Hi Susan and Mike,
I’m not sure if you keep track of former students but I wanted to share something with you about one of your first students, Danica Kimball, and what she has been up to since going to Belle Meade.
I was compelled to write as a result of an essay she gave to her college Toastmasters club. I have attached a copy of it as I thought you might enjoy reading what she had to say about the school and her experience at Belle Meade.
She said when she gave her speech, the group was enthralled, especially the male members of Toastmasters who all thought “that she went to the coolest school ever!” I don’t know if you want to use this as a testimonial but maybe it would help to let potential students know where some of the previous students are at this point in their lives, once the Belle Meade experience has passed.
Danica is getting ready to enter her Junior year at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She is a double major in Political Science and Japanese and will also be obtaining her Certificate in International Relations. UMASS is a member of the 5 college consortium so she is able to take classes at no extra cost at the four other colleges in the area; Amherst College, Mt Holyoke College, Smith College and Hampshire College. She has already taken classes at Smith and will be taking more upon her return from abroad next year. For the entire academic year 2013-2014 she will be studying at Kwansei Gakuin University in Japan, near Osaka and Kyoto. Her goal is complete cultural and language immersion. Ultimately, once she finishes her undergraduate education, her goal is to work for the US State Department as an East Asian specialist in the Foreign Service. Graduate school is in the future as well and she is leaning towards either NYU or the American University in Paris as another possible alternative but that decision comes later.
So that is her story in a nutshell and, needless to say, I am very proud of her. I think Belle Meade made an incredible impact because of the struggles she was experiencing prior to her going. In retrospect, I think sending her was one of the wisest decisions I made on her behalf, as her mother.
Read an excerpt from Danica's Toastmasters speech HERE!
My son & daughter both attended Belle Meade. Their individual strengths & weaknesses couldn't have been more diverse, yet both children grew immeasurably during their years as Belle Meade students. The school community provided a warm, comfortable environment for them to discover themselves. Their experiences included everything from traditional classes to swimming to music instruction (band & chorus) to independent study to relaxing in the mediation garden with a book to multimedia presentations to world language education to learning to speak in public to cooking to being significant participants in the everyday workings of the Belle Meade world. As an eighth grader, my son was able to study geometry independently, with a faculty member adviser, after finishing Algebra I in one semester. Few schools offer students of his age this flexibility, but it suited him exceptionally well. He has progressed to Algebra II & Trigonometry & earned top grades. My diligent daughter's performance in English convinced her Writing/Literature/Language Arts teacher to recommend her for the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, a program designed for gifted students. Her score rated her in the 90th or above percentile for reading, math, and writing for seventh & eighth graders, and she was accepted into the program. Belle Meade gives very few grades, as the emphasis focus on learning, and that approach suits students of their age well. While parents like to see grades, my children's exceptional grades after Belle Meade are a direct result of the school's inspiring & innovative curriculum. My children excelled academically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually at Belle Meade. Belle Meade School & faculty helped my children grow into themselves. Who could want more?
—Lori Rice, Madison County
Belle Meade School opened the door to a future full of life enriching opportunity for my daughter who is now a second year student in the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted at Mary Baldwin College. The mentoring she received both as a student at Belle Meade and in the year after leaving the school enabled her to find her path and to set a course of action. She is now determined to fulfill her potential academically, physically and humanely. Thank you Belle Meade.
—Wendy Smith, Rappahannock County
One of the highest learning potentials I have ever felt has been at Belle Meade School. Here, the teachers bend over backwards to ensure that the highest quality education is provided to all. This, in turn, greatly instills motivation in the students. Extremely reasonable expectations are applied, and the result can be quite beautiful.
The wonderful teachers at Belle Meade truly create a caring and compassionate atmosphere. The school is a sanctuary of learning in which we learn about a wide range of subjects from arithmetic and Latin to sustainable living and agriculture.
The fact that everyone works together to accomplish the tasks at hand is very inspirational.
During circle, when Susan asks us to close our eyes and imagine a happy place, the image in my head is as if I never closed my eyes. Belle Meade is my happy place.
The farm is a truly magical place teeming with history and captivating stories. Anywhere you look you see rolling hills, enchanting old buildings, and comfortable, happy animals. All the places on Belle Meade Farm hold excitement, memories, and natural beauty. I think that there are two types of friends. Some you just get along with most of the time, and then there are lifetime friends. I have made multiple lifetime friends at Belle Meade.
Belle Meade is the type of school where we all go and pick out a Christmas tree and serve tea and popcorn. We go swimming in the pond, in summer and when we have to break the ice. We work together to help take care of animals and garden. We ride horses and learn so much about horsemanship. Belle Meade is a community working together to have a fun, interactive, friendly, and educational school.
Over the years, I have watched this school grow. Students and teachers come, changing the way we think and act towards others and the school. The teachers help me grow, give me insight, and nudge me towards becoming a better person. The schoolhouse is beautiful and the friends I’ve made I plan to hold onto. I won’t leave out the schoolwork and the farm work. I like them both equally and trust me, I like them a lot. I have no idea of what I would do or be like without this school. It has definitely changed me for the better.
We laugh, we grow, we sing, because life is full of joys at Belle Meade School. I wake up every day hungry! Hungry to see what Belle Meade is going to throw at me, because every day at Belle Meade is like a new adventure.
To me, Belle Meade means a safe harbor to grow. It’s a place where I can learn how to be a good person and where I can be taught to be a good person. Though we are still learning to be able to accept people for who they are, this place is safe, and I would love for everyone to have the experience to learn to love.
Belle Meade is awesome. It’s not like any other school. We’re a community. We don’t just work all day. We have fun. We canoe. We do our chores. We even hike Old Rag. Sometimes we get to jump in the pond. I wish I had come last year.
We heard about Belle Meade School through parents that could not say enough good things about the growth and experiences that their daughter was obtaining through Belle Meade School. Our biggest concern was our granddaughter’s confidence and self esteem. Having seen the results of what one year has brought to our granddaughter has amazed me. I have watched her blossom into a happy young lady that is no longer afraid to get up and go to school in the morning and truly enjoys going to school. I know with all my heart we have made the right choice in placing her at Belle Meade.
—Mrs. D. Heckethorn