A Day in the Life of Church Farm School’s Oscar Lu
Oscar Lu, a ninth-grader at Church Farm School, is just 15 years old — he’s a leap-year baby, however, so technically his age is debatable — but the bright, warm young man has the focus and heart of someone much older.
Lu attributes this to his parents, first-generation Chinese immigrants who taught him and his twin brother, Victor, the importance of working hard and giving back.
“My mother is a doctor, so her job is helping others, and my father [a former educator], is the same,” he said.
Lu said his father continues to teach him how to commit and follow through. For example, when the boys, who live in Los Angeles, saw the crisis in Ukraine last year and wanted to help, Lu’s father put their wishes into action, booking a flight for the trio to Poland. When Church Farm School learned the twins would miss Revisit Day for admitted students because they were helping Ukrainian refugees in Poland, it was pretty clear these two young men were something special.
On the border, they helped in a shopping center that was turned into a makeshift refugee camp.
“We did cleaning, made beds, and took care of the children,” Lu said.
This wasn’t a one-off; Lu notes that he’ll be traveling with his father and brother over spring break to volunteer at an orphanage in Mexico.
Lu said the idea of boarding school intrigued him because he wanted to gain independence.
“I was relying on my family too much,” he said.
After he and his brother finally made it back to the United States from Poland, they stopped in Exton to participate in a Shadow Day before selecting Church Farm School.
“Mr. [Chet] Blair [Director of Student Life] remembered our names and everything about us,” Lu said. “It proved to me the connections within the community and inspired our decision to enroll.”
In just three months on campus, Lu has made his own connections. While he rooms with his twin brother, he is forging his own path — both academically and socially. Recently, he ran for ninth-grade student representative and won, desiring to advocate on behalf of his Griffin “brothers.” He also earned the highest GPA award and the community service award at a recent Awards Night event.
Listening to Lu talk about his daily schedule, it’s no surprise he is already excelling academically. He takes advantage of the biweekly, 70-minute conference time periods to meet with teachers to ask questions, or to do homework in his teacher’s classrooms should any questions arise. He admits to rushing back to his cottage after dinner to get in 30 minutes of homework before study hall officially starts, then usually focusing on homework for three straight hours (with some relaxation and social breaks in between) before making sure to get to sleep by 10:30.
“On the weekends, I get out and have fun, but I try to do at least an hour of schoolwork each day, so nothing piles up,” he said.
Lu also takes advantage of “to do” lists, making sure to create one every morning before heading off to breakfast.
Lu enjoys all of his classes and believes that every adult on campus is truly invested in student success. His favorite class is Spanish with instructor Justin Peake, probably because he has improved the most in that subject.
“I thought it would be a breeze, to be honest,” he said.
Although he speaks fluent Mandarin at home with his parents, Lu is pleased that he has progressed quickly with Peake’s help and hopes to be more fluent when he travels to Mexico in March.
“Spanish class also reminded me how hard it was for my parents to come the United States speaking no English, but they still built a family and a successful life,” said Lu. “I really look up to them for that.”
Lu has a typical ninth-grade schedule — English, History, Geometry, Science, Health, and Spanish — and participates in the school’s lunchtime DECA and Academic Competition clubs, as well as its Choir. The latter, he said, is something his mother wanted for him, although he has no prior singing experience.
“We are a family of Christians, and we wanted to do something related to worship,” Lu said.
The Choir performs at school and external events throughout the year, singing both secular and religious music. All students must take two seasons of athletics, and there are teams for all skill levels. Lu has so far participated in golf (new to him and very challenging, he said) and basketball, for which he has a particular affection. He sees himself someday studying marketing; he’s very talented at graphic design and even volunteered his skills over the summer to the Harvard men’s basketball team.
How did he make that connection?
“I just emailed them,” he said. “You have to take chances in life. You never know how it will work out.”
His favorite memory of the school year so far was a service trip to Good Works, a Christian organization in Coatesville that utilizes volunteers to fix homes for low-income residents.
“It was such hard work, and we were lifting the heaviest stuff for hours,” said Lu. “I was so happy to push through and complete the project. It showed me what I’m capable of.”
Here is a day in the life of Oscar Lu:
Lu, who rooms with his twin brother, wakes up to his alarm, gets dressed, and looks at the school’s Portal to check his schedule for the day and to create a “to do” list to keep him on track.
