4 US schools where mental health and wellbeing are as important as academic excellence

Source: Hebron Academy
Source: Hebron Academy

The pandemic has had devastating impacts on learning across the globe. Though schools are slowly reopening everywhere, both students and educators are struggling to deal with their mental health and wellbeing all while making up for loss of instructional time.

Institutions all over the world are beginning to realise that traditional education just won’t cut it if they are to motivate their students who are returning to campus. In order to address such challenges, a holistic curriculum that recognises the importance of factors beyond academic excellence — mental and physical wellness, creating a sense of belonging, preparation for life beyond campus — is needed.

In the US, four schools are spearheading this movement and placing mental health and wellbeing front and centre of their curriculums — alongside rigorous academics.

Hebron Academy

Source: Hebron Academy

Hebron Academy students develop their minds, bodies, hearts, and voices in every programme, every class, and every experience. Source: Hebron Academy

Hebron Academy is among the oldest endowed boarding schools in the US, chartered in 1804. From its beginning, Hebron has been an inclusive, supportive educational community that values individuality and respects individual differences. For more than two centuries, its mission and core values have remained consistent with the school’s original charter – that students be taught liberal arts and sciences and educated to revere life and to respect and honour individuality.

At Hebron, students develop their minds, bodies, hearts, and voices in every programme, every class, and every experience, and they see a return for the rest of their lives. Physical, social, and emotional health drive everything the school accomplishes. Through a comprehensive liberal arts curriculum complemented by a range of electives, it develops students who have a breadth of knowledge, greater understanding of themselves, and unbounded confidence ensuring lifelong curiosity and success.

At Hebron Academy, its robust Academic Guidance Centre and health and wellness department meet students where they are – not trying to fit them into a preconceived box of what they think they should be. Graduates leave Hebron well-prepared for higher education in top colleges and universities across the globe.

Church Farm School

Source: Church Farm School

Church Farm School offers a holistic and community-based education. Source: Church Farm School

Located in Exton, Pennsylvania, 30 miles west of Philadelphia, Church Farm School is a private, college preparatory boarding and day school for boys in grades nine to 12. Here, the values of respect, responsibility, integrity and brotherhood permeate — continuing its founding mission of ensuring bright young men of good character have access to a world-class education. And they do — 100% of graduates go on to attend leading universities every year.

Young men of all faiths, ethnicities and socioeconomic statuses are welcomed to this school often found on the “top” of many schools’ lists, including Most Beautiful Private School in Pennsylvania (Architectural Digest 2018), top 10 Chester County High Schools (Main Line Today 2021) and Top 10 Boarding Schools in PA (Niche 2022).

Here, young men can pursue a rigorous and engaging academic programme at an unusually accessible cost. Boarding and day rates here are well lower than its competitors while offering the same level of rigour and facilities. Students of all incomes, including some middle- and upper-income families, can apply for financial aid options, as well.

Recently, the school completed its campus modernisation project. Many CFS spaces are revitalised and modernised, creating a more collegiate feel and including a state-of-the-art Centre for the Arts. To unlock your child’s potential at CFS, click here.

The Vanguard School

Source: The Vanguard School/Facebook

The Vanguard School is dedicated to unlocking the potential in each student. Source: The Vanguard School/Facebook

The Vanguard School is certainly not short of zeal and teaching talent to realise its mission: to help guide students in the development of their character and academic potential through academically rigorous, content-rich educational programmes. This is where individualised, purposeful, and academically-oriented education meets a safe, supportive, and compassionate community.

Here, learning is tailored to each student’s needs. Students are tested during admissions, as they enter each academic year, and collectively in the last term of school in April. Currently, the school has students with IQ levels from 70 to 140. 

“By emphasising individualised attention within the context of a small classroom environment, Vanguard provides for the academic, social, and personal growth of each student,” explains Head of School Shannon Graves.

The Vanguard School offers independent, coeducational, boarding and day education, catered to students in grades six to 12. Each student receives an individualised curriculum, bolstered by an 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio, small classes and technology to keep them engaged. 

The 77-acre campus is home to 120 students and supports outdoor activities all year round. Here, teamwork, sportsmanship, and character are nurtured. Students get to choose from a range of sports including soccer, basketball, tennis, archery, swim, golf and more.

Oldfields School

Source: Oldfields School/Facebook 

Girls enrolled at Oldfields are given the safe space to be themselves and to explore their passions. Source: Oldfields School/Facebook

If you’re looking for a small school with big opportunities, look no further than Oldfields School. This independent boarding and day school for girls grades eight to 12 empowers students to be their authentic selves.

This School’s advisors help students navigate every aspect of life at Oldfields. Such deep connections are also formed in residential life, where one can bond with a roommate from Rwanda or by mentoring an incoming freshman. Traditions — such as Green and White teams and the Big Sister/Little Sister programme — allow even more powerful connections to form.

As Oldfields’s culture is rooted in kindness, it’s unsurprising why students develop strong relationships with their caring educators or peers. Students will have the same opportunities as everyone else regardless of their socioeconomic status, race, age, nationality, ideology, sexual orientation, gender identity, and ethnicity.

Here, anyone can make an announcement at the Morning Meeting or become the All-School President. Students are also encouraged to engage in community service, from feeding the homeless in Baltimore to tackling period poverty in Thailand.

All of this fuels the Oldfields mission to educate and care for the whole girl. Whether they’re into riding, interscholastic sports, or exploring Oldfields’ location in the heart of Maryland’s horse country — nestled near major cultural centres such as New York City, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, and Baltimore — there are always opportunities to grow in mind, body, and spirit.

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