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
Having a working artist as a teacher is a powerful thing. The Oak Hill Academy visual arts program, under the direction of Dennis Wymer, regularly produces students who go on to an art major or attend some of the best art schools in the nation. Oak Hill Academy graduates can be found at VCUarts, Parsons New School of Design, and a host of college and university art departments. Currently, the art program at Oak Hill Academy offers painting and printmaking, a graphic design class, drawing, a 3-dimension course including sculpting, an AP art studio class, and several independent study opportunities. In addition to teaching art, Mr. Wymer also started and coaches the wrestling team at Oak Hill Academy–he seems to have boundless energy!
Mr. Wymer recently explained, “My passions for art and wrestling actually make sense if you understand that my approach to both is in building. I believe making art is about building–constantly adding new layers of understanding of technique and observation. It’s the same with wrestling: it’s about building on technique and understanding of the craft. Art, to me, is not about the pursuit of perfection, it’s about building your abilities and understanding with the goal of creating better and better representations of your vision.” Recently, Wymer was selected from a large applicant pool to participate in a commercial art project with Sheetz, Inc. and has done much of his work on this project in front of his students as they work on their own projects. He comments, “I think it has been helpful for our students to see and understand the commercial applications of art. I do art because I love it. Opportunities like this allow me the financial ability to continue to pursue my passion in art. The thought of sharing my art and particular vision on a large scale is both humbling and thrilling.”
Our students are also encouraged to share their creations as our students regularly display to the public through our close work with the Chestnut Creek School of the Arts in Galax, Virginia. This association allows our students to rub shoulders with the vibrant art scene of this area and to receive feedback.
Our students and their teacher share in the creative energy and examples of technique on display as Wymer works on his own pieces. He was recently profiled for his work with Sheetz, a popular and iconic brand of gas station/coffee shop/convenience stores throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States. We are very proud that he is representing Oak Hill Academy through his success in the commercial art world and would like to share a video detailing his work with Sheetz and his approach to teaching, and making, art.
I’m excited to share the first project from our brand new Broadcast Media Class under the direction of Mr. Doan. This class serves many needs for our students in providing hands-on, 21st Century skills, and firing their creative energies. The students introduced in the video below will produce content and broadcast campus events and games that will help our current parents, many of whom lives thousands of miles away and in other countries, feel more connected to experiences on The Hill. We are excited by this new course addition, which along with our new 21st Century Journalism Class, reflect our commitment to providing a relevant, engaging, college-preparatory curriculum for our students.
In admissions, I’m always looking for ways to introduce prospective students and their families to our students. “Who” we are is just as impressive as “What” we are as a school. This first project, under the direction of Will ’20, gives an overview of the class’ goals and a behind the scenes look at their process. It also highlights the personalities our students bring to our campus. We are all looking forward to the content coming out of this new course offering. Tune into http://www.ohaevents.com/Home to follow live and archived broadcasts of campus events throughout the school year. Lights. Cameras. Action!
Oak Hill Academy Students Explore Christian Ethics Applied to Real World Issues in a Boarding School Setting
Recently, Rev. Dr. Doug Turnmire shared a report his students recently completed as part of a Christian Ethics class project. New among the Religion classes offered within our Social Studies Department, “Christian Ethics” offers an opportunity to intersect the issues facing our world today with the ethical considerations found in Christianity. Christian Ethics students (mostly seniors in this inaugural class) are further pushed to consider ways to use their insights in applications to the boarding school community in which they live. This pursuit often results in tangible efforts on campus, such as contributing to our Oak Hill Academy Sustainability Initiative. Or, it can be the genesis of new clubs and campus activities serving as an outlet for student involvement. The recent Ethics class report that follows is a great example of this endeavor. The report concludes with a list of several recommendations for our campus Leadership group to consider:
Plastics: part of a looming crisis easily ignored
Christian Ethics, a new course this year at Oak Hill Academy, briefly explored the use of plastics in our society, and discovered that this ubiquitous invention of human ingenuity is becoming a threat to the survival of life on Earth. Pieces of plastic are now evident everywhere on the planet, from the Arctic to Antarctica, from the depths of the ocean to the top of Mt. Everest. Plastic trash is found in the guts of more than 90% of sea birds and half of the world’s sea turtles. Even whales have suffocated from plastic in their respiratory systems. The oceans have vast areas of floating plastic islands estimated at 270,000 tons swirling around, threatening the life of marine species. Plastic is cited as playing a role in the rising rate of species extinctions.
