Growing up in Columbus, I had always heard whispers of the mythical “Columbus Academy”. I had no clue where it was located, and only knew of a few kids who had ever gone there. I just chalked it up to essentially being the Hogwarts of Ohio.
I remember moving to Gahanna, driving down Cherry Bottom road with my husband and exclaiming, “WAIT! WHAT! That’s where CA is?!” I never knew. Tucked back off a back road in Gahanna, the school actually did have a physical location, and I didn’t live too far from it.
Another myth got shattered last summer when my best friend told me about her little guy attending Summer Camp at Columbus Academy, although he’s not a yearly student there. “WHAT? They have Summer Camp, isn’t it like a bajillion dollars?” When she told me how much it was, I was extremely surprised by how incredibly affordable it was, and the vast options of themes of weeks, age group offerings, and the flexibility of the day offerings.
Although close to my home in proximity, with a seemingly great Summer Camp program,still, the mystery of the school as a whole intrigued me.
Taking a tour this past week, I realized that although they are not Hogwarts, this was a very special place.
Before our tour, we got to sit down with the Director of Admissions & Financial Aid, John Wuorinen and learn more about the history of the school, and how it has progressed while retaining its core values. When I mentioned that I had always wanted to know more about the school, but that it was shrouded in a cloud of mystery, he laughed letting us know that was something he’s been trying to combat for awhile. He wants the community to see CA as an open place, to come and ask questions, to see the students as they really are, and experience what the everyday looks like for an Academy student.
So that’s what we did. Bob Lee, (Director of Communications & Marketing at Columbus Academy) and Brelle Farrenkopf (Director of Early Childhood Program & Student Services) gave us a complete look at the Upper and Lower School. The thing that I noticed first was the element of calm that was evident throughout both areas of the school. The children were moving about in their classrooms independently, the little ones weren’t being ordered around, but allowed to move around freely, and encouraged exploration was evident in the little details.There were snow boots, snow pants, rain pants, every outdoor gear one could need along the walls. Brelle let us know that the kids are always prepared for whatever weather so they can have a chance to be outside. Especially on Fridays, when they have outdoor school.
Each little one at Columbus Academy had their own personal symbol they picked out to have laser carved as their name tag for the year. They pick each symbol at the beginning of the year as a personal crest, and then that symbol is retired forever!
When visiting the Upper School, Bob let us know that later a few of the students would be giving their Junior speeches. This is a rite of passage that the students begin preparing for in lower school. Juniors are to prepare and deliver a speech to the student body about any topic they choose. Watching three of these speeches, I was floored. The poise and preparation you could tell these students had done was quite impressive. Speaking from the heart they all chose formidable moments in their life that changed them for the better, showed true growth, or took them out of their comfort zone. What a cool experience.
Columbus Academy is more accessible, down to earth, and even more magical than I imagined. Their commitment to excellence is only furthered by their emphasis on kindness and responsibility to give back.