MT. PLEASANT, Utah (ABC4 News) For eight straight years a small private school, in the tiny Utah town of Mt. Pleasant, has been named ‘Best in the State.’
While some local kids attend the boarding school, it also attracts students from more than 30 countries. ABC4’s Don Hudson recently made a trip to Sanpete County to learn more about Wasatch Academy.
Chloe Odom is a first-year student at one of the oldest schools in the state.
“It’s almost like its own little civilization in a way.”
Wasatch Academy was established in 1875 by the Presbyterian Church. For about one hundred years the church owned and operated the school. Then, in the 70s the church let it go and over the past 35 years or so, the 35-acre campus has become an elite private boarding school serving students from all over the world.
“It’s one of the best-kept secrets in Utah.” Spencer Cox, Utah’s Lt. Governor, knows all about the school because he grew up less than 10 miles North in nearby Fairview. “The educational experience is truly impressive. They have wonderful teachers and professors coming in to teach these kids.”
Those are some of the reasons students like Chloe, who is from New York and classmate Diego Ruiz, who is from Mexico, attend. “School here has been helping me a lot developing my English. It’s really been helping me in every aspect right now.”
Chloe and Diego are two of the 340 students who make up the most diverse private school in the state. With students from China, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Mali and two dozens other countries.
Chloe says “My mom and I came and toured here and it had a lot to offer – its a really big campus a lot of diversity. So, my mom and I decided it would be a good fit.”
And then there’s the basketball team. Ten years ago the team started on a path to becoming a prestigious program that now attracts elite college-bound players like Richie Saunders from all over Utah and the world. And it attracts the attention of college coaches from across the country. Saunders, who transferred here this year from Riverton High School in Salt Lake County says, “I love Riverton, but when I was given the opportunity to play here, attend school here, I just – a lot of thought with my family – and we just felt like it was the right thing to do.”
The school’s Head Master Joe Loftin is the first to praise the basketball program here at Wasatch Academy. In fact, he brought in Coach Gino Morgan who began the transformation a decade ago. However, he’s quick to point out the 140-year-old school also offers highly-rated programs in the arts, mathematics, English as a second language and music. “We’re not a basketball academy. We are a high-level academic institution. Where elite athletes can develop both mentally and physically – intellectually and athletically.”
Loftin says that development goes for all the students here, including those who pay the tuition and pay for boarding and the local students who get to attend through financial aid.
“We’re not controlled by a state educational system, were not controlled by a church educational approach. We have our own independent approach to education and for a headmaster that is a dream come true.”
The average class size is just 12 students and the school offers nearly 20 AP classes. It’s easy to see why students like what the school does and does not offer. Chloe says “Well, it’s pretty peaceful you don’t have the distractions. Makes it easier to get your work done.”
And while very few know about the school in the middle of Utah, those involved with Wasatch Academy plan to make it a basketball and education destination in Utah for years to come.
For more information about Wasatch Academy: https://www.wasatchacademy.org.