At GRACE, spring air is always filled with hopes, dreams, and excitement as a new graduating class prepares to leave the school community they’ve called home for many years and pursue their passions in college and beyond.
For seniors, it is a time of reflecting back on all that has been achieved and looking ahead at the opportunities that await. As the school year winds down, we caught up with several of our graduates to do just that.
While each student had a unique experience at GRACE, we noticed some common threads. Challenges were met. Faith was deepened. Strong relationships were forged. And skills that will be used for a lifetime were developed.
Building Meaningful Connections
According to Sophia Czekalski, she wouldn’t be where she is today without her teachers and mentors at GRACE.
“I was able to build connections with so many teachers at GRACE, not just academically, but also personally. Señora Welch, who has taught me for five years now, is like a second mother to me. I know that I can come to her with any educational, goal-oriented, or personal problem.
Mrs. Bomgardner, my AP Chemistry teacher, encouraged me to stay in her class and persevere when I considered dropping it after a difficult test. I knew it would take a lot of work, and a lot more studying than other students would have to do, but in the end I was able to succeed in the class, and I can truly say that it gave me better study habits and a drive for education.”
Sophia is headed to Appalachian State University in the fall. As a Diversity Scholar, she will promote unity and diversity on campus through community service. She is also excited about the opportunities she’ll have to study abroad, thanks to her scholarship.
Reaping the Rewards of Hard Work
Sophia was in good company when it came to challenging coursework. Mitchell Haughee took on a hefty load of four AP courses while remaining active on the athletics scene.
“The experience of starting a football program challenged my leadership abilities in ways I never expected. It was a very difficult task, but it felt good after every win to see the payoff of hard work. The camaraderie of the team, coupled with the embrace of the GRACE community, gave me many memories that I am extremely thankful for.”
Though he felt stretched thin at times, Mitchell says his teachers were extremely helpful and invested in his success. He credits Mrs. Jacobs and Mrs. Vanderkin with helping him evaluate life decisions throughout his senior year. A son of two engineers, Mitchell plans to follow in his parents’ footsteps and pursue a degree in Engineering at UNC Charlotte.
Pursuing Long-Held Passions
Most graduates would agree that choosing a college is no small task. There is much that goes into such a monumental decision. Maggie Royce actually applied to 11 colleges, from Europe to the East Coast. After careful consideration, she chose Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC.
“I love so many different things about Wofford: the small class sizes, which I learned from my time at GRACE, were so important, the family feel, and all of the study abroad options.”
Maggie will be studying as a Launch Entrepreneurship Scholar and English major with a concentration in media studies. She started her personal blog in third grade, which was a catalyst for her career in writing for print publications such as Girls Life, Teen Vogue, and Seventeen Magazine.
“My dream, with the help of the Launch program, is to develop a media agency by the time I graduate from college,” she said.
Developing Leadership Skills
Felix Jarvis-Earle shares Maggie’s passion for writing and is headed to North Carolina State University to study Communications Media this fall. After spending 13 years at GRACE, he says the most rewarding part of his experience has been the care and attention the school has given to create student leaders.
“I recall when I asked Mrs. Gill if I could start a newspaper, and, more recently, working with Dr. Inman to start a Latin Club on campus. GRACE has always supported and desired to see their students grow beyond the classroom, which has not only been important for my enjoyment, but has taught me essential leadership skills needed to serve in college.”
Taking Risks to See Rewards
While many students, like Felix, began at GRACE in kindergarten, some joined the class further down the road. Cara Peterson relocated from Connecticut to North Carolina during her junior year. What seemed like a very difficult time for transition was ultimately turned to a rewarding experience. Cara says being on the worship team, playing on the varsity basketball team, getting involved in school plays, and going on a missions trip to Costa Rica has pushed her to new limits.
“I have learned who I am; that I am a leader and a risk taker. I learned that life is all about moving forward, trying new things, and being willing to put yourself in uncomfortable situations.”
Cara’s time in Costa Rica, along with time spent on other service projects at GRACE, influenced her decision to go to Gordon College in Massachusetts and pursue a major that will help her use her knowledge to educate others.
Cultivating a Servant’s Heart
A passion for helping others and making a difference in the world is seen in many of the student leaders at GRACE.
Justin Hegar has spent much of his free time tutoring and mentoring underprivileged elementary aged students through his local church. He is also the founder and director of the Benton Harbor Opportunity Scholarship, which awards a scholarship annually to a high achieving, underprivileged student planning to attend a four-year college.
Between community service, a full academic load, participating in the high school band, and playing on the varsity basketball team, Justin learned a lot about balancing multiple commitments and rising to meet challenges.
