December 2018

Prepping for the Real World: Hilton Head Preparatory School

Author: Becca Edwards

When you walk onto Hilton Head Preparatory School’s campus, you will see international students playing basketball on the outdoor court, lower schoolers conversing with upper schoolers, teachers sitting with students going over homework, and parents volunteering. You will see a scholarly environment that exudes community, harmony and happiness. In short, you will see a place where you know your child will excel—academically and beyond.

Though Hilton Head Prep’s mission is to prepare students in a safe environment for a successful college experience, the co-educational day/boarding school, which enrolls approximately 400 students in junior kindergarten through twelfth grade, is also prepping today’s youth for the real world. “I believe we have established ourselves as an outstanding academic option on the island,” said Jon Hopman, headmaster of Hilton Head Prep. “But I hope parents understand that we stress not just academics when it comes to preparing your child for life.”

Hopman went on to say, “To help our children grow, we have to look at the complete picture and introduce age-appropriate concepts that teach them not just how to function in college, the workforce and the world, but how to succeed in college, the workforce and the world.”

For Hopman and his faculty, this means emphasizing Hilton Head Prep’s core values, which in addition to academics include strength, service, integrity, community and creativity/innovation. Addressing strength, Hilton Head Prep believes in teaching their students how to overcome adversity through personal resilience. “Hilton Head Prep is constantly assessing and asking, ‘What are our students facing? Is it stress? Is it time management?’ Prep is not an easy school. We are known for our rigorous academics. But we help our students find their own solutions,” Hopman said. “In the end, we believe great challenges lead to greater rewards.”

When it comes to service and the community, Hilton Head Prep motivates their students to view volunteerism as an opportunity in leadership and in building character, as well as a way to better the students’ world around them. “Our students, whether on scholarship or not, recognize that they have been given a gift to go to a school like ours,” Hopman explained.

“Their parents have worked really hard to send them here. We ask them, ‘How are you going to take advantage of that gift? How are you going to apply yourself and give back to your community?’” Adding on, Hilton Head Prep’s director of development and finance, Margot Brown said, “We want our students to think beyond themselves. We want them to break out of the ‘me attitude’ and into the ‘we attitude.’”

As for integrity, Brown explained, “The buzz phrase is ‘character education,’ but we simply say it is teaching children to do the right thing. Sure, we are proud that our students do well on standardized tests or get into great universities, but we also want them to be present with themselves. We believe in project-based learning that simultaneously strengthens character.”

“Integrity comes from accountability,” Hopman said. “We hold ourselves to a higher standard. And though not everyone is perfect, we believe in being accountable for yourself and your actions.”

The final Hilton Head Prep core value Hopman and Brown discussed was creativity/innovation. Prep encourages its students to define their passions and connect with mentors and contemporaries to pursue these passions. “Our students are not just a football player, or a musician or an artist. They can be all three and more,” Hopman said. “We believe in a renaissance mentality in which the students are well rounded.”

Hilton Head Prep also believes in being flexible to accommodate their students’ interests. From sports academy students, to students pursuing an honors diploma in a specific discipline, to students involved with the theatre, Hilton Head Prep will work with each child and family to ensure his or her aspirations beyond academics are accomplished.

Hilton Head Prep also takes pride in its programs like Bold and Gold, which stands for Boys and Girls Outstanding Leadership Development. Under Bold and Gold, eighth graders train and work with sixth and seventh graders as mentors, helping them navigate through middle school. “In the upper school, we also have a prefect program where students function as student ambassadors, promote school spirit, and partner with the student government—and a cadet teacher program that allows students to assist teachers in the classroom. In the lower school, we have a program that teaches the students a word of the month like integrity, and the Pooh Pal program that connects upper school students with lower school students. There are also our annual service and language trips,” Hopman explained. “And in the future, we hope to have more internship programs.”

Hilton Head Prep is the area’s preeminent, only NAIS-affiliated independent school. Prep is also SAIS and SACS accredited. In the 2019 K-12 Niche ratings, it was recognized as the number one private school in Beaufort County, the number one boarding school in South Carolina, the number three private school in South Carolina and in the top 15 percent of private schools in the nation.

Another bonus about attending Hilton Head Prep is parent involvement. According to Hopman, “It is important to us that we maintain a level of trust with our parents. We trust them and we want them to trust us. We also want parents to know that if they express an interest in volunteering, we will find a place for them.”

Equally important, whenever a new student enrolls at Hilton Head Prep, the family sits down with the appropriate division head and, together, they map out the child’s academic path. “We believe in communicating one-on-one so there are no surprises,” Hopman said.

“Our main goal is to take every child from where they are and help them achieve their highest potential,” Brown said.

Agreeing Hopman added, “We put a great deal of effort and emphasis on taking a holistic approach to learning. We want to see our students go far.”

Hilton Head Preparatory School is located at 8 Fox Grape Rd., Hilton Head Island. For more information, please visit www.hhprep.org or call (843) 671-2286.

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