Reading, writing and arithmetic are staples at most schools, but for Upper Columbia Academy (UCA) in Spangle, Wash., the most important core ingredient is a spiritual one. “It is the basis of our mission statement,” says John Winslow, UCA principal.
There are many ways UCA incorporates spiritual elements in its program. One is their HOPE (Helping Other People Everywhere) ministry. The program started more than 20 years ago to provide students an opportunity to live as Jesus would helping others in the community. Currently, there are four designated HOPE days during the week where students sign up for various service projects. In addition, there are other outreach opportunities, including two Sundays when freshmen volunteer in the community.
The last couple of HOPE days have been rather eventful. During the fall HOPE day, UCA students were dismissed an hour early from the SpokAnimal’s project due to an incoming windstorm in the Spokane area. If they hadn’t left early, the students would have been there when the high winds tore part of the roof off the SpokAnimal’s building. “That would have been pretty scary for our students,” says Joe Hess, vice principal of student life, who was helping with transportation. “We are thankful for God’s protection.”
Ashley Samuel, a junior, shared a story in the Echoes school newsletter that happened during the HOPE day in February. It was part of the Meal and a Smile project, through which students make 30–40 sack lunches to share with the homeless in downtown Spokane.
“While handing out food, the group met a man with a van that was missing a tire,” Samuel shares. “He was thankful for the food, but he needed a spare tire. Obviously, the group did not have one. But while they continued to pass out meals, the group passed by a tire shop. Mrs. C [Judy Castrejón, science teacher] was leading out the group, and she stopped and asked the shop if they had a spare tire to give to the man. Miraculously, the tire shop was able to provide a tire." This directly showed students how they were impacting their community.
Student week of prayer (SWOP) is another area of spiritual emphasis. Sidney Allison, a senior, was one of the students chosen to speak for SWOP this winter. Attending the SWOP retreat was life-changing for him. When he returned, he felt impressed to start a Facebook page, UCA Prayer Warriors, with the goal of “keeping our students and staff at Upper Columbia Academy in prayer.”
“The students did a phenomenal job,” says Amanda Goad, evangelism coordinator and chaplain. “They spoke about topics covering many aspects of our relationship with God.”
There are so many other areas to mention, including Sabbath activities, church visitations, small group studies, a Revelation Bible study, praise teams, Bible studies and more. In addition, several students are having personal Bible studies with staff members.
“We are striving to teach the complete package,” says Winslow. “We want to educate our students to be caring Christ-like individuals who will contribute to their community in a positive way.”
You can read more stories by students in the Echoes school newsletter on the UCA website.