This Tale of Two Griffins Illustrates How Church Farm School’s Brotherhood Transcends Generations

Church Farm School Kai Davis
Images via Church Farm School.
Kai Davis found his way to Church Farm School on the recommendation of his eighth-grade teacher, who graduated from the school in 1985.
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In the early 1980s, Jim Hilburt arrived at Church Farm School in Exton with his younger brother, Jeff, after their mother passed away and there was some discord at home. Jim remembers it not being an easy transition; growing up in Willow Grove, he wasn’t used to so much noise (he initially lived in one of the dormitories closest to Route 30).

Thankfully, the brotherhood he found among his fellow Griffins at CFS helped him through.

Hilburt, who graduated in 1985, particularly remembers classmates Byron Hutchinson and his wrestling co-captain, Laird Ferguson, helping him acclimate. After CFS, Hilburt attended East Stroudsburg University, where his affinity for music grew. He played in a band and received a degree in music, as well as a degree in elementary education.

Currently, Hilburt teaches Algebra I to eighth-graders in Philadelphia, preparing them for admission to some of the city’s most selective schools.

Jim Hilburt
Jim Hilburt … then and now.

“It’s our goal to help get these kids into special-admit schools,” he said, acknowledging that teaching students with “the aptitude and willingness to work is so refreshing. There are no classroom management issues; I’m just able to teach and build relationships with these kids.”

One of those kids was Kai Davis, who entered Church Farm School as a freshman in 2022.

“Kai’s class was a unique class; they had a lot of fun but were productive at the same time,” said Hilburt.

Despite Davis’s academic strength, adjustments to the School District of Philadelphia’s selective admissions policy in 2021 resulted in him being forced back into a neighborhood school.

“I knew he wouldn’t be surrounded by others as bright and motivated as he is,” said Hilburt. “I reached out to his family to take a look at Church Farm School — a hidden gem — and they came back ecstatic.”

Hilburt advocating for CFS is nothing new. Since his graduation, he has quietly supported numerous fundraising initiatives; volunteered to support the annual CFS Wrestling Invitational; and attended many CFS events, including Dinner and a Wrestling Match, the virtual CFS wrestling reunion, and Centennial Alumni Weekend, where he, his brother, and their band, Groove Street Orchestra, performed. When he’s not teaching, Hilburt continues to work on his music, with the goal to get back to playing guitar publicly as a solo or duo.

Davis said his relationship with Hilburt influenced his decision to come to CFS, and that he was looking for opportunities to connect and set his future up for success.

At CFS, Davis especially enjoys his English and Choir classes.

“Ms. (Courtney) Saunders offered a sense of freedom to talk about any subject we were focusing on, and Mr. (Karl) Cepeda brought a sense of humor to Choir that was greatly appreciated,” he said.

Davis is also a member of the Maroon Society and participates in cross-country.

Learn about how Church Farm School prepares a diverse group of boys with academic ability and good character to lead productive and fulfilling lives by making a college preparatory education financially accessible.

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