Lowcountry families have many wonderful options for their children's education. Experienced administrators, passionate teachers and motivated peers make the difference for students. In this section we celebrate high quality centers of learning in bluffton and on Hilton Head Island.
HILTON HEAD PREPARATORY SCHOOL
About the school: The 2019 rankings are in, and Hilton Head Prep is leading the way in education. According to “Best Schools Rankings” from Niche, Prep is the No. 1 private K-12 school in Beaufort County, the No. 1 boarding school in the state, the No. 3 private K-12 school in South Carolina and in the top 15 percent of all K-12 private schools nationwide. It all starts with the faculty, who average 20 years of experience and nearly two-thirds have advanced degrees, and administration, with more than 30 years of experience, on average. They deliver Prep’s rigorous college prep curriculum, a strong arts and athletics program along with community service and character education. But here’s what matters even more than the numbers: Faculty and staff members are passionate about learning and love the kids they teach.
Hilton Head Preparatory School sophomore Jake Lopko attained the rank of Eagle Scout after earning 441 merit badges, showing exceptional leadership within his troop and planning and executing a community project. Jake's project took on the post-Hurricane Matthew and Irma cleanup of four Gullah cemeteries. The work included debris removal, tree trimming, planting wax myrtles, cleaning graves, replacing American flags, and installing a sign identifying each as an historic Gullah landmark.
About the school: Rooted in academic excellence and dedicated to students’ pursuit of passions, Heritage Academy is a school where champions are made. The goal is to personalize education for each student to ensure success as student/athletes and student/artists, whether the student loves golf, tennis, swimming, soccer, boating or the arts. The school’s academic standards prepare students for top-tier colleges and universities globally. Lowcountry students who demonstrate an extra-curricular interest and the aptitude required to join Heritage Academy will find themselves learning alongside students from over 20 nations. Students enter these halls driven by their passion. They graduate as life champions. That is the Heritage Academy difference.
Alumnus Elliott Daniels, who graduated from Heritage Academy in 2004, is an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of South Carolina, prosecuting violent crimes and human trafficking. He graduated from George Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in 2008 and his law degree in 2013, and practiced civil defense before co-founding and leading a network of attorneys providing legal representation to more than 40 survivors of human trafficking.
HILTON HEAD CHRISTIAN ACADEMY
About the school: At HHCA, K-12 students are learning all-important skills in critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication as part of their rigorous academic environment. With a 100 percent college matriculation rate, and over 90 percent of seniors earning merit-based scholarships, graduates are using their God-given talents to impact the world. Ranked among the top private schools in South Carolina, HHCA also has a vibrant fine arts program and 30 sports teams offering opportunities for student athletes to excel. HHCA’s new Bluffton campus will be breaking ground in 2019 and families are applying now to be part of it at hhca.org.
Middle school principal Dylan Curtis takes time to teach in the classroom in addition to his role as principal and coach for HHCA’s back-to-back state championship soccer team. “As a principal, taking time to teach makes a difference in getting to know each student. There’s a huge need during these high-stakes years to be present and intentional as we encourage them academically and spiritually,” he said. Curtis earned a master’s degree in education and a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of South Carolina.
ST. FRANCIS CATHOLIC SCHOOL
About the school: For the past 22 years, St. Francis Catholic School, a fully SACS-accredited parochial Catholic school for students in kindergarten through eighth grade, has provided an excellent academic environment for all its students. St. Francis Catholic School’s mission is to nurture students' spiritual and intellectual growth in a Catholic community committed to academic excellence, with a focus on faith formation, quality academics and community. The school offers a variety of opportunities and enrichment activities and helps students mature in their faith through participation in the sacramental life of the church. St. Francis strives to develop each child's intellect and motivate the child to action and service. Our hope is that every graduate is a person of faith, integrity and scholarship.
Alumnus John Jolley Jr. credits St. Francis Catholic School and its supportive community with providing the foundation he needed for success in high school and college. After attending St. Francis, Jack graduated from John Paul II Catholic School in 2018 and was co-captain of the school’s varsity baseball team and an active member of the Quiz Bowl team, Model United Nations and National Honor Society. A Life Scholar, Wofford Scholar and Furman Scholar, Jack is now a freshman and Capstone Scholar at the University of South Carolina. "I loved my seven years at St. Francis Catholic School. The teachers are great and I'm still friends with my classmates," he said.