The problem with plastic is that it is not biodegradable, and the chemicals from plastics leach into the ecosystems in which we and all the creatures of the Earth live. Even mosquitoes appear to have micro bits of plastic in their systems, injecting these bits of plastic in all the animals and humans they bite. The question is, will plastic outlast humanity’s existence? One source predicts that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean within the next thirty years.
We have a hard time thinking of plastic as a problem because of how intertwined the substance is with our existence, our economy, our everyday expectations. We carry disposable bottles everywhere because they are so cheap to make (2.2 cents each), easy to carry, do not spill with their nice little caps, and can be thrown away without thinking about it. Judging from just our thoughts in class, most of us probably do not think of the effect of plastic on the environment because we are not aware of the impact, or we think there is plenty of wildlife, land, and ocean, so how can what I do make an impact? Especially if I do not know where all the plastic goes after I toss it in a trash can.
With such dependency on plastic, the norm of using plastic and not thinking about the impact is enormous. Sixty-five percent of Americans do not even recycle. From our simple, first-glance research, most Americans shrug off the concern and see recycling as too much work; it is easier to put everything in a trash bin rather than consciously choose a recycling bin. Additionally, the U.S. does not have a universal recycling code or process, with variations of what is and isn’t recycled occurring among states, or even within counties of the same state. The norm seems to be: when “trash” is out of sight, it is out of mind. Seeing something disposable as being trash rather than a recyclable resource appears to be a hardened mindset.
Some change is being made concerning plastic use. California became the first state to enact legislation imposing a state-wide ban on single-use plastic bags. Internationally, Bangladesh was the first country in the world to ban certain types of thin plastic bags in 2001. To promote more change, the Marine Plastic Pollution Research and Control Act in the U.S. requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) to study the effects of improper disposal of plastics on the environment and seek methods to reduce or eliminate such adverse effects.
The conclusion we drew from our brief investigation of such a large issue is that plastic is unavoidable and we cannot simply recycle our way out of the contamination it poses in our environment. We must seek thoughtful ways to lessen our plastic use. Additionally, extensive and ongoing education and awareness of the plastic issue is necessary if we want to unclog our future from plastic pollution catastrophe. To simply ignore the issue is to ignore the impact plastic is having now–and will continue to have for future generations.
Our class compiled a list of recommendations for our local environment, Oak Hill Academy:
1. Our motto is “The Turning Point.” We recommend our school consciously educate and advocate for a turn toward ecological awareness.
2. Continue to advocate recycling, with the knowledge that recycling is not the only answer.
3. Take out the one-use plastic bags from the Campus Store. New students will not know the difference and returning students will adjust.
4. Sell reusable shopping bags and reusable water bottles in the Campus Store.
5. Eliminate the sale of single-use, disposable plastic bottles.
6. Implement a 5-year plan to install water refill stations (like the one on the upper floor of the school building) in all the dorms, at the Campus Store, and at the other water fountain areas in the school building. Just as the school installed generators over a period of time to make student life better during power outages, let us install water refill stations to encourage ecological awareness while giving students access to better-tasting water.
7. Continue raising awareness of ecological issues in various classroom subject areas.
Oak Hill Academy is the college prep boarding school for students needing a reset, a fresh start, and an opportunity to change their direction. I’m often asked why Oak Hill Academy admits students throughout the year. The answer is straightforward: Making a big change, such as attending boarding school, requires a difficult decision–one that is made with a lot of emotion, and, in many cases, reluctance. And this decision is often made outside of neat, traditional deadlines.
