Fiat Lux

Students place in art contest

Stephanie De Abreu and Emma Ciccone with their photographs.

Stephanie De Abreu and Emma Ciccone with their photographs.

Two eighth-graders placed in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards regional competition sponsored by the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Boston Globe. Stephanie De Abreu's untitled photograph received the Silver Key award and Emma Ciccone's photograph titled, "Blue Eyed Susan," received an Honorable Mention.

The students faced stiff competition as they were among 18,000 teens submitting in 29 categories to this statewide contest. Teens have a chance for their art or writing pieces to earn scholarships and be exhibited and published. The awards presented are Gold Key, Silver Key and Honorable Mention with the winners of the Gold Key advancing to national judging in New York.

Art teacher, Veronica Iria, encouraged her students from grades 7 through 12 to participate. Two other eighth-graders also submitted their work to the highly competitive painting category: Paula Gibbons submitted her painting, "II Pittore nella Pittura," and Alyssa Mapes submitted her painting, "Look to a New Day." Mrs. Iria emphasized how proud she was of the hours and effort they put into their work. She looks forward to seeing more submissions from SLA students next year. 

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, founded in 1923, has recognized many famous writers and artists while they were still teens, among them Truman Capote, Joyce Carol Oates and Andy Warhol.

Fascinating facts about studying the arts

Check out these stats on how studying the arts, which include drama, music and visual art, improve students overall education:

1. Students involved in the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement.

2. Low-income students who are highly engaged in the arts are more than twice as likely to graduate college as their peers with no arts education.

3. Students with an education rich in the arts have historically earned higher grade point averages and scored higher on the SAT than student without art education.

4. Students who take four years of art and music classes average almost 100 points higher on their SATs than students who take one half year or less.

5. Students who are involved in the arts are four times more likely to participate in a math and science fair, three times more likely to win an award for school attendance, four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement and three times more likely to be elected for class office.

6. 72% of business leaders say that creativity is the number one skill they are seeking when hiring.


Veronica Iria emphasizes expression while expanding Art Department


"Art is so much more than just looking at something beautiful. What are you trying to say with your artwork?"

SLA’s art department is expanding thanks to our talented teacher Veronica Iria. Now in her second year of teaching, Mrs. Iria is teaching Art 1 and Art 2 to grades 9-12, teaching art to the 7th and 8th graders, and sponsoring the extracurricular Art Club that meets after school.

“My goal is to expose kids to a variety of different art forms. One of the biggest things for me is expression. Expressing themselves in different ways and tap into their creativity with the different projects that they work on,” said Mrs. Iria.

Mrs. Iria likes to talk to her students about the most amazing artist she knows who creates landscapes with a great use of color and is a sculptor too. “Whenever an artist is being inspired to paint a landscape, they’re being inspired by God as an artist,” she said. “One of the projects I have coming up for the 7th and 8th graders, as well as for Art 1, is creating a devotional out of a work of art. That’s one thing that makes me really excited about teaching here at an SDA school is that I can approach a project in that way.”

Another aspect of studying the arts that Mrs. Iria likes to highlight is how it can help in all academic subjects. For instance when students have to decide how to express an idea and what materials would work best to do that they are using their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. For more information about how art improves student outcomes, see the accompanying article, “Fascinating facts about studying the arts.”

Mrs. Iria has plans on how she’d like to grow the art program here. “One of the goals that I would love to do is to bring more specialized classes, so maybe one that’s specifically drawing or one that’s specifically printmaking. I would love to put together a proposal for a kiln and offer a ceramic class.”

Art Club is a new addition this year and that came about because the students from Art 2 initiated the idea. Those students were working on a sculpturing project using found items. One student decided to create a wedding dress from a plastic drop cloth. It sparked discussion in the class about what this piece of art could mean. “Art is so much more than just looking at something beautiful. What are you trying to say with your artwork?” said Mrs. Iria. “This project that started as ‘it’s going to be cool to make a wedding dress out of plastic’ turned into a whole commentary on marriage and how society nowadays looks at marriage as something you can just throw out.”

Besides working on personal choice projects under the guidance of Mrs. Iria, the Art Club also participated in Impact New Bedford in September and painted a mural for the evangelistic event. Since then, they’ve been asked to paint many other murals as well and had to even turn down some requests due to time. This after-school club meets for an hour twice a week.

