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Boarding School Benefits

Is it right for your child – and you?

November 01, 2011
Brad Davis is a proud dad from the north side of Indianapolis. His son, Nick, is a star football player and leader at his high school, but this family's story is a little different from most. When Davis wants to cheer on his son's team, he has to drive nearly three hours to do so, because Nick is one of the more than 75,000 students nationwide in boarding school.

Nick is a senior at The Howe School in Howe, Ind. Davis said he, Nick's mom and step dad felt Nick could benefit from the military school's emphasis on discipline and character building. So, three years ago, they signed him up.

"His grade point average has increased significantly. He's the co-captain of the football team and second in command in his barracks. We're all very proud that his motivation and effort are so high," Davis said.

Nick enjoys Howe, and when asked his favorite part about boarding school, he replied, "Being responsible for myself and having a head start on leading my life." Although he dislikes the separation from life at home in Indianapolis, Nick's dad tries to help by attending Nick's football games, track events and family weekends. "It's well worth it for me to stay close to Nick."

James Rosebush is the chief operating officer at Howe. He said students – or cadets as they're called – don't have a lot of time to be homesick. Each cadet is involved in sports and they're involved in governing life on campus. Nick is quick to challenge the notion that Howe is like the military reform school you'd see in movies. "No one goes out of their way here to be hard on the students. Howe is set up to allow the students to succeed and to provide the motivation to do so," he said.

Rachel Logan-Wood is a boarding school student, too. She's a sophomore at Olney Friends School in Barnesville, Ohio. "Everyone gets along so well here. I've gotten to know everyone, and I like that they treat us as adults," she said.

Olney Friends began as a school for Quaker farm families nearly 175 years ago. Kirsten Bohl, the school's director of communications, said its mission is still tied to those roots with many of its college-prep studies linked to the school's farm. Students help raise vegetables and livestock, and they work in the surrounding forest to protect a local watershed.

Lucy Hartsock is a junior at Olney Friends. Although she said it is hard being 200 miles away from her family, Hartsock talks to them often. She said she likes school despite the separation, "I get a chance to be independent, but there's still structure. My mom can trust me 100 percent."

Hartsock loves the diversity of the school, too. "The people here come from everywhere." Of the 53 students at Olney, 23 of them are from other countries. In fact, most boarding schools have diverse student populations. At Andrews Osborne Academy near Cleveland, 25 percent of the students are international students. Boarding school students also come from many economic backgrounds. According to The Association of Boarding Schools, 26 percent of students receive some financial aid to help cover tuition costs. In fact, many of the schools we talked to said cost should not keep you from considering boarding school.

The Webb School in Bell Buckle, Tenn. awards $1.2M in financial aid to its students. Marketing director, Matt Anderson, said the school is open to students in grades 6-12 and added that the kids there think it's cool to be smart. The 141-year-old co-ed school encourages students to find their academic passions and helps boost each student's self-confidence by requiring an annual public performance.

Culver Academies in Culver, Ind. is another option, located just 2.5 hours north of Indianapolis. Culver has 800 students enrolled from 41 states and 32 countries representing a wide variety of cultural, geographic, economic, ethnic and religious backgrounds. Culver has 93 faculty, 55 athletic teams, 40 clubs, an 1,800 acre campus, two ice rinks, 15-court tennis complex, a nine-hole golf course, 1,500 seat performing arts auditorium, dance studios, a Visual Arts Center, fencing and crew centers.

Mike Turnbull, director of admissions, said the size of the school's enrollment places it in the Top 5 largest boarding schools in the country. "Culver provides an experience unlike any other in private secondary school Education. Culver has two nationally recognized and distinct leadership programs for boys and girls," Turnball said.

For students who aren't working at their full potential, a boarding school can be a way for students to buckle down and focus on academics. Christina Townsend Hartz said that's one of the benefits of attending Grand River Academy in Austinburg, Ohio outside of Cleveland. The school is dedicated to helping boys who are academically underachieving. Townsend Hartz said their students receive individualized attention and learning plans and added that the rural-setting helps students avoid outside distractions.

Eagle Hill School in Hardwick, Mass. is a school for students with learning differences. Teachers here customize instruction for each student. Marketing and communications director, Ian Callahan said, "Eagle Hill's scheduling system reflects an emphasis on individuality. With the opportunity to shake things up approximately every month, students find it easier to stay interested in their daily schedule." Ninety-six percent of Eagle Hill's graduates go on to college.

These are just a few of the many boarding school options available. Chances are you can find a school that matches your child's talents, ambitions or needs. If you'd like to learn more, a good place to start your research is The Association of Boarding Schools at www.boardingschools.com.

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Amy Seng Holtzman is a freelance writer from Northern, KY. Writer, producer, mom of three. Xavier University, Class of `92 She can be reached at amyseng@aol.com.

Tags: Education, In This Issue, Parenting

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