Three Times the Charm
The Rolling Hills Prep family of schools maximizes each student’s potential not only academically but also in their perspectives, opportunities and relationships.
- Written byJacqueline Olivier & Laura L. Watts
- Photographed byTameka Jacobs
Above L to R:
Three Great Schools—One Vibrant Community. That’s how the Rolling Hills Prep (RHP) family of schools describes its South Bay campus. Founded in 1981, the group has grown from a single high school to a multi-school institution serving a diverse student population in grades 1–12.
Rolling Hills Preparatory School’s board of trustees created Renaissance School in 2004 to “light the fire” of learning in a broad range of students who learn differently. In 2019 REACH School joined the team to serve students of younger ages who need additional support due to academic or social issues. Both Renaissance and REACH offer a unique education with an enhanced level of support and accommodations for students.
“If you live a life of fear, you only live half a life. You’re not living your fullest if you close your mind to what is outside.”
That the schools offer outstanding academics is well understood in the community. But what’s particularly special about the RHP family of schools is how they celebrate each student’s uniqueness by creating individualized pathways that address their specific passions, talents and needs. Signature programs in addition to academics include the arts, sciences, athletics, outdoor education and more. An education at Rolling Hills Prep, Renaissance and REACH makes a huge difference in the lives of each student.
Wesley Cheung has attended REACH School for two years and is moving to Renaissance this fall when he begins eighth grade. He distinguished himself at REACH with his knowledge of marine biology—“a passion I still hold to this day,” he shares.
Wesley made huge leaps this past year in several subjects—particularly writing, which has always been a struggle for him. He attributes his success to his reading, writing and math teacher, Ms. Josie, who has made quite an impact on him.
“I had a great year,” he says. “I made a lot of new friends, and I have improved a lot in math and writing. I wrote an autobiography recently and have done a lot of informational writing. Ms. Josie gave me confidence. She has taught me a lot of vocabulary and annotations, and I feel ready to learn more advanced skills.”
Teame Tekeste just completed his first year at Rolling Hills Prep. He prefers the experience of a smaller school. “I’m more responsible this year—keeping up on my assignments, deadlines, projects and homework,” he says. “RHP is a very inclusive and diverse community and is open to all education levels, whether advanced or struggling. Everyone is included.”
The support of his teachers, such as Mr. Brammah—whom he describes as “very welcoming and inclusive”—helped Teame increase his interest in math and science, especially biology. He plans to continue the specialized diploma track for math and science next year, when he will be a junior. He feels RHP is a great learning environment that offers each student specialized opportunities to excel.
Teame also loves playing basketball. He feels that since his first year with the junior varsity team, he has gotten increasingly better—especially with shooting two-point shots (his favorite). He also has developed an appreciation for art, which he wasn’t all that fond of. “Photography was really interesting. I learned about framing, orientation and angles, and now I take much better photos,” he explains. “I also like drawing and painting a lot more.”
“I love the schools so much because of the inclusivity and understanding they have given me.”
A 2021 graduate of Renaissance School, Nia Quiñonez-Kurnick just completed her first year at McDaniel College in Maryland. There she is majoring in cinema—a passion she developed while attending the RHP schools when she auditioned for Macbeth and was surprised to be cast for a part.
“After Macbeth, I was hooked on acting and being directed by Mr. Robinson,” she says. “He opened my mind to the theatre world and the fact that there are many ways of being creative and you aren’t bound by a single idea.” She went on to lead a film club on campus, and with her teacher Mr. Blanchette she helped direct the Advocates for Diversity club.
Nia points out that participating in theatre at RHP taught her to trust her creativity and let her voice be heard. This has given her the confidence to ask for support from her college professors when she needs it.
Olivia Buckler was the 2022 valedictorian for Renaissance School—an unexpected honor and surprise. She says her teachers listened to her, encouraged her, pushed
her to do more and always made her feel welcome.
She feels that the smaller school size gave her opportunities she would not have had otherwise, such as serving as president of SPEAK (Students Promoting Encouragement And Kindness). “Now I’m successful and have gone to a school that allows me to do well and gives me tools—that’s why school is my passion,” she says.
With plans to attend the University of Southern California this fall, Olivia wants to pursue a career path as an infectious disease specialist. She embraces her learning differences and the fact that she has ADHD, dyscalculia and dyslexia.
“I love the schools so much because of the inclusivity and understanding they have given me,” she says of the RHP family of schools. “I have a lot of confidence now, and even taking AP classes was seamless. You are not less than because you have learning differences. I was truly just a kid like everyone else.”
Olivia comes across as a self-assured student, but it wasn’t always that way. “This is what has really changed being at Renaissance,” she explains. “I used to put up a front, but now I am smiling for a reason and am happy to talk with people about it. I’m involved, I’m a student ambassador and I can speak my mind adequately.”
These four students want to see others maximize their potential, achieve success and reach their goals just like they have. “Try to not get discouraged, be patient and work hard,” Wesley advises. Nia suggests taking risks: “If you live a life of fear, you only live half a life. You’re not living your fullest if you close your mind to what is outside.”
Teame’s advice for rising high schoolers is to learn how to manage your time, split up your homework with your outside hours, always finish your work and be organized. And Olivia recommends trying clubs to get to know other people, as well as this advice: “Enjoy being a student. Keep looking at the goal of college and getting good grades, but still have fun.”
“RHP is a very inclusive and diverse community and is open to all education levels.”
We’re sure these bright, thoughtful students and their classmates have the tools they need to make a difference wherever their path leads them next—thanks to the foundation instilled in them by this trinity of exceptional schools.