What makes a good school?

For as many years as there has been a place called “school,” we’ve been seeking ways to fashion the best educational experience for our children – the place that would provide students with the best possible education and send them forth fully prepared to meet life’s challenges.

Any school can dazzle you with a sales brochure. It's standard practice to show you the well-manicured grounds of some hallowed school, across which walk the attractive smiling students on their way to become more well-rounded people.

But when it comes right down to it, you want to see what this school can do for your child. You want proof that by sending your young learner to this or that institution, they are going to come out the other end a better, well-educated person.

So we asked some area schools to skip the brochure and show us the results: Those students who had graduated and gone on to greater things. You can imagine how hard it was for them to pick just one, but they all came through.

On the following pages you'll see first-hand the highest level of education, through the true stories of students and faculty members who turned their education here into success out there in "the real world."

HILTON HEAD CHRISTIAN ACADEMY

About the school: Established in 1979, Hilton Head Christian Academy is a K–12, college preparatory school with over 380 students.  HHCA works in partnership with families to enable students to know Christ and make him known.  The school not only provides a quality education but also encourages and influences the development of the student’s Christian faith. Believing that every student must be prepared academically for both college and life beyond the classroom, the school provides a rigorous academic program centered on core Christian values. The inclusion of arts, athletics and social experiences all combine to round out a uniquely Christian education.

rodgersFeatured alumni: LOREN RODGERS
Rodgers is a 1998 graduate of Hilton Head Christian Academy and currently leads a team of vaccine epidemiologists at the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. He is a commander (O-5) in the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, which is one of our nation’s lesser known Uniformed Services, composed entirely of health professionals, and run by the Department of Health and Human Services.

At HHCA: Hilton Head Christian Academy’s 1998 Valedictorian, Loren Rodgers, decided that he wanted to be an epidemiologist when he was 16. “On a high school mission trip to Peru while talking with physicians, I realized our efforts would be short lived, but if we addressed other population-level causes of disease, we could enact broad, lasting changes. They explained that this is the kind of work done by an epidemiologist. During college, I discovered a passion for understanding molecular mechanisms of disease, and my current work in vaccinology bridges these molecular and population-level perspectives.”

After HHCA: Commander Rodgers has had multiple deployments for health responses, including two to Haiti (earthquake response and disease surveillance in refugee camps) and a 2014 deployment to Guinea for Ebola response.

More recently, he was detailed to the World Health Organization, the health arm of the United Nations where he participated in some high-level briefings and served as the Health Officer for Ambassador Samantha Power (the US Ambassador to the UN) and her delegation when she was in the country.

Loren met his wife at USC Honors College, completed his Ph.D. in Biology at the University of California San Diego, and lives in Atlanta with their 3 children. 

ST. FRANCIS CATHOLIC SCHOOL

About the school: Since opening its doors in 1996, St. Francis Catholic School has experienced phenomenal growth. The SACS accredited school now serves nearly 200 students in pre-K through eighth grade, from the greater Hilton Head-Bluffton area. The school encompasses three academic buildings, including a large library and updated science and computer labs, as well as a Fine Arts Center and a 15,000-square-foot gymnasium. Each middle school student is issued an iPad, and all classrooms are equipped with Promethean Boards and Apple TV. SFCS provides a faith-based education, focusing on the development of the whole child, and an exceptional academic program. In addition, the school offers a comprehensive fine arts program and competitive athletic programs and teams for students in grades 3-8.

BAILEY FALLONFeatured alumni: BAILEY FALLON

At SFCS: Fallon attended SFCS from third grade to eighth grade. During his tenure, Bailey excelled academically and helped lead the SFCS basketball team to one of its best records ever. In fact, Fallon still looks back with affection on these memories, “Looking back, that season (at SFCS) was the best I have had in my entire basketball career.” Bailey continues to attribute his success in high school to the strong foundation of education he received at SFCS, “St. Francis made my freshman and sophomore years a breeze. I did not struggle in any of my classes. I cannot say enough great things about the English department at St. Francis … I was ahead in my English classes by two years…and was one of the few students that could grasp all concepts not only in literary works but also in grammar.”  He believes the middle school English program and the teaching faculty distinguishes and, “elevates St. Francis above and beyond,” as an Island school.  Bailey placed 11th in his class during his first years in high school.

