When Elizabeth Miller first visited Villa Duchesne and Oak Hill School before becoming its head of school this summer, the feature of the campus that made the biggest impression was a statue of Jesus with his arms wide open. “When I asked about it, I was told all are welcome here,” she says.
That welcoming atmosphere was one of the decisive factors that helped Miller in making the decision to come to the school. Another factor that she found unique was the school’s inclusion in a global network of Sacred Heart schools, spanning some 45 countries. “Every great independent school wants to emphasize global education, but it truly is a differentiator to have this rich network. Students are coming here from other countries, and it’s not tourism. They’re not coming for spring break and checking out the local museums; they’re actually immersing themselves in the culture and going to classes for several weeks or semesters at a time.”
With a background in international business, Miller believes in the importance of that kind of global outlook. “It’s not enough to study a foreign language and think you’re going to be prepared,” she says. “You need to know the people and respect the culture.” It’s not only important for those who might decide to live abroad; rather, it’s a key component to developing as a well-rounded adult, she says. “Whether you’re interested in international relations or you’re going to be a physician—whatever your life’s path might be, learning to interact with other human beings is significant and relevant.”
The students also use technology such as Skype, along with classroom projects, to interact with their counterparts at sister schools. For example, during a recent Oak Hill project, young students sent pumpkin seedlings to sister schools around the country and kept in touch to see how the seeds fared in various climates.
The independent, Catholic school is co-educational from age 3 to sixth grade at Oak Hill, and offers an all-girls environment from seventh through 12th grades at Villa Duchesne. The school’s five goals and criteria are woven throughout the fabric of the curriculum, Miller says. Each is equally important, she notes, and they range from a respect for intellectual values to social awareness and personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom. “While we have a very rigorous academic program, frequently the high school students go out in the community to engage in service. You might say, Wait a minute, how can you stop course work to serve in a Head Start program or other community service activities? But we believe that being active members of the community is just as important as our commitment to academics.”
Service work does more than just show the students how fortunate they are, Miller says. “They can receive so much from serving in the community—it’s an extension of their education beyond the classroom walls.”
Villa Duchesne and Oak Hill School invites all prospective students and their families to come and learn more about these values, as well as other attributes that differentiate the school, during an open house from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 3.
On the Cover: Families interested in a Catholic education in the Sacred Heart tradition for boys and girls age 3 to grade six, and young women grades seven to 12 are invited to Villa Duchesne and Oak Hill School’s open house on Sunday, Nov. 3, from noon to 4 p.m. Pictured on the cover: Oak Hill students participate in a project where they sent pumpkin seedlings to sister schools around the country. To learn more about the school and its head, Elizabeth Miller, visit vdoh.org or call 810-3566.