Story by Pamela Price
Originally printed in May 2010 issue of Leon Springs Community News
In the wake of Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake in February, one small local school challenged students to think imaginatively about how they could help survivors.
“We don’t like to sell stuff to raise funds because that gets really old, so we asked our students to create ways to give of themselves,” said Shantel Leininger, marketing coordinator for Summit Christian Academy. “We also asked the kids how many of them slept in a bed last night, and then we told them how many children in Haiti had slept in the mud, on the ground.”
Recalling her reaction to learning about the many lives lost and uprooted by the tragedy, kindergarten student Grace Doss replied, “I felt really, really sad and we were praying for them.”
“We challenged the children to go home and ask for extra chores, offer to mow neighbors lawns and pull weeds,” said Leininger. “Then, rather than taking the money for themselves, we encouraged them to donate the funds.”
Doss donated all of her chore money, earned from helping with laundry and yard work. Her parents matched her $15 donation. Other students also asked their parents to reallocate money for family dinners out and ice cream shop trips to help Haitian children, too.
“It made me so sad to know a lot of kids didn’t have a mom or dad anymore,” said Leininger’s daughter Natasha, a second grader at the school. “I wasn’t sure what I could do so I started to make crafts to sell. [That] still didn’t seem like enough so I got money out of my savings account also. It was really neat being apart of something so big.”
The children returned to the school with cash as well as tents and sleeping bags.
“My father-in-law is very involved with Haitian relief, so we were able to get the money and supplies to him,” Leininger said. “Younger children drew pictures and older kids made cards to send with the supplies, too. We received a few pictures of the Haitian kids with the artwork that the kids had sent. Our students loved that.”
Leininger added that during the 2010-2011 school year parents and schoolchildren will be updated on Haitian and other orphanages worldwide through an organization called Hope for Orphans. “Our children will create a profile on how they each can help others. Then they’ll create a scrapbook/portfolio about how they do that throughout the school year.”
“I know they still need help so I will still sell my crafts to help the orphans,” said Natasha.
Connecting students to the world around them is central to Summit Christian Academy’s mission. Other recent philanthropic and humanitarian activities have included a canned food drive for Hurricane Ike, a mission trip to Mexico, and a coat and blanket drive for impoverished local residents.
Only two years old, Summit is an affiliate of the National Association of University-Model Schools. As such, Summit combines select features of homeschool and Christian private education with strong academics for children in grades K through 6. Parent involvement is heavy, with students spending times in a traditional setting with a teacher only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. A third day of courses is optional, offering students electives such as art and Spanish.
“Our mission is to pair strong academics with the foundation of the family,” said Leininger, a former public high school teacher who will enroll her second child in Summit’s kindergarten next year. “We want our kids to have compassion, to seek to build up other people, and to realize that the world just doesn’t revolve around them.”
Currently the school has an enrollment of 70 schoolchildren–almost double enrollment from last year. The school offers its Tuesday and Thursday classes at the First Baptist Church in Boerne. Leininger noted, given the number of students who live in NW Bexar County, that the school hopes to relocate closer to Leon Springs in the near future.
According to the school’s Web site (http://scatx.net), Summit organizers acknowledge that other quality schools are accessible in the area and that they do “not hold to any notion that our approach is the best educational option for all families or every child within one’s family.”
“Homeschooling works for some families but not for others. It’s been a great fit for our family because lesson plans are provided by the school, which gives us extra time to just be with our kids,” Leininger said. “The school year starts one week earlier and ends one week later than most area schools. However, we have more breaks in the school year, which accommodates more family trips to places like Disney World off-season, when prices are most affordable. We think travel is important. The breaks are also great for the teachers, too.”
Still, for many students, saying good-bye at the end of the school year can bring a touch of sadness–an indication that the kids feel a strong connection to their peers and the school.
“My eldest cried on the last day of school,” said Leininger. “My husband and I thought, ‘we’d never have done that growing up.'”
Summit Christian Academy will host an information session for the 2010-2011 academic year on Tuesday, May 25 at 9:30 AM in the First Baptist Church of Boerne’s Family Life Building. For more information, visit http://scatx.net.