Did you come from a boarding school family?

Two students share their unique paths to boarding school, whether it was the anticipated route or an unexpected twist.

A group of six students smile at the camera from the deck of a ferry.

What does the phrase “boarding school” mean to you? Maybe boarding school is a time-honored tradition in your family, an educational path that gets passed down from grandparents to parents to grandchildren. Or maybe you are the first student in your community to ever attend boarding school. You’re hoping there’s a place for you there and that you feel welcomed.

Since its founding in 1962, Interlochen has stood as a testament to the transformative power of breaking stereotypes about boarding school. It's a place where students from diverse backgrounds, each with their own unique stories, come together to create, learn, and flourish.

For current student Jillian Cole and alumnus Lucca Caise, their journeys to Interlochen were marked by family legacies and preconceived notions about “the kind of people that attend boarding school.” Once they stepped onto campus, though, those stereotypes were completely shattered. At Interlochen, they found an inclusive and nurturing community that helped define their futures.

Lucca’s story: Making his own way as the first in his family

For recently-graduated alumnus Lucca Caise (IAC 19-21, IAA 20-22) and his family, the decision to attend Interlochen came as a surprise: Lucca is the first in his family to attend boarding school. When he first started at Interlochen, he had some serious reservations. But the reality was nothing like he’d expected.

"I thought that people were going to be extremely smart and already well-trained in the lifestyle of boarding school,” he says. “I'd say most people didn't have that same background as I had in my head."  

At Arts Academy, Lucca was swept up into a welcoming community that “shattered” the stereotypes he’d had in mind. He realized that everyone shared a passion for the arts, and he soon felt at home discussing music and the creative life with his new friends.

"Everyone at Interlochen is into the same thing, so there's no different cliques or anything,” he says. “Everyone's talking about art or playing jazz outside. You can go to someone, talk to them, and form an instant friendship."

Everyone at Interlochen is into the same thing, so there's no different cliques or anything. Everyone's talking about art or playing jazz outside. You can go to someone, talk to them, and form an instant friendship.

Lucca Caise, IAA class of 2023

Lucca’s sense of belonging extended beyond social events, thanks to faculty and residence hall assistants who helped him find community and eased his transition into the boarding school life.

“Being in that community of people, all coming from the same or different backgrounds but living the same experiences, was very welcoming. It gave me a sense of instant community that I didn't really feel like I had elsewhere.”

Interlochen provided the perfect environment for Lucca to refine his passion for bassoon, leading him to envision a future dedicated to music performance and education.

"The inspiration I got from Interlochen was so strong that after a few months in, I realized, 'This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.'"

Lucca’s initial uncertainty had evolved into joy and excitement for the future. He’s currently studying bassoon at Vanderbilt University.

"I would say I'm very much not the same person as I was three years ago at Interlochen,” Lucca says. “It was the best decision I've ever made in my life."

Jillian’s story: Following an older sister, finding a journey of her own

For Jillian Cole, a fourth-year senior at Arts Academy, the decision to attend Interlochen wasn't a spur-of-the-moment choice. Rather, it was a culmination of her family’s influence, and her own artistic ambitions.

"I knew I wanted to go to boarding school because my sister went to boarding school,” she says. “I thought, 'Oh, that's so cool. I'd love to do that.'"

Growing up, Jillian had heard plenty of stories from her sister, Anna, about her experience at a STEM-focused boarding school where she studied marine science.

"My sister loved that she got to meet so many people from different places," Jillian recalls. Jillian realized that she wanted to experience that kind of diverse and accepting community for herself—but at an arts boarding school. 

Boarding school and arts camps had been part of her family’s story for many years. Jillian's mom, Robin, had attended Interlochen Arts Camp, and Jillian’s grandparents were part of Interlochen Arts Academy's first graduating class.

I knew I wanted to go to boarding school because my sister went to boarding school.

Jillian Cole, IAA senior

Although Jillian had grown up hearing about boarding school, she still had to adjust to being away from home and living independently.

“I was really scared at first,” she admits.

Jillian relied on support from her Residence Life staff as she plunged into her first year of Arts Academy.

"They were like cool older siblings who've been off to college and know what to do,” she says. “They don’t have so much of a parental role. It’s more like a caregiver or a mentor role."

Now a senior theatre major, Jillian is  preparing to graduate in the coming spring. She’s paved her own way at Interlochen, discovering friendships and artistic growth. Lately, she’s especially enjoyed her Stage Movement class.

"It's a big exercise in ensemble communication, trusting each other, and collaboration."

Remembering her own experience adjusting to boarding school, Jillian says she does her best to care for other students, regardless of whether they consider themselves “legacies” or not.

“The topic doesn’t really come up much, at least between my friends and I,” she says. “I view students without boarding school backgrounds the exact same way, and if they ask for help, I will gladly give it to them!”

A community that supports young artists, regardless of background

Jillian and Lucca are just two examples of students who found a welcoming community during their time at boarding school. As Jillian moves toward a career in theatre and Lucca embraces his future in music, they both carry with them the confidence and self-acceptance they discovered at Interlochen Arts Academy.

Interlochen is a special place where dreams are nurtured, misconceptions are shattered, and the pursuit of artistic excellence is celebrated. Far from being an enclave for the privileged few, it’s a place where artists from all walks of life can thrive, grow, and find their purpose.

Learn more about Interlochen Arts Academy.