Oak Hill Academy was founded in 1878 as a Baptist mission school in rural southwest Virginia, and over the years our Christian roots have continued to be an important part of the school. When prospective families tour our campus, we are often asked, “How do your beliefs influence the way you operate?”
Great question. First, Oak Hill has students from all around the world, with a wide range of beliefs and faith backgrounds. We are proud of our diversity, and tout it as one of our greatest strengths. We currently have students from thirteen countries and twenty-seven states, from urban and rural areas, students who are Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, and atheist. We see this as an opportunity to share with students, through our actions, what it means to be people of faith – to be people who love each other, who practice patience, kindness, humility, self-control, people who practice the teachings of Jesus. Our goal is not to indoctrinate our students, but to expose them to our beliefs, and in the process they expose us to theirs. We can model what it means to live in a diverse community, and respect each other.
Second, we believe in the value of helping our young people explore questions of purpose and meaning, and practice compassion. Each morning at the schoolwide assembly that starts our day, our chaplain, a staff member, or even a student gives a brief devotion or inspirational word, and we have a prayer. We are certainly guided by biblical principles, and we try to embody what it means to not judge, and to have a spirit of empathy. We give students opportunities to serve, both on campus and in the surrounding community – volunteering at animal shelters, collecting food for those in need, and helping out at the local elementary school and community festivals.
Each Sunday all of our student body joins with Young’s Chapel Baptist Church, a church which sits right next to our campus, for their Sunday morning service. We require students to attend, but we do not expect them to believe certain things, or recite certain things. We join with the local community, and participate in their expression of belief. Time and again we have alumni return to campus and express the value in their lives of those Sunday services – they may have attended grudgingly during their time as a student, but were able to see a group of people who loved and served and cared for those around them.
Oak Hill Academy continues to be a unique environment – a place where we hope students are able to see us honestly wrestle with our faith, try to walk out our beliefs in action, and learn how to live in community with people from all backgrounds. Where else? I am pretty sure, only in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia.
Director of Student Affairs