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA BEAUFORT CENTER FOR EVENT MANAGEMENT AND HOSPITALITY TRAINING
About the School: The Center for Event Management and Hospitality Training at the University of South Carolina Beaufort offers valuable professional development opportunities and education in addition to event management resources and support services. Its Island Ambassador program is especially popular with local businesses and includes in-person seminars about Hilton Head Island culture, knowledge and ecology. After a half-day Island Ambassador session, hospitality and customer service staff members can confidently discuss topics ranging from common wildlife seen on the beach to Hilton Head’s early history with island visitors and guests. This enriches the guest experience and creates lasting memories that will bring visitors back year after year. More than 1,600 Island Ambassadors have been certified so far.
What’s new in 2018-19: The center recently added secret shopper evaluations and service quality improvement support for local hospitality businesses. An ambassador program is also in development for Bluffton. Most excitingly, the center — along with USCB’s Hospitality Management department — is now open on the Hilton Head Island campus.
About the schools: Established in 1998, Cross Schools provides a Christian-based education for children ages 12 months through eighth grade. In 2020, the school will welcome its first high school class. Cross Schools strives to create an atmosphere where students develop a passion for learning through small classes, rigorous academics, various enrichment courses and faith-based learning. At Cross Schools, students attend weekly chapel, participate in community service projects, and have the opportunity to join various clubs. The athletic program features 14 different competitive teams. The guiding principles of the Cross Schools community are academic excellence, Christian values and community service.
New this year: Cross Schools’ enrollment is up 20 percent since last year, with over 500 students enrolled from preschool through eighth grade. This fall, Cross Schools opened its new $10 million, 40,000-square-foot expansion. The 80-acre campus will also feature a 500-seat chapel, to be completed December 2019. The school’s continued growth extends to the athletic program with the addition of a baseball team in spring 2019 and a football team, coached by former NFL player Keith Brooking, in fall 2019.
SEA PINES MONTESSORI ACADEMY
About the School: Sea Pines Montessori Academy is an independent, nonprofit school offering the highest quality of private education based on the principles of the Montessori method. The student body is composed of children from 12 months through eighth grade, though the school is exploring adding programs for students ages 6 months to 12 months. Celebrating its 50th anniversary, Sea Pines Montessori promotes character development, growth and discovery while encouraging independence and a love of learning. The curriculum is geared to each child’s unique abilities and needs, allowing each teacher to follow the child through observation and individual/group lessons.
JOHN PAUL II CATHOLIC SCHOOL
About the School: John Paul II Catholic School is committed to preparing students with diverse learning abilities for the challenges of life through intellectual, physical and spiritual programs that advance academic excellence, leadership, a healthy lifestyle and service to others while fostering discipleship according to the traditions of the Catholic faith. At the center of everything John Paul II does is faith in God. In our modern society, it is critical that we instill in our children the values and attitudes necessary to make good decisions as they grow into active adults. We are blessed to partner with our parents to help our children grow in their faith.
Featured Teacher: Cadra Rooney joined John Paul II last year. She has a master’s degree in educational technology and is an experienced STEAM coordinator and curriculum writer for vertical alignment. She holds certifications in IB, AP, online teaching and is trained in SIOP and endorsed in “gifted and talented” education. Rooney is also certified in two Gateway and two Project Lead the Way courses and continues to establish the full track of computer science courses at John Paul II, including two AP courses for the high school. She also is the moderator of two competitive VEX Robotics teams.
HILTON HEAD ISLAND HIGH SCHOOL
Hilton Head Island High School is an incredibly dynamic school with strong leadership, dedicated staff and talented students. We pride ourselves in being caring, creative and compassionate. It is teamwork that drives us to great success in the classroom, on the stage, in the studio, and on the playing fields. Our rigorous academic program challenges students daily to discover their strengths and develop their interests. As an International Baccalaureate school, we engage our students through collaborative projects, integrated technology and diverse course offerings to ensure that our students are critical thinkers and ready for their careers. Being a Seahawk is more special and rewarding than anyone can imagine.