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How does boarding school motivate, engage, and help students become successful?

A structured, personal environment where academic and character growth is nurtured helps develop students’ self-confidence to express themselves and move toward their goals.  Small, college-prep classes address learning styles and engage students at a level they may be missing in their current school’s environment. Oak Hill Academy’s supportive approach fosters competency and academic achievement. By giving students enough responsibility to achieve a sense of independence in a safe, supervised, and motivating setting, our boarding high school often becomes the place where fear, being hesitant or easily influenced by peers in a negative way are replaced with determination and mature decision-making processes.  We are proud of the pivotal, life-changing transformations experienced here at Oak Hill. These changes happen in part because students are encouraged to experiment and develop their own leadership styles.  There are numerous campus leadership positions available such as Honor Court member, ambassador, dorm assistant, and club/activity officers. Additionally, many of our students develop interpersonal skills and service leadership through peer interactions, being peer tutors, and acting as mentors for younger students.  A new environment can be a “turning point,” and is an opportunity to break old patterns. Oak Hill Academy allows students to redefine themselves in a fresh and supportive setting.

We invite you to schedule a campus tour to experience, for yourself, the special community here in the beautiful mountains of Southwestern Virginia.  If you would like to discuss how Oak Hill Academy may become the Turning Point for your student, please contact the Admission Office today.

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High School Boarding School for Academic and Personal Growth

Are you looking for a high school boarding option for your struggling student?  Do these struggles stem from learning differences or self-esteem issues? These types of internal battles can wreak havoc on motivation and success for any high school student, and they have very little to do with ability.

Oak Hill Academy understands that, and specializes in assisting the under-performing student. We recognize that a student’s ability to believe success is possible is key, even when entering our school with a transcript that might suggest otherwise. We believe that competency and confidence are nurtured best with a truly relational approach, developed in a structured environment that is strong on accountability. We strive to be the boarding high school that is known for its commitment to individual academic support and personal growth.

Here at Oak Hill Academy, we pride ourselves on being the “turning point” for students in more than one area of their lives.  When admission criteria are discussed, several common points arise:

First, as a college prep boarding high school, we work with students in the classroom toward graduation and what comes next. Many of our students need academic support, and we recognize different learning styles and needs, including instruction in time management and organization.

Additionally, Oak Hill offers a tremendously supportive, structured, and relational environment in which to coach (non-therapeutically) personal, social and emotional growth in our students. Opportunities for engagement outside the classroom abound, giving students a chance to discover or rekindle special interests, passions or talents. That’s why we like to know about what your student has enjoyed beyond academics.

Finally, the most important factor in admission decisions is your student’s mindset when it comes to redefining themselves.  The admission process should involve some recognition of this opportunity on the part of the student. We seek to enroll those for whom we are a “good fit”, and by that we mean that our boarding school is growth-oriented, and is best suited for high school students who embrace their own need to mature, and are ready for a restart.

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Elements of OHA Structure: Highlighting “Quiet Time”

We talk to prospective students and parents a lot about the structured and supportive boarding school environment we offer at Oak Hill Academy. To facilitate academic and personal growth in our students, we create a framework made up of components like the one Mr. Butt highlights below.

“Quiet Time.” What is it? I believe Quiet Time at Oak Hill Academy is one of the most important aspects of our program. A common refrain I hear from the parents of incoming students is that their son/daughter struggles with executive functioning skills: things like paying attention, organizing, planning and prioritizing, starting tasks and staying focused on them to completion, self-monitoring (keeping track of what you’re doing). These, as adults know, are critical skills that need to be learned as our students mature and matriculate into the real world. Our Quiet Time is intended to provide the structure, the scaffolding, for students to grow in these areas.

Everyone is back in the dorms at 8:30 p.m. Game systems and cell phones are turned in to the Resident Manager, and students can receive only incoming calls from immediate family. For the first hour, students are in their rooms unless they need to shower, have dorm jobs (taking out the trash, sweeping the hall, etc.), scheduled laundry or cooking, or have signed up for the study room for Wi-Fi access. We try to be consistent with this schedule, and this message: Learn to organize your time, and prioritize.

At 9:30, all students are in their rooms, and the second hour of Quite Time is designated for studying. The Resident Managers have a GoogleDoc with every student’s homework assignment, and they are also made aware if a student has been struggling to complete their work. The Resident Manager is on the hall, checking in, and providing assistance as necessary. Students who need it are assigned a special study room with a bit more monitoring and support. At 10:30 lights are out, the dorm is quiet, and it’s time for bed.

And that’s the routine: every day, every week, every month, all year. It’s predictable; it’s structured; it takes some getting used to. But if used faithfully, this routine helps our students learn to self-monitor and build effective patterns into their lives that we believe will help them succeed at the next level.