After SFCS: Fallon is currently a senior at Hilton Head Island High School. Throughout his high school career Fallon has served as captain of the Boys’ Varsity Basketball team, been an active member of the BETA Club, Chess Club and National Honor Society.  He plans to pursue a double major in Business/Computer Science and has been accepted into the Purdue College of Engineering.  To date, he awaits word from Maryland University, Clemson University, the University of Texas (Austin), Fordham University, and Georgia Tech. 

HILTON HEAD ISLAND HIGH SCHOOL

About the school: Hilton Head Island High School is a public school that strives to prepare each student to become a productive, responsible citizen in a complex, global, technological age that requires lifelong learning. Hilton Head High achieves this through providing a rigorous, balanced curriculum and exemplary teaching; maintaining a disciplined, highly academic atmosphere and expect the best from every student; fostering personal responsibility, citizenship, and civility by enforcing high standards of student behavior; promoting tolerance, trust and respect among all members of our multicultural school community; providing a safe, inviting and stimulating school environment; providing educational opportunities suited to each student's developmental needs and potential; and working in partnership with family and community to help each student succeed.

TOMMY VATERFeatured alumni: TOMMY VATER

At HHIHS: Tommy, a 2013 graduate, BCSD Senior Scholar with a 3.7 GPA, was a recipient of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma. A very involved student and member of multiple honor societies, during his senior year he was the Captain of the Robotics Team, President of the Interact Club, and Vice President of the Student Government Executive Council. His exceptional experience at HHIHS was positively influenced by the superb teachers and administrators who went out of their way to help each and every student. HHIHS’ diverse offerings in academics, arts, and extracurriculars helped him to discover his passions before graduating.

After HHIHS: Tommy continues his excellence in academics as a finance major and is attending the prestigious Wake Forest University Business School. He is currently the President of the Entrepreneurship Society and was awarded the Hobbs Award for Entrepreneurial Achievement after launching his own technology company and app on campus in 2014. Tommy has also served as the Vice President of his fraternity and as the secretary of the Interfraternity Council. Being a recipient of the International Baccalaureate Diploma at HHIHS helped prepare him for the rigorous work load at Wake Forest and made the transition to college very smooth. Having a strong educational base enabled him to thrive in WFU’s competitive university environment. Tommy recently landed an internship position (summer 2016) with Ernst & Young Financial Services Consulting-Technology Advisor Program in Charlotte. He plans on working in consulting after graduation.

HERITAGE ACADEMY

About the school:  Heritage Academy believes a small caring community of diverse, trained professionals working with students seeking to develop a passion in life creates the ideal learning environment. Students choose Heritage Academy for its supportive resources, relationships with teachers and opportunities resulting from personalized attention to their goals. The student/teacher ratio appeals to parents who desire foremost that their child be successful in school. The school was 12th in the latest Niche state rankings of private schools. We celebrate a long list of accomplishments and a clear vision thanks to our motivated and talented students, our extraordinary faculty, and our supportive parents. Our mission is purposefully designed to combine our students’ passion with a college preparatory program resulting in 100% college placement and preparation for the future.

MADISON WALTONFeatured alumni: MADISON WALTON

At Heritage Academy: While enjoying Heritage Academy’s personalized learning community, Madison excelled in college prep and advanced courses, but her passion for philanthropy gave root to her leadership and service. Small classes and flexible scheduling offered Madison opportunity to wear varied service “hats.” She used interpersonal and networking skills to benefit others. Her community involvement broadened her mind and planted seeds for career endeavors. An Island local, Madison invested 20 hours weekly assisting at Volunteers in Medicine, Relay for Life and the Boys & Girls Club. A volunteer with a capital “V,” Madison thrived on work. From Heritage to Virginia Tech she made her mark on the campuses and communities with her innate talent for philanthropy. She continued this energetic work in Blacksburg, VA throughout her years at Virginia Tech at the Boys and Girls Club and Relay for Life organizations.

