A Peek into Cincinnati’s Only Christ-Centered Six-Year College Prep Experience

Photography provided by Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy


Two years ago, to address an ever-changing world reshaped regularly by technological advances, market dynamics, and globalization, Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy (CHCA) deliberately shifted from the traditional elementary, middle and high school educational landscape and created a Lower School and Upper School. That shift, explains Upper School Principal Dean Nicholas, Ph.D., linked CHCA’s seventh and eighth-graders with its ninth through 12th-grade programs, providing a single culture and atmosphere that more fully prepares students to learn, lead and serve in a Christ-centered way.

“With the creation of the Upper School, CHCA provides the only six-year, Christ-centered, college preparatory high school in the region,” he says. “Beginning with the end in mind, we prepare students to thrive in college and beyond. We do this by creating an opportunity for students to thrive in a ‘further-faster’ world. We allow them to pursue their passions and foster a love of learning that goes beyond an education of checking boxes and jumping through hoops.”


Academic excellence and Real World Learning Experiences

CHCA’s already-strong academic reputation as a college preparatory school with rigorous PK2-grade 12 programming is only strengthened by the Upper School, Nicholas notes. They created academic departments that now span grades seven through 12, with a single department head for each subject/course area, ensuring seamless curricular scope and sequence with a constant focus on challenging students to think deeply and through a lens of faith.

With the Upper School starting at seventh grade, CHCA now awards high school credits in grades seven through eight for certain classes that are at a high school level. Currently, for example, Algebra 1 and Geometry receive one credit, and Chinese 1A, 1B; Latin 1A, 1B; Spanish 1A, 1B; and Health all receive .5 credits. So, rising ninth graders could potentially already have 3.5 high school credits. Although these courses are listed on a student’s transcript, they are recorded Pass/Fail so that younger students aren’t concerned about a permanent grade point average. “We want students to stretch themselves, if they are ready, without the worry of affecting their GPA,” Nicholas notes.

One of the skills that historically sets a CHCA graduate apart from others is the ability to write well, he continues, and the Upper School puts an even greater focus on that skill. Beginning in the seventh grade, students are now required to take English Composition every day. “We believe that our students need to be writing daily to hone their skills,” Nicholas says. In the eighth grade, all students either take regular or advanced English Composition. Each student also studies English Literature every other day, giving them more time to complete reading assignments. With this foundation, according to Nicholas, all Upper School students will be well-equipped to write in college and beyond.

Another prime example of CHCA’s Upper School non-traditional learning opportunities is its Entrepreneurship Program. Students study business and entrepreneurship not from textbooks, but from managing and starting businesses. The Leaning Eagle Coffee Bar and The Blend Smoothie Bar are two full-functioning, student-created/managed/operated businesses on CHCA’s campus where students not only work as baristas, but manage all aspects of the business, from marketing to ensuring profitability and supervising their classmates/employees. Seventh and eighth-graders operate the Mini Cup – a simplified extension of the Leaning Eagle, located on CHCA’s Founders’ Campus.

One of the Upper School’s signature non-traditional programs is Intersession, which begins with “Intercession: Change Our World” in seventh and eighth grades. This involves one week in the fall where students take a break from their traditional Founders’ Campus classrooms and participate in service learning. Seventh graders participate in a pre-set program, learning about their own character strengths and exploring a variety of ministries and outreaches around the Cincinnati area. The eighth graders choose from five different opportunities comprised of serving at a local ministry, an out-of-town ministry or at Back2Back Ministries in Monterrey, Mexico.

Students in ninth through 12th grades participate in a two-week intensive experiential learning opportunity during either a Winter Term (the first two weeks of January) or a May Term (the last two weeks of May), depending on the year. The older students choose from one of about 25 different courses comprised of in-depth explorations of a specific topic, service learning educational travel or cultural immersions.

A sampling of this upcoming year’s options include: exploring the best of Italy (where else can you better learn and explore about the Roman Empire?), serving local schools in greater Cincinnati (students giving of themselves by providing local schools with useful assistance, such as tutoring, reading or practical help, and gaining insight, appreciation and understanding of the lives of our neighbors in each school community), and exploring our country’s great National Parks (fostering a sense of environmental awareness and experiencing the wonders of the world here in our own country).


Socially, Emotionally and Spiritually Prepared

“The ethos of the Upper School is one of empowerment. We desire to help students grow socially and emotionally by creating an environment with adequate freedoms and responsibilities to prepare them for college life,” Nicholas says. “Self-efficacy is one of the greatest traits we build into our students. The ability to make decisions, manage their time, and self-advocate are all skills we foster. We regularly tell the students that it’s not the teachers’ and administrators’ school, but it’s our school and we must create its culture together.”

Learning and faith reinforce each other at CHCA. The curriculum carefully integrates meaningful reflections upon Christian faith into every discipline. Students live out their faith through service to others, reaching beyond the classroom walls to grow, learn and make an impact.


What the World Needs Now

“Our changing world needs leaders,” Nicholas concludes. “It needs people who are passionate critical thinkers, problem solvers and innovators. It needs people who can communicate well, whether by written or spoken word. It needs people who are motivated self-starters with entrepreneurial drive. It needs people who can manage themselves and others. It needs people willing to serve those around them, putting the needs of others before themselves. Our world needs people who understand that all the world is God’s and that He is restoring things, making all things new through Christ.

“Our Upper School is creating an environment to raise up young women and young men who will engage the world and shape the future,” he says. “We are excited for what the future holds. We are excited for what our students will do.” 


Quick Facts about CHCA’s Upper School Program, Grades 7-12

  • Class of 2018 earned nearly $12 million in Merit Scholarships and will attend 52 universities in 20 states.
  • 20 Advanced Placement classes.
  • 93 percent of students participate in athletics and/or fine arts.
  • 100 percent of Upper School students complete six years of Christian Studies coursework.
  • Students average 230 service hours in grades 9-12 with 31 Student Organized Service (SOS) groups run by 70+ leaders who pursue needs they’re passionate about.
  • Three foreign language offerings (Mandarin Chinese, Latin and Spanish).
  • This past year, eight students completed a formal research, capstone or independent study with several being published.
  • Home to World-Ranked Robotics Team.
  • New on-site greenhouse is home to CHCA’s Nationally-ranked Aquaponics Program.
  • One of the only schools in this region to offer zSpace (real-world, virtual reality computer stations).
  • Student-run entrepreneurial enterprises provide real-world business experience.
  • The city’s largest International Student Program hosts dozens of students from around the world.


Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy’s Beshear Family Welcome Center is located at 8283 East Kemper Road, Cincinnati, OH 45249. For more information, visit www.chca-oh.org.