BARNESVILLE - Values such as truthfulness, simplicity, non-violence and respect for others and the environment define the curriculum and the community at Olney Friends School today, just as they have for the past 175 years.
Founded by the Religious Society of Friends at Mount Pleasant in 1837 and moved to Barnesville in 1876, Olney Friends School still relies on those guiding Quaker principles as it challenges students to grow. The Olney of 2013 is a very different place than the school of the 19th and early 20th centuries, which primarily instructed the children of local Quaker families, but its roots remain strong and the commitment to those values sincere.
Today, Olney educates students of all faiths and ethnicities in grades 9-12, with pupils coming from across the United States and around the world. Olney is a boarding school that offers students a home away from home and the opportunity to learn from one another as members of a common community.
Math and science teacher Steve Martin, right, helps senior Dixuan Cui solve a problem during a class at Olney Friends School in Barnesville.
But students do not have to live on campus to share in the benefits of an Olney education. The school also welcomes day students from the local region, some of whom commute from their homes. Some reasons local parents cite for sending their children to Olney are the school's credibility and its commitment to those core values.
"When I first learned about Olney, I became excited about a school that fully embraced diversity, global awareness, connection to the land and a strong sense of community, while also maintaining focus on college-prep academics," said Toni Kellar of Senecaville, Ohio, whose daughter lives at home but studies at Olney. "That was a perfect combination for us. Olney's values were very much aligned with ours. We are fortunate this school - a precious resource - s right here in our backyard."
Olney also encourages students to challenge themselves for their own sake, rather than out of a sense of competition. This allows them to pursue their own interests without the fear that they won't fit in with the crowd.
"My daughter has been thriving at Olney because there is space and acceptance and respect from others to truly be herself without the judgment often experienced in other schools," Kellar continued. "She wants to pursue a career in the areas of sustainability, environmental engineering and human ecology, largely inspired by her experiences at Olney and its living values of simplicity, community and stewardship."
Environmental science is an important part of the curriculum at Olney. Students get the chance to study the Captina watershed, the headwaters of which are found on the school's 350-acre campus. They monitor water quality and examine Captina's flora and fauna, including the endangered hellbender salamander that inhabits the stream.
Respect for the environment and stewardship of the land also can be seen in the school's Farm-to-Table program, which aims to grow as much food as possible for consumption at the school. Students who join the Farm Team - considered an athletic activity because of the physical work involved - help to raise vegetables, beef and chickens and collect and prepare eggs for daily use in the kitchen.
Olney Friends School is currently accepting applications for mid-year enrollment of day and boarding students from all parts of the Ohio Valley.
"If your child's current school is not meeting their needs, there is no need to wait until next year to apply at Olney," said Admissions Director Musa Hamideh. "Students who enroll in January have ample opportunity to become comfortable in their new setting without all the distractions that can accompany the beginning of a new school year. We have room for several additional students at Olney, and new enrollees should have no trouble keeping up since third quarter classes begin after the holiday break."
"My daughter is very happy at Olney," Kellar added. "It has changed her life. She went from being rather uninspired and frustrated with her prior academic experience, to now being challenged to a level of rigor and capability in humanities, sciences, math and electives that has empowered her beyond where she ever thought she could go. Olney has enriched her beyond our expectations. She looks forward to every day. What more can a parent ask for?"