“I always wake up my brother,” said Lu. “He does not always do the same for me.”
All boarding and day students must check in with the administrator on duty in the Dining Center every weekday by 7:50 AM. Lu makes his way from the south campus — which features 10 student cottages, the school’s historic Chapel and the Health Center — to the north campus through an underground tunnel. Classes are held in three adjacent buildings on north campus: Greystock Hall (Humanities, World Language), Wilkins (STEM), and the Buck Family Center for the Arts (Arts).
Lu enjoys pancakes, tater tots, and pork sausage. He said he has tried scrapple — a CFS tradition that dates back to when the school was a working farm and scrapple was mailed or delivered to donors every Christmas — but was not fond of it.
Lu attends U.S. History with instructor Dan Dratch, who teaches the role ancient civilizations played in shaping the modern world.
Lu heads down one floor to English with instructor Courtney Saunders. The class is focused on “The Hero’s Journey,” exploring the concept of the hero and the quest through critical reading, foundational essay writing, the elements of literature, and vocabulary development.
Heading down one more floor, Lu meets with his advisor, Assistant Head of School/Director of Academics Margaret van Steenwyk, and four other co-advisees from different grades, for a quick catch-up, board games, and snacks. Sometimes they focus on social-emotional learning (SEL) activities and discussions. Advisors also take their advisees on off-site trips throughout the year.
Lu walks across the Quad to the Buck Family Center for the Arts, finished in August 2020, which houses all of the school’s art programs, including its prestigious Choir. Students in Choir are working on their first major performance of the year, Lessons and Carols, a Chapel Service featuring seasonal music by the choir, along with readings and hymns by the CFS community.
Lu participates in the school’s new Academic Competition Club led by instructor Liang Gates, where they prep for regional contests testing their knowledge in a variety of subjects. He is also in the school’s DECA Club. DECA prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality, and management in high schools and colleges around the globe.
Lu heads to the Dining Center for lunch. When the weather is nice, students can eat outdoors on the school’s new Dining Terrace. Sodexo provides a variety of healthy meals; many meals are the result of student input and collaboration.
Lu travels through the “Link,” a breezeway that connects Greystock Hall and Wilkins, to Inspiring Physics with Gates, learning concepts in mechanics, momentum and energy, waves and light, electricity and magnetism, and subatomic physics.
During conference time, offered every Tuesday and Thursday, students can meet with teachers in their classrooms for extra help. Lu takes advantage of conference time, whether seeking out teachers when he has questions or doing work in their rooms in case a question arises.
Return to Cottage
All student-athletes return to their cottages at the end of the school day to get into their athletic uniforms, then head back to north campus where the school’s gym, Pavilion, outdoor tennis courts, new six-lane track, and fields for soccer, lacrosse, and baseball are located. Bowling is offered at a local alley nearby.
CFS currently offers 23 teams for 11 sports. Lu participated in golf in the fall, his first time playing the sport, which he said is “not as easy as it looks.” In the winter, he played basketball on the ninth-grade team.
Return to Cottage
After sports, all students again return to their cottages to ensure they are clean and in dress code for dinner.
Back to north campus and the Dining Center for dinner. Sodexo hosts special-themed dinners throughout the year to recognize holidays and special events. While the school is Episcopal, it recognizes and celebrates all faiths.
Before the nightly cottage meeting and study hall commences, Lu gets a head start on his homework and checks his progress on his “to do” list.
Cottage Meeting/Study Hall
Lu is in Disston Cottage, which is reserved for ninth-grade students. Upperclassmen serve as prefects in freshman cottages, and there are two cottage parents. Lu said his cottage parent, JC Garges, often starts the nightly meeting with an inspirational reading or a meditation and relaxation session. Lu spends about three hours on his homework, and, while he says he doesn’t watch full shows, catches up on movie, television, and sports recaps via YouTube.
Lu tries to get a good night’s sleep and turn in around 10:30 PM every night.
Founded in 1918 in Exton, Church Farm School prepares a diverse group of boys with academic ability and good character to lead productive and fulfilling lives by making a college preparatory education financially accessible. It is still enrolling boarding and day students for the 2023-2024 school year. Learn more about Church Farm School.
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