Student numbers soar at Chamberlain-Hunt

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 9, 2004

Seventh-grader Josh McNair of Natchez negotiates the monkey bridge on the ropes course at Chamberlain-Hunt Academy.(Melanie Duncan Thortis The Vicksburg Post)

[2/8/04]PORT GIBSON> Progress is evident nearly everywhere on the campus of Chamberlain-Hunt Academy as the school begins its 125th year and its fifth under new ownership.

Dorms have been revamped, weight-training facilities are being refurbished and an outdoor pool is being added at the Christian military school 30 miles south of Vicksburg.

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The changes are part of a $5 million project brought on when the school merged in 1998 with French Camp Academy, another Christian military and boarding school, near Kosciusko. CHA had been owned by the Presbyterian Church in Mississippi.

Since the merger, enrollment has nearly doubled.

Development director Eddie Williford said about 90 students in grades 7 through 12 attended Chamberlain-Hunt before 1998 now it’s 175, about half of whom live outside the state.

“We’ve just got a solid school program,” he said of the school named for Dr. Jeremiah Chamberlain, the founder of Oakland College, and benefactor David Hunt. “It has just gotten a lot stronger.”

Oakland was forced financially to sell to the state after the Civil War, and its buildings were used to found Alcorn State University. The proceeds were used to start CHA.

The school now accepts boarding and day students; girls are accepted only as day students, and about 140 students are boarders.

Of all the changes, the new Wilderness Program is creating the biggest buzz on campus.

It is ropes and obstacle, confidence, team and reaction courses that focus on teamwork and problem-solving as well as working individually.

Each cadet will work through the courses three times each semester. The courses sit on about 70 acres south of the school’s main property, and while the courses were built based on military models, they are down-sized considerably.

Though some students indeed go on to pursue careers in the military, the primary focus, said Commandant Rob Stinson, is reflected daily in the school’s mission: to help students achieve knowledge and wisdom in submission to God.

“Our primary mission is the evangelization of the cadets by giving them a classical education and discipline,” he said. “We try to facilitate that through the military structure.”

The curriculum is Christian-based, said Stinson, whose primary focus is the military training. At each grade level in each semester, students are required to take Bible courses. And even art classes work entirely on Bible-related projects.

The school is accredited through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Mississippi Private School Association.

With the physical changes and increased enrollment, the school is offering new courses.

Amy Fogg, an admissions counselor and alumni coordinator who moved to Port Gibson to enroll her son in the school, is teaching sign language, while director of advancement Jack West teaches sculpting. Both teachers are new to the school this year.

To commemorate the 125th anniversary, events are planned with the academy’s sister school, Alcorn State University.