“At GRACE, the investment Coach D has made in my life through basketball has impacted my character development the most. He facilitated growth in my faith, my compassion for others, and my leadership abilities while also making me realize I can do anything I set my mind to if I am willing to put the work in.”
In the fall, Justin will attend the University of Pennsylvania to study Mechanical Engineering, and later plans to obtain his MBA.
From Ivy League schools to overseas mission fields, each GRACE graduate will without a doubt make a positive impact on the world.
Making the Most of One Million Minutes
Senior Samuel Hodges put it best:
“Since kindergarten, I’ve spent almost one million minutes here at GRACE.”
He reflected on his parents’ choice to send him to GRACE and how his life has been affected by their investment.
“Other schools might offer similar courses, but here, it’s about who is teaching them, and how they are taught. For me, the teachers are what make GRACE different.”
Samuel says that over the years he’s developed lasting friendships with multiple teachers who have always cared about his life beyond the classroom.
“Because of them, I know I am well prepared for my college experience. Academically and spiritually, I am equipped for life’s challenges.”
Where Will Your Student Spend One Million Minutes?
Choosing a school to partner with you in your child’s education is one of life’s most important decisions. It’s not just about what they’ll be learning, it’s about who they’ll be learning from and mentored by. The teachers at GRACE invest in every student, instilling in them valuable life skills such as Biblical discernment, time management, problem solving, and conflict resolution. As a result, our graduates emerge mature, confident, and ready to make a difference in their world. Schedule Your Tour Today!
Last night, kindergartners graduated. Tonight, it’s the seniors turn at our 15th Commencement Exercises. We wish both groups of students well as they pursue their dreams and seek God’s path for their lives. Recently, we asked a few of our youngest graduates what they wanted to be when they grew up. As it turns out, there are seniors graduating with the same dreams.
The Faculty and Senior Class of GRACE Christian School
invite the entire GRACE community to the
15th Commencement Exercises
on Friday evening, May 25th at 7:00pm
in the Hope Community Church Auditorium
The PTF would like to thank all GRACE families for their support during the year. If you are interested in serving on next year’s PTF in any capacity, please contact Renee Drumgo (PTF@GRACEChristian.net) and she will connect you with the appropriate committee head.
Please enjoy the recap of what the PTF and The Men of GRACE accomplished this year!
Thank you all for making the 2017-2018 school year a success. We pray that each family will have a safe and healthy summer break. Thank you each of you who has volunteered during this school year. Your contributions of time and talent to our school are appreciated by our staff. Your May 22, 2018 #WhatsUpAtGRACE newsletter is the last one of the year.
The entire GRACE family is invited to celebrate the accomplishments of our seniors at the 15th Commencement Exercises Friday night at 7:00pm in the Hope Community Church auditorium.
The GRACE office will be open Tuesday – Thursday throughout the summer should you need to contact us. If you have medication for your child in one of the GRACE offices, please plan to stop by to pick that up before the last day of school as we will appropriately dispose of any unclaimed medications.
If you missed a previous edition of the weekly newsletter, they are all posted in GRACE News on the GRACE website. Keep up to date with all future events by consulting the GRACE Calendar.
It is with full hearts that GRACE says goodbye this year to our Lower Campus Principal, Kathie Thompson. For every family that has been a part of GRACE in the last 30+ years, it is likely that somewhere in their GRACE memory is a fond one of Kathie. It is fitting, then to close out this school year, and the last Staff Spotlight, to get to know a little more about Kathie, her faith, her passions, and her hope for the future.
Kathie grew up in Elon, North Carolina. When she lived there it was called Elon College, because of the local college. When Elon College reached university status and changed their name to Elon University, her little hometown became Elon. Kathie has one brother, who is three years younger than she. When he was born, Kathie really thought he was all hers! Her brother is a pastor now and she is so proud of how he loves and serves the Lord as he teaches God’s Word and loves and shepherds people. The two siblings have always been close, but the last few years have been especially precious as both their parents are now deceased. Although Kathie only has one sibling, she has a large number of cousins and we are very close too. They spent lots of time together growing up and many of them are closer to her than many folks are with their siblings.
Not surprisingly, Kathie remembers that she “absolutely loved school” and has many wonderful memories from her days in elementary, middle, and high school. She shares that her love of books definitely comes from the exposure to great books by many of her teachers. Some of her best memories are of special activities that her teachers planned for her classes. She specifically recalls that her fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Lowe, loved folk dancing so they learned the presidents’ names as well as the states and capitals to dance steps. To this day, Kathie admits that she goes through the dance steps in her head when she is trying to remember those facts.
