FAQ

Education outside the norm sparks curiosity.

OWYHEE CANYONLANDS, OREGON
STUDENTS AT HUILO HUILO WATERFALL IN CHILE
STUDENT PADDLING THE RIO FUY
EASTERN RANGE MOUNTAINS, IDAHO
CLASSROOM IN NELTUME, CHILE
RIO BAKER, CHILE
EASTERN RANGE MOUNTAINS, IDAHO
SALMON RIVER, IDAHO

General Questions

Alzar is a Spanish verb which translates to “to rise,” “to elevate,” “to lift,” or “to boost.” It is used in many different expressions, such as alzar el vuelo (to take flight), alzar la carpa (to pitch a tent), and alzar la vela (to set sail). As a verb, it indicates action, and Alzar School students are full of action. It also reflects Alzar School’s larger goal of elevating what education means for high school students.

To be accepted to Alzar School, a student must be highly motivated and capable of advanced, college-preparatory academic work. He/she must also demonstrate strong character, as students are given significant trust and responsibility from the beginning of the semester. A student must not have a history of dishonest and/or irresponsible behavior—academic or otherwise, and must be willing to spend the entire semester drug and alcohol free (if you think you might be tempted to break this rule, please do not apply). Finally, a student’s application and references must indicate that she/he has the desire and potential to become an effective leader who will work to make the world a better place. Please see Alzar School Student Eligibility Criteria.

Alzar School is built on our Six Foundations: leadership training, academics, cultural exchange, outdoor adventure, service learning, and environmental stewardship. Our unique combination of these six foundations makes the school stand out. We are a small program that places emphasis on genuinely challenging high school students to become leaders. We don’t think that “someday” they can make a difference. We know that they can make a difference today, and we give them the tools to do so. The Alzar School team has attended, taught, and met with students and staff at hundreds of schools all over the world. We are confident that there is no other program where you can invest in yourself as a leader as intensively as you can at Alzar School. If you’re considering multiple semester schools, sign up for a free guide to comparing various programs.

To educate and facilitate the leadership development of high school students.  We build leaders who positively impact the world.

Alzar School is helping to fill the leadership void. The world needs more leaders to tackle social and environmental issues. Many students think that the point of an education is to prepare them for a job, to make a living, or for more education (college, medical school, etc). We believe that education is meant to prepare you to make the world a better place, and that this requires rigorous academics as well as opportunities for meaningful character growth and development. Our students are well prepared for the challenges of university life, in many respects due to the personal growth that comes with living independently of their families, and spending intentional time working to become a better leaders. They will be able to achieve these things and have the leadership skills to direct their energy and talents toward improving their local communities and confronting global issues.

Yes, Alzar School is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that is officially registered with the State of Idaho and the IRS. Contributions to the school are tax deductible (check with your accountant to maximize your donation). It was approved as a 501c3 in April 2008.

The school relies on a variety of sources for funding. Private donations make up a significant portion of our funding. Additionally, we are applying for numerous grants to support the school. We do charge students tuition. However, our courses are subsidized by the donations we collect. We also seek to minimize tuition costs by drawing from passionate, committed volunteers whenever possible.

Alzar School is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors whose members have a variety of skills and perspectives. We also have a volunteer Advisory Committee who offer their guidance to the school. They are made up of experts from the fields of education, outdoor recreation, business, medicine, service, etc, and are located throughout the United States. The faculty and staff include the founders of Alzar School, Kristin Bierle (Executive Director) and Sean Bierle (Head of School), a Director of Studies, Dean of Students, Associate Director of Expeditions and Risk Management, Director of Admissions, Director of Advancement, Administrative Assistant, teachers and teaching fellows. Read the staff bios here. Alzar School attracts professional and passionate educators as teachers and staff for its programs.

Alzar School was founded in 2004 by Sean and Kristin Bierle. At that time, the school offered three-week expeditions within the United States, Mexico, and Chile. In the fall of 2012, the semester program was launched, and in 2015 Alzar School became an official member of the Semester Schools Network.

Definitely! We have several families who have been a part of the school who would be excited to share their experience with you. Please email admissions@alzarschool.org so that we can help arrange a conversation.

Academics & Curriculum

Yes. Alzar School is fully accredited by the Northwest Accreditation Commission and AdvancED. This is the same institution that accredits all the major public and private secondary and post-secondary schools in the region. Alzar School has also been approved by The College Board to offer certain Advanced Placement courses and to administer the PSAT and AP exams. Read more about academics and accreditation.

