Verde Valley School - Review #4
About the Author:
|College Enrolled||School of the Museum of Fine Arts/ Tufts University|
|Home Town, State||Denver, CO|
|Years Attended Boarding School||2|
|Activities During Boarding School||I was deeply involved in my art while attending VVS, and in my senior year I was in charge of organizing our Senior Class Project, which we decided to be a mural. I came up with the chief design, which incorporated the individual designs of my classmates as well. I also took dance and yoga after school, and spent almost every weekend hiking the surrounding terrain with my friends.|
1.) What do you think makes your school unique relative to other boarding schools?
The geographical location of VVS is the most obvious aspect that sets it apart from other schools. When I first visited it, all of my mental images of what boarding schools are like were instantly shattered. I was surrounded by red mountains and desert-- the place is rugged, yet peaceful. No manicured lawns or stuffy uniforms. This sets a fitting stage for the strong work ethic that the school endorses in its mission statement: they expect you to be willing to get your hands dirty. Public service is a requirement; and involvement in the community and on campus are translated into the classroom, where these skills are translated into students' academic lives.
2.) What was the best thing that happened to you in boarding school?
As an extension to what I said about the social life there, I really came away from the school, not only prepared for college, but with the ability to talk to anybody. It really helped me socially, and the benefits of this have manifested in every other aspect of my life. I think this has a lot to do with the relationship the students have with the faculty. The bonds created go along way to break the immature notions a lot of kids have about authority; the whole "us vs. them" attitude towards teachers and others in positions of power. You realize that you can respectfully address anyone as an equal, because they are humans too. I became unafraid to speak up in class-- to ask questions or volunteer my point of view in a discussion. I honed both academic, as well as worldly skills while there. I think that when I went to college, I was more mature in that way than my peers. I was already over the fact that my parents weren't there, and was much more self-sufficient.
3.) What might you have done differently during your boarding school experience?
I honestly can't remember for sure. I think I was really nervous and socially awkward, and it was only because the girl who is now my best friend practically pried me out of my shell that I ever left it. So I guess I would say that the best thing you can do it to just talk to people. Just ask them about themselves if you don't want to talk about yourself-- people love talking about themselves, so just be curious about them. That's probably the best way to find friends, because then you can kind of get to know how people are, and eventually you'll click with someone. And know that everyone is just as nervous as you, but that everything, even though you've never been in this situation before, will eventually feel normal.
4.) What did you like most about your school?
I loved the classes, the diversity of the student body, and the geography; but most of all, I loved the teachers. The closeness that develops between students and teachers at this school makes for an experience that, maybe if you're lucky, you might achieve with one or two faculty members in college. The teachers at this school pushed me in ways that literally changed the course of my life for the better, and taught me how to think about things and analyze things and approach challenges and overcome them. Before I came to VVS, my path was leading to dropping out of high school, and my future definitely did not include college. I know a lot of it was my determination to fix things, but the teachers at VVS showed me how.
5.) Do you have any final words of wisdom for visiting or incoming students to your school?
If you can, when you're a senior, live in Ivory Tower. [You only get to live there if you've got seniority. I lucked out: I only went to VVS my last two years, but my best friend went all four years and was RA head, so we got to live there!]Find the Thoreau Hut and visit it often to write.Learn as many of the old VVS ghost stories as you can-- even if you don't believe in ghosts, they are really cool and creepy.Climb to the top of Napoleon at least once.Sleep on top of Cow Pie in a sleeping bag in the open air at least once [you see so many shooting stars there, because it's so far from cities!!]Understand and accept that the amazing food they make during parents weekend and when you come to visit while prospecting is only ever going to appear during those occasions.Call John Griffiths "Griffy".
1.) Describe the academics at your school - what did you like most about it?
I loved the teachers, more than anything. There were certain teachers whose classes I would take, even if I wasn't necessarily too psyched about the subject; and would love the class because that teacher could make anything fascinating. I even loved math [by far, my weakest subject] and did quite well at trig and calculus! The classes offered here are definitely college-preparatory. There is such a vast variety of courses to choose from, that you really get a chance to begin pursuing the subjects that interest you the most, and begin thinking seriously about what you want to do with the rest of your life. Also, some of the books that I now count as favorites, I read because they were assigned at this school. I found later, when I was in college, that the reading list was either inferior to what I had to read at VVS, or that I had already read what was on the list while at VVS! The workload is heavy, but manageable. I really learned a lot about time management. It helped that all of my friends there were also very serious about school, and having them and the always-available faculty there as a supportive network really helped a lot; and encouraged me to strive to do well.
1.) Describe the athletics at your school - what did you like most about it?
The athletics at the school are so eclectic that you can pretty much do anything you enjoy! Many of the sports offered truly utilize the school's amazing location. Rock-climbing is available to those who are a bit more energetic and daring. Horseback riding also gives you the opportunity to care for the animals, if animals are your thing. As far as team sports go, soccer was really big while I was there. We organized several matches with other schools throughout the season, but it was mostly for fun. There is also dance and yoga; or, if you have something in mind that isn't offered, you can try to get an independent sport approved. A good friend of mine did independent cross-country running. The sports offering changes a bit from year to year. [Sports are required, as the value of physical activity is recognized here.]
1.) Describe the arts program at your school - what did you like most about it?