Kathie shares that another highlight from her school days was when a new high school was built and her eighth-grade class inherited the home economics wing of the old high school building. She remembers that their “classroom” was like a mini-house, complete with a kitchen, dining room, and living room. They utilized all the space for projects, experiments, etc. and had lots of freedom /privileges within their classroom, and were allowed to try non-traditional methods of learning. Their teacher, Mrs. Parrish, instilled in Kathie a thirst for learning. She challenged all her students to stretch themselves as scholars and attempt the more difficult assignments and lessons. Kathie concludes, “Much like GRACE teachers, she gave Kathie and her classmates the opportunity to experience learning.”
Kathie’s long career in education bears witness to her passion for children. Kathie has strong memories of her eighth-grade teacher, Wilma Parrish, and the example she set of being an excellent teacher. Kathie has stayed in touch with her and has been able to thank her for her influence. Another mentor for Kathie was Martha Barbour, the principal of the first Christian school she taught in. Martha loved the Lord passionately and she fulfilled her calling to love and lead the children He placed in her care with humble dedication and service. Kathie is grateful to her for the impact Martha has had on her life. Kathie also cites her grandmother as a wonderful spiritual role model. She had a strong faith in the Lord and loved Him deeply. Kathie remembers her as a humble lady who served others in simple, yet powerful ways. Kathie remembers her sitting at the kitchen table reading her worn Bible each morning and fondly recalls seeing her kneel by her bedside at night to pray.
Kathie taught school for several years before her daughter, Krista, was born. About the same time Krista was ready for kindergarten, Kathie was ready to return to teaching. Kathie and her husband, GW, attended a Christian music concert at Mount Olivet Baptist Church and discovered that there was a Christian school there. Mount Olivet Christian School was a small school, but they immediately felt at home when they visited. Kathie interviewed for a teaching position that was open and realized that her philosophy of Christian education that prepared students well academically was aligned with that of the school’s.
As a teacher, Kathie loved watching students get excited about learning and seeing them love reading. She enjoys the same thing as a principal. She enjoys watching her students grow and mature. It’s especially exciting to see how God’s plan for their lives comes about and seeing them as adults with families. She also loves “doing life” with students and their families. Celebrating and laughing through the joys of life and weeping together through loss or sorrow builds a strong community and Kathie enjoys being part of a community.
Given that Kathie has spent her entire career in elementary education, it is not surprising that her ministry focus over the years has also been with children and youth. She has been involved with various youth and children’s ministries within her church and through other ministries, including mission trips to Eleuthera, Bahamas with GRACE and to South Africa and Zimbabwe with an organization called Reaching a Generation. The ministry Kathie is most passionate about is Royal Family Kids, a ministry to children in foster care with a mission to create life-changing moments for children of abuse. Kathie has been involved with RFK for twenty-one years and considers it a privilege to fulfill the meaning of James 1:27 and share God’s love with the children and give them hope in their lives.
When asked about the Bible, Kathie admitted to many favorite and significant Bible verses, but one that has been meaningful to her over the years is Micah 6:8. She likes it because she believes it gives her direction for how I should live. Although she may not always be successful, she tries to do the things as Micah 6:8 directs, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”
When asked to share something that most people don’t know about her, Kathie replied, “Most people do not know that when I first entered college I planned to get a degree in social work and join the Peace Corps.” She also shared that both her mother’s maiden name and her mother-in law’s maiden name was Marie Thompson. She says this makes for many funny and interesting conversations at family gatherings.
When asked to share some final words of wisdom, Kathie replied, “I want my students to know how much I loved the Lord and I want each of them to have a personal relationship with Him. I also want them to have seen me serve Him with my very best. I want them to know that I love and believe in them. I want them to know that every moment matters!”
Welcome to the Summer Reading 2018 Olympics! This summer there are TWO challenges!
SUMMER READING: Record the titles of books you read over the summer. Use this Summer Reading Log.
OLYMPICS EVENTS CHALLENGE: Read books in specific genres or themes indicated on the Olympic Event Sheet.
Books can be listed on both the Summer Reading Log AND the Events Challenge sheet. This begins on the last day of school (May 25th). Your Reading Log and Olympics Challenge sheet will be due on Friday, August 17, 2018.
Do you like to volunteer, be a part of a team or have fun? Do you enjoy fellowship and building community? Do you like quality events? If you answered “yes” to any of these, join Event Coordinator Michele Bandy on Wednesday, May 23rd at 8:30am at the Upper Campus for coffee and treats to find out more about the 2018-2019 calendar of events. Sign-Up is appreciated but not required and drop-ins are welcome.
GRACE events is looking for interested parents or grandparents who are interested in being a part of making the following events great!