Will they have a mandatory Quiet Time in college? Probably not, but we have graduates and former students who come back to “the Hill” and espouse the benefits of the habits they developed at Oak Hill–that they were able to take what they had learned here into their adult lives.

So these are the basics of Quiet Time – part of who we are, and what we value as a school.

Aaron Butt
OHA Director of Student Affairs

 

Boarding School for High School Success

Students at Oak Hill Academy are given the chance to redefine themselves in ways that are not always realized in their current school environment. 
Our structured, nurturing approach provides a healthy climate for students to branch out and explore themselves from a more holistic view.  Our small class sizes allow for individualized attention and instruction to help mold a more competent, confident and mature student.  Students learn to get things done efficiently and effectively through mentored interaction with their teachers and dorm staff.  Yes, they find themselves working harder–and more consistently–but they’re also more engaged and experience real, tangible, and obtainable goals that emerge when held to a higher level of accountability.   Oak Hill Academy’s personalized approach provides a sense of support that is the catalyst for students to realize their potential for success.

If you have determined that the school year has not gotten off to the positive start you and your student hoped for, it is a good time to consider Oak Hill Academy for a new, and proven, approach.  You may even have inquired in the past and want to revisit the possibilities.  

We welcome a call or email in the Admission Department at this time of the year.  Some of our greatest success stories began this way.

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Boarding School for Unmotivated Students

Oak Hill Academy students are bright. Once they are here, they realize quickly that there is more to gain from their high school experience than they might have believed from their previous experience.  Here on the beautiful and serene campus of Oak Hill Academy, students find themselves excelling and developing a sense of pride for the first time in an academic setting.  They are surrounded with peers who feel the same, and who encourage and support one another.  Together with the guidance of teachers, Oak Hill Academy students find they “want more,” and develop a true confidence as they realize their goals are achievable.d Our curriculum engages and challenges, but there is also a sense of support and acceptance that allows students to take chances; to push themselves where they may otherwise have faltered.  There are rigorous course loads including dual/college credit and AP options as many of our students come to discover that they are ready, and want the challenge.  It is this academic flexibility, staff leadership, and peer support that allow immense personal growth and that provide an eye-opening experience that is at the heart of Oak Hill Academy’s mission.  We supply the building blocks to help students change their academic, social, and emotional scope and realize that the tools to a successful future are both tangible and accessible.

If you have determined that the school year has not gotten off to the positive start you and your student hoped for, it is a good time to consider Oak Hill Academy for a new, and proven, approach.  You may even have inquired in the past and want to revisit the possibilities.  

We welcome a call or email in the Admission Department at this time of the year.  Some of our greatest success stories began this way.

Admission Department Request for Information:

Start a conversation with our Admission Department today.
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Is Oak Hill Academy the right place for your student? 

Is Oak Hill Academy the right place for your student?  

From the perspective of admissions, families and their students who are in need of personal or academic growth can find a great fit here. Oak Hill’s most successful students understand that a fresh start in a new environment provides them an opportunity to redefine themselves. Smaller class sizes mean individual attention at a more personal level of both instruction and understanding, leading to a higher level of accountability. Our structured, supportive approach allows students to work harder and more consistently because results become tangible almost immediately. Students are guided to see themselves in a new light and develop a belief in future possibilities. The Oak Hill Academy faculty also understands that smaller class sizes provide the ideal environment not only for academic instruction and building competence, but to cultivate individual growth in a non-therapeutic but accepting environment. It is a very specific sense of pride our faculty feels as students begin to recognize that their goals are obtainable. Bringing about this realization is not an easy feat—it takes a lot of hard work—but this shared endeavor is what brings Oak Hill Academy students and faculty together as a family, and makes us unique in the world of boarding schools.

If you have determined that the school year has not gotten off to the positive start you and your student hoped for, it is a good time to consider Oak Hill Academy for a new, and proven, approach.  You may even have inquired in the past and want to revisit the possibilities.  

We welcome a call or email in the Admission Department at this time of the year.  Some of our greatest success stories began with mid-year enrollments. Call us at (276) 579-2619 or email admission@oak-hill.net.

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Start a conversation with our Admission Department today.
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Oak Hill Academy Boarding School for ADD and other Learning Differences

Oak Hill Academy offers a Turning Point for students, most noticeably in the area of under-performance in the classroom.  Through the admission process, we seek to understand the obstacles that have been standing in the way of a student’s academic success. We don’t simply chalk it up to a student’s being “unmotivated.”  We look deeper.

