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Oak Hill Academy Boarding School With a Strong Art Program: Spotlight on Dennis Wymer, Art Teacher

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.

Oak Hill Academy Boarding School – An Engaging College Prep Curriculum: Broadcast Media

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 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.

Athletic Season at Oak Hill Academy means the season of Sprains and Strains!

At Oak Hill Academy students have the opportunity to tryout for and participate in many athletic programs.  We have basketball teams, soccer, tennis, cheerleading, volleyball, horsemanship, wrestling, etc.  There are also many opportunities for physical activity outside of our organized sports teams.  Presently, the fall athletic season is in full swing. This means we are seeing a lot of sprains and strains at the Nurse’s Office. We are seeing one to three of these injuries each week.

A sprain is the stretching of ligaments surrounding a joint.  A ligament’s job is to connect two bones, providing stability to the joint during movement.  A strain is the stretching or tearing of a muscle or a tendon. A tendon is a tissue that connects the muscle to the bone, giving the muscle the ability to move the extremity.  Treatment for both of these injuries is the same.  The first and most effective treatment for these injuries is rest, ice, compression and elevation.  By doing these interventions quickly, we can prevent pain and inflammation in the affected area, allowing it to heal more quickly. We recommend wrapping the joint only for a few days.  If the joint is immobilized for longer than necessary, it could contribute to losing muscle tone in the area, making the joint more susceptible to further injuries. We also treat these injuries with ibuprofen, an over-the-counter medication that is effective in controlling pain and decreasing inflammation.

Sprains and strains usually heal in a matter of weeks and require no further treatment.  If an injury seems to be taking longer than usual to heal, or if it is worsening, we can arrange for a provider to assess it and make a recommendation.  Sometimes this includes bracing the joint, taking prescription strength anti-inflammatories, or in some cases, even physical therapy.  We are fortunate to have a very good working relationship with a talented orthopedic and sports medicine group in the area.

The staff at Oak Hill Academy is experienced in dealing with these injuries.  We typically handle 40-60 of them every year. Our physical education instructors, the coaching staff, resident managers and nursing staff all work together to help students in the treatment of these injuries.  If your child has experienced a sprain or strain, ask them if they have sought treatment from the infirmary.  If they haven’t, encourage them to do so.  We are here to help!

GOOD LUCK to all of our athletes this season! GO WARRIORS!

Thanks for reading,
Betsy Anderson, RN, BSN
Oak Hill Academy Nurse

Oak Hill Academy: Morning Devotions in a Christian Boarding School

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


From the Director of Student Affairs…Settling In

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.  September begins this Saturday, and the past week has been a blur as we help students settle in to a new environment and routine.

As the Director of Student Affairs, I would like to speak specifically to the residential life side of campus.  Coming to Oak Hill is quite an adjustment for many of our students, and as Dr. Groves prophesied, there will be bumps along the way.  They are away from home, away from family and friends, in an unfamiliar environment, and surrounded by mountains for miles in every direction.  We ask them to relinquish their cell phones, limit technology, and be in their dorms by 8:30 at night.  We expect them to be on time for assembly in the mornings, and dressed a certain way.  We ask them to speak respectfully, and work out conflicts with their roommates.

In the first few weeks the novelty of being here will wear off, and what is left is our mission:  to provide students with the opportunity for a new environment, a turning point, and to both challenge and encourage them in this journey.  I am at Oak Hill because I believe in our mission, I believe in our staff, and our 140 years of experience guiding and supporting adolescents on their journey to adulthood.  For me, it is that balance of challenging and encouraging that is so critical.  We work to build relationships and community in the context of structure and high expectations.

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, be patient, and have confidence in the fact that we have been doing this a long time.

Of course, life at Oak Hill is not all hard and full of structure.  I have enjoyed hearing the constant sounds from the weight room and gym, seeing groups of students laughing on the store porch, and walking in the dorms to see students sketching artwork or playing guitar.  New friendships are forming, and I see students stepping out of their comfort zones and trying new things.

Last Sunday we had a picnic outside the gym at the amphitheater.  Students scattered over the grass lawn, and sat talking for more than an hour as the sun went down.  Oak Hill is a special place, a challenging place, and our mission is for it to be a place of new beginnings and new opportunities.

I will be sending periodic updates about residential life on “The Hill,” and please look for my monthly blog on the website.  Welcome to the beginning of a great year!

–Aaron Butt, Director of Student Affairs


From A Student’s Perspective: First Impressions of Boarding School Life at Oak Hill Academy

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.



Contact Information

Oak Hill Academy
2635 Oak Hill Rd.
Mouth of Wilson, Virginia 24363

Phone Number  276-579-2619

Administrative Office Fax Number  276-579-4722

Academic Office Fax Number  276-579-2618

Ms. Cyndie Richardson

Director of Student Affairs
Mr. Aaron Butt

Director of Girls’ Resident Life
Mrs. Katherine Crede

Director of Boys’ Resident Life
Mr. Gary Crede

Director of Financial Affairs
Mrs. Rhonda Bowen

Student Expense Accounts
Mrs. Paula Phelps

Student Tuition Accounts
Mrs. Laura Phipps

Transportation Coordinator
Mrs. Regina Cooper

Director of Counseling
Mrs. Joy Groves

Academy Nurse
Mrs. Betsy Anders
Mrs. Anita Perkins

For additional contact info., visit the Faculty & Staff Directory.