Perhaps your student has not gotten off to the start that they (and you) had hoped for this school year. There may be some angst at the reappearance of old patterns: distractions, peer group influences, family dynamics, or classroom environments that stand in the way of success. You may be ready now to consider a new approach.
Oak Hill Academy is full of successful students who began with us beyond the traditional start dates. These students have come to the realization that the right boarding school fit is an opportunity, not a punishment. Our mission as a school is to offer a Turning Point opportunity through structure, small classes, relationships, and responsibility. This means that we are good at meeting students where they are, and helping them grow into stronger, more prepared, versions of themselves. That’s the Turning Point we talk about.
If you are considering or revisiting the idea of boarding school, this is a good time to look closely at Oak Hill Academy as a potentially great fit. Contact our Admission Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (276) 579-2619.
From time to time, I will share homeroom devotions to the blog. I get a lot of questions regarding Oak Hill Academy’s approach to community, spirituality, and encouragement. Homeroom devotions represent a great opportunity to illustrate our approach with our students—structure balanced with genuine investment; academic growth complemented with character growth; and personal growth coupled with the opportunity to grow spiritually. Please see below the transcript from a devotion one of our administrators delivered in homeroom recently, during the first week of school.
— M. Rodgers, Director of Admission
It is not routine for me to speak in homeroom. But I feel compelled to share something from the heart this morning. A lot of us may not be ready to receive something from the heart at 8:30 in the morning, but I’ll do it anyway.
You will hear, and have heard, a lot about the need for patience as you settle in at Oak Hill Academy. Your teachers and coaches have told you to “trust the process.” You can’t measure the kind of success and growth you’ve come here for in a week or two. Oak Hill Academy doesn’t “hypnotize” you into success—you have to take a role in this. Studies show that it takes 21 days to form a new habit, so the first month of school here is tough. You’re forming a lot of new habits. Here’s the deal: We are providing the structure and support; your effort and attitude is the “X factor.”
Regarding patience, one area where I encourage you to NOT be patient is with your attitude. Life is not something that just “happens” to you…you have a big say in the outcome through your attitude. Attitude is a choice. Don’t wait for Oak Hill Academy to change your attitude…Decide. Now. Own it.
Pro tips from someone who once sat in your chair: Do not confuse discomfort with unhappiness. We are all outside our comfort zones in this mission–it’s a big change. Do be patient with the people around you; they are going through discomfort too. Discomfort makes us do things and say things we normally wouldn’t do or say. Discomfort exposes our weaknesses. Be good to the people around you and you’ll feel more in control of your emotions. This can change our habits regarding challenges.
This next point may resonate with only one person in this room, but I’ll say it anyway. You may feel disoriented right now. That’s you bumping up against areas of weakness. Everyone here has decided on some level to be here to grow. There is discomfort in being asked to care about the little things. These things that seem “little” to you right now, like uniforms, making your bed, full sentences in English class, showing your work in math class—we emphasize the little things because we know from life experience that success is as much about the little “have to’s” as it is about the big “want to’s” in life.
Each new chapter in your life demands a new, better version of yourself. Being here is a new chapter for you, and that is creating the discomfort you are going through. Becoming a better version of yourself involves some uneasiness. I’ll close with an important thought from Mother Teresa, the “Saint of Calcutta.” How many people here know of Mother Teresa? If you don’t have your hand up, I encourage you to “Google” her. She has a lot to say about ATTITUDE:
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
-this version is credited to Mother Teresa
As a new feature, our 21st-Century Journalism Class will be submitting guest blog posts throughout the school year. The first in this series is from Ian R. who shares his impressions of the first few days as an Oak Hill Academy student. It may resonate with your student, as the thought of boarding school can be intimidating or even downright scary. We look forward to sharing our students’ perspectives with you through this forum!
