Ozark Catholic Academy opened in 2018 and is the only independent, Catholic high school in the Northwest Arkansas region. OCA seeks to educate students’ mind, body and soul with challenging academics and faculty members, competitive sports programs, and a thriving faith community. OCA strives to form students to become leaders for today and tomorrow by challenging them to take risks, own their learning, strive to live the virtues and achieve their personal best.
John E. Rocha, President
John Rocha became Ozark Catholic Academy’s founding Head of School in August 2016. Born in California, Rocha came to NWA via Houston, Texas where he lived since 1978. Before Ozark Catholic Academy, Rocha helped found Western Academy, an independent Catholic liberal arts school for boys. At Western, he served as both the Director of Development and as a member of the school’s Administrative Council. Prior to Western Academy, Rocha was the Academic Director for the Free Enterprise Institute where he developed and implemented educational programs for teacher professional development.
Rocha has over 20 years experience in the classroom. He attended the University of Dallas receiving his B.A. in political philosophy. Rocha earned his M.L.A in Catholic Liberal Arts at the University of St. Thomas in Houston while he was serving as Development Director for the Center for the American Idea. He is currently pursuing his doctoral studies in Humanities at Faulkner University.
Rocha and his wife, Donna, a psychiatrist of 16 years, have 10 children and live in Bentonville.
How A New School Sees the Virtues of Their Motto Come to Fruition
Ozark Catholic Academy’s motto: Docilitas, Veritas, Libertas, and Sanctificate says it all for a small school that began only three years ago. As we recently graduated our first class of seniors, we have seen these virtues come to fruition in their friendships, in their desire to find their true calling, and in their ability to be authentic as individuals.
Each virtue represents a quality that students begin to learn and understand as they grow in their OCA journey. We seek to teach these virtues to be pursued not only in their academics, but in their faith lives and in their friendships. Docilitas is the underpinning for each virtue that is introduced. As freshmen, students learn that Docilitas means the willingness and openness to learn something new. Veritas is the pursuit of truth. Libertas is the understanding of what true freedom means and finally, Sanctificate seeks to dedicate and make holy all of their endeavors.
In addition to their education, authentic friendship is one of the important outcomes we desire for our students at OCA. As they seek to understand and live out the motto, each student is open to grow in these virtues and to seek friendship beyond casual acquaintances.
The four important growth areas where friendship organically flourishes for students in their time at OCA happen through Community, Advisory, Leadership Trips and Sports.
Our House system, where students are sorted into different houses when they enter the school, fosters community and allows students from each grade to get to know, mentor, and bond as they compete in house games, poetry recitations, and service projects. The integrated sports programs at OCA have also allowed students to push themselves, learn discipline and forge new friendships on and off the courses and courts. Our Advisory program provides students a chance to meet with faculty one-on-one to discuss not only their academics, but other aspects of their lives.
But it is our unique leadership trips that are scheduled each year within the classes that has brought about the true flourishing of community and friendship.
Ninth-graders begin their high school career with a local trip to a retreat center to learn the OCA way, to build trust and to begin thinking about college and beyond.
Tenth-graders create and build community while serving others in rural Eastern Kentucky by going into the community and helping clean and build homes for impoverished families and those in need of help. A visit to the McConnell Center for Leadership at the University of Louisville begins the preparation for these students to take on their roles as upperclassmen and leaders.
As the students continue their journey with OCA, 11th graders begin to look beyond the halls of high school by taking a college trip to visit a variety of colleges and universities that include small, large, private, and Catholic colleges. Lectures from professors at each college/university give students a taste of teaching in the university setting.
Seniors have the opportunity to take two trips during their final year of high school. The first is a long weekend trip where they can spend time with their peers and a few faculty members discussing college life, academics, spiritual life and finances. The second trip is longer and affords them a chance to spend quality time with one another as they prepare for their launch to college. This first graduating class ventured to Colorado and conquered hiking, white water rafting and the great outdoors together.
These opportunities have proved invaluable in creating a culture of community and in bringing students and faculty together outside of the classroom walls. Students have experienced that learning goes beyond the brick-and-mortar buildings and these trips have planted seeds to help students grow into lifelong learners.
As we reflect on our first three years, we see the fruition of dreams realized. We know there are always areas to improve upon, but are thankful for the strong foundation, unique culture, and transformative education that Ozark Catholic Academy students and faculty have created to carry the school into the future.
Learn more at ozarkcatholic.org.