Football Season Opener Family Fun Tailgate Bash
Celebrate GRACE Auction
Celebrate GRACE Dinner
If you’re curious to know more, come to the interest meeting and see if this is for you. There is a place for any interest level and everyone is welcome. Grab a friend, serve together, and make lasting memories!
As we end the school year, we want to say thank you to every mom, dad, grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc. who has volunteered during the 2017-2018 school year. Your contributions of time and talent to our school are appreciated by our staff. The May 15, 2018 #WhatsUpAtGRACE newsletter has pictures of past events and a few notices about things coming up.
If you have medication for your child in one of the GRACE offices, please plan to stop by to pick that up before the last day of school. Don’t forget to check the lost and found on both campuses as all unclaimed items will be donated on May 18th.
Upper campus students will have exams are next week. A copy of the exam schedule can be found on the GRACE website.
If you missed a previous edition of the weekly newsletter, they are all posted in GRACE News on the GRACE website. Keep up to date with all future events by consulting the GRACE Calendar.
Whitney Spencer teachers 6th grader English and School Success and enjoys both passing on her love for literature and equipping her students with the organizational and time management skills they need to be successful in life.
When asked to share a memory from her own school days, Whitney was quick to recall multiple performing arts events. In elementary school, she was selected to participate in a play put on by the Virginia Ballet Company. Whitney was a dwarf in their rendition of Snow White and the EIGHT Dwarfs. Perhaps it was this twist on a classic tale that gave Whitney her passion for literature! During her middle and high school years, Whitney was home-schooled which gave her the time necessary to continue her pursuit of acting, and during her teen years, she was a member of a community theater apprenticeship. Homeschooling also gave Whitney the opportunity to participate in a lot of hands-on and trip-based learning experiences and she remembers first-hand the impact these “out-of-the-classroom” experiences had on her desire to learn.
Whitney’s desire to be a teacher has been present since kindergarten. She admits to lining her stuffed animals up and “teaching them” what she was learning in school. She was motivated by many who taught her as well as her mom, who passed away four years ago. Whitney loves working at GRACE and says it is the best Christian school she has taught at. She loves the level of professionalism and our loving and Christ-centered community, and she loves coming to work every day!
As a teacher, Whitney enjoys building relationships with her students. She shares that not only does she love being able to reach her students both academically, but loves having the ability to speak truth into their lives and love on them in Christ! Whitney has a strong desire to see them believe in themselves and strive for their best! She wants her students to know that that hard work and effort are the keys to overcoming, but more importantly, she wants them to know that they need Christ as their Savior, that their self-worth and identity should be found in Christ, and that they should view learning as the greatest journey they could ever take. She also wants them to know that they, like she, are not a finished product and there is always time to improve because they have the power of “Yet” on their side!
During her own teen years, Whitney remembers being teased a lot for not doing things that her friends were doing. She recalls, “I knew they were things I shouldn’t do, and I knew the Lord wouldn’t want me to participate, but it was hard to stand on the outside of the circle and feel like I was missing out.” During this time, her favorite Bible verse was Proverbs 23:17-18, “Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day. Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” Whitney explained that these verses helped remind her that she wasn’t missing out! she was doing exactly what her Savior would have her do!
As an adult, Whitney’s favorite verse changes with whatever season she is walking in. Currently, her family is facing some hard times, and her verse has been Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Whitney explained that this verse is a great reminder that sometimes the Lord calls us to stillness and resting in His promise to take care of our circumstances. Whitney and her family have allowed themselves to be part of God’s care for children who are hurting, have been hurt, or who need for basic amenities that aren’t supplied to them. Their family is proactive in helping care for the hurting through their church, and on their own. The Spencer home is currently a refuge to some in need. In this capacity, the Spencer’s are part of God’s provision for those in difficult circumstances.
Whitney was born in Richmond, Virginia and lived there until she was nine. At that time, her family moved to northern West Virginia, near the Snowshoe and Canaan Valley Ski Resorts. The timing of this moved seemed providential as Whitney was nine years hold when she met the man she now calls her husband. They started dating when they were juniors in high school, broke up during their college years, reconnected after college, reunited, and were married five years later! They are parents to three boys, Hunter (4), Thorin (2), and Lincoln (newborn).
Whitney has many hidden talents including being a featured artist on a southern gospel CD that her dad recorded. He has recorded three CDs and is working on a Christmas album this summer. Whitney also shares that she was, in fact, a princess in the Mountain State Forest Festival that takes place in Elkins, West Virginia each fall! Elkins is a small, sleepy, Gilmore-Girls-like town with a year-round population of 7,000 and attracts more than 70,000 visitors each year to the festival. Whitney was selected by both city and state officials to be part of the royal court.