With our applicants, we find that there is often a learning challenge affecting attention and academic stamina.  We are a school that is very intentional with structure and relationships in the classroom, and we have found success in working with students with attention deficiencies such as ADHD and ADD.  While we are not specifically a “learning differences school,” we have some very concrete approaches and interventions in place to address executive functioning issues that accompany attention issues.  Some quick examples:

  • Classroom sizes are kept small to create a relational atmosphere among students and teachers.  Class participation is ensured through an approach that does not rely solely on lecture and note-taking. Instead, various learning styles are engaged through a dynamic approach that is heavy on class discussion, team projects, and alternate assessments including presentations, oral quizzes, and visual representations of content.  Our teachers intentionally use a variety of methods to tap into multiple learning styles in each class period.
  • Additional time on tests and quizzes is the normal course of business at Oak Hill Academy.  This is accomplished seamlessly through our “8th period,” which is essentially office hours for our teachers each day.  This period can also be used to address homework deficiencies through coaching and remediation.  Not completing homework is simply not an option.
  • We offer an Applied Learning Strategies class to support daily work.  Instead of providing only a “study hall,” this class for credit is part of many students’ school day and provides specific tools to improve study habits and techniques based on individual needs.  For students for whom homework completion is a chronic issue, an after-school additional study time in the library coaches students to get better organized, and to get a jump start on their evening study hall by making preparations for using those hours more effectively.
  • The consistency across dorm life and the academic program is immensely important.  Each evening in the dorms includes mandatory study times and several targeted interventions like study room assignments and time management support.  Student accountability with homework is taken seriously, and Resident Managers are aware of all assignments and areas of academic weakness.

If your student, despite good intentions, is struggling to earn grades that more accurately reflect his or her abilities, consider Oak Hill Academy as the college prep boarding school for students needing to develop specific habits toward success.  Our curriculum is college preparatory, and offers a rigor that pushes students toward the college workload, but we are not a “sink or swim” environment.  We are very good at meeting students where they are, and guiding them as they grow. We have the ability to provide rigor and challenge as their expectations for themselves rise–for example, we offer several college credit and A.P. classes for our juniors and seniors.  We are not a remedial school. We rely instead on consistent structure, a relational approach, and as much “coaching” as “teaching” to help students find their footing and advance.

To get the conversation started, the Admission Department welcomes your phone call (276)579-2619 or email admission@oak-hill.net.

Oak Hill Academy Boarding School with immediate enrollment spaces: What is a typical day like?

One of the most frequently asked questions in my initial admission consultations with prospective families is, “What do your students do outside of the classroom?”  Boarding School is a nebulous concept for many families just starting the research phase. They know their students’ struggles, and have a decent sense of the structured boarding school setting their students need in order to make positive changes and find success–but what does that environment look like?

Today, I want to highlight a daily electronic communication we share with our students and their parents.  “Today on the Hill” is designed to help our students manage their time and keep abreast of their options, and it also gives our parents a sense of their students’ day-to-day lives on campus. (A heads-up about what’s for lunch is always welcome, too!)

Given the shortened days and the cold weather, filling non-academic time can be a challenge for a Virginia Boarding School this time of year. Even so, I’m impressed with the variety of options available to our students on any given day–options that help them stay engaged with each other and give balance to their academic lives.  All of these activities are offered outside of the traditional 7-period school day hours (8:30 am to 3:30 pm), and on most days, there is something for everyone.  Additionally, some activities are so individualized that they do not appear on the “Today on The Hill” notice.  For example, I open the music room almost daily after school for our musicians to get self-guided practice and to jam with each other. (This is super convenient as my office shares a wall with the music room!)

Please take a look at today’s edition of “Today on the Hill” pictured here to get a better sense of what is available to our students on a typical day on The Hill.  Contact us at admission@oak-hill.net  for more information and to discuss your student.  If we are encouraged, we can look at the steps for a mid-year, or next school year, consideration.

 

 

Small Boarding School in Virginia Promoting Social Skills and Community

MOUTH OF WILSON, VIRGINIA – Oak Hill Academy is a small, college preparatory, coed boarding school.  It is also an exceptionally tight-knit community.  I know this component of our school is key for many of the prospective families who find us, especially those seeking a change in social habits and skills for their student.  Our size and structure do promote a low-pressure, engaged community on campus, and this special bond often lasts well beyond high school as the shared experience connects our students in real ways.  Today, I want to briefly highlight one of the reasons for this interconnected and uniquely positive social environment found at Oak Hill Academy.

One of the most striking features of our structure is our cell phone policy and limits on internet access.  Our students have real boundaries on online gaming and social media. For the most part, they do not have their phones during the school week.  This idea often makes parents smile and prospective students frown, but we’re committed to these guidelines because they work.  The outgrowth of our policies, according to our students, includes engagement with each other; ease of academic focus with fewer distractions; and real-time, face-to-face conversations that yield a greater sense of empathy for each other. Of course they miss their phones, and it is a tough adjustment, but our students typically come to understand the benefits.

