At 14, Oscar Lu has taken it upon himself to be college-ready, saying “I was relying on my family too much.” The idea of attending boarding school intrigued him as he felt it was where he can learn to be fully independent. Together with his twin brother, Victor, they made the move from LA to Pennsylvania to join Church Farm School (CFS).
CFS is an independent boarding and day school for boys from grades nine to 12. Not only is it holistic, affordable and community-based, but the school is also built on three core tenets of faith, hard work, and education, making it a rare find. But what attracted the Lu brothers to CFS the most was its people.
Their visit to CFS had been slightly delayed as Oscar and Victor were volunteering in Poland. They were helping Ukrainian refugees who had fled home after it was invaded by Russia. When CFS staff found out about this, they knew they had to support the Lu brothers in fulfilling all their callings.
“Mr. Chet Blair, Director of Student Life, remembered our names and everything about us,” says Oscar. “It proved to me the connections within the community and inspired our decision to enrol.” They chose CFS and within three months, Oscar has comfortably and confidently settled in — for another life-changing experience in store.
Dynamic days, meaningful opportunities
Waking up at 6:45 a.m., Oscar gets dressed and checks the school Portal for his daily schedule. He then makes a “to-do” list before heading off to breakfast with his brother at the Dining Centre in time to check in with the administrator on duty. “I always wake my brother, he does not always do the same for me,” says Oscar.
Classes at CFS begin at 8 a.m. All 9th graders take six courses: English, History, Geometry, Science, Health and Language. The Lu brothers, with the Academics team’s permission, take a more rigorous workload with the addition of Choir to their weekly schedule. Oscar enjoys all of them. He can see that all his teachers are dedicated to the success of their students.
If he had to pick, his favourite class is Spanish as he continues to make significant improvements in the subject. “I thought it would be a breeze, to be honest,” he recalls.
“Spanish class also reminded me how hard it was for my parents to come to the US speaking no English, but they still built a family and a successful life … I really look up to them for that.”
He hopes to be more fluent in the language when he travels to Mexico over spring break to volunteer at an orphanage in Mexico with his father and brother.
Once the morning classes are over, Oscar joins an adult-led biweekly advisory period with the Assistant Head of School/Director of Academics Margaret van Steenwyk and four other co-advisees from different grades. This quick catch-up often includes board games and snacks. Sometimes they focus on students’ social-emotional learning (SEL) activities and discussions.
Supportive faculty and exciting extra-curricular activities
Arts and culture are at the crux of a holistic education at CFS. Right before lunch, Oscar heads to the Buck Family Centre for the Arts which houses all of the school’s art programmes. He’s there to rehearse with the prestigious choir team. “We are a family of Christians, and we wanted to do something related to worship,” he says. The Choir performs at school and at external events throughout the year singing both secular and religious music.
Oscar also takes part in the school’s new Academic Competition Club and DECA Club. the latter prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe.
Students at CFS are expected to take two seasons of athletics. There are 23 teams for 11 sports. All skill levels are welcome. Oscar is in the golf and basketball teams, for which he has a particular affection. He’s dabbled in graphic design too and hopes to take more digital design and marketing courses as he sees himself someday studying marketing. Driven and eager to learn, he even volunteered his skills over the summer to the Harvard Men’s Basketball Team.
Learning to be independent through leadership opportunities
Oscar is fast becoming an independent and disciplined future leader. This can be credited to his cottage parent, Mr. JC Garges, and his focus on student wellness. “He will often start our nightly cottage meetings reading an inspirational quote in a book to motivate us or doing a meditation session,” says Oscar.
After dinner, he rushes to his cottage to get in 30 minutes of homework before study hall officially starts. Then, he continues to put in a three-hour homework session (with some relaxation and social breaks in between) before lights go by 10:30 p.m.
When the weekend rolls around, it’s all about having fun with sports – indoor soccer and volleyball, in particular. Despite that, he makes sure he gets his work done before the new week. “On the weekends, I get out and have fun, but I try to do at least an hour of schoolwork each day so nothing piles up.”
There’s plenty of room for students to take initiative at CFS. Oscar not only stays ahead of his syllabus, but ran to become the ninth grade representative as well. He won — adding to his growing string of achievements, the highest GPA and the community service award included.
Community life and value-based action
A CFS education develops the whole individual, enriching them in mind, body, heart, and spirit. The boys learn life lessons through service and civic engagement, which encourage them to apply their knowledge and skills towards the betterment of humankind.
Oscar’s passion for volunteering and being a global citizen made him a great fit at CFS. His favourite memory so far was a service trip to Good Works in Coatesville – a Christian organisation that utilises volunteers to fix homes for low-income residents. “It was such hard work, and we were lifting the heaviest stuff for hours,” he says. “I was so happy to push through and complete the project. It showed me what I’m capable of.”
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