Inspiration for achievement

Field trip to private high school should serve as motivation for younger students, educators hope.

April 01, 2009|By Joseph Serna

If there were ever a way to put kids from Wilson Elementary School out of their element, taking them to Sage Hill School, a private high school in Newport Beach, was it.

It started with the chartered buses that took them there, students said. The buses had big windows, TVs and even bathrooms on board. Off the 73 Freeway and into the rolling green hills up Newport Coast Drive toward the school, 9-year-old Luis Barrera said he was afraid the bus was going to tip over on the turns.

“They were bouncing off the walls; they were so excited,” said Allison Valla, a substitute teacher at Wilson.

When the kids arrived at Sage Hill, that excitement only grew. Hundreds of children from Wilson and Killybrooke Elementary School in Costa Mesa and schools in Santa Ana restlessly screamed, jumped, ran and chattered their way down the school steps and into the grassy courtyard, framed by the campus’ immaculate buildings.


“It was awe-inspiring,” said Kathy Garcia-Crabb, a fifth-grade teacher from Wilson.

“It’s so big and cool! I want to go here!” Luis said during a break from designing a T-shirt with his Sage Hill “learning buddy.”

Luis wasn’t alone. After months of Sage Hill School students going to these young students’ schools to tutor them in the basics — arts and crafts, English, and math — as part of a service learning program, on the final day the kids got to visit their buddies’ school.

“It’s a celebration of how much both schools learned and collaborated,” said Diane Bucka, spokeswoman for Sage Hill School.

Sage Hill students showcased what their school is all about. During the high school’s twice-weekly town hall meetings in the courtyard overlooking the city, students played music, talked about what they learned and even showed off their fencing skills for many students who have no doubt never seen such a thing.

“This shows them that if they want to go to a high school like this, you have to be able to perform at your best,” Garcia-Crabb said.

Indeed, the message for many students who otherwise may not be able to afford a private high school was if you take what you’ve learned and do your best, the next time you go to a place like Sage Hill, it may not be just for a field trip.

Sage Hill School offers need-based financial aid for families looking to enroll. For more information, go to or call Michelle Roldan at (949) 219-1330.

For more photos, click here.

Reporter JOSEPH SERNA may be reached at (714) 966-4619 or at

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