Student & Parent Testimonials - The Oliverian School Experience

What others are saying about The Oliverian School

The Oliverian School is fortunate to receive many heartfelt testimonials that demonstrate the impact our school has had on students’ lives. We feel extremely privileged that our alternative boarding school has been a vehicle of growth and inspiration for so many students, and we receive immense satisfaction from hearing personal stories of that transformation. We encourage you to read through just a few of the sincere testimonials we have received about our holistic educational program and see why the Oliverian approach such a difference.

“Oliverian Prepared Me for College”-student testimonial

Checking in with one of our recent alums, Marc Nelson ’14, as he settles in to his first semester at Emery College.  When asked “How has it been going?  Has college been what you expected?”  Marc replies, “You know, it is about what I expected.  I am really enjoying it and I truly feel Oliverian prepared me for college.”  Keep up the good work, Marc!



“A Place of Great Comfort”-student testimonial

“The Oliverian School is a place of great comfort that is providing me with the amazing support I need to reach my goals.  It is helping me to overcome so much as I travel the path towards my goals, a path which I couldn’t have discovered without the fantastic people in this great and loving community.”  -Marie Greene ’14


“Oliverian is the miracle for which I have been praying.”-parent testimonial

“I would first like to thank you for creating a program where students that are non-traditional learners can go and find global success. Joshua is finding academic success for the first time in a very long time. He is accepting responsibility for his behavior and accepting consequences without opposition. Whenever I speak with Joshua, he is euphoric about some new experience whether it is paddle boating, or white water rafting, or just being at The Oliverian School. This summer has broadened his horizons and given him a better perspective of his capabilities. And for this, I thank you and your staff! When I spoke to Joshua last, he was really eager to return in September.

From the moment I first saw Oliverian last year when we visited the school, I knew if I could just get Joshua there he would finally find real success and joy in the learning experience…Speaking to him since he has been there, I hear the transition in his voice. Oliverian is the miracle for which I have been praying. There is a new hopefulness in his voice. He is beginning to look forward to college because he is experiencing the kind of success that allows him to be a possibility thinker. The encouragement he is getting from your staff is positive and priceless.”

Eternally Grateful,
Richelle Burnett, mother of Joshua Burnett ’14

“People who would tend to fall through the cracks in a larger school are given the chance to recognize their abilities and build confidence within themselves.   I am in an environment where I can take chances and thrive.  Oliverian truly embraces strong individuality, while also promoting communal living.  I am so grateful to be part of such a wonderful school.”  -Heather Haase ’13

“The Oliverian School, your infinite warmth and love is a blessing.  Being here is coming home to the most honest and understanding family I could ask for.  Thank you for believing in us.”  -Mandira Sandrolini ’10

“Because of what I’ve learned about myself at Oliverian, I feel stable, confident, and ready to start pursuing my academic and career dreams… it’s helped me become excited for my future.”  -Katherine Apuzzo ’11

“The Oliverian School is a place of great comfort that is providing me with the amazing support I need to reach my goals.  It is helping me to overcome so much as I travel the path towards my goals, a path which I couldn’t have discovered without the fantastic people in this great and loving community.”  -Marie Greene ’13

“[We are] so happy that Robbie is part of such a terrific place as Oliverian.  You all show your enthusiasm, love of students, integration of teaching and learning to the highest degree.” -Judi Back-Menegay, Mother of Robbie Menegay ’11

“She grabbed her life back again…This was the opportunity to make it hers.”  -Vicky Vinton, mother of Keila Vinton ’09

“I found Oliverian to be a lot more nuturing… People were really looking out for me.”  -Matt Blanchard ’09

“A place with a dream as unique as its students”-student testimonial

“I have been a student at The Oliverian School and now that I am no longer an Oliverian student, I wish I still was. From the time I started there as a freshman, at a very young age, Oliverian has been my home away from home. Oliverian is hard to describe in words, as there is no way to share the wondrous experience and do it any justice. Here is my attempt to do so.

Oliverian is a place where one feels at home, it is a haven from discrimination, and it will provide you with the help you require to learn about yourself and to be comfortable with what you find. Not only that, but it is a place with a dream as unique as its students, to truly understand and learn from one another and not only from the staff.  In addition to that, there is no place on earth that one can find a staff that cares more. This is a place that shall be in my memories fondly forever and has provided for me and helped me achieve.”

