Aureliana Basso-Wiideman ’26: There’s a place for you everywhere at Oak Knoll

Aureliana Basso-Wiideman ’26 is so passionate about Oak Knoll she’s willing to cross the Hudson River to get here. Originally a New Yorker, her family moved to New Jersey when she was in grade 2, and she enrolled in the Oak Knoll Lower School. After 8 years, she learned they would return to the city. Grade 9 is a logical entry point to any high school, and it would have been convenient to enroll in any one of the fine independent schools in Manhattan. She wouldn’t have it, though, and her parents were a hundred percent in support.

Her commitment to Oak Knoll requires a 5:15 a.m. wake-up, a subway ride with her mother to Penn Station, a New Jersey transit ride to the Summit Train Station, and a pickup by the Oak Knoll Shuttle for the final mile to school. Then, it’s a rebound commute at the end of a long day, sometimes involving extracurriculars and after-school activities. That’s a lot of road time in conjunction with homework, maintaining friendships, family commitments, and other demands of teenage-ship.

“To me, traveling so far to continue at Oak Knoll is necessary because I’ve just made my life here. This is just where I want to be, and it feels like there would be an emptiness in me if I weren’t here. Oak Knoll feels like home,” she explains. 

Now entering her sophomore year at Oak Knoll, Basso-Wiideman explains that it is not just the years’ worth of friendships she’s made that have kept her here. In addition to Oak Knoll’s exceptional academic program, she has a special place in her heart for the comprehensive dance and choreography program. She first encountered it in grade 4 when she learned about the Dance Apprentice program. Though elective in-depth dance courses are primarily offered in the Upper School, Dance Apprentices in grades 4-6 have an opportunity for basic dance instruction and performance. Participants explore different dance styles (ballet, jazz, and contemporary) throughout the year — from beginner to advanced options.

Though Basso-Wiideman sampled a range of athletic options at Oak Knoll, as she advanced into her Upper School career, she found her home in the dance studio. 

“After a variety of individual and team sports, I ended up just coming back to dance,” she says. “I liked how it let me be creative and express my emotions. I am not really very competitive in sports, and so dance was really just somewhere I could do my thing.” 

At Oak Knoll, the school empowers students to develop their individual gifts, set high educational goals, excel at the nation’s most prestigious institutions, and emerge as leaders. For Basso-Wiideman, she’s developing her passion for dance.

“There’s a place for you everywhere at Oak Knoll,” she says. “Dance is a great complement to our competitive athletics program because it does feel like you are on a team of peers with fellow dancers and have the bonding of a sports team. We still are a family, and we dance together. Every class is like a bonding experience.”

This is Basso-Wiideman’s first year as an Oak Knoll Student Ambassador, giving tours to prospective families and representing Oak Knoll at various events. Our Student Ambassador Program is a highly selective opportunity that includes an application and interview process with our admission team, school leadership, and deans. If you take a tour with Aureliana, she will absolutely stop by the Dance Studio and the Library because “the Library is where I feel I’ve made most of my friends. It’s just a place where you can make memories with your schoolmates when you have a free period in the morning.”

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