A Conversation with Asheville School’s Jonathan Hopkins

As winner of the AdmissionsQuest for the Best Student Video Contest with his short “What Is Asheville School?” we wanted to hear a bit more about how Jonathan Hopkins came to Asheville School (Asheville, NC); how his short grew out of his Asheville experiences and where he wants to take his talents?

Check out Jonathan’s winning video below his answers.

Question (Q): How quickly did you know that you wanted to make a short video for the contest?
Jonathan Hopkins (JH): Very quickly. I saw a poster advertising the contest and was immediately interested. After speaking to a few faculty members and securing a camera, I began to draft ideas for the project and find team members to help me through the process.

Q: Tell us about a couple of experiences that are quintessentially Asheville?
JH: Opening Day for the Asheville School student is nothing like the first day of school anywhere else. After the stress of moving in and the panic of parents leaving, every student – new and returning – participates in the annual “Pig Pickin’”: an outdoor barbeque followed by a square dance. It may seem odd at first, but as students don cowboy hats and listen to a live bluegrass band, they leave their fears behind and can’t help but enjoy the beginning of the new school year.

Another Asheville School tradition is the chapel talk. Every senior is required to go before the entire student and faculty body and give a ten to fifteen minute speech about a topic of his or her choice. Some are humorous, and some are grim; many are a triumph of rhetoric and personal vision, while a few leave us wishing that the speaker had gotten just one more lesson in public speaking. However, no matter the content or style of delivery, a chapel talk is proof of a successful Asheville School education. To succeed, a student must find personal conviction in a subject, prepare a thesis backed by research and careful thought, phrase it in a cohesive, stylized manner, and deliver it before his or her peers and teachers – a task much easier said than done.

Q: What values underlie these experiences?
JH: Boarding schools are known for many things, from accelerated academics to their mostly snowy, northeastern locations. Asheville School, in the heart of the North Carolina mountains, retains high standards but keeps a distinctive attitude. The school is designed for students that fully interact with their community and learn to step outside comfort zones, whether through square dances, chapel talks, or a myriad of other opportunities. As our headmaster once said, Asheville School is not trying to raise a school full of really smart jerks; instead, we are part of a community that integrates all parts of a student’s life and treats them with equal importance.

Q: Do students live and experience them every day?
JH: We definitely do; in fact, we can’t escape them! As one senior chapel talk stated, we eat, sleep, breathe, and bleed community. Our school is designed to boost this sense of community, a mission that influences our lives in many ways. Our campus is cell-phone free; every student, boarding and day, is on campus until at least 5:30; we eat many of our meals as a collective body. Through this daily experience, Asheville School students form tight bonds with not only friends but also faculty members, and by graduation we are ready to thrive a much larger college environment.

Q: How did you arrive at Asheville and long have you been a student?
JH: I arrived at Asheville my sophomore year as a transfer from a small-town public school. This is my third year as a student.

Q: How quickly did you come to see Asheville as a great place?
JH: When I first visited the school, I immediately realized that it was leaps and bounds ahead of my current situation. I fell in love with it very quickly, and my years here have done nothing but confirm those first impressions.

Q: Are you planning on taking your film making skills further?
JH: Yes. My dream is to become a screenwriter, and I have submitted applications to several film schools.

Peter Baron is the Chief Evangelist at WhippleHill Communications, the owner of AdmissionsQuest, and a partner at edSocialMedia. Peter regularly blogs about school communication along with hosting the regular videocast series, Boarding School Campus Tours. You can find him on Google+.

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