Preparing Minds & Hearts
Oaks Christian celebrates its 20th anniversary with the launch of a new residential boarding facility, three elite institutes and a modern IDEA Lab.
- Photographed byShane O’Donnell
“Preparing Minds for Leadership and Hearts for Service” isn’t just a slogan at Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village. It is the school’s guiding principle, as it strives to shape the next generation of students for service as well as leadership.
The goal of preparing students’ minds and hearts is at the forefront of recent accomplishments at the college preparatory school, which serves grades 5–12 on its 25-acre campus. This year Oaks Christian continues to break new ground as it adds new residential student boarding, a modern IDEA Lab and three elite institutes that rival college-level programs.
Oaks Christian School celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and has experienced extraordinary growth and accomplishment in just two decades. Not only is the school an athletic powerhouse, it also boasts impressive artistic and academic accomplishments. Graduates are admitted to top-tier universities every year.
A Place Called Home
The culmination of a vision three years in the planning, a new residential life building was officially opened last spring. Representing Phase 1 of the school’s housing project, the new state-of-the-art dorm welcomed 41 students as its very first residents in August—students from the United States as well as Indonesia, China, Ghana, Vietnam and Brazil.
“No doubt, this is a milestone for the school—a brand-new building and a new place for student life to happen.”
“I was nervous about coming here, but I am very happy here now,” shares Anna, a student from Brazil. “The school is really welcoming, and the dorm parents are amazing. The faculty and staff made me feel like they wanted to get to know me—not just as a student but as a person. Being in the dorm has already taught me a lot about being independent and engaging with people.”
Plans for the residential facility were spearheaded by OCS vice president and chief financial officer Kris Thabit—an original OCS board member who was also instrumental 20 years ago in finding the present location for the school’s main campus. The residential program makes Oaks Christian one of the few national Christian secondary schools to offer both a day and boarding option.
“No doubt, this is a milestone for the school—a brand-new building and a new place for student life to happen,” says head of school Rob Black. “As I walk in here and see the smiles of the students, I know this will have a tremendous impact on their lives.”
The building—with three modern kitchens, fitness room, lounge areas, computer study areas and top-notch dorm rooms—includes gender-specific dormitory floors, a high-tech security system, movement and game rooms, and a chapel.
But beyond the bells and whistles, the residential boarding program provides a unique opportunity for Oaks Christian to live out its mission.
“This is also an opportunity for us to do life on a deeper level than we can on the main campus,” says Black. “We are going to be able to take students living in this building and engage them on a much deeper level—with each other as well as faculty and staff.”
This phase features four family suites and will eventually house 68 students. Phase 2, which was recently approved by the school’s board of trustees and will be completed in fall 2021, will have a capacity of 152 students and 10 family suites.
Another vanguard moment for Oaks Christian is the launch of its three ground-breaking institutes that will prepare students for the 21st century: the Institute of Global Leadership, the Institute of Arts and Innovation, and the Institute of Engineering. Each institute features real-world internships, guest lectures and master classes by industry experts, outside-the-classroom educational opportunities and a capstone project completed in a student’s senior year.
The Institute of Arts and Innovation features pathways for music production, vocal performance, songwriting and filmmaking. Dance and photography pathways are scheduled for fall 2020. The Institute of Engineering focuses on pathways in rocketry/aerospace, robotics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science. The Institute of Global Leadership centers on finance, law, human behavior, global studies and entrepreneurship.
Taking the school’s engineering curriculum to a new level is a brand-new IDEA (Innovation, Design, Engineering and Aeronautics) Lab—a 10,000-square-foot facility that gives students a jump-start on their STEM career paths. The central hub of this new space is the 4,000-square-foot fabrication lab, housing metal and wood fabrication machines, 3D printers and a variety of other useful tools typically reserved for college fabrication labs or industrial labs.
The IDEA Lab includes five classrooms: physics, robotics, electrical engineering, computer science and a flex classroom. The facility also includes a reception area, conference room and faculty core room.
“Coupled with our amazing faculty, this lab will provide our students with skills and talents that involve 21st-century critical thinking, a curious and innovative spirit, grit, collaboration and strong character,” says associate head of school for academics Dr. Matt Northrop.
Nurturing students and developing their potential has always been the mission of Oaks Christian faculty and staff. The school is positioned now more than ever to continue to excel at this goal, thanks to the innovation of these new facilities and programs.