Max Barksdale ’11 (St. Michaels, MD)

“It helped me become the person I’ve always wanted to be”-student testimonial

“The Oliverian School was a part of my life for two years straight (including summer school) and I know it will always be a part of my life. It helped me become the person I’ve always wanted to be.  Since graduating, I am confident, motivated, and sure of what I want, pretty much the complete opposite of who I was upon arrival. I know that for the rest of my life I have the staff and students of Oliverian to call whenever I’d like, for help or to simply catch up. They all saw me go through my transformation and therefore I feel they know me better than anyone else.

The school and community inspired me, yes, but so did the location.  Rural New Hampshire taught me to appreciate nature and serenity and really has made me distant from electronic entertainment (although, yes, I’m on the Internet right now).  But I have not been on Facebook since leaving, and I don’t want to be. I would much rather read a book and call up my Oliverian English teacher, Kara, to discuss it.

I can’t say enough positive comments regarding Oliverian. It is the foundation from which I am now building my whole life. Without it, I would be lost.

Thank you, Oliverian!”

Katherine Apuzzo ’11 (Wilton, CT)

“I could embrace my independence while taking responsibility for myself”-student testimonial

“I wanted a change in my life, as did my parents, but we wanted to approach this change in a different manner.  They wanted to send me to a place where I could better myself without the distractions of home, whereas I wanted to switch schools but still live in Logan, Utah.

When I was sent to Oliverian, I was positive that it was the worst thing my parents could’ve done.  I told them they were taking me out of where I was most comfortable, out of the place I loved.  My parents told me it would be a place for me to start over and begin to take responsibility for my life.

Now that I look back on it, I think what I needed was to be taken out of my comfort zone and put into a place where I could embrace my independence while taking responsibility for myself at the same time.  I realize now that I do love Oliverian and how it’s held my hand in this stage of my life.  My struggle was never with my parents; it was within myself in the sense that I wanted that change and I made myself believe I could achieve that in the environment that I’d been in.  I accused my parents of ruining my life, when in reality they knew long before I did that Oliverian could provide me with the tools I needed to rebuild my life in the way I wanted to.  Oliverian has given me a place to learn more about myself as an individual while giving me an equal chance to take responsibility for myself and for my actions.”

Larkin Dethier ’12 (Wellsville, UT)

“Thank you, Oliverian Family, for setting him on this journey, his journey.”-parent testimonial

“After meeting with Costa’s teachers and advisors and hearing stories about Costa, it struck me that Costa is in relationship with not only teachers, advisors, counselors, and administrators, but the school’s entire staff, from cook to groundskeeper, etc…  And this entity of people is Costa’s ‘Oliverian Family.’  The other thing that struck me was that Costa was more of a “young man,” in the true sense of the word, around each of you.  He was more mature, more respectful, more open in his communication, etc…  It was as if I were in the presence of a future version of him.  Comments from his teachers and advisors spoke of improved academics, better follow-through, leadership, and mentoring qualities, etc…  I’ve been trying to move Costa into this direction for the past three years and have failed; however, in six-month’s time, his Oliverian Family has accomplished all of this and so much more.

Costa still has his challenges and goals for improvement for the second semester, but what I want to convey is that by being out of the toxic environment of his former school and living at his Oliverian home, Costa has had time to reflect about whom he is and his future.  Also, living more on his own, the dorm life, and working with teachers, advisors, and counselors, who have taught him how to better himself in the areas of prioritizing, time management, organization, and preparedness, and mostly, to reflect on his feelings and be more authentic in his relationships, Costa is starting to mature and become more of who he is on the inside.  Through this process, he is starting to realize that he has the ability to control his destiny, and that all the choices and decisions he makes, impact his future.  Costa is learning to accept responsibility instead of always reacting and blaming others.  He is still on his journey and has much more to learn, but he is miles away from that person who was on a dangerous and self-destructive path when he first enrolled at Oliverian back in September.  Admittedly, Costa has made his share of mistakes and bad choices at Oliverian, but as Randy told us, he was glad that Costa made those poor choices as he was then able to experience the consequences and learn from them.  Randy also told us that Costa is at a stage where he is wrestling with “the good person inside versus the person who he thinks he must portray himself to be to others.”  We are encouraged by this as we see that Costa is beginning to learn that his outcomes are more positive when he allows his authentic self to prevail.  My hope is that Costa’s journey of learning and self-discovery will continue in this positive direction, these positively wonderful lessons of life instilled by his new family, his Oliverian family.

Thank you, Oliverian Family, for setting him on this journey, his journey.”

Jimmy Ferrara, Parent of Costa Ferrara ’11 (Montclair, VA)

“If our gift can help set one young life on course for a happy, productive future, then our decision to support the School is, indeed, cause for celebration.  We also hope that it will inspire others to support Oliverian in a similar fashion.” -words of Tom Townsend as he and his wife, Jeanne, announced their gift of $500,000 to honor the memory of their son, Alexander Boone Townsend ’08. 

