Walking onto the Kents Hill School campus feels like being in a movie. Its early, 19th century, brick buildings along Main Street welcome you in, with the iconic bell tower of Bearce Hall front and center. Walking interior paths between classrooms, dorms and the Bibby and Harold Alfond Dining Commons, the newest addition to campus, young people seem happy and at ease.

Finn Sheridan-Crane, ’23 races the slopes of the Joanne & Dick O’Connor Alpine Training Center, Winter 2021. Jack Power, ’22

Kents Hill is set on over 400 acres, with forests, playing fields and state-of-the-art facilities, like the recording studio in the Bodman Performing Arts Center, the NHL-sized ice rink at the Alfond Athletics Center and the Joanne & Dick O’Connor Alpine Training Center, a private slope for skiing and snowboarding that the Division I Colby College alpine racing team also uses.

“It’s big enough for people to come here from all around the world, but small enough to know everyone’s name,” says Naomi McGadney, ‘23. “You are exposed to a number of cultures, while still having the sense of a strong and close community.”

Now, of course, this is a real place. Kents Hill School is about 20 minutes outside of Maine’s capital city, Augusta, and an hour from its largest city, Portland. This school year, students arrived from 28 countries and 19 states, with kids from Maine either boarding at the school or studying by day. Dual-enrollment courses can help them earn transferable college credits in 12 disciplines and the average class has 10 students in it. 95% of the faculty and their families live on campus, which helps create the student-faculty connections that make students feel supported at every turn. Some faculty members also carry “Dorm Parent” in their title, living alongside students in the dormitories and serving in loco parentis. These faculty members bake cookies, celebrate birthdays, and host movie nights in the dorms, cheer on the sidelines at sporting events and academic ceremonies, and help navigate roadblocks and challenging situations.

David Hauptvogel, ‘22, is an international boarding student. His home is in Litvinov, Czech Republic, but when he was last therehe says he caught himself referring to Kents Hill as “home” multiple times. It was not what he had expected when he arrived at Kents Hill to start his junior year.

A Kents Hill tradition: returning Huskies greet new students roadside as they arrive on campus each fall.

“I had not been to the United States before. I had so many worries about whether I’d be able to speak English well enough, whether I’d fit in with people here and how much I would miss my family and friends,” he says. “Right after I arrived on campus, all these worries disappeared. I immediately made friends who now motivate me and push me to be the best version of myself. There are so many opportunities to improve in so many areas, that it’s almost impossible not to use them.”

For too many families and students whose local, public high school does not meet their needs, this kind of safe, positive, private school environment feels, mistakenly, out of reach.

Nunzi Graziano grew up in the area and had friends who attended Kents Hill School. She is now the Admissions Marketing Coordinator. “I was always in awe of the opportunities that my friends had at Kents Hill. It never crossed my mind that those opportunities could be for me, too,” she says in a conversation alongside Alison Lincoln-Rich, Dean of Enrollment Management and Director of Financial Aid.

“I want to clearly say that this is an affordable experience,” adds Lincoln-Rich, “Over half of our families utilize financial aid and scholarships. I want to bust the myth about this school being unattainable. Kents Hill is not an if.

Graziano doesn’t express regret for the past, though. “Now that I’m here, even though I’m not a student, I’m still thrilled to be a part of this exciting and always growing educational experience.”

“The culture here is built on belonging,” says Lincoln-Rich, naming one of four cornerstones that guide the Kents Hill community. “We want students to fit in on their own terms. Anyone can find their niche here.”

Students from the Class of 2021 pose for a picture before prom, Spring 2021.

Lincoln-Rich explains that during the Admissions process, more weight is placed on what the student wants to achieve than what they have done. Their approach is personal and egalitarian because they know not every student can access resources to make a high school resume stand out. “Our process distributes balance across many areas of the school to create a unique, trusting, safe, committed, and creative environment,” she says. “Our students want to come here to grow personally, academically and athletically.”

Students are also “prepared for anything,” with over 90 courses available, all based on a unique, interdisciplinary Four-Dimensional Curriculum that places equal importance on knowledge, skills, character, and reflection, which in turn supports the atmosphere of inclusion and equity.

Mr. Pete Hodgin and his Global History of the United Nations class take a moment to reflect and learn about the events of 9/11/2001, Fall 2021.

From faculty-hosted family dinners to the open-door academic and organizational support at the Akin Learning Center, students have many places to turn for help and to feel that someone who supports their dreams and goals is “in their corner all the time,” another guiding cornerstone.

Naomi McGadney began going to Kents Hill as a day student and now boards. The first week on campus was difficult for her emotionally. She was having a great time, but it was the longest she had been away from her family. However, she credits her peers and present, caring faculty to help her hold space for all her feelings.

“I have seen myself grow throughout my years here,” she says. “I feel more connected to myself than I ever have before, and I honestly think this is due to the role my teachers play in my life. I’m blessed to be surrounded by adults who want me to succeed in school and in life – not for their own reputation, but for me. I can’t find that anywhere else.”

The Kents Hill girls lacrosse team competes against Gould Academy, Spring 2021. Jack Power, ’22

The fourth cornerstone that supports the school is “grounded in Maine and connected to the world.” In addition to the diverse backgrounds in the student body, there are exchange programs, opportunities for travel and language curricula, all while students are immersed in the peaceful, outdoor-oriented and uncomplicated living of central Maine. With more than 30 student-led clubs, campus life is never boring. On-campus weekend activities include pick-up sports, crafting and movie screenings, as well as seasonal boating and pond hockey on local ponds. Staying true to being grounded in Maine, off-campus offerings include trips to Popham Beach, local hikes, and exploring towns like Freeport, Maine.

This year, the senior Class Connections trip included camping, whitewater rafting and a ropes course challenge. “It was an awesome experience,” says David Hauptvogel. “I’d never gone rafting or done a ropes course before, and it was a time to bond with my classmates.”

All over Maine, the school year is now fully underway as tree leaves turn orange and red. Lincoln-Rich reflects on how more prospective families and students begin to reach out as the season fully transitions to fall. The excitement of September has worn off and the reality of a poorly fitting school becomes clear. Lincoln-Rich wants everyone who feels this way to consider a visit to Kents Hill.

“We know the stresses of the admissions process, but a lot of that anxiety or fear dissipates when people arrive on campus,” Lincoln-Rich says. “As soon as visitors see our school in action, they want to be a part of this warm and welcoming community that helps to develop students into caring and thoughtful young adults.”