After Heritage Academy: After graduating from Heritage, Madison earned her B.S. in International Business and Spanish at VT. She spent three years handling corporate event planning, excelling in academics, enjoying diverse internships, and community service. An impressive innovator, Madison is Regional Business Director of an engineering components company in Atlanta. Previously, she managed portfolio operations and corporate accounts for an advertising agency in NYC. Madison played a critical role in leading colleagues to expand their 30-person startup to an international operation of 200 employees. Notably, she cites the pairing of substantive community service and a strong academic background as the foundation for her professional development in competitive industries. Madison’s professional skills — the ability to communicate with wide-ranging business audiences — have roots in the academic and social environments enjoyed at Heritage Academy

CROSS SCHOOLS

About the school: Cross Schools was established in 1998 to meet the needs of a group of parents seeking to provide their children with an elementary and middle school education that was founded on Christian principles, provided a rigorous academic curriculum and was infused with a spirit of community. They offer kindergarten through eighth-grade cross country, basketball, golf and soccer. In the eighth-grade year, students are eligible to take three core high school classes.

RUTHIE TRASKFeatured alumni: RUTHIE TRASK

At Cross Schools: Trask graduated from Cross Schools in 2008. “Cross Schools really taught me about caring for other people and putting others first. I feel that in today's time, those traditional values are very rare to find.  It has served me well in creating genuine friendships, and having those friendships has helped me create a home away from home on the West Coast. I'm forever grateful!” 

After Cross Schools: Trask is the daughter of founding parents Kim and Robert Trask. Ruthie was a gifted dancer with a national touring company during her high school years. She was a member of the National Honor Society at Bluffton High School. After graduating in 2012, she enrolled at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where she is currently a senior studying English and Communications.

HILTON HEAD PREP

About the school: Approaching its 50th anniversary, Hilton Head Preparatory School was established as the preeminent private school on Hilton Head Island in 1965. With an annual enrollment of over 400 students in grades JK through 12, 100 percent of Hilton Head Prep’s graduates are accepted into many of the top colleges and universities around the country.

MICHAEL BASSETTFeatured teacher: DR. MICHAEL BASSETT

About the teacher: A poem written by Bassett, an Upper School English teacher at Hilton Head Preparatory School, titled “Word Problems for Ferlinghetti” was nominated for a 2015 Pushcart Prize.  The Pushcart Prize is an American literary prize by Pushcart Press that honors the best poetry, short fiction, essays or literary whatnot published in the small presses over the previous year.  Dr. Bassett’s poem “Gather at the River” will appear in the forthcoming anthology ”WHEN YOU PASS THROUGH WATERS, Words of Hope and Healing from your Favorite Authors”. The anthology edited by novelist and painter Nicole  Seitz (Hilton Head Prep class of ’90) is a collection of water-themed stories, essays, and poems by various authors with ALL proceeds going to help the SC flood disaster victims.

TECHNICAL COLLEGE OF THE LOWCOUNTRY

About the school: TCL is an inspired learning community committed to providing high quality, affordable academic programs that lead to Associate Degrees, Diplomas and Certificates in an environment that's fully dedicated to its students. TCL enrolls approximately 2,600 students, of which approximately 1,600 are considered full-time equivalent students.

REECE MIKIE BERTHOLFFeatured alumni: REECE & MIKIE BERTHOLF

At TCL: For many, TCL is the foundation for career and higher education success. Husband and wife Reece and Mikie Bertholf are a great example. Both earned associate degrees from TCL and then continued their higher education.

After TCL: Reece went on to the University of South Carolina Beaufort and The Citadel. Mikie went on to Midwestern University in Texas. Reece was recently named Chief of the Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Department and Mikie joined Beaufort Memorial Hospital as a computed tomography technologist.

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA BEAUFORT

About the school: Guided by its mission of teaching, research and service, USCB has tailored many of its academic programs to meet the needs of the region, such as baccalaureate degree programs in Hospitality Management and Biology that contribute to substantive research on the economic impact of environmental and historic tourism initiatives in Beaufort County.

THE ISLAND AMBASSADOR PROGRAMFeatured program: THE ISLAND AMBASSADOR PROGRAM

About the program: The Island Ambassador program has been around since the early 1990s, but its most recent iteration was created in 2011 with the birth of USCB's Center for Event Management and Hospitality Training. The program offers three seminars — Island Knowledge, Island Culture and Island Ecology — that cover everything from the activities available to visitors to the area’s Gullah and Civil War history to the wildlife found in island’s maritime forests, in local waterways, and even beneath the surface of its famous beaches. Those who complete all three seminars are given the title of Island Ambassador.