Image Credit: Jackie Langi

AAA Fosters a Sense of Belonging

I remember the first time I walked onto Auburn Adventist Academy's campus. I was 7 years old, and we were attending camp meeting. I clearly remember my first primary tent meeting and the theme was "Going on a Safari."

I loved everything about it — the constant playmates, being surrounded by tons of kids my age, the daily snow cones, swimming in the giant pool and — oh yes — the pronto pups. That amazing Big Frank center surrounded by crispy corn batter — I’ll never forget how good those tasted.

My AAA journey actually began earlier than that. My mother and several other family members attended AAA. Their pictures line the walls like sentinels guarding the future generations. I remember hearing stories of the “glory days” when AAA had more than 500 students, and some of the girls actually lived in the infamous and foreboding Gibson Hall at the back of campus.

I had been on AAA's campus so many times before I was ever actually a student. When I finally walked the halls as a nervous freshman, there was a sense of belonging. Like many of our students, I wanted to be involved in everything.

I immediately became part of the gymnastics team, joined choir, took piano lessons, became a class officer and tried out for volleyball. These activities and more continued through my senior year. Like all seniors, I was ready to leave and find new adventures. Some call it "senioritis," but I think it's part of the beautiful process of growing up. AAA gave me the wings I needed to fly the nest and soar into the unknown.

However, the greatest surprise was when I accepted a position to work at my alma mater six years ago. Honestly, I never thought God would bring me back around to my old stomping grounds. In many ways, God's greatest blessings are the ones we don’t ask for.

Now I walk these hallways with a few more laugh lines on my face and a little gray in my hair, but it is still home; I still feel like I belong. My hope is that all students who attend here feel that as well. Now I experience AAA in the most fulfilling way ever: seeing students grow in Jesus.

Every year I cry at graduation, and when their pictures are added to the wall, I look up knowing I had the privilege of being part of their journey. Although saying goodbye is always a little bittersweet because these kids have a way of embedding themselves in our hearts, I know that they go on to amazing things because they have been given wings.

Featured in: March/April 2024