Caleb Ockman had lived in Kenya, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and Serbia before coming to South Kent School in Connecticut, US. As the son of diplomats, he embraced the global lifestyle early on. Ockman was not only attracted to the all-boys boarding school in Connecticut for its well-reputed soccer programme, but also the tight-knit community it exemplified.
“I had never lived in the US before, so it was a culture shock. I remember that many of the students came from different backgrounds, and as I observed everyone’s mannerisms, I was able to integrate into the community,” the senior student says. Since then, his list of pursuits and accomplishments has grown diversely.
An inspiring learning environment
Ockman is an active student at South Kent School. He’s a tour guide for the admissions department where he shows applicants around campus. He develops ideas for activities and disciplinary action in the Honor Council. He also studied and played classical piano in the music department. Now, he can safely say that the sum of these experiences contributed greatly not just to his knowledge and skills but personal growth.
Among the challenges he faced were balancing school, soccer, and community commitments. “I was always busy,” he says. “For the first few weeks, the teachers urged us to create schedules for ourselves when it came to managing homework because they understood how busy we were. I bought a notebook, where I write my goals and plan out my day. This has not only helped me to become more organised but also more disciplined.”
Four years on, Ockman is now co-head prefect and a senior member of the prep soccer team. He will be joining the highly selective Williams College in a neighbouring state, Massachusetts, upon graduating this year. His journey at South Kent School is one of many unique paths made possible in an adaptive, supportive environment where the only way to learn is by doing.
Nurturing all-rounded graduates
Jaishu “Rich” Xie is an only child from China — as many of his peers are back home. Despite excelling academically in Fifth Form at South Kent School, he initially struggled with his social skills and in deciding what to do after his final year with the school.
“I struggled a bit with speaking up in classes and living with my roommates. I was never quite vocal in classrooms as I’d like to be, but I was able to talk to my advisor about it, which helped,” Xie shares. He forged a close relationship with his advisor Derek Richardson, who was also his chemistry teacher in the Syracuse University Project Advance (SUPA) programme. Through SUPA, outstanding high school seniors are enrolled in university courses taught on South Kent’s campus by accredited Syracuse University professors.
“After my first chemistry exam, he came by to knock on my door and tell me how well I did. That’s just one of many heartwarming things he did for me. I also stayed with him over breaks that were too short for going home, and we shovelled snow off his balcony and went to state fairs,” he reminisces.
Since graduating in 2019, Xie has been pursuing a business and psychology degree at Missouri’s Washington University. Once he broke out of his shell, he discovered a passion for helping people and the environment, including organising charity runs at the school. “I learnt that I enjoy helping other people out and doing my best for the environment. Going to the soup kitchen or recycling station gave me an idea of the wealth disparity and the importance of recycling,” he shares.
Xie has carried his passion for engaging in community projects into university.
A school that builds character and moulds students for success
Like Ockman, Xie’s journey at South Kent School proved to be a formative experience that will stay with him for life. Both became student leaders and sharpened their athletic prowess on the soccer field. They also received life-changing support from their teachers. Xie recalls enjoying his time in SUPA Chemistry with his classmates, saying, “Not only was the material engaging, but the teachers are exceedingly kind and helpful.”
“I cannot think of a class where I did not learn a lot or did not enjoy what I learned,” Ockman muses. “I regularly meet with my teachers and sometimes discuss subjects that do not relate directly to the classroom. Mr. Beer, Father Klots, Mr. Richardson, and Dr. Sidorowich have all inspired me to work hard, seek guidance, be confident in my thoughts, and to think deeply and critically. They are why I want to pursue knowledge and education beyond college.”
“There will be hard times in your South Kent journey, just like there will be anywhere else,” Xie says. Despite that, he encourages incoming students to try new things, be it a difficult class or experience volunteering at a soup kitchen. “When you leave South Kent School, you will be proud of what you went through there.”
South Kent School welcomes students from all over the world, with a diverse community that currently hosts students from twenty-three different nations. Visit their official website for details.