I grew up in Chicago with limited access to the outdoors and wide-open spaces. The suburbs of Chicago were sort of confining. Blue Ridge was an opportunity to do much more than I could at home. My middle school years, when I went to public school, I didn't really have much help. There was no personal connection. Here you can learn anything. In fact, beyond the classroom, I learned to camp, compete on a mountain bike and head to the mountains to hike further than I had ever gone before. I discovered a love of chemistry and physics. And that has played a part in my reaching further and taking on more responsibilities. Today, I am actually a prefect in my dorm. Here, class keeps going across campus even after the bell. For example, the dean of students teaches one of my classes and is also my mountain bike coach. Last week a teacher asked us if we wanted to cycle a hundred miles from Richmond to Jamestown and back - you don’t get the opportunity to do that every day. I feel like the sky's the limit. (Spencer is attending the University of Nebraska.)
Spencer has always been curious; I saw this right away in my freshman science class. And although quiet, he is always thinking and connecting ideas with new knowledge. I remember way back in the winter of '13-'14, Spencer and his three good friends were racing around the dorms looking for a lithium battery for an independent experiment after class. More recently, Spencer has put a lot of energy into his mountain bike riding and racing. He has learned about bicycle maintenance and repair.
He was a junior proctor and is now a prefect. His quiet authority keeps other boys on task, but is not over-bearing; Spencer knows how to motivate others appropriately. He models good behavior and right action. I have been very lucky to act as Spencer's advisor.
Spencer was my roommate in 9th and 10th grades. From the beginning we have collaborated on many things. He taught me vocabulary and helped me with grammar, which was great in my early years. And, I helped him focus and stay on task. Now he's a lot better, I don't have to remind him as often. Spencer loves to hike, bike and canoe. I always liked the outdoors but didn't take on the wilderness very much. But, I learned to love the outdoors from him. He even got me to ride in a mountain bike race once. Now, it's normal for me to go hiking or biking in the forest behind the school regularly. I have even slept out in the forest a few times (once alone)!
We've both been supportive of each other. We talked each other into running for student leadership positions and we're both glad we did, because to our surprise, we were elected!
In the Midwest, the idea of a college prep boarding school in Virginia is an out of the box concept. But after a less than ideal middle school experience, we were intrigued. During our first visit to Blue Ridge School, on a cold and overcast January day, Spencer turned to me and said matter-of-factly “This is where I want to go to school.” I can’t imagine his response if it had been a classic blue-sky Blue Ridge day.
If someone had told me four years ago that by his senior year, Spencer would have held several leadership roles, found passion in a new sport, become a solid and self-disciplined student, taken and excelled in multiple honors classes, and been accepted to multiple universities with scholarship offers, I would have thought they were crazy.
The remarkable growth Spencer has experienced at Blue Ridge School cannot be adequately put into words, and we are incredibly grateful.