In connection with the presentation of this gift, in the fall of 2010, Jeanne Townsend shared her thoughts regarding Alex’s Oliverian experience:

“As many of you are aware, our son Alex came to Oliverian in the fall of 2004 as a member of its charter class.  Alex was a sophomore in high school, barely sixteen, and a young sixteen, and espoused to have hated every day of school since kindergarten.  He was a very bright, creative, introspective child who often confounded both his teachers and his peers.  In kindergarten, instead of playing soccer with the other boys at recess, he sat alone in the sandbox and built giant, intricate villages of sticks and sand.  He drew complicated mazes that most adults couldn’t solve.  He spent the majority of his time in t-ball looking for ladybugs and chasing butterflies.  When we sent him to day camp at the beach, while the other children were playing organized games, he set a goal for himself to find a hundred sharks’ teeth, and proceeded earnestly to comb the beach for hours until he had accumulated all one hundred.  In first grade, Alex’s teacher complained to me that when she polled each student about whether they wished to use black or gray felt for a project, Alex replied that would like to use red.  At open house, the same teacher posted the children’s essays on what they wanted to be when they grew up.  While all the other children wrote about their aspirations to become surgeons or lawyers, Alex wrote simply that he wanted to paint pictures on the beach.  He had an incredible ear for music and sat at the piano or his drum set for hours working out songs and rhythms.  He was a consummate collector–his room at home is like an archaeological dig, with his many collections from various stages of his life meticulously on display, beginning with the rocks and fossils, through the Titanic and sports memorabilia, to an impressive World War II collection, to the most exhaustive collection of everything related to the Simpsons I have ever seen.

As Alex grew older, he continued to be a dreamer– which characteristic came to be diagnosed as an attention deficit, and he also became very spirited.  Although he was occasionally lucky enough to have a teacher who understood him– and those teachers usually described him as being an old soul– in general, he simply drove his teachers, and many of his peers, crazy.  They couldn’t comprehend his complete inability to conform, his endless questions, his hyper focus on certain topics, and his lack of focus on topics that he deemed insignificant.  Because of his gentle nature, he became an easy target for bullies and was picked on incessantly.  He began experimenting with various ways to fit in and quickly discovered that he could garner some respect from his peers by being the class clown.  All of this was really frustrating to us, because we knew Alex as a sweet, kind boy with a huge heart, a sophisticated sense of humor, and a keen intelligence and curiosity.  But we felt as if we were the only ones who could see this.  We suffered with him through middle school and through his first year of high school, at which point he had become disillusioned and beaten down.  We went through a period of searching frantically for a better alternative, and we found Oliverian.

At Oliverian, Alex finally found a group of adults, other than his parents and grandparents, who connected with him and truly appreciated his gifts.  Equally as important, they helped him to acknowledge and tackle those behaviors that often got in his way.  They nurtured him, loved him, and guided him, and when he made mistakes, they held him accountable, but continued to nurture, love, and guide him.  They helped him to learn to maneuver successfully within his peer group.  He became an integral part of the Oliverian community.  Oliverian enabled him to gain the confidence he would need to figure out who he was and how he would embrace and navigate through life.  Oliverian became his home away from home, and the people at Oliverian became his family.  In his early days at Oliverian, he was looked at by his peers as the little brother who needed to be protected.  As an older student, he became someone who the other kids looked up to; a leader in his own right.  He wasn’t simply accepted by his peers, he was actually respected.  By the time he graduated, he was no longer the scared little boy who we dropped off in the fall of 2004; he was a 6’5″ young man who had the requisite maturity, confidence, and courage to begin the next chapter of his life.  The people at Oliverian who loved him, and invested themselves so fully in him over the years he was there–Barclay, Greg, Carl Stagg, Lauren Estebanell, Kim McManus, and Abby Hood, to name a few–were in large part responsible for that transformation.  And don’t get me wrong; his journey at Oliverian was not always smooth, and his transformation was not overnight–it was gradual, and sometimes painful, filled with baby steps and sometimes backward steps.  But the people at Oliverian never, ever stopped believing in Alex, so he never gave up on himself.  More than anything, he did not want to let those people down.  Alex left Oliverian knowing that he had been part of something truly special and unique, having forged many deep and lasting friendships, and appreciating every single thing that Oliverian had given him.