— M. Rodgers, Director of Admission
Upon moving to Oak Hill from my hometown of Oxford, North Carolina, I was nervous at first. This was my first time attending a boarding school. I was completely unaware of what my experience was going to be like. I had previously attended a small private day school for about five years. My parents and I decided to have me attend a boarding school because we thought it would be a great way for me to transition to college. I actually was open to this idea, partially because I wanted to get out of my old school.
I actually stayed at OHA for the first time in the summer of 2018 for the short, 5-week summer session. When it was over, I stayed home for about a month before coming back to OHA for the fall. The drive here was relatively long, over three hours. I was actually very nervous about being away from my home and my family for such a long time. During my first few days here, I was surprised to discover how friendly the kids were. Students said “hello,” introduced themselves, and asked me how I was doing.
This was something that I had never experienced before to this extent in my previous schools. I was rather impressed with how polite all the other students seemed to be. I was also really impressed with the leadership here. All the teachers and staff at Oak Hill take a strong stance against drug and alcohol possession. I was also glad they take a strong stance against smoking and sexual harassment. I now believe I am very privileged to attend OHA. It has turned out to be far better than I had first imagined.
Oak Hill Academy’s nationally prestigious basketball program, along with its soccer, tennis and volleyball programs, are supported by a top-notch strength and conditioning team of Consultant Micah Kurtz and Strength and Conditioning Coach Bryan Meagher. Two years ago, Coach Kurtz was recognized as the nation’s High School Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year by the NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association). He is also a two-time South Carolina Strength Coach of the Year for his outstanding work with A.C. Flora High School in Columbia. He currently works full-time with athletes at Windemere Prep in Florida. Bryan Meagher is entering his 18th year at Oak Hill Academy serving additionally as the top assistant Gold Team basketball coach and Advanced Fitness teacher.
Recently, both were named to Coach & AD Magazine’s “40 Under 40 List” of the most influential professionals in the coaching industry nationwide (see full article here). Coach Kurtz is recognized for being a highly sought-after presenter who has worked clinics in China and throughout the U.S. as a Subject Matter Expert for the NSCA. (see a profile on Coach Kurtz done by Stack Magazine here). Coach & AD cites Coach Meagher’s key contributions to several national championships for the Oak Hill Academy basketball team during his tenure, as well as his development of dozens of Oak Hill Academy players who have gone on to great major college careers and professional success in the NBA and Euro League.
Each year, the duo is responsible for creating the culture and sports-specific individualized and team workouts that help Oak Hill Academy students and athletes transform their bodies. For a glimpse at the no-nonsense, high energy, functional strength and conditioning approach used, please see the short video below. Coach Meagher’s daily sessions in “The Lab” look a lot like this every day:
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself as the Director of Student Affairs at Oak Hill Academy, and welcome you to our community. The past few days have been a blur here on campus as we help the students settle in to a new environment for the summer school session.
As the Director of Student Affairs, I wanted to speak directly to the residential side of life here at Oak Hill. For many students, learning how to adjust to a new setting takes time, and comes with plenty of challenges – getting used to not having cell phones, limited internet access, bedtime curfews, quiet time and academic time, dealing with a roommate, figuring out where to sit at lunch, who to hang out with in the afternoons, how to do laundry, and on and on and on. We believe that while these are often hard things, they are good things. They set Oak Hill apart as a refuge in the midst of a chaotic adolescent world. We strongly believe that the routines, the systems, the structures that Oak Hill provides – these things work.
Even in a five-week summer school session, there will be speedbumps, and you may already be hearing about those from your son or daughter. It is normal to be homesick, to struggle with focus, to wish that they were back at home in these summer months, even though they know Oak Hill is the best place for them right now. We want you to know that we acknowledge the sacrifice you all have made to send your child here, and we take that responsibility very seriously. If you have concerns or questions, please let us know. We also ask that you trust us, and trust that we have been working with students for a long time.
