When Beatrice Becette is not writing, producing, editing, or developing content for National Geographic or award-winning production company Blue Chalk Media, she works on her short-form YouTube series for kids called “Smarti B”. Before she found success as a producer, she was one of some 240 students attending Solebury School.
In 2008, Becette came to the Pennsylvania countryside, where Solebury is nestled. The school gave her what she was looking for growing up — the opportunity to cultivate her creative interests. “Solebury allowed and encouraged me to be me,” she says. “I was able to explore any and all subjects I liked and was given the freedom to express my creativity in my school work like making a music video about the digestive system for my biology final, or rapping about Hamlet for an English project.”
Liv Colbert, a current student at Solebury, agrees: “Solebury does such a good job at pushing you without you knowing you’re being pushed. I started being involved in all these new things and enjoying the experience without knowing it was Solebury that was giving me the shove that I needed.”
The 140-acre campus offers the best of both worlds — it is dotted with meadows, woodlands, a meandering stream and a pond but also just an hour or two away from the bustling cities of New York and Philadelphia. For its students however, the campus is more than just green grounds — it is an environment where students of all races, nationalities, religions, genders, and sexual orientations are welcome.
“When I got here, the first thing that struck me was how nice the people were. But you get to learn that it’s part of the Solebury community. It’s how they roll. It’s saying hi to you when you walk, giving you a small smile. It’s all part of the tradition and the culture,” Perry Udahemuka, who hails from Rwanda, recalls.
Solebury to him is not just a school, but a small community. The school prefers to keep it that way in order to celebrate individuality and harness every student’s potential. For example, class sizes average at around 11 students here. This way, parents, teachers, and students can all join together and foster quality communication in anything related to the education the Pennsylvanian day and boarding school provides. This includes over 50 arts electives, 35 sports and after-school activities, and 33 AP and Honours courses.
Cooper McKim, former Solebury student and Podcast Producer for A+E Networks (and previously Sports Illustrated), believes that the small class sizes helped him become more confident. “There were many opportunities to be a leader, whether it was through clubs, sports teams, or academically. Leading clubs, in particular, was a good chance for me to learn to organise, work with other students and teachers in a new way, and be uniquely creative.”
All in all, Solebury provides balance in the sense that any student can fulfill their intellectual curiosities but also pursue their passions outside of the classroom. They feel comfortable to do so due to the tight-knit and supportive international community that exists within the school.
“I learned the value of community, which is where I found my voice. The students and teachers who surrounded me are what made my classes, boarding experience, and extracurricular commitments memorable,” Alliyah Allen explains. “I wouldn’t be who I am today without the love, insight, and support I received from my Solebury family, and for that, I am truly grateful.”
During Allen’s time at Solebury, she helped create safe spaces such as Teach2Serve, Black Friday, Girl Forward, and Diversity Club where students could share their two cents and push for change. To her, creating those spaces were vital to show that you can come as you are to the table, speak vulnerably, challenge others, and still feel accepted by the community.
Such a holistic view towards education is what spurs Solebury graduates to go on to do great things like become a reporter, or co-found a visual art collective that supports local artists. What helps the most in aiding student success beyond Solebury is the layout of the institution, which is shaped like a campus.
“You quickly get a sense of how this is like a college campus. Students are walking in and out of buildings all day to go from one place to another and they stop and throw a frisbee with somebody before they go to the next class,” comments Steve Buteux, Associate Head at Solebury School.
Boarders at Solebury are safe and sound in their new home away from home too — lifelong friendships are made not just with fellow students, but also faculty members who live in the dorms. Becoming a boarder means that you automatically join an extended international family that works, lives, and experiences Solebury together.
“Being able to go to a boarding school allowed me the chance to meet people from all over the world. I’ve made friends from Switzerland, South Africa, China, and even South Korea,” says Erik Daughterman, another student lucky enough to attend Solebury.