4 character-building schools in the US, 4 pathways to academic success

Schools in the US
A holistic education is based on the idea that children should be taught in engaging and fun ways. Source: Scattergood Friends School

True learning goes beyond a competition for grades. It is also more than just about being competent in reading, counting or reciting which Mauryan religious policy changed under which Indian emperor’s progeny or explaining how Newton’s first law can be used to predict behaviour in situations. Few would reject the importance of these, but many would oppose a singular focus on them at the expense of skills like critical thinking, creativity and problem-solving. 

Experiences, within and beyond the walls of the classrooms, are some of the best teachers for grit and character. From taking on the great outdoors to going on humanitarian missions, the earlier one can start amassing them — under the guidance of trained teachers — the better. 

Henry Ford — a true Midwesterner, automotive industrialist, and world-changer — once said: “Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realise this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward.” 

Here are four US schools where young learners can succeed and fail with grace, learn from their failures and become stronger in the process.

Scattergood Friends School

Scattergood Friends School is a place where you can be who you are as you gain more than just academic credentials. This powerful combination is what sets Scattergoodians apart. Instilled with the values of hard work, integrity, and the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion, students are set to grow not just academically, but to thrive personally, with many adventures along this dynamic journey.

Schools in the US

The aim of Scattergood’s off-campus trips is to do more than just seek adrenaline. Source: Scattergood Friends School

Scattergood is a small school with small classes, but it is big on attention and accomplishments. In school, students take a college-preparatory course with progressive classes, experiential, hands-on learning, and more individualised and self-reflective assessment. All students must be accepted to a four-year college in order to graduate — armed with deep disciplinary knowledge plus a suite of critical reasoning, communication, and practical skills, they achieve this with ease.

Outside campus, they ski cross-country at Camp du Nord and in Superior National Forest near the Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota; they enjoy cozy winter cabin retreats in state parks; they backpack, canoe and camp in the Ozarks; and they even cycle for 1,300 miles from the start of the Natchez Trace in Mississippi, all the way back to Scattergood.

The aim of Scattergood’s off-campus trips is to do more than just seek adrenaline. Month-long service trips are held every spring, sometimes even in Latin America — where they stay with local families and participate in many community action activities. Their efforts have resulted in a new medical centre, more efficient cookstoves made from scratch, and clearing trails.

Campus is just as stimulating. It is located — just 15 minutes from bustling university town Iowa City and three hours from Chicago — on a 126-acre organic farm that includes a 27-acre main campus and 26 acres of restored prairie. Here, staff and students work together to care for their home. From gathering produce at its bountiful farm and cooking up a storm, to keeping campus grounds pristine — clearly, a sense of common responsibility is the beating heart that keeps this school in tip-top shape.

Scattergood was founded by Quakers in 1890 and as the above shows, its spirit of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship persist. The result? The growth of each student — body, mind, and spirit. To learn more about this inclusive, affordable and open-minded day and boarding school, click here.

Winston Salem Christian School

For over three decades, Winston Salem Christian School in North Carolina has been raising the academic bar, encouraging students to aim high and go far. Located in Forsyth County, this community is made up of 43% African American, 37% Caucasian, 13% bi-racial, 5% Hispanic, and 2% Asian students. Its diversity is a perk for all families looking for an education that broadens cultural perspectives. 

Schools in the US

Upper School students participate in a number of field trips that broaden their horizons and enhance the classroom experience. Souce: Winston Salem Christian School

From young learners in the Early Learning Centre to young adults in the Upper School –– every student here benefits from biblically-based instruction; as well as community prayer and worship sessions in weekly chapel. Across levels, the holistic approach nurtures hearts set on volunteerism. After all, the school highlights the fact that before students lead, they must serve. 

To maintain its reputation for producing high-achievers, the school offers a wide variety of AP courses for students in grade nine and up. The programme enables them to earn college credit, as does dual-enrollment, and a wide range of enrichment courses

The combination works. At Winston Salem, 63% of graduates receive scholarships to esteemed institutions such as UNC Chapel Hill, NC State, High Point University, University of Miami, and Liberty University — amongst many others. 

Apart from academics, several factors facilitate these outcomes. One of the most crucial is experiential learning. Upper School students participate in a number of field trips that broaden their horizons and enhance the classroom experience. Eighth graders get to travel to Washington DC every February. Once they join their seniors in high-school, they get to visit four different cities before graduating. Next year, the school plans to go global, with adventures lined up in London and Paris. 

San Marcos Academy

San Marcos Academy is a coeducational school for boarding students from grades six to 12 and day students from grades K to 12th. Nestled between Austin and San Antonio, in the beautiful Texas hill country, its 220-acre campus is where a unique educational experience is offered.

Schools in the US

Here, Christian students of all grades learn discipleship concepts such as worship, truth, justice, service and community. Source: San Marcos Academy

This fully-accredited Christian school offers a college preparatory curriculum designed to engage and inspire students, preparing them to not just succeed in college, but in life. This is done through the “Teaching for Transformation” curricular model which provides a framework for students to learn about God’s story while discovering their place within that story. These authentic and transformational learning experiences expose students of all grades to discipleship concepts such as worship, truth, justice, service and community. 

Athletics play a pivotal role here too. All SMA students are encouraged to get involved in sports to build values in sportsmanship, integrity, and character. The Student Recreation Organisation also hosts weekly and monthly events such as board games, karaoke, card games, arts and crafts, holiday-themed festivities and much more.

“The opportunities for leadership are extensive, and students are encouraged to get involved in campus organisations, athletics, fine arts, and service to the surrounding community,” shares president Dr. Brian N. Guenther. 

The academy offers two boarding options, the first of which is a traditional seven-day boarding programme. The second, the five-day boarding programme, was designed for families residing within a 70-mile radius of the campus. Faculty members do not just supervise and mentor, but form personal relationships with the students in their care.

Riverside Military Academy

Riverside Military Academy (RMA) is the nation’s preeminent military school for boys. Academic programmes are rigorous, athletics are competitive and discipline is strictly enforced. Make no mistake — this is an elite college-preparatory academy that prepares students for success in university and beyond. 

Schools in the US

Here, students have an unparalleled avenue to hone their creative talents through activities in visual arts, drama, music, and video production, among others. Source: Riverside Military Academy

Located on a beautiful 200-acre campus in northern Georgia, RMA is where over 500 cadets in grades six to 12, representing 30 nations and 30 states, are transforming into future leaders. The RMA Leadership Development Programme organises all cadets into a leadership structure that is modelled after a US Army Battalion hierarchy. 

This structure is the catalyst for all rank-assignments, assigned duties, subordinate/command relationships, and leadership opportunities within the Corps of Cadets. Cadets are immersed in challenging conditions which become more complex as they progress in their abilities and experience. With every challenge, they learn and implement the art and science of leadership. 

The academy’s military edge fosters courage, discipline and determination — but it is by no means its defining feature. RMA is a military school for teens unlike the rest — it’s a private school, all-boys school, and boarding school — all in one — where the heart, body, soul, and spirit are educated. Here, they have an unparalleled venue to hone their creative talents through activities in visual arts, drama, music, and video production, among others. 

As Director of Admissions Ben Allen says, “Riverside Military Academy is unique from other military schools in that it teaches students the personal values of honour, patriotism, and selflessness not only through the discipline and structure of a traditional military school environment but also through every facet of cadet life.”

*Some of the institutions featured on this article are commercial partners of Study International