As an accredited school, many schools directly transfer credits earned at Alzar School onto the student’s transcript.. However, it is the responsibility of the student and his or her family to confirm this before enrolling at Alzar School. The administrators of Alzar School are happy to help you communicate with your sending school to educate on the many scholastic benefits for students who invest a semester of their high school career with us. Read more about our cooperation with sending schools.

We have designed our curriculum to be college-preparatory for students in their sophomore or junior year of high school. During their semester at Alzar School, students can expect to take all their traditional core classes—math, science, English, history, as well as courses in Spanish, Leadership and PE. Our curriculum is integrated through our leadership program, threaded throughout students’ experiences at Alzar School. Not only do students study leadership academically, but they also apply these lessons in multiple designated leadership roles throughout their semester with feedback from peers and teachers. Learn more about leadership development at Alzar School, and the curriculum and course offerings. The Curriculum Guide offers more detail on individual classes.

Each semester will host a cohort of 30-40 students. With nine full-time teaching faculty and 5-6 teaching fellows, the ratio of students to teachers is less than 4:1.  Individual classes have approximately 3-12 students per class.

The 10 Elements of Leadership that are taught and utilized in our leadership curriculum are: 1) Character, 2) Technical Proficiency, 3) 360˚ Thinking, 4) Resiliency and Resourcefulness, 5) Communication Skills, 6) Accurate Awareness, 7) Personal Leadership and Follow-through, 8) Community Membership and Service, 9) Inspiring Vision, 10) Continual Learning and Improvement. These elements give students and teachers a common vocabulary with which to discuss leadership.

Undoubtedly. All of our classes are taught to challenge students, with the ability for students to earn honors and AP designations on their transcripts.  We have strong relationships with some of the most prestigious secondary schools in the nation who continue to encourage their students to attend Alzar School. Alzar School offers engaging, meaningful instruction due to the small class sizes, standards-based curriculum, and stimulating lessons with authentic applications and relevance to students’ lives. Learn more about the academic engagement and high quality instruction here.

Alzar School alumni have gone on to attend some of the finest colleges and universities in the country. An Alzar School graduate is uniquely prepared for college in that they have spent a semester maturing and broadening perspectives while living independently. Our alumni have a greater awareness of what they are looking for from their university experience and of the elements of a community that help them thrive. Admissions offices understand and value the learning and growth that comes from a semester school experience. Lean more about college readiness and the Alzar School.

Because students join Alzar School for only one semester of their high school career, one of our top priorities is to develop a strong partnership with each student’s sending school. We work hard to align our curriculum to ensure academic success upon reintegration, while taking advantage of the unique educational opportunities presented through Alzar School programming. We strive for open communication directly between our teachers and a student’s sending school teachers. Learn more about how the Alzar School can collaborate with sending schools.

Student Life

Alzar School is designed for highly motivated youth who want to make a difference in the world. Students should do well in a traditional classroom, but also desire to do something more. Our admissions department looks for leadership potential. This might be demonstrated by community service, participation in school clubs and teams, or other civic involvement. Once at Alzar School, the most successful students are those who keep an open mind, who are willing to work hard, and who generally have a positive attitude.

Alzar School students come from all over the United States, and semesters regularly include students from Chile.  Students come from private/public/boarding schools and are unified by the desire to see more of the world through their education. Check out this Google map showing our network of alumni.

Students will have access to the internet and their cell phones while at our Idaho campus, although we do ask students to keep them out of the academic building. There will be times while on expeditions (both domestically and while in Chile) when students may not be able to access internet or phones. During these times, the school will check in with families. For most of the semester, parents will have plenty of opportunities to call and hear about the amazing experience the students are having. The students will also be able to receive mail while in Idaho. Each semester has a Parent’s Weekend, which is a great time for parents to visit students at our campus in Idaho.

One of the strengths of being a small, independent school is the ability to have a flexible schedule that adapts to our environment as we explore different “classrooms.” While no day at Alzar School is typical, you can experience a bit about what a day in the life of a student at our Idaho campus might look like here.

To get a sense of the semester calendar, please see this Calendar Overview. Please keep in mind that this basic schedule is subject to change. Exact dates will be available on our events calendar as we get closer to the start of each semester.

Tuition & Scholarships

Tuition, room, and board for the Fall 2018 semester or Spring 2019 semester is $29,125. An additional $750 student account is required for incidentals throughout the semester, with the ending balance returned to the family.  You will be asked to pay a nonrefundable deposit of $3,000 upon acceptance and return of the Initial Registration Form. This deposit is applied to the cost of tuition. The remainder of the tuition will be due 30 days before the first day of your semester. We realize that attending Alzar School requires a significant financial commitment on the part of your family. Our goal is to make these semesters available to as many deserving students as possible, therefore, we have several financial aid options available. Learn more about affording Alzar School.

