"Growing, without the pains"

"Ask sophomore Christina Miglino about her experiences at West Sound Academy and her face lights up. Ask her what she likes better about this school than her previous one and she'll launch into a series of reasons, but ultimately settles on single theme - the faculty. They are really inspiring... My goal in life is to do something to help others and I really feel that the staff here is here for the kids, she says, noting that the smaller class size helps contributes to a more inviting atmosphere for one-on-one learning, You get all your questions answered in class. At a school where class size ranges from three to 15 students per class, this is more than a ringing endorsement, it is a fact. What makes Miglino's endorsement even more notable is that she's been at the school for less than a week. Christina and her younger brother Billy are among the 21 new students at the independent school currently located at the Suquamish Village Square in Suquamish. The school, which just began its third academic year, has 51 students (grades 6-12), 16 faculty and four administrative staff. What sets it apart, aside from the low student to teacher ratio, is its philosophy - preparing students for college in a learning environment that stresses personal exploration as much as academic growth. To that end, the classes often contain integrated components, such as the humanities class, which combines aspects of English, history, ethics and art history. The comprehensive class also has homework that allies the different disciplines for a more focused study. Providing practical learning experiences is something the school takes pride in. Many of the teachers are professionals who became teachers, explained Nellie Klinikowski, head of the school. They are experts in their field and have actually practiced in the field that they are teaching in. Compared to Miglino, junior Lisa Marcotte, 15, has been a student all three years of the school's existence. A Kingston resident, she says her favorite thing is the chance to try different things in an encouraging environment that includes a foreign language requirement as well an art discipline. We really have the opportunity to explore other avenues, she says. She admits that some of those avenues weren't as much fun as she had hoped, but they were worth the effort. She feels that she didn't have a lot of similar opportunities in public school. The school requires 15 hours of service learning each year. Megan Todd, admissions coordinator, said the kids love being able to give something back. We want to support our community. I think the kids would do it anyway [if it weren't required], they're pretty into it. Another unique aspect of the school is the twice yearly field trip the entire school takes. Later this month, the school will take all 51 students to Ashland, Oregon and spend a few days at the Shakespeare Festival. All of these opportunities do come at a cost. Tuition for West Sound Academy is $9,200 per year for grades six through eight, and $10,000 per year for grades nine through 12. Todd says that at least a quarter of their students are on some sort of financial aid. Christine Miglino received an 80 percent scholarship based on an interview and her several years of experience as a dancer. While tuition covers a lot of their costs, Todd says the school relies heavily on fundraising to provide the revenue to supplement tuition and help pay for the faculty, staff, equipment and other expenses. The future of West Sound Academy looks bright. Since its beginnings, enrollment has risen from 15 the initial year, to 30 last year and now to 51. The staff plans on having around 80 students next year. To help accommodate the added students, the school is set to move into a new building in fall 2001. The new location is on 20 acres of land on the hillside just above the Northwest College of Art on Hwy. 305. The school hopes to have outdoor labs, tennis courts, roomy classrooms, artist's studios, a research center and a performing arts theater. Groundbreaking for the new site is set for this November. "

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