“Boarding school is a choice. It’s a balance between educating your children in your hometown environment or recognizing that perhaps a different environment of education is better for them,” said Shelli Willis, mother of Ella Rodriguez ’23 and a partner at Troutman Pepper.
For the Rodriguez family, Chatham Hall’s focus on the whole girl – intellectual, moral, athletic, and spiritual – creates an environment in which Ella can flourish and because of that the entire family can thrive.
“We strongly believe that the boarding school environment fosters life-long skills in so many ways. We love the fact that Chatham Hall is intensely focused on developing all aspects of Ella’s growth, thereby ‘giving back’ to us as parents time to spend with Ella focused on developing our relationship and having fun together, all the time knowing we have the anchor of Chatham Hall,” said Robert Rodriguez, Ella’s father and senior counsel at GE Renewable Energy.
The Rodriguezes note Chatham Hall’s smaller size, diversity, warm and caring environment, and global focus as factors that piqued their interest about the School. Perhaps most importantly, it was the spirit of the community combined with strong academics and successful alumnae stories that ultimately led them to enroll Ella.
“Ella has always done well turning to other adult role models for academic development so being a boarding school family is a win-win,” noted Shelli. “Also, Ella is extremely extroverted, and with both of her brothers out of the house and with lives of their own, the house was way too quiet for her! She loves the interaction with her peers, faculty, and administrators at school. While we miss the ease of participating in school events locally, we know that the boarding school experience is the right fit and dynamic for Ella. We look forward to being able to spend more time on campus in the post-COVID future.”
For now, as throughout the global pandemic, the Rodriguezes have made the decision to consider their increased family time as a hobby.
“During COVID, we had to come up with ways to pass the time together outside of school, studies and work. So, we made family time a hobby and something to look forward to,” said Robert. “We played Bananagrams, Jenga, Rummikub, and other games and transitioned the whole experience of ‘family’ into a ‘hobby.’’
While 2020 has proven a tough year for many interests, the Rodriguezes will always enjoy traveling to the beach or lake where they can go boating, enjoy water sports, golf, use the hot tub, hang out, seek fellowship at the fire pit, watch a classic movie, and even sleep.
“Ella turned sixteen this summer, and amidst COVID we are proud that she was able to get both her driver’s permit and her North Carolina boater’s certificate,” said Shelli. “She now has a small runabout boat that she named ‘Bug.’ We spent time on it this summer and look forward to creating more memories in the years to come. So, our hobbies are varied but always centered on family.”
For the Rodriguezes, whether during a global pandemic or not, Chatham Hall remains the right environment for their daughter and family.
“We are so appreciative of all the efforts and support that the School and the faculty have given to enable school to go in person and to give the girls as much of a normal experience as possible,” said Shelli.
“We are so appreciative of the vigor and strength that the Chatham Hall team delivers every day. They are shaping our nation’s future leaders. We are so blessed that Ella and we are part of that journey and the Chatham Hall family. All of our daughters are thriving and growing in an incredibly challenging time thanks to the School’s efforts. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”