Oaks Christian School celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, looking back on extraordinary growth and accomplishment in just two decades. Early on the school established itself as an athletic powerhouse, winning five CIF championships in 2003 which kicked off a multi-year winning streak. But their artistic and academic accomplishments are also impressive with numerous local and national artistic awards and honors for performing and visual arts and graduates consistently admitted to top-tier universities each year.
Illustrious achievements aside, the school is not resting on its laurels. This is a remarkable year as Oaks Christian continues to dominate as an educational vanguard with the addition of residential boarding, a modern IDEA lab and three elite institutes which rival college-level programs.
The new residential life building was officially opened with a ribbon cutting early spring in ceremony that hosted local dignitaries from the Westlake Village mayor’s office, Congresswoman Julia Brownley’s office, media and the community members
In August, 41 students made history as the very first residents of the new OCS residential boarding facility, a state-of-the-art dorm that will eventually house 68 international and domestic students. In this inaugural year, the program welcomed students from Indonesia, China, Ghana, Vietnam and locally from Orange County.
"I was nervous about coming here (from Brazil), but I am very happy here now. The school is really, really welcoming, and the dorm parents are amazing The faculty and staff welcomed me so much and made me feel like they wanted to get to know me, not just as a student, but as a person. Being in the dorm has already taught me a lot about being independent and engaging with people," said Anna Fonseca, junior.
Move in day was the culmination of a vision three years in the planning and spearheaded by OCS Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Kris Thabit. Thabit, an original OCS board member, was also instrumental 20 years ago in finding the present location for the main OCS campus.
The OCS residential program makes Oaks Christian one of the few national Christian secondary schools to offer both a day and boarding option. Indeed, the building with three modern kitchens, fitness room, lounge areas, computer study areas, and dorm rooms that rival and even surpass that of universities, does impress. Included are gender-specific dormitory floors, high-tech security system, move and game rooms and a chapel.
But beyond the bells and whistles, the residential boarding program provides a unique opportunity for Oaks Christian to live out its mission.
“No doubt, this is a milestone for the school; a brand-new building and a new place for student life to happen. As I walk in here and see the smiles of the students I know this will have a tremendous impact on their lives, “said Head of School Rob Black, “But this is also an opportunity for us to do life on a deeper level than we can on the main campus. We are going to be able to take student living in this building, with each other and faculty and staff, and engage them on a much deeper level.
Another vanguard moment for Oaks Christian is the launch of its three ground-breaking institutes to prepare students for the 21st century: The institute of Global Leadership, The Institute of Arts and Innovation, and the Institute of Engineering.
The Institute of Arts and Innovation features pathways for music production, vocal performance, songwriting, and filmmaking. Dance and photography pathways are scheduled for fall 2020.
The Institute of Engineering focuses on pathways in rocketry/aerospace, robotics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science. The Institute of Global Leadership centers on finance, law, human behavior, global studies and entrepreneurship. Each institute features real-world internships, guest lectures and master classes by industry experts, outside-classroom educational opportunities and a capstone project completed in a student’s senior year.
The Engineering Institute is augmented by the IDEA Lab—Innovation, Design, Engineering and Aeronautics. The 10,000 square foot facility is like no other in a California high school, giving OCS students a jump in STEM career paths.
The central hub of this new space is the 4,000 square foot fabrication lab, housing metal and wood fabrication machines, 3D printers, and a variety of other useful tools, such as Haas tools that are typically reserved for college fabrication labs or industrial labs. The lab allows students to make basically anything out of anything including robots, aerial and underwater drones, rockets, and even basic prosthetics.
The IDEA Lab houses 5 classrooms: physics, robotics, electrical engineering, computer science, and a flex classroom. The facility also includes a reception area, conference room, and faculty core room.
“With the advent of internet search engines, it isn’t enough to recall facts and information anymore. Our students need to possess skills and talents that involve 21st century critical thinking, a curious and innovative spirit, grit, collaboration, and strong character,” said Associate Head of School for Academics Dr. Matt Northrop. “Coupled with our amazing faculty, this lab will provide our students with a jump in STEM."