Alex went on to complete a semester with the National Outdoor Leadership School in New Zealand, and then became a graphic art and advertising major at the Savannah College of Art and Design.  He fell in love with Savannah and SCAD and made a beautiful life for himself there.  He had a large, very close knit circle of friends, a beautiful girlfriend, and good grades.  In the early hours of Sunday, February 14, 2010, he was killed in a single-car collision.  Thankfully, I was blessed with the opportunity to spend time with Alex on the Thursday and Friday before his accident.  He was in a really good place at the time, and after leaving him, I texted Tom that we needed to just let him be who he was, that he was going to be just fine.  Barclay happened to talk to him the day before the accident to arrange a visit and found him to be happy, confident, and excited for the visit.

When I received the news of Alex’s accident, I found that the first people I wanted to call were the people at Oliverian.  I realized they had spent more time with him and loved him more deeply than just about anyone on this earth, other than his parents, grandparents, and siblings.  Barclay and Greg delivered profoundly moving speeches at his memorial service in St. Louis.  Their words and support helped us immensely to get through those next dark days and weeks.  Our Oliverian family proceeded in the challenging months that followed to become a huge source of strength for us.  I don’t know what any of us–Tom, me, Nate, or Laura–would have done without them.

Tom and I have always been passionate about and supportive of Oliverian and its mission, but the turn of events of last February awakened in us the desire to give back in a very significant way– a way that would enable us to keep Alex’s legacy at Oliverian alive indefinitely, and would enable Oliverian to keep helping kids like Alex.  And by that, I mean kids who have so much to offer the world, but for whatever reason have had a difficult journey and have struggled in a more traditional setting.

This pledge has been months in the making and will come as no surprise to these incredible people, but I’d like now to present Randy with a check for $167,000, which is the first of three installments of a $500,000 gift to be made over the course of the next three years.  And I give you this gift, Randy, with deep love and gratitude, and with the complete confidence that you will use it wisely to continue to carry out Oliverian’s critical mission with the integrity, passion, and dedication that all of you have demonstrated over the seven years that I have been associated with this school.”

Tom and Jeanne Townsend, Parents of Alex Townsend ’08 (St. Louis, MO)

“Happy that Robbie is part of such a terrific place as Oliverian” -parent testimonial

“I just wanted to tell you that after our visit, we both left feeling so happy that Robbie is part of such a terrific place as Oliverian.  Everyone is so kind, caring, and truly genuine human beings.

You all show your enthusiasm, love of students, integration of teaching and learning to the highest degree and possess the best sense of humor that I have ever witnessed!

My only regret is that Robbie did not begin at Oliverian as a freshman.  He keeps telling me that I would fit right in as a student — and I know I would!”

Judi Back-Menegay, Parent of Robbie Menegay ’11 (Easton, CT)

“I feel as if I’m ready to take on life”-student testimonial

“To my friends (or as normal students call them, ‘my teachers’),

I have just started my first day as a college student.  Weird, huh?  But, the thing is, I’m ready, and I cannot thank all of you enough for helping me BE ready for this day.  All of you have helped me become the great person I am today.  I have confidence, self-esteem, and I feel as if I’m ready to take on life.  It may have taken three years to learn all of this, but I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for those years at Oliverian.

From moving into my dorm room (which is a triple), it only took me about an hour to unload and organize three duffle bags and three garbage bags full of things; it took my roommates two days.  Walking down the halls, all I heard was, “Mom, will you do this for me?” or “I don’t know where to start!”  I’ve already seen boys and girls crying about how they miss home, even though they live forty minutes away, and how they don’t know if they can survive classes.

You people have taught me all those skills that I need to start college life and life in general.  All my teachers taught me how to take on a load by making sure I was challenged because you knew I could take it and that made me learn to take the stress of work.  I can’t IMAGINE being out of Delaware and away from my family if I hadn’t gone to Oliverian.  (It’s kind of funny if you actually try to imagine me if I didn’t go to Oliverian and came to Colorado).

You all mean so much to me, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget any of you.  You are my family, and you always will be.  I love you guys!  Please keep in touch!”

Fran Quillen ’09 (Wilmington, DE)

“Our sincerest heartfelt thanks”-parent testimonial

“My wife and I just wanted to extend our sincere appreciation for the events of last week.  We felt for the first time since our son’s downward spiral began two years ago that he is on the way back to the land where responsible people live, a place where he can begin to feel better about himself and think about a future.  In speaking with other parents, the consensus was that we know how extremely difficult it is to deal with teenagers who present all of the issues our children possess, and to cope with all that around-the-clock with equanimity is almost an impossible task.  But the teachers and team members at Oliverian impressed us with their caring and dedication and made us feel that our sons and daughters were in safe, firm hands.

