Grappling with a pandemic and distance learning is hard. Add wildfires and home evacuations, and students undoubtedly carry the weight of loss into their virtual classrooms.
Portland Adventist Academy teachers cannot singlehandedly stop the drama of 2020, but efforts to provide connection and normalcy during times of loss are at the center of their work this year.
The longing for normalcy and connection inspired PAA’s new Homeroom Family small groups. Every student has a place to be and a small group to which they belong. While in the distance-learning phase, students meet weekly in a Zoom online homeroom for announcements, prerecorded chapels, discussion and prayer.
Maria Bibb, PAA international student director and freshman class sponsor, hosts a Homeroom Family. “I love that I get to connect with students and especially with students that I won't have in my classes. It changes the relationship from a teacher with homework and grading to a mentor or guide to the high school experience.”
Homeroom Family groups met for the first time following area wildfires that required many students and teachers to evacuate their homes. Shamara Daniels, PAA sophomore and student association spiritual vice president, was one of the evacuees.
In a YouTube chapel speech, Daniels empathized with those having a hard time. “I know that times are really shaky,” said Daniels, “and you might be losing hope right now. I’ve been there. And sometimes I still am there.”
She encouraged students with tangible action: “I hold on to the people that are close to me.” She says to call somebody, keep family close or, even better, grow a relationship with God. Look into His Word, she advises.
Daniels shared the verse of the week, Psalm 46:1–3: “God is our refuge and strength ... .” She added to "remember, even if the mountains are falling, God won’t let you hit the ground.”
Following chapel, Bibb shared additional perspective on the verse with her Homeroom Family. “When we move down to Verse 5, it says that during all this trouble God is in the ‘midst’ of it. So not only is He our refuge, but He is with us when we are in the middle of all the troubles of the world.”
“You are not alone in this,” concludes Daniels. “It may seem like there is no end. But as long as we keep our faith up and our spirits high we can get through this together — as a family.”
Watch PAA chapel on resilience.
Watch Daniels’ speech on YouTube.