You probably remember that giddy feeling—maybe a year ago, maybe 18 years ago—when you found out you (or your child) had been accepted to Sage Hill School. The future members of the Class of 2023 are experiencing that excitement right now. Of course, not all of the students we accept are certain they will attend Sage Hill School. That’s why we offer our Accepted Student Day and Accepted Parent Evening this month to help families make the critical decision that will shape a young person’s next four years, and even their lifetime.
Many important factors play into that decision. Of course one of the first factors prospective families notice is our spectacular hillside campus with exceptional academic, arts, and athletics facilities. They will consider our programming, perhaps appreciating the intriguing curriculum for students of all levels, extensive choices of clubs and sports, and our signature programs like Spring at Sage, Service Learning, and the Sage Hill Internship Program. All of that is important. But I think even more important than campus facilities or the nitty-gritty details of the four-year program is the people—the other students, the faculty and staff, the broader community, and the countless connections a student will make over the span of their time here.
People first, then places and things
When students visit Sage Hill, I believe the most important thing for them to do is look around, not at the place or the things, but at the people. Look into the eyes of other students and see how engaged they are, whether in a classroom discussion, a robotics meeting, a foosball game at lunchtime, or a rehearsal. Do they look happy, stimulated, and eager to participate? Look into the eyes of the teachers. Notice how they present material in a way that connects with students. Look at everyone, the groups of diverse individuals, see how they interact, and notice how they collectively create a sense of community. My greatest hope is for prospective students to consider whether or not they can envision themselves as part of this community. Conducting an experiment in our science labs? Yes. Playing lacrosse on Ramer Field? Sure. Singing in the Black Box Theater? Absolutely. But those activities don’t happen in a vacuum. Students must decide if our community seems like a fit—a place where they will grow not just as inquisitive scholars but as leaders, athletes, artists, and friends. That happens not because of a class or a game or a performance. It happens because of the people in the class or on the team or in the choir. Our human connections shape our experiences.
Setting up our freshmen for success
Knowing this, we set up our freshmen to make meaningful connections from the very start of their Sage Hill experience. The first day can be scary, even for students who arrive knowing others from their previous schools. That’s why we have an orientation day in advance where student leaders, peer counselors, administrators and advisors give incoming students the lowdown on everything, from expectations and school culture to finding the restroom. Students meet their advisory group—the 8–10 other freshmen who will become their family of sorts—led by a faculty or staff advisor. Through all of these connections, they begin forging friendships that will last for four years and beyond. They also know who to turn to for academic or personal advice, confident in the knowledge that someone is looking out for them.
Our opening convocation on the first school day reinforces the welcoming tone, ending with an enormous group hug. In mid-September, freshmen attend the 3-day retreat, participating in formal and informal activities in the local mountains that further promote connections throughout the class. By October, they’ve signed up for clubs, teams, and other co-curricular activities that inspire additional connections with fellow students who share their interests. By Thanksgiving, they likely know the names of most if not all of the students in their class. And by the end of the first semester, they leave for Winter Break knowing that this is where they belong. With strong connections formed amongst their peers and the adult members of our community, school becomes a place where it’s safe to be yourself, and also to take risks. To speak up in class or try a new activity, to run for office or form a club, to travel abroad or apply for an internship.
The reality is, we have many excellent high school options here in Orange County. All will prepare a student for college, albeit in somewhat different ways. But Sage Hill isn’t just a high school. It’s a multifaceted experience designed to transform lives, inspire curiosity, and cultivate leaders. Within a caring community where everyone is interconnected, each student follows a unique journey of personal discovery. I look forward to connecting with future members of the Class of 2023 this month!