Oak Ridge Military Academy Head Dan Nobles tells of an eighth-grade girl who convinced her parents to bring her to the school. “I’m a leader, and I want to know more about leadership,” she said. At Oak Ridge every student has regular opportunities to practice leadership, but it’s not just so that kids can feel important. “An effective leader needs two things, respect and cooperation,” says Nobles, and rotating students into multiple leadership situations helps them understand not just what it takes to lead but also how to follow. They also learn how to respect as well as be respected, and how to cooperate, rather than demanding cooperation.
Every Oak Ridge experience is designed to help students develop and understand their own values from multiple personal perspectives. “Character is the foundation of who we are, and the expression of our values,” Nobles says, “and every one of us is a leader—someone is looking at each of us. Who and what you influence are your fingerprints on the world.”
Recognizing that children grow, learn, and develop values in parallel, Oak Ridge wants its students—currently representing five continents—to explore their values in an emotional and spiritual context. Not all of its graduates ultimately choose careers in the military, but the lessons in character and values learned in this military school with a Quaker heritage last for a lifetime.