For boarding students around the world, living apart from your family and far from your homeland can be a daunting experience. While many residential schools rely upon the use of dormitories to house their students, Ross School provides students with the warmth of a family environment. Sharing single-family residences located throughout East Hampton and Sag Harbor, students and house parents—adults living in the houses who serve as supervisory figures, confidantes, and much more—work together to create a homelike atmosphere in the boarding houses.
“Devoted house parents are the backbone of the Residential Life program. Without them, we would be unable to run this program successfully,” said Anja Abney, Director of Residential Life and International Student Services. “Our students live thousands of miles from their families, and it’s comforting for their parents to know that their children are in the care of people who will ask how their day went or celebrate their birthday. The family-style experience Ross provides is one of our most distinctive features.”
Robin Volinski, Café manager at Ross Lower School, has been a house parent since the program began in 2009. As the parent of two adult children, Robin says she became a house parent because she missed the energy of a full house. In the early days of the program, Robin says, the school café was closed on weekends. During this time, she enjoyed preparing meals with her students. Among her favorite experiences as a house parent was creating a family dinner menu and cooking with her students. They loved the food, which consisted of skirt steak, shrimp scampi, and spicy cabbage, so much that they ate the same thing every weekend Robin was on duty that entire school year.
Though many of the house parents can attest to the challenges of the position, all say that living with students has its rewards. Robin says that she keeps in touch with several students she’s cared for in the past, communicating over social media and visiting whenever possible. “I’ve had great children over the years. They’ve been good to me, and I’ve been good to them,” she said. “I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t love it.”