Oak Hill Academy Boarding School Stories – Bailey’s Story of Improved Grades and Academic Confidence
Bailey, a current junior, represents many of the students who choose to come to Oak Hill Academy. For this kind of student, there is an immediate, obvious need to get back on track academically and restore motivation and confidence. Along the way, Bailey, like many of our students, went through a mindset transformation. She is a great example of our students who take the opportunity for a fresh academic start to redefine themselves. Bailey’s turning point came when she realized that she was developing good habits and had her teachers’ support to get grades that made her proud again.
This renewed academic confidence has, like it does for so many of our students, translated into confidence in other areas of life, including campus leadership. Listen here as Bailey describes this experience at Oak Hill Academy:
Improving grades. That was Kneiko’s expressed goal when he came to Oak Hill Academy. His parents added the goals of having school become important to him; improving a college-ready work ethic; and having Kneiko open up opportunities for himself to study outside of his home in Bermuda. For him, the rigid, test-centered British System was just not working well with how he learns best. Kneiko came to Oak Hill Academy less than motivated, having floated to only “decent” grades in his previous school setting. He was ready for something more for himself. That made him the perfect Oak Hill Academy applicant, as I recall!
Kneiko traded a comfortable life near a beautiful beach in Bermuda for two and a half years of structure (and cold winters) in the Virginia mountains. He now has the payoff of a great college opportunity to show for it. One of the things we do exceptionally well at Oak Hill Academy is helping students find the importance in routine and good habits. As grades show improvement, they want more of it. When their motivation increases, more and more opportunities are within reach. Kneiko is a shining example of both the international student who finds success at Oak Hill Academy and the young person who grows into a more goal-oriented student. Listen as he explains the opportunities he’s created for himself and what he has enjoyed about his Oak Hill Academy experience.
Mr. Bunn has taught in the Social Studies Department at Oak Hill Academy for 26 years and has raised his family while living on the campus, located in Southwest Virginia. He can often be found sitting backwards on a school desk, face to face with the front row of his students, engaged in an exciting story. He’s always passionate about class. He points to the fact that his classes are small and personal as a reason he still gets excited to cover material year after year. For him, it is the relationship with the students and the ability to impact their study habits and personal growth that defines what he enjoys about teaching.
Mr. Bunn is known as a very demanding teacher who emphasizes that the little things matter–learning to take good notes, properly citing sources, and mastering the study techniques that work best for each student. He enjoys “coaching” his students as much as sharing the material. His classes range from College Credit U.S. History to sophomore-level World History. His involvement at Oak Hill Academy is not limited to the classroom, as he is also the Honor Court Sponsor and leader of the local Boy Scouts troop that often includes Oak Hill students alongside kids from the local community. Please watch the supporting video to see what Mr. Bunn enjoys about Oak Hill Academy.
Many times, students from countries outside the United States choose boarding school as an opportunity to completely change their educational goals. The U.S. approach to education comes with a greater degree of individualism than many countries’ systems provide. International students like Carritah are choosing to study in the U.S. because they want to discover a passion, and develop a balanced learning approach–and to open up U.S. college and university options.
The families of international students studying in the United States have several standard concerns–issues related to safety, rigor and social acceptance, for instance. Many find Oak Hill Academy uniquely positioned to address these concerns. Oak Hill Academy is a small, personal, structured boarding school located in a rural area of Virginia. It is a friendly campus with a tight-knit community where students do not get lost in the shuffle. Because our students choose Oak Hill Academy with the intention to grow, our environment is truly supportive and socially welcoming—perfect for international students who may need help mastering English. That atmosphere helps explain why almost 25% of our enrollment each year is international. This demographic on campus is quite diverse in itself, with more than 16 countries represented in our enrollment this year, which is very typical.
Listen and watch Carritah, as she explains her successful 4-year journey at Oak Hill Academy and the opportunities that await her upon graduation!
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’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.
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 2018 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
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:
“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:
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 (276) 579-2619 or complete the inquiry form below to start the conversation.
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:
Thanks for reading!
Betsy Anderson, RN, BSN
Oak Hill Academy Nurse