Livija Kaktaite’s first glimpse of Long Island Lutheran Middle & High School (LuHi) looked like something out of a movie. “It was fascinating because I have never visited a high school in the US before,” she says. “I was amazed by how warm and welcoming everyone was — from administrators to students.”
LuHi’s 32 acres of buildings and grounds in Brookville, New York typically have this effect on international students who choose to join its culturally-rich and ethnically-diverse community of learners. Alongside an impressive lineup of talented educators, they develop the enthusiasm, confidence and determination needed to grow academically, socially and spiritually.
The journey begins with an emphasis on multidisciplinary excellence. Faculty members here do everything they must to ensure students of all backgrounds and aspirations realise their potential to excel in more than one area. For Kaktaite, overcoming the language barrier was the first step. Thankfully, her mentors allowed her to use Google Translate for as long as she needed to until she was comfortable enough to communicate and comprehend the English language on her own. “Once I got it, I loved it,” she says.
Comfortable and engaged, it was not long until Kaktaite realised she too could evolve into the kind of well-rounded student LuHi is known for producing. Today, her favourite lessons revolve around economics and creative writing. Each classroom session at LuHi is intimate, meaning students are receiving the personalised attention they deserve.
“Studying in smaller classrooms makes the perfect environment for rich class discussions,” Kaktaite explains. “Teachers have more time to spend with us, making it easier for us to form deeper connections with our classmates in the process.”
The signature LuHi curriculum entails core academic courses — beginning in sixth grade and through middle school — focused on building the critical knowledge and skill base for each critical academic area. High school students take multiple levels of their core courses instead of being placed on a “track.” Depending on their year group, two or three levels of courses are at their disposal — college preparatory, honours, or Advanced Placement (AP).
LuHi adapts offerings in accordance with relevance. Today, there are 17 AP courses on offer. Each is relished and appreciated by students. Enthusiasm fills the air as they celebrate the results they work tirelessly for as well. In Spring 2021, 179 AP exams were taken by LuHi students and 79% achieved a score of three or higher, surpassing the national rate of 60%.
The School’s partnership with Molloy College enables students to receive college credit through certain courses, regardless of test scores. Thanks to keen guidance from counsellors, many earn AP scholar distinction every year too, at a variety of levels.
Outside the classroom, they strengthen their relationships while building on their interests through extracurriculars. Apart from enriching elective courses — such as Murals and Street Art, Theatre, Introduction to the Stock Market, as well as Ecology and Human Impact — athletics are big at LuHi. The school leverages the expertise of knowledgeable coaches and advisors to help students compete in a positive and supervised setting, developing skills and expanding interests along the way — and they do it well. For example, LuHi’s Boys Varsity Lacrosse team won the first NYSAIS state championship in the programme’s history.
Kaktaite opted to excel in softball and basketball. “The basketball programme is legit,” she enthuses. “Coach Slater is up to this day one of my favourite coaches that I have ever had as well as Coach Raiti — both of them really prepared me for college in just one year and I will be forever grateful for their support, guidance and coaching.”
Today, Kaktaite is at George Mason University studying global affairs and playing college-level basketball. Recently, nine other student-athletes at LuHi signed National Letters of Intent to play their sport at the collegiate level as well, continuing the tradition of excellence set by the nine students-athletes that achieved the same last November. Paris Clark will soon be playing women’s basketball at the University of Arizona while Matt Caputo is set to join the men’s lacrosse team at the Ohio State University.
Of course, students at LuHi are welcome to explore paths less frequently travelled as well to truly determine their life’s calling. It all happens during Beyond Boundaries week – where all middle and high school students participate in two mini-courses, which in the past have included Into the Wild, Adulting 101, Popcorn and Salsa, Living the Lego Life, M&M’s in Minecraft, Flea Market Flip, and World Drumming.
Boarding students who identify their passions often find them easier to master through 24/7 engagement. Long Island Boarding takes preparation for life to new heights by ensuring students are given the freedom to explore under watchful eyes. Dedicated counsellors are available at all times. Delectable meals are provided in abundance, as is transportation to shopping centres, local weekend activities and events.
International students — from South Africa, Senegal, Canada, and more — use their new surroundings as a way to get started on the American dream. Today, they can be found excelling across the US at Boston University, UConn, New York University, University of Michigan, Syracuse University, and Lehigh University, amongst many other esteemed institutions. Each has nothing but appreciation for the school that got them to where they are today.
“All I could do is sit here and smile remembering my time at LuHi,” confirms Kaktaite. “That place is truly special.”