Oak Hill Blog

Student Sense of Belonging at Oak Hill Academy

All boarding schools will tout a “family feel,” and most do have that.  It’s a hallmark of boarding school to live closely with others and to share a common experience that leads to forming strong relationships — there is a lot to bond over in a boarding school.  So, how do extracurriculars help students feel a sense of belonging and inclusion at Oak Hill?

On tours, I often pull our current students into conversations with prospective families.  I always ask, “What are you famous for at Oak Hill Academy?” After a short chuckle, the answer comes in the form of an exciting story about an activity that the student has surprised themselves by getting passionate about.  With our intentionally small enrollment, we are able to encourage students to try new things or, in some cases, to revisit a passion they had put down at some earlier point in their school careers.  

This results in a cheerleading team full of students who would never have tried this in their previous large, socially competitive schools.  Or, a volleyball team that combines experienced players with those just learning the game.  Our school play is full of budding actors who would likely never have had the nerve or inclination to try if they did not feel part of that crowd in their previous school setting.  In a small school, participation is welcome because we need each other. Student inclusion is integral to every extracurricular or interest a member of our community might pursue.

Occasionally, this inclusion and chance to be celebrated comes through an unexpected event.  Our home room typically ends each day with a trivia question or mention, usually announced by our Dean of Students.  Recently, it was “National Rubik’s Cube Day,” not something on many people’s radar.  

Each grade level was asked, on the spot, to provide a representative to come to the front of the Chapel to compete in a friendly Rubik’s solving contest.  I watched as one of the shyest and reserved members of the 8th and 9th grade cohort was nudged by his classmates to go to the front.  Within about 4 minutes, the student triumphantly raised the solved cube, and I watched as our student body rose to celebrate with him.  All-American basketball stars, cheerleaders, talented musicians, and artists – students who are regularly celebrated -took genuine joy in celebrating him.  

Scenes like this have been repeated countless times over the years here at Oak Hill Academy as students take pride in answering the question “What are you famous for at Oak Hill?” 
What other activities are students getting passionate about at Oak Hill? Learn more by exploring our activities & clubs.

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