We strive to make the semester available to students and work hard to raise funds for financial aid each year. When you complete your application for admission to the school, you will also be given the option to apply for financial aid. Admissions decisions are made independently of financial aid awards. In addition, a limited number of merit awards may be available each semester and you can learn more about these opportunities here.

Outdoor Program

Our campus is located on the North Fork of the Payette River, just over two miles downstream from the world-class Kelly’s Whitewater Park and seven miles upstream from the Class II-III Cabarton Section. Students live within an hour of two ski resorts where they can explore some of Idaho’s great powder. They will also spend an extended period of time in Chile and Patagonia, which provides the majestic Andes for mountain sports. Students learn to backpack, kayak, raft, climb, and more. You can learn more about our outdoor activities and experiential outdoor education here.

Outdoor adventure sports have inherent risks. Through training, coaching, and development of good judgment, you can learn to manage risks. Alzar School students participate in wilderness first aid training, swiftwater rescue training, learn to evaluate real vs. perceived risk, and to weigh risk vs. consequences. The school’s goal is to help students become lifetime outdoor enthusiasts who can recreate responsibly. You can learn more about our outdoor activities and experiential outdoor education here.

Alzar School is fortunate to be able to explore rivers in Idaho, Oregon, California, and Chile. Each offers everything from Class I for our beginners to Class IV for our advanced students, and we break into groups based on skill-level. Alzar School has spent time on the Klamath River, Cal Salmon River, Trinity River, and Clear Creek. We operate on special use permits from the Klamath and Shasta-Trinity National Forests. In Idaho we run the Main Payette River, South Fork Payette River, North Fork Payette River (Cabarton section), Salmon River, Owyhee River, and Snake River (Hagerman – Bliss). We operate on special-use permits from Boise National Forest. In Chile, the rivers we run depend on river levels and geographic region, and may include the Rio Claro, Rio Teno, Rio Achibueno, Rio Nuble, Rio Fuy, Rio Trancura, Rio Luicura, Rio San Pedro, Rio Claro (Siete Tazas), and Rio Baker. Learn more about our outdoor classrooms.

Regularly. From the door of the yurts, students can embark on a three-mile snowshoe hike in the winter or work on their kayak roll in the river right on campus. Each semester features extended trips in Idaho, around the west, and in Chile. As a school, we take multi-day river trips, backpack into remote lake areas, and work as a team to summit peaks. As students gain leadership expertise, they can expect to shoulder increasing responsibility for these expeditions, learning to pick routes, plan and organize meals, and set itineraries. You can learn more about our outdoor activities and experiential outdoor education here.

With so many great outdoor sports and activities integrated into the semester, a variety of gear is needed. Alzar School will provide some of the necessary equipment, but students will need to acquire certain items. See this packing list to get an idea of what students will need to bring with them. View the Equipment Rental and Purchase form.

Cultural Exchange

Each semester, students spend 5-6 weeks on an international expedition to Chile. This length of time is substantially longer than most summer programs and provides enough time to get a solid feel for the local culture, language, and landscapes and to foster meaningful experiences. Learn more about international education at Alzar School.

The founders of Alzar School have been working in Chile since 2001, and they began Alzar School programming there in 2007. Chile offers an amazing classroom for our students. The culture is warm and inviting and the government and economy are stable. Students practice Spanish as they make lifelong friends. The history of the country is fascinating, from the pre-colonial Mapuche, to Charles Darwin’s explorations, to the Pinochet era. Chile’s geology and geography provide endless lessons and stunning backdrops. Chile offers Alzar School an unbeatable opportunity to explore a different country—one that is, in many ways, extremely different from the United States, but shares many common values. View some of the places we may explore while in Chile.

Chile is a long, magnificent country, and we do our best to expose students to as much of the country and culture as possible while keeping on track with academic courses. The school also travels together, camping in the Andes and renting cabanas. For approximately three weeks, the school maintains bases in Choshuenco and Neltume, small towns in Chile’s Lake District. The extended time in one community allows students to get to know the area and local culture. Students continue to have regular classes, but afternoons are spent exploring the Andes and participating in cultural activities (such as shopping in a Chilean market and volunteering at a small orphanage). During the time in Chile, there is limited internet access. Learn more about international education and view some of the places  we may explore while in Chile.

No. Students can join Alzar School with no previous Spanish training, however, it is a required class for the semester. Immersion in Chile is by far the most fun and effective way to learn the language. Alzar School teachers will help students build their vocabulary, and then students work toward mastery in authentic situations (like making purchases at a Chilean market). Each semester includes students who have never studied Spanish, native Spanish speakers, and everyone in between. Learn more about international education at the Alzar School.