Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Auldern Academy Boarding School

Auldern Academy
Siler City, North Carolina
Jane Samuel, Head of School

Visit by Randall Cook , Core Solutions
July 6th, 2007

Initially, I had no intention of actually writing about my Facility visit and posting it. However, I was so taken by my experience at Auldern Academy that I felt it my duty to share it with the many parents, professionals, and even critics who frequent the Struggling Teens hub.

“Auldern Academy” is Scottish for the “Academy by the River,” which well describes the 85 acres of lush grounds surrounding the campus. Auldern sits on a beautiful area of lush green land, with blooming flowers and hedges meticulously placed throughout the campus, tucked away in the North Carolina hills.

Auldern Academy is ideal for young women in grades 9-12 who would benefit from more structure and support than a mainstream school would provide. Auldern accepts students from traditional schools, as well as those who’ve had a successful experience in an emotional growth or therapeutic program. Auldern enables students to best prepare themselves for the challenges of college environment and independence. Not just academically, but emotionally and socially as well. Auldern achieves this result through a combination of Academics, Arts, Crafts, Therapy, Exercise and Family Involvement.

My first impression, upon arriving at the driveway of Auldern’s campus, was so striking I had to stop my little rental car and get out and take a picture. (The picture above.) It was just so beautiful. As I continued my journey up the drive there were slight bends, well manicured lawn on both sides of the road, and each curve displayed well arranged flower beds outlined with rock walls. This awe inspiring experience was further enhanced by the cathedral-like trees standing watch.

After enjoying several minutes more of this pleasant drive I arrived at the main part of the campus. The road and trees opened up presenting some great Southern style architecture located around a very large pond, with water cascading from the center. I parked and exited my car just at the same time some parents were arriving at the Academy. I followed them into the main hall where I was immediately greeted by Staff and more parents. While visiting with Auldern’s parents, it really stood out to me that they had taken the time to educate and familiarize themselves with both NATSAP and IECA. The overall atmosphere was one of true serenity and calmness delivered in a very professional way. It made a great impression upon me.

After some introductions were made, I was guided back to the office of the Head of School, Ms. Jane Samuel and joined by the Assistant Head of School, Mr. William “Bill” Grant. Again I was struck by their very warm and welcoming reception. As we visited, I was very impressed with their passion and pride for the accomplishments and changes that Auldern Academy has made since their arrival about a year ago. They are clearly professionals to be regarded as experts in their field.

We wandered out of the office and toured the campus. It was a great day to be outside. The July weather in North Carolina was better than what I had left behind in Southern California; I hadn’t expected this. As we continued the tour, I was awestruck at the volumes of student artwork and crafts proudly displayed. Collections of paintings, charcoal sketches, pottery, watercolors, oil paintings, scrap booking, sculptures, etc. lined the walls, cabinets and shelf space in each room. It was amazing. There are clearly some incredible artists attending Auldern. I’m sure some have more interest or talent than others, but they certainly have an ample stock of art supplies that even someone like me could learn and enjoy an artistic outlet. In my experience in over a decade of visiting different Schools in different States, Auldern now joins a select few who stand out proud with such detail and character, and such personalized touches that so strongly reflect the talents and interests of their dynamic students.

After touring the computer labs, academic building and dining facilities, we strolled over to the residential housing. There were some young ladies sitting out front in rocking chairs, engaged in small talk, enjoying the beautiful day and appeared captivated by the sounds and movement of the water spraying up in the pond. They were very polite about our interruption and made certain to greet us on our way into the large dorm. Upon entering I could not help but again notice all of the artwork on display. This building really reinforced a home-away-from-home feel; very subtle and soft. It was remarkable. It made me reflect on how confident and comforting this would make me feel, as a parent.

Next, we took our time walking over to the recreation building, strolling past the immense pond. In that building they offer the young ladies a basketball court, stationary bikes, a pool table, a pottery wheel, a wide variety of art supplies, a treadmill, and even an Ab Lounger.

Lunch time was soon approaching so we walked back to the dining hall. The dining hall is painted in a light yellow, with an off-white trim and large windows pouring in sunlight and overlooking the main area of the campus. It had the feel of a cozy Southern Bed and Breakfast. We were offered a very healthy buffet style meal. Jane, Bill, and I took a seat with a couple of students. Just like the young ladies encountered earlier, the parents on campus, and Staff, these students once again made it a point to welcome us to their table. During our meal I was struck by the genuine camaraderie and courteousness that was so evident throughout the campus. Everyone knew everyone else and was so polite to one another. I never got the impression there were any type of cliques or groups anywhere on the campus. Everyone treated each other with dignity and respect.

After lunch, we headed back to Jane’s office. This gave me a chance to get a deeper understanding of Jane’s and Bill’s commitment and respect for the young women they are guiding and families they serve. I got a chance to get to know more about Bill Grant and was very impressed with his experience and education he has to offer. It’s evident that Jane Samuel lives and breaths Auldern Academy, as well as having a good working relationship with the local community. It’s clear she knows every inch of the property and every aspect of the program. She’s in the moment and up to date on what’s happening.

On my drive back I was anxious to call my little family and share my experience, because it had been that memorable.

I would like to thank Jane Samuel, Bill Grant, Crystal Cox, and the rest of the Auldern Staff members I met. They have a winning team. My thanks and appreciation extend to all of the friendly parents and young ladies I met as well. I am excited for what lies ahead for each of you.