By Sarah Vega for The Island Eye News
Photos provided by University School of the Lowcountry
Back in 2007, Isle of Palms resident Jacob Ufkes was one of the first students to attend University School of the Lowcountry (USL) during its inaugural academic year. Even then as a 7th grader, Ufkes said he knew the school’s unique approach to learning was going to have a lasting impact on him for the rest of his life.
“The lessons taught at USL are not ones that you forget soon after finishing a class or graduating, but something you continue to improve upon throughout the rest of your life,” says Ufkes.
Ufkes remembers the individual attention that was given to each student, which still remains a hallmark of a USL education today. From incorporating student interests into the interactive curriculum to challenging each student to achieve his or her full potential, he recalls that the faculty and students worked closely together, creating strong bonds and a “family-like feeling.”
“The advanced academic curriculum at USL really helped me look forward to my future, and it benefited me both inside and outside the classroom throughout high school and college,” Ufkes says.
At USL, Ufkes had the opportunity to establish communication and relationship building skills. More so than any academic skill, he says the most important thing he learned at USL was “the value of face-to-face interaction.”
Ufkes also enjoyed USL’s weekly field trips that allowed him to make connections between classroom lessons and the real world. One trip in 2008 took him to MUSC, where he personally experienced how a high-frequency chest wall oscillation machine helps to loosen and move mucus out of the airways of cystic fibrosis patients.
“This type of first-hand experience in the greater world allows University School students to see a wide array of career paths and to be inspired by the people engaged in them,” says Jason Kreutner, founder and head of USL.
The impact of that experience at MUSC proved to be lasting. Ufkes graduated from The Citadel this past Spring with a degree in Health, Exercise, and Sports Science, and he hopes to soon start a career in medical device sales and support.
Ufkes says he will always be grateful for the ways in which USL shaped him as a person. When USL was first established, it only served students in grades 6 – 8, so Ufkes moved on to graduate from Wando High School in 2013.
“My experience at USL set me apart from my peers in both high school and at The Citadel. USL helped me grow as a whole person instead of just a student,” he says.
University School of the Lowcountry (USL) is a non-profit, independent school serving students from 3rd through 12th grade and is celebrating its 11th year of serving children and families throughout the greater Charleston area. For more information please visit uslowcountry.org or call 843.884.0902.