Of course, life at Oak Hill is not all hard and full of structure. I have enjoyed spending my afternoons with students swimming down at the lake, playing volleyball and basketball in the gym, and board games in the cafeteria. This afternoon we plan on taking a hike in nearby Grayson Highlands State Park.
Oak Hill is a special place, a challenging place, and our mission is for it to be a place of new beginnings, new opportunities, and a turning point. Welcome to Summer School 2018, and please feel free to reach out to me if you have questions, concerns, or just want to hear how your son or daughter is doing. One week is almost over, and time is already flying by!
Director of Student Affairs
With Oak Hill Academy’s 95% college acceptance rate over the last 12 years, we are squarely positioned in the college prep boarding school market. However, it is our unique approach, and emphasis on personal growth, that makes Oak Hill Academy stand out from the crowd. Our ideal student fit is one in which growth is the goal. Families often find us when their student’s challenges center on needing to address issues of confidence (often showing up as a lack of motivation) and finding renewed excitement about an academic future, including college preparation. Today, let’s talk a little about how Oak Hill Academy is intentional in an approach that fosters a return to motivation, positivity and a growth mindset.
- Our classroom size is often the game changer for students. With an average size of 10 students per classroom, the environment is much less intimidating, and promotes relationships between teachers and their students. In these small-group classrooms, students are also more comfortable asking questions and finding their voices through participation in class discussion.
- Overwhelmingly, students are choosing to attend Oak Hill Academy to grow. They are coming here to redefine themselves and change their paths. Most of our students are not happy with how school has been going for them, so they come to us seeking a new approach that either addresses a learning style or learning difference, or an issue with school anxiety that has made success in their current school elusive. This means that our students are not judgmental of each other. Neither do they feel that they have to hide or avoid challenges. There is an overriding attitude here that we are all stepping outside our comfort zones in order to grow–and that’s okay! This attitude shows up in the way our students like to study together, and they share a non-competitive spirit of encouragement in our school building.
- Our teachers understand that our students are in need of being built up. Our approach is not to water down our academics. Instead, our relationships allow us to push students past their self-imposed limits in a very personal way. Tutorials and extra help are the norm here. We believe that once a student tastes success and connects positive habits with academic achievement, they want more of it. And in turn, they come to expect more from themselves. Many of our upperclassmen are taking college credit or AP classes, after beginning their enrollment with us missing that kind of aspiration. I’ve come to view this phenomenon as evidence of how our students grow while at Oak Hill Academy.
Please see Hannah’s story below to see what this kind of growth looks like:
If you are looking for a boarding school option to address your student’s issues of self confidence or motivation, I invite you to look closer at Oak Hill Academy. We view this kind of student as 100% “mission appropriate,” and I would welcome the opportunity to discuss your goals for a great boarding school fit. Please reach out to the Admission Department through an inquiry form https://www.oak-hill.net/admission/ or an email email@example.com, or simply pick up the phone and call (276) 579-2619. We are happy to show you our personal approach.
For the current generation of adolescents, anxiety issues are becoming THE biggest obstacle to being able to function at a high level, according to many mental health reports. According to a recent Small Boarding School Association presentation given by James Madison University’s A. Renee Staton, Ph.D., LPC, the trends are notable:
- 25% of children ages 13-18 have mild to moderate anxiety.
- Anxiety in children and teens often overlaps with depression.
- Anxiety is among the earliest of developing pathologies.