Thom is the best art teacher I have ever had. I always have been an artist, but he was the one who showed me how to push my work to the next level. On days when I was feeling uninspired or frustrated with my art, he would introduce me with some kind of new paint or new materials to work with, and would say "you don't have to make anything great, just check this stuff out and see how it works-- see what you can do with it." Thom IS the art department. The art facilities are fantastic. And if there is any kind of equipment that someone needs that he doesn't have, he'll get it for them. He's slightly deranged like that. He just finds a way to make whatever needs to happen, happen. Jeff is great as well, though I know him less because I never was great at ceramics and photography, but the things I saw come out of the kids in his department amazed me. Theatre and music are even further removed from me, to be honest. But the arts at VVS are very much alive and well. Opportunities abound.
1.) Describe the extracurriculars offered at your school - what did you like most about it?
Every March, for the two weeks that proceed spring break, the student body splits into seven or so groups and embarks on Field Trips. Some of the groups go to places like Mexico to work in orphanages. Some do conservation work in the Grand Canyon. My first year, I went with my group to Belen, NM to work for Habitat for Humanity, and my second year, I was lucky enough to go to Germany, and helped restore a historical monument as well as be immersed in a country that was completely foreign to me!! [We each stayed with a German family who had a student about our age.] Field trips vary from year to year, but I think that it's really neat that the school devoted a solid block of time every year to the community service aspect of its mission statement. As far as extra-curricular organizations, students are encouraged to organize clubs and volunteer ventures. Clean-ups are common, and while I attended was part of a debate team and a chess club.
1.) Describe the dorm life in your school - what did you like most about it?
I enjoyed the sense of freedom we were allowed, even though we were definitely monitored. Some of the faculty members live in adjoining apartments to the dorms and are responsible for keeping the kids in their dorm in check. They are called Dorm Parents, and not only do they regulate, but they also will organize dorm get-togethers and movie nights. But we really were expected to be responsible and to look out for each-other. Also, the dorms themselves are pretty cool! They all have common-rooms with couches, TVs [no cable, bring your own movies] microwaves and fridges. There are some single-rooms if you like to have your own space[the downside is that those rooms are smaller, and you have to share a bathroom with 8 people]; or you will have a roommate, and then will share a bathroom with another two people [your suite-mates] so it'll be four to a bathroom.
1.) Describe the dining arrangements at your school.
The cooks do a pretty descent job with the cooking [you'll still miss home-cooked meals]- and there's always a hot vegetarian alternative [VVS hosts a lot of vegetarians] as well as a salad bar. Mealtimes are set, so if you snooze you lose; but the dorms are equipped with fridges and microwaves, so you can have a personal stash to return to if you work late or anything. Meals are pretty much a free-for-all, so get there on time. Even if you don't, though, the kitchen staff are super-nice and will find you something you like if you get there late and they're out of stuff.
1.) Describe the school's town and surrounding area.
VVS is located a bit outside of town; it's pretty isolated. Sedona is about 15 minuted away, and there are trips into town every weekend to grocery stores and movies and everything. Sedona is a really great place [once you get past how touristy it is]. There are some fantastic restaurants to take your parents to when they visit, great hiking trails [lots of great hiking is to be had in the mountains surrounding the school, also.] There's also a creek a short hike away from the school. We went there weekly in my chemistry class to test the water, and it's also a great place to swim in the summer! There are also weekly trips to Flagstaff, which is a 45 minute drive. There is a ton of cool stuff to do in Flagstaff. They've got a great military outlet, bookstores, shops; and if you're a VVSer, you HAVE to go to Macy's, a fantastic hippie cafe that has all sorts of teas and coffees, and yummy vegan [and non-vegan] sandwiched and pastries!!
2.) Describe the social life at your school - what did you like most about it?
The friends I made at VVS are the best friends I've eve had [including college]. The unique living arrangements at the school, and the tiny class sizes, really enable you to get to know EVERYONE. You become friends with people you never would have spoken to had you been in public school. I have the unique experience of having attended a 3,000 student public school in Denver during 9th and 10th grade, then transferring to VVS for my junior and senior year. There were about 100 students, and my graduating class was 27 strong. You get to know everyone for who they really are, so that whatever impression they present externally eventually falls away, and they just are who they are. My best friend [and roommate] was really into hiphop, had 2pac posters all over her side of the room, loved clubbing and dancing, and was incredibly extroverted. I love punk and metal, had bright red hair at the time, and am more of the quiet, introverted artist/writer/bookworm type. We immediately took to each other, in spite of the fact that anywhere else, we probably would have been type-cast into the appropriate clique. But that doesn't really happen at VVS. You are friends with people for who they are, and these are the only kinds of friendships that are worth having, and that endure. [She's now in Louisiana, I'm now in Boston.]
|7:00 AM||wake up|
|7:00 PM||quiet hours/homework|
|10:30 PM||lights out|
|9:00 AM||wake up|
|10:00 AM||weekend trip to Flagstaff or hiking or something|
|4:00 PM||get back to campus|
|6:00 PM||movies/ frolicking/ nonsense|
|9:00 PM||study/ horse around with friends|
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Your graduates can do everything on their smartphones with one click. An alumni relations app will allow them to click a gift to their alma mater. More here.
The typical three-month-long summer break gives juniors and seniors a great opportunity to explore a variety of situations and options.
Learning about a school from its website and social media pages is useful as you decide which school to choose. So is hearing what the school's alumni say about their alma mater.