On June 1, 2022, 90 students graduated from The Oaks Academy and joined the group of 574 Alumni of The Oaks who have gone before them. These 90 students will start next fall spread out across the city of Indianapolis at 19 different high schools. Some may be the only Oaks student joining their new school while others will enter with almost 20 of their peers, but all of them will carry what they have learned – both inside the classroom and out – with them.
An important lesson that all of these students reflected on as they neared graduation were the ideas of truth and beauty: what it is, why they should seek it, and how they can seek it. They spent weeks crafting a thesis and gathering supporting evidence for each of these topics, writing two papers over the course of the spring semester before sitting down with school leadership to discuss these ideas and their experience at The Oaks in an exit interview.
While most students are nervous about their interview, often with parents in attendance, they are quickly reassured that it’s just a conversation and the atmosphere is settled when their interviewer starts the time with a prayer specifically for them. Then the questions start – easy at first, and then focused on the details of their essays.
The Easy Questions
The first few questions revolve around where the student has decided to attend high school, why they made that decision and what they are looking forward to. Often, students say that they are excited about joining a bigger school and making new friends. Coming from a relatively small school with an emphasis on relationships, this isn’t an uncommon answer and interviewers will often bring it up if the students don’t. On this topic, interviewers often ask a set of questions about what the student looks for in a friend and what they bring to a friendship. In answering these, students are given the opportunity to reflect on how they will build more relationships as they move onto high school.
Digging into Truth and Beauty
Having read both of the student’s papers on the ideas of truth and beauty, the interviewer will start at the beginning of each and review the student’s thesis with them before moving on to their supporting evidence. Often, the interviewer will highlight specific portions of the paper and ask the students to explain more about why a particular book from class, bible verse, or experience stood out to them to support their thesis on truth or beauty. By the end of the paper and interview, students are able to articulate their beliefs about what truth and beauty are, where they come from, and how they plan to seek it after they leave The Oaks.
Ending with Reflection
The last part of the interview gives the student time to reflect about their experience at The Oaks. Their favorite field trip (many of these hallmark trips make the list), the best things that we should never change (our teachers received many shout-outs here), and even anything that the students wished was different (where the pandemic and COVID restrictions understandably came up). Parents also have the opportunity to reflect with their child, many shedding a tear or two as they express the growth that they’ve seen in their student and their pride at the person they are becoming.
After packing all of this into a 30 minute conversation, the student leaves prepared to start high school and carry the important lessons from their conversation with them: continue building relationships, seek truth, and create beauty. And if our 500+ alumni are any indication, this next group of 90 will go on to do just that.
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