Before we talk about where this anxiety seems to be coming from, let’s look at its effects in the context of the families who reach out to Oak Hill Academy seeking a new approach for their students. Anxiety often has a significant detrimental effect on academic performance, which echoes into a student’s self-image. As studies have long indicated, students need to feel secure in themselves before they can most effectively tackle cognitive tasks or worry about personal growth. Where there is insecurity or anxiety, there often is an academic downturn. If not addressed, poor performance rather quickly looks like a lack of motivation. It’s important to remember that this “motivation issue” very often has real roots in an environment full of anxiety-producing circumstances: large classrooms where struggles go unnoticed; gaming as a path to self worth; social media feeds that present unsustainable lifestyles and evoke unhealthy comparisons; being the target of mean-spirited social media comments that cut to the quick and make kids feel exposed, to name a few. Looking for a new environment (and often a new peer group) is what spurs families to begin investigating boarding school options.
Why does Oak Hill Academy stand out in a boarding school search like this?
Size: Our size makes us unique in the boarding school world. With an average enrollment of 150 students, and a class size average of 10, our size is conducive to a low-pressure social environment. Everyone knows everyone.There are so many overlapping circles of friends that cliques disappear. And, except for our basketball program (which is highly competitive), competition for a place in clubs, sports, and activities like drama and music is at a minimum. Students become less reluctant to try new things, and pursuing a special interest engenders confidence that crosses over into other areas. In our small classes, teachers are able to address different learning styles and facilitate class discussions beyond just lecturing. Relationships flourish because our teachers interact more personally with each student, and the students are able to be much more collaborative. The difference can be as basic as a student having more courage to raise their hand in a small class. Our size and relational approach also means that we know each other well and our faculty and staff can spot needs quickly and reach out with support on those inevitable tougher days. Nobody gets “lost” at Oak Hill Academy.
Growth: Everyone is choosing to attend Oak Hill Academy for the same basic reason: to grow. Most obviously, the growth is academic, but for many of our students this includes social and personal growth. With everyone focusing on self-improvement, there is a lot less pressure and competition in our classrooms and dorms. Our students would much rather study together and have each other do well than to compete for a class ranking. As students find their footing and confidence, they feel good about how they are doing and become encouraging to each other. After years of needing (and often not receiving) support in a classroom setting, many of our students are extremely proud to be in a position to give support. This phenomenon is transformative. Peer tutoring, both through our formal program and through the social network of dorm living, is a big part of the picture at Oak Hill Academy. Socially, as each student is working on their own growth, we become more forgiving of each other, and do not give up on each other. Our college prep community fosters new feelings of acceptance, belonging, and competence.
Routine: Oak Hill’s structured environment includes scheduled study time each evening, daily extra help sessions, and office hours for teachers, which means that our students can establish a healthy routine. Routine is often the catalyst for stress reduction for our students. Having the safety valve of knowing that our teachers are not only willing, but scheduled, to provide extra help is an immediate stress-reliever. This shoulder-to-shoulder time, called “8th period,” is a game changer. It’s where relationships are deepened, strategies are learned, and confidence is found. There is as much coaching going on here as teaching.
Cell phone and social media limits: Our structure includes healthy boundaries on cell phone and internet use that, over time, provides substantial stress relief. Our cell phone policy (weekends only) and filtered internet access (no social media) most definitely makes us stand out in stark contrast to other college prep boarding schools. Initially, most of our students worry that reduced access to social media and the world of texting will cause MORE stress–you know, the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). For some students, our limits remain the biggest single obstacle to seeing the bigger picture of opportunity that Oak Hill Academy offers. Here’s what actually happens is almost every case: Life becomes simpler, face-to-face conversations become more meaningful, and relationships become deeper and more supportive. There is less judgment to deal with, and students can be themselves without having to present an image or compete with other people’s images. It is a breath of fresh air for our anxious students. And they can now focus on the important tasks of taking care of business, caring about their grades, and discovering new interests.
If your family is looking for a boarding school option where addressing your student’s stress or anxiety is part of the goal, we welcome your call. Please continue to look closely at our school’s website and reach out to discuss your student with our Admission Office. If we are encouraged that Oak Hill is a potential fit, we can then look toward a campus visit very soon. Our upcoming summer school session (June 18-July 20) offers a great opportunity to see students on campus during the break between school years.