In a boarding school environment students wake up at school, go to breakfast at school, and gather together as a school community each morning. Oak Hill Academy is more than an assemblage for academics; it is a community with a distinct flavor and a commitment to educating the whole being–body, mind, and soul.
The Academy day begins in homeroom. A few students are reminded to tie shoes or tuck in shirts. Almost all come into the assembly chattering and laughing, being adolescents. Quickly, through reminder and routine, students find their seats, sit up straight, and begin to become quiet. The day begins with prayer, followed by a devotion, then announcements by the teachers and principal. A day has begun, almost always on a structured and positive note.
The positive emphasis is carried into the classroom. A look into the rooms reveals teachers quizzing students, encouraging individuals to ask questions, and engaging in conversation. Small classroom size allows for personal interaction, which facilitates bonds between teachers and students. These bonds build trust that the teachers are not merely marking hours drawing paychecks, but are truly interested in the person sitting at a desk.
Positive interaction also includes reinforcement of the structured discipline of the Academy. Teachers remind students to attend to their clothing. Students are instructed to take responsibility for their homework, their behavior, and their attitude. The benefits of discipline slowly and surely take root.
Coupled with discipline is reward and accountability. Reward comes through praise for a job well done, the good will built between students and teachers, opportunities for trips “off hill,” and the self-rewards that comes through maturity. Disadvantages accrued through misbehavior can include detention, 8th period with a teacher, room restriction, loss of privilege to go on trips, and other measures.
At the end of the school day students report to teachers for extra help with their academic responsibilities–or they are off on a trip to town to eat, or are hustling to an athletic practice, or are clumped together at the campus store. One could say the day is busy, but the better view is that the day is filled with instruction and activities to foster growth and maturity.
Wedged between the end of school and after school activities is a necessary stop at the Alumni Campus Store. The campus store serves as a welcoming venue for student interaction. With a wide covered porch, students stand and sit in groups for conversation, banter, and snacks. Inside, the store has pictures and signatures of alumni which surround students who can sit on stools at tall cafe tables. Representing a snapshot of the OHA community, the campus store is the revelatory heartbeat of the student body.
The academic day may end at Oak Hill Academy, but student life continues. Extra-curricular activities after school segue into later club activities, dinner in the dining hall, and life in the dormitory. At the evening meal students dine alongside faculty members and their families, even interacting with the small children of the Oak Hill Academy campus. These boarding students begin to establish routines with friends around the evening meals, and for a moment the demands of academic life are set aside for hearty meals and wholesome friendships.
Residential life continues the structured environment. Quiet Time is monitored and enforced so students can study and prepare. Behavior is consistently observed with the goal of providing a safe and respectful environment so students can be successful. Time for relaxation is given as well as telephone calls, television, and Internet usage. Lights out ends the day, helping students develop habits that balance work and rest, relaxation and concentration.
Weekend life in a rural setting has its own pace and character. When not in Saturday school classes, students relax in the dorms, engage in a host of on-campus activities such as flag football and pool tournaments, participate in and cheer at a myriad of home athletic events, visit with each other during campus socials, or go “off hill” on a number of special activity trips. On Sunday the pace is subdued with church attendance in the morning and afternoon rest and relaxation in preparation for the new academic week.