It’s rare to find a school where students take the lead. However, at the Delphian School — located 50 miles southwest of Portland, Oregon — carving your own path is compulsory. At this transformative school, it’s not about time or expectations, it’s about ability. Every student is assessed upon arrival to ensure they get the curriculum they deserve. Ultimately, they evolve into young adults with the skills and tools needed to independently and confidently pursue their passions. It all begins with the right foundation.
“We do a diagnostic testing with every new student because everyone is different,” explains Mari Young, the Upper School’s Freshman Head, who has been with the school for 43 years. “Some are stronger in reading and some are better at math. With our findings, we customise a foundational programme that fills the gaps. Of course, required core courses that cover the basics are integrated as well. Most importantly, we are trying to teach them how to study.”
For everyone, the Delphian journey begins with exposure to the most effective learning philosophies and practices used today. The school also makes it a priority to help learners understand the benefits of excelling in certain areas — not just for a better high-school experience, but for a better life. Oftentimes, teachers here use daily activities as examples to connect the dots between academic basics and a fulfilling life.
Some take three months to learn the art of mastering high school and beyond, while others might need a year. International students undergo the same alongside an English proficiency exam. Some even arrive at the school to experience an American education for just a year. It’s clear at Delphian, no two routes are ever the same, and that’s okay. However, it’s a ride students will never have to go on alone. Delphian’s Upper School classes uniquely but strategically comprise freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors.
The merge was designed to inspire. Freshmen get a glimpse into their futures by applauding more advanced students for their accomplishments. When newbies complete a programme, it’s a collective win that gets everyone on their feet. “This is how we foster a sense of community,” explains Young.
Freshmen — who range between the ages of 13 to 16 — are paired with a Student Advisor. These upperclassmen dedicate time from their busy schedules to mentor these newer students, bring them up to speed, introduce them to other like-minded individuals, and make them feel at home. Faculty advisors are also ever-available to help ensure smooth progression.
These hallmarks are especially beneficial to students who have lost touch with in-person learning. Throughout the pandemic, many have gotten too attached to their screens. Some have forgotten the importance of overcoming their academic weaknesses. Others may have forgotten how to socialise. A Delphian education has the power to reverse these negative impacts.
Young’s favourite success stories prove it. “We had a student from Mexico who began his studies here as a middle schooler. At first, he saw his dream of being a doctor as nothing but a dream, but today, he is an incredibly successful surgeon. Just last year, one of our freshmen believed that being bad at math was just in her DNA. Since completing her entry programme, she now tells people she’s the best at it! Similarly, we’ve seen students come in having never spoken a word of English. Today, they are translators for newer students from their home country,” Young enthuses. “Stories like these make me want to stay here for another 40 years.”
Watching connections bloom on a daily basis is another reason why Young finds her role extremely rewarding. The school hosts a number of events that offer the warmest welcomes. The “Howdy Hike” is a prime example — a three-day camping trip held at the beginning of every school year that entails a tranquil journey, pictures by the Oregon coast, dune buggy rides, and freshwater lake swims. Throughout, students make connections that will last them a lifetime. “Age really disappears when learners enjoy these activities together,” says Young.
Once they find their place within the community, the stimulating excursion to academic excellence continues. The Delphian Upper School experience consists of a rich and rewarding academic programme that covers extensive literature, mathematics, public speaking, writing, science, history, and government studies.
Additionally, students hone their leadership skills by organising and managing group activities. They learn to think critically through an emphasis on free and open inquiry. Finally, they take on research assignments that encourage them to explore views different from their own, to form opinions based on facts, and to communicate their theories with well-researched explanations. Little wonder why 85% of Delphian graduates are accepted to their first-choice colleges.