This year, New Life Academy implemented a new program with its secondary students called Community Groups.
Groups of students are assigned to a faculty or staff member who will mentor the students and walk through the rest of their high school career with them.
Established with the goal of building community within the school, and using Christ as the foundation, community groups are a way for faculty and staff to interact on a deeper level with students and make a difference in how they live their lives.
“This is an opportunity for us to make connections with students and let them know that there are adults here who care about them,” said Cade Lambert, head of school.
These groups meet a few times per month during Chapel time, which is held once a week and is usually accompanied by a speaker and a time of worship.
Simon Killeen, a junior in Dr. Craig Butler’s community group said that his community group has enhanced his experience because it takes what chapel is one step further. “If we are not quite understanding what the speaker was talking about or the point he or she is trying to get across during Chapel, it lets us talk about what was said so we can understand it,” he said.
The teachers who lead the community groups also see the benefits of the deeper, more meaningful relationships that are being established through the meetings.
“I believe community groups will help students to create relationships with others that they may or may not have really known before,” said Becky Welander, junior high Bible teacher. “I love the opportunity I get to invest time with a smaller group of students outside the classroom setting, get to know them better, and encourage them in their walk with Jesus Christ.”
Teachers and staff are hoping to create a bond with students that will help them feel like they belong and let them know that they can always come to their community group leader for help or support. These groups not only increase the bond between students and teachers but also the bond between students.
“I hope to serve as someone whom they can come to for academic and even personal advice,” said Sydney Hagen, secondary English teacher. “Not all students have that older mentor, like a coach or youth pastor, so being there for them is important to me,” she said.
Lambert said that these groups are teaching students to let the gospel of Jesus live out their lives. “As a community group leader, the first thing I would hope for is that I can help create an atmosphere where we enjoy one another and feel safe and comfortable in our group,” said Dr. Craig Butler, secondary science teacher.
“My favorite part is becoming closer to people who you wouldn’t normally interact with,” said Samantha St. Cyr, a sophomore in Carole Brumley’s community group.
Junior high students meet within their own grades, and 9th-11th grade students meet by gender with mixed grade levels throughout. This year’s senior class meets on its own, as the class is leading the school by example and preparing for next steps after graduation.
Lambert said that better relationships with students gives teachers the ability to have more of an influence. New Life Academy is committed to its delivery of excellence and continuous improvement in academics, athletics, and fine arts as well as its ability to build character and produce Godly leaders. Intentional and vibrant community is an important part of this.