Bob Moore, Chinquapin’s founder and first Head, once wrote that if the school was to ever offer co-ed boarding it would need to seek a new headmaster. He wasn’t against girls at the school (admitting them as day students in the school’s 9th year), but couldn’t imagine taking on the additional struggle of keeping the sexes separate. Perennially underfunded and understaffed, the logistics of insuring against inappropriate contact in the days before scan cards and full time dormitory supervision was – in his eyes – a burden that he didn’t need. For thirty-eight years, girls were bussed to and from campus, often spending upwards of two hours in transit.
Five years ago Chinquapin launched a capital campaign to level the playing field. A forty bed girls’ dormitory, which sits atop a modern and expanded dining hall, opened in January of 2017. Two years into this grand experiment we have seen wonderful results and none of the problems that Moore envisioned. Our female students get more sleep (a precious commodity for teens!) and more time to work on assignments and projects with peers and teachers. Their grades have improved and the community is the better for their presence.
Carolina Nunez (Class of 2017) was one of the first young women to benefit from the boarding experience. She likens the experience to college, stating “It allowed me to become more independent in managing my academic work and to learn how to communicate with my professors.” Alexadriana Thammavongsa (Class of 2014) actually lived in the girls’ dorm prototype, a repurposed faculty home, for two years. She echoes Carolina, emphasizing that “In college, people often are scared to approach their professors, but, after Chinquapin, I learned that is important to approach them, create meaningful relationships with them, and to learn from them and others.” Both young women cite the opportunity to board while in high school as critical to their continued academic success.
“Life in the girls’ dorm is a constant adventure,” proclaimed Sarah Yockey, the Girls’ Dorm Parent. “On any given night, there is a lot of studying, a lot of talking, and a lot of activity in the dorm. Spontaneous hallway dance parties are a pretty frequent experience, as are the occasionally hallway chases and board game competitions. I love watching older students mentor younger students and bond over common passions.” Informal tutoring is rampant after hours. Younger students ask questions of older students and upperclassmen talk to the faculty on duty about colleges and scholarships.
Along with more sleep, improved grades, and an enhanced community, boarding helps our students who do not have reliable transportation to their bus stops or whose parents work out of town. Boarding allows them to be consistently present at school and focused on learning.
It isn’t all about studying, though. “My favorite part of the dorm is having students making my house their home,” stated Sarah. “ I try to host casual hangout events pretty regularly, and it’s always fun to have a group of students over to bake or make a craft. Once my door is open, the girls come and go for the rest of the night. On the busiest night, I had pretty much every one of the 40 girls packed in for an ice cream social. I think seeing them having fun, chatting, and building memories is just such a beautiful thing.”
If you haven’t been to campus in some time, please give us a call to arrange a tour of this facility. I think you will agree with Sarah that it is, indeed, a beautiful thing!
Laura Henry, Ed.D.