Creating enriching environments where students can learn about life beyond the standard curriculum is one of the hallmarks of some of our Best Schools. Here are just a few examples of how schools go above and beyond to teach students lessons in life.

Miamisburg High School

For a high school program launched in 2016, Miamisburg High School Theater is already experiencing success on stage. The crew took home nine awards for its production of the The Addams Family at the first Miami Valley High School Theatre Awards, far more than any other individual school earned on the night.

Andrea Hubler, parent booster and one of the original architects of the theater program, helped write a business plan that was presented to the school board since “students at Miamisburg didn’t have anywhere to go to grow out of children’s theater programming at the time.”

Through The Addams Family, and previous productions such as Into the Woods and High School Musical Jr., Hubler believes the theater program has a profound effect on the educational and social development of students at Miamisburg.

“They develop so many marketable skills for the future,” says Hubler. “Students must think on their feet and react to different situations quickly in theater.”

“A lot of them have found their people,” says Hubler. “But the coolest thing is seeing kids connect. Some are jocks, some are musicians, some don’t participate in anything else, but midway through you see them connect with each other.”

The Miamisburg High School Theater, searching for additional funds to create more award-winning shows, encourages other students and families in the community to attend the shows.

Northmont High School

Northmont City Schools recognizes that being a student can be complicated and confusing, which can often lead to interpersonal conflict between peers. To resolve issues that may arise Northmont looks toward high school student leaders in Matt Maiken’s peer facilitation class. Students, who must apply with teacher recommendations to enroll in the course, also educate elementary students on the dangers of bad influences like drugs and alcohol.

The first nine weeks of the course are spent developing student leadership ability, such as listening and emotional intelligence skills. Then, “we turn them loose to be of services to others,” says Sheree Coffman, student assistant counselor. From there students will mediate conflict, lead assemblies at elementary schools on bullying and eat lunch with younger students, among other activities.

“I understand the power of youth teaching youth,” Coffman says. “A 16-year-old can be more impactful in delivering a message.”

Students in the peer facilitation class are required to complete 20 community service hours every quarter. Volunteer activities include assisting local nonprofit organizations such as House of Bread.

The goal is for this program to “prepare students so they have can have a bigger impact,” says Tony Thomas, superintendent.

“At graduation this year,” he says, “there was a student that has anxiety in front of large groups. A girl who happened to be a peer facilitator was sitting beside him. She walked him through everything and he ended up having a great experience. If she didn’t have that training he might not have had a positive experience.”

Yellow Springs High School

Yellow Springs High School continues to inspire students to take on the world by creating a club—dubbed Global Connections—dedicated to creating opportunities for student-designed, passion-driven, multicultural-learning experiences through international travel.

High school students have taken multiple trips since the club’s inception four years ago, says Eli Hurwitz, library media specialist and adviser for Global Connections at Yellow Springs High School. Forty-five students have traveled to Rome, Paris and Peru to experience new cultures and experiences. Next year, Global Connections will venture to Rome and Athens, Greece, next year during spring break.

“For some of our students this is not just the first time outside of the country, but the first time outside of Ohio,” says Hurwitz. “It’s a big change, but it gives all of our students an opportunity to become bigger and better people.”

While abroad, students complete research projects on the country to earn school credit. The assignments encourage students to study the countries’ culture in order to learn more about the local customs. However, students don’t just research and experience new cultures—they build friendships that will last a lifetime.

“Going overseas together like this and experiencing the world like this creates a brand new level of understanding between these students,” says Hurwitz. “They’ve experienced the world and they’re sharing something that the rest of the rest of their peers haven’t shared yet.”

Bellbrook High School

Bellbrook High School assists all students in their quest for knowledge and has now extended that support to members of the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex and asexual) community. The high school recently founded a Gay Straight Alliance Club to create a space for students who need it.

Before starting the club, Bellbrook High School conducted extensive research and found that students in schools that had a Gay Straight Alliance organization felt the school was safer. All students—even those who are not a part of the club or don’t identify as somebody in the LGBTQIA community— agreed, explains Paige Lewis, the school’s English teacher and Gay Straight Alliance adviser.

The club meets monthly to discuss the needs of students, how to better support the school and focuses on acts of service for local groups in the community. In meetings, students discuss their own experiences and what they’ve been through in order to support each other.

“They’re so willing to put themselves out there,” says Lewis. “They’ll share with one another to say, ‘This is my experience—the kinder we can be to people the better, because we don’t really know what they’re dealing with outside of school.’”

The club is open to all students who are looking for a comfortable space where they can make new friends and branch out.

“I think what’s cool about (Gay Straight Alliance) is the group of people that have come together are not kids that would traditionally be hanging out or spending time together,” says Lewis. “It created this space for a hodgepodge of people to come together and become friends.”