I was also very impressed with the other students at Oliverian we had a chance to chat with and how considerate and thoughtful they were; I saw that as the truest reflection of the good work you are doing there.  So please extend our sincerest heartfelt thanks to your staff, and God bless you for the important work you do.”

Joe Enright, Parent of James Enright ’10 (Brooklyn, NY)

“All of this has been absolutely amazing”-parent testimonial

“Last week Matthew graduated from Mahopac High School, participated in the end-of-the-year ceremony, and is the recipient of a Regents’ High School diploma!!  Even before his high school classes ended, Matthew sat for his college-placement exams, has already chosen and received his fall schedule, and will be meeting with the director of Student Services tomorrow before he attends NYIT’s freshman orientation.

All of this has been absolutely amazing and would not have concluded in such a positive way without your help in establishing the foundation from which Matthew could build upon.  Attached is a picture of our family sharing the joy during this very special moment.”

Sherry Pecoraro, Parent of Matt Pecoraro ’09 (Mahopac, NY)

“Your support and encouragement helped her follow her dreams”

After receiving news of her daughter’s first three college acceptances, including one with a $40,000 scholarship, Claudia Quillen, mother of senior, Francesca Quillen, shared her joy with us at Oliverian – “I am so proud of my daughter Francesca.  Yes, she did it again!  She amazes me with her expectations so high.  When she sets her mind to something, just get out of her way.  She has had an exceptional academic experience at Oliverian.  It takes a whole community to believe in the program.  Your support and encouragement helped her follow her dreams.  A mother couldn’t be more proud of her daughter.”

Claudia Quillen, Parent of Francesca Quillen ’09 (Wilmington, DE)

“In Praise of My Experience at Oliverian”-student testimonial

“I can say now, looking back on it, what an important experience my time at Oliverian was.  It was really a place that got me to flourish and I think I am definitely a better person for it.

Most importantly, I am still amazed by the staff at the school, which still seems to me to be one of the most amazing groups of people that have come together to teach and hopefully enrich lives.  I was only there a year, but the faculty I remember there was just simply amazing.  The class in psychology you taught, though, I recall as being specifically inspiring.  The entire experience, however, is what really mattered: the simple conversations with teachers in and out of class and the out-of-the-classroom experiences.  I have a lot I could talk about in praise of my experience there…  So the point is, thank you very much for all that you and the rest of the staff have done since 2006/07.”

Daniel Miller ’07 (Barrington, RI)

“We didn’t dare to dream”-parent testimonial

“We wanted to thank you all for everything that you have done for Sheri.  It was obvious to us from the start that Oliverian was a special, one-of-a-kind place.  But we didn’t dare to dream that we would be celebrating her graduation complete with awards, multiple college acceptances, and an amazing transformation of her as a person.

College will no doubt present challenges for her, especially in the beginning.  But now we do, in fact, dare to dream of her continued success in school and in life.

We will always be in the debt to you for taking a chance on Sheri and nurturing her through her time at Oliverian.  It was as if she was living in a large extended family, in which everyone helped her out in the good times and the bad.  We heard Barclay say once that the beautiful, rural setting of the school had a healing and calming effect on students.  Well, yes, definitely, but add to that the teachers, dorm parents, management, operational staff, ALL of whom pitch in to help and mentor the kids, and you have a wondrous school.

I don’t want to make the school sound too good to be true.  But it has been for us.  Thank you … thank you … thank you!

If you wish to direct the parents of prospective new students to us, we would be thrilled to discuss our, and Sheri’s, wonderful experiences with the school.”

Doug and Louise Law, Parents of Sheri Law ’08 (Chapel Hill, NC)

“So affirming and so encouraging”-parent testimonial

“This picture says so much about the relationship Matt (Matt Brown, Adventure Teacher is pictured right) built with Zach (student Zach Gardner pictured left) and how supported he felt by Matt.  The end of the year offered a great write-up and was so affirming and so encouraging, as was Matt’s work with Zach all year long.

We are so grateful that Zach had this last year at Oliverian.  While we know that he complained endlessly about being stuck in the sticks, he benefited hugely from the steady, caring dedication of every single staff member who crossed his path.

Gil and I were very struck by Zach’s insistence at the conclusion of graduation, that he personally took the time to thank every single staff member before we left campus.  He is a shy soul, as you know, so this was a big deal… and this says so much about the quality of the staff at the school.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all the time and energy you poured into making this year work for Zach.  We are so grateful for all you have done for him and for us.  Have a good summer, and some restful downtime.  We hope to stay in touch in the future.”

Susie Rheault and Gil Williams, Parents of Zach Gardner ’08 (Lincoln, MA)