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Six years ago when her family first enrolled at Academy at the Lakes, the Wendlek Campus was, as Kara Sartain put it, “a little sore on the eyes.” However, based on the recommendations of several AATL families, Kara and Jim Sartain looked past the physical appearance of the Lower Division and enrolled their oldest daughter, Olivia ’24.
“The teachers and the experience were phenomenal,” said Kara. “Olivia thrived and the teachers and everyone were so nice. We fell in love with the school.”
Later, the Sartains enrolled their younger daughter, Sarah ’26.
“In the six years we’ve been at Academy, the physical changes to the campus have been unbelievable,” said Kara. “Now it’s a true joy to tell someone to go look at the school. The facilities are better and the transformation is incredible. Of course, you’re wrapped up in the teachers, and that really is the best part.”
For years Kirk and Aileen Downing planned and saved so they could fulfill their dream to build a basketball court in the backyard of their Lutz home for their sons, Denzyl ’20 and Dwight ’21.
But when the time finally came to make their dream a reality, the Downings had second thoughts. Their hesitance wasn’t about whether they should build the basketball court, but rather, where they should build it.
In the end, the Downings decided to make a significant donation to Academy at the Lakes so that the court could be built on the McCormick Campus.
This year, Academy at the Lakes’ Founders’ Day included a special twist.
On October 9, the school continued its tradition of celebrating Academy’s founding year (1992) and honoring long-time employees at an annual assembly. However, following the Founders’ Day assembly, the festivities spilled out onto the newly renovated Upper Division patio for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The celebration was the culmination of Academy’s summer construction project that produced two spacious, new classrooms and a 2,000+ square foot patio with both covered and uncovered social spaces for students.
Paul Hagenau’s career as an educator spans five decades, three schools, and two states.
You could say that Hagenau has seen it all during his time attending, visiting, and working at schools.
And yet, he says, “Academy at the Lakes is different.”
“This school has more of a sense of community than the other schools I’ve taught at and known, said Hagenau. “It has more of a sense of family – a school family. In a way, it’s less institutional.”
It’s the Academy difference that has kept Hagenau here in the classrooms since 1998. Known for his challenging Advanced Placement U.S. History classes, this teacher can’t help but offer an historical analogy when describing his beloved school.
It’s the first word that comes to mind when parent Christi Reinhart reflects on her family’s experience at Academy at the Lakes.
For Christi, husband Joel, and their children, Lauren ’20 and Jack ’24, community means being a part of something bigger than themselves.
Christi, who previously worked as a counselor in public schools, saw first-hand the impact a school culture can have on its students.
She considers herself “a professional student.” He believes that knowledge is power. It’s no wonder, then, that education is among their top priorities when it comes to giving.
Betsy and Roger Joyce have a long family history with independent schools. They graduated from Chaffee and Kingswood, respectively, and they sent their own children to independent schools as well. Even their parents attended independent schools.
So when it came time to help find the right school for their grandchildren, the Joyces quickly narrowed in on Academy at the Lakes.