The lack of a culture of judgment is amazing on our campus.  Without the ubiquitous cell phone, our students largely talk to each other rather than about each other.  Because our student body is comprised of students seeking growth, and coming mainly from previous environments in which they were struggling, they have an attitude of support and empathy.  Oak Hill students are not hyper-competitive in the classroom, for example, preferring to study together whenever possible.  They help each other formally through our peer-tutoring program, and organically as a part of dorm life.

I’ve often pointed to our location in the beautiful–but very rural–Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia as a catalyst for community.  With no “mall across the street,” our students adopt an attitude that reflects the idea that “we are all we’ve got, so we’d better take care of each other.”  With a slew of on-campus traditions and activities, and frequent off-campus trip opportunities, our students interact in overlapping social circles that blur cliques.  With an average enrollment of 150 students, everybody has a place, and is recognized and valued.  Previously withdrawn or introverted students become, over time, more actively engaged with the people around them.  This is a place of social acceptance in an adolescent world where that is becoming increasingly hard to find.

If your boarding school considerations include a desire for social growth, I encourage you to reach out to our  Admission Department  for a conversation about your student and Oak Hill Academy’s approach.  We might be a great fit.  Please know that many of our students begin with a mid-year enrollment, seeking to salvage the current school year, so rolling admission is a big part of our campus culture.  Our students are excited to see new students (who won’t remain new very long!) when they return from the Christmas Break on January 7.  See our approach to rolling admissions.

Oak Hill Academy Boarding School with Academic Support: Closing the “Skill Gap”

Oak Hill Academy, in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, offers a unique college preparatory boarding school opportunity.  While maintaining rigor through a college prep curriculum, we specialize in helping students who need to grow into better academic habits.  Our structured environment promotes a routine that makes taking care of business an ingrained habit.  We also offer a lot of opportunity for extra help and what I call “academic coaching” through our 8th-period tutorials – essentially office hours for our teachers at the conclusion of regular school hours each day.

Our student body is comprised of intelligent students who had been “floating,” or for whom, in their previous settings, school had not yet become important.  Oftentimes, students who are naturally bright have been able to get by on innate ability until the rigor of high school (especially a college prep curriculum) catches up to them and exposes a “skill gap.”  I’m referring specifically to skills beyond natural talent or intelligence, including time management, organization, perseverance, and other fundamental study skills.  Many bright students have not been pushed to develop these skills in their current settings.

Many bright students, encountering this skill gap for the first time in their educational lives, struggle with having their identities challenged.  After all, they are supposed to be “smart,” and doing well in school is supposed to come easily to them, right?  Here’s where Oak Hill Academy is a good fit for this kind of challenge.  By focusing on a “Growth Mindset”* approach with our students, we help them make the connections between effort, intentionality, and new skill development, leading to successful outcomes.  In contrast, many struggling students have established a “Fixed Mindset,” in which they see challenges as a reflection of their abilities, and fall into the trap of believing they are not “smart enough” or don’t have what it takes to be a good student. This mindset often makes students appear, from the outside, like they are unmotivated. For students whose identities were wrapped up in academic achievement without the correlating effort, overcoming a “Fixed Mindset” is especially difficult.

Exacerbating the problem, many students who bump up against a skill gap begin to develop strategies to hide from academic challenges.  Disengagement; seeking a different, less ambitious, peer group; or an avoidance of school altogether are coping strategies we see in some of our prospective students.  It is uncomfortable to have your self-image challenged.

Oak Hill Academy has intentionally small class sizes that allow for a very relational approach.  We recognize the patterns previously described, and our faculty and staff use an individualized approach, relying on consistent academic support and coaching to help our students climb out of the “Fixed Mindset” traps in which they find themselves.  We are thereby able to successfully combine the terms “College Preparatory” and “the unmotivated student.” That makes us decidedly unique in the boarding school world.

If you are seeing your student being described in this scenario, I invite you to contact Oak Hill Academy’s Admission Office to discuss your student and to learn more about our approach as the potential Turning Point for your student.  Rolling Admission is available and consideration can be given to appropriate applicants for a mid-year enrollment if a family is looking to salvage the current school year.  We are also beginning our cycle for admission for the 2019-20 school year. You may contact the Admission Department by submitting the form below, or with a call to us at (276) 579-2619 or an email to admission@oak-hill.net.

* “Growth Mindset” has been extensively researched and introduced to the education community through the pioneering work of Dr. Carol S. Dweck of Stanford University.  See Growth Mindset:  The New Psychology of Success, 2006 

 

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