and so disguised that it is easy for teens to hide them from their parents and school officials. If a teen is determined to hide their vaping, it is virtually undetectable. The final reason I believe vaping has exploded in the adolescent population is because of its concentrated and addictive quality and the effects of nicotine on the adolescent brain.

The absorption rate of nicotine is increased in the vapor delivery method and the nicotine receptors in the brain are overloaded with stimulation. Studies have shown that nicotine intake from one vape session can be equivalent to smoking 6 cigarettes, depending on the vaping device and e-juice used. When nicotine enters the brain and attaches to a receptor, the reward center lights up and dopamine is released. With continued use, more and more stimulation is needed for dopamine to be released, so users vape more and more. The adolescent brain is even more susceptible to this dependence trigger because the prefrontal cortex, where the reward center is located, is not fully developed until the early 20s. No wonder it is so addicting. Once exposed to this substance, our children will have an incredibly hard time not becoming addicted for life. When teenagers begins vaping, they are 70% more likely to begin smoking traditional cigarettes within 5 years.
Nicotine causes permanent damage to adolescent brains, and can affect long-term development, causing life-long problems with emotional response processing, memory, and reasoning and judgment abilities.

So, what is a school nurse to do? The first thing I have done is educate myself. I recently attended a conference that included a keynote speaker (Dr. Judson Brewer) who addressed addiction in the adolescent brain. One of the main areas he covered was vaping. I have spoken with colleagues. I have read countless medical journals and articles. I have learned so many scary facts associated with vaping that it is impossible to share them all in a single blog post. Vaping is a challenge for schools around the world, and Oak Hill Academy is no exception. We are a boarding school. Our students live here as well as attend classes. This means we must monitor classrooms, dorm rooms, and all other areas for vaping supplies. Teachers, resident life staff and administrative staff are all working together to tackle this very difficult issue. In healthcare, the best treatment is and always has been prevention. Vaping is absolutely a health crisis. I want my students to live healthy, fulfilled lives while they are with me and long after they leave me. That is why I became a school nurse. Children are the future of our world–and their success depends on their long-term health.

In order to decrease teen vaping rates, it is imperative that our students are educated about harmful effects of vaping BEFORE they try it. At Oak Hill Academy, we are currently developing  educational materials to be included in our robust resident life curriculum, and we continue to explore other ways to educate our students.  I ask that you, as parents and caregivers, become part of the team in helping fight this war. Educate yourself about vaping and its harmful effects. Share these facts with your children as soon as possible, and as often as possible.

Here are some excellent resources you can use to do this:

The Teen Vaping Trend – What Parents Need to Know

https://catch.org/lessons/catch-my-breath-middle-school-parent-resources

https://www.safekids.org/parents

Thanks for reading!
Betsy Anderson, RN, BSN
Oak Hill Academy Nurse

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:   info@www.oak-hill.net  or (276) 579-2619

It is Boarding School Campus Tour TIME at Oak Hill Academy

 

 

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 info@www.oak-hill.net or by calling Mike Rodgers, Director of Admission at (276) 579-2619.

Oak Hill Academy Educational Tour 2018: Ireland and Scotland – Post #2

3/16/18

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.

 

 

       

 

Oak Hill Academy’s Educational Tour 2018: Ireland and Scotland – Post #1

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!

More tomorrow,
Chris