Mrs. Iria left an unsatisfying career in finance to pursue art when she realized how happy she was working with kids and preparing art projects for Adventurers and Pathfinders. “That’s what a career should be, something that you enjoy doing every day and doesn’t feel like work.”

She re-enrolled at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell in 2013, where she had studied marketing and management for three years before starting her family, to study art full-time. She studied many art forms--sculpture, painting, drawing, illustrating, graphic design and printmaking--so that she would have a broad background to teach art. She graduated this last May and splits her time teaching art part-time at both SLA and Greater Boston Academy.

Mrs. Iria and her husband, Paul, a production planner for Laser Services in Westford, have two children. Daughter Elena graduated from SLA in 2017 and now attends Southern Adventist University and son Miguel is a 9th grader at SLA.

Watch for students’ art work to be on display in the loft in the academy building near the end of the school year.

Visiting Chinese students experience Christian culture

11 students and 1 chaperone from the Dongguan Language School in China visited SLA from January 27 to February 9.

11 students and 1 chaperone from the Dongguan Language School in China visited SLA from January 27 to February 9.

Eleven students from China had a chance to experience American culture and a Christian environment for two weeks in February while visiting South Lancaster Academy.

"We've had several students over the past few years who came from a minimal Christian environment who have converted to Adventism because of their time here at South Lancaster Academy. "We have two current students who became Christians after they came to SLA, and I think that's a testament to our ability to witness to students when they're in a Christian environment."

The students were here for a short trip to check out SLA and decide if they'd like to come back for an entire school year. Each visiting student was paired with an SLA student ambassador in their grade to show them around, introduce them to other students and make sure they feel comfortable as they integrate. They stayed with local host families and enjoyed a day in Boston touring Harvard, MIT and the aquarium.

"They're having a great time here. The students and teachers are very friendly to them," said Dexin Cal (Cindy), the accompanying teacher. "The whole religious stuff is very new to us, especially Bible classes. Back in China we've never had classes like that. Personally, I like the Bible classes very much because I'm seeing this religious belief is impacting you when it comes to work, study and love life. It's worth digging into."

Hope in the storm

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In Matthew 14 we find the story of when the disciples were caught in a storm on the Sea of Galilee. As nightfall approached, the waves rose higher and higher, continuing through the night. The boat was thrown every which way, leaving the disciples feeling helpless that the storm raging would surely take their lives.. They must have shouted prayers for Jesus to stop the storms, or to deliver them to the other side of the sea safely. Why wouldn’t Jesus hear them?

Meanwhile, Jesus was on a mountaintop praying, far away from the disciples. He didn’t answer their prayers from there, far away and unseen. All night passed while the disciples’ boat crashed through the storm.  Instead, as the sun rose the following morning, Jesus decided to met them out on the sea, walking on the water. Why? Why wait Lord, to deliver your people from their suffering?

As Christians, we are not promised an easy life in return for our faith and obedience. The world is not promised a shield from pain and suffering simply because God exists. Suffering occurs, so why doesn’t God stop it? As we are in the boat, in the darkness and the storms, where is God?

God is there. He has promised us that he will be with us through our trials and tribulations. Instead of making storms go away whenever they arise, He instead meets us in the middle of our storms, as he did with with His disciples.

The storms stopped. Jesus was there to deliver them. Their faith was strengthened, and their suffering produced a greater reliance that

Jesus can calm any storm, and walk on water in the process! He has the power to save us from anything that befalls us.

This has been a trying school year for our students and their families, and the devil is working hard to shake and divide us. In times like these, God is with us, and the storms will be calmed. Our job is to trust Him through it and wait to see the divine purpose from the pain.

James 1:2-4 states “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Throughout the month of January, we are asking our school community to join us in a “30 Days of Prayer” event. In times like these, a unified body in Christ, coming together in prayer, is a powerful response.

From Jan. 2 to Feb. 1, at 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. we ask each member of our school family to bow their heads in prayer to lift up South Lancaster Academy and ask for God’s blessing on our school. In addition, a school employee will be available in the lobby of each building at these times for a group prayer for those that can be present in person.

The Bible tells us to remain joyful not because we know what happens next, but because we know the end. We will be stronger when we reach the other side. Each trial is an opportunity to step closer to complete and utter dependence and trust in God. Jesus is walking out to meet us!

Kindergarten teacher's goal is building hearts for eternity

Stephanie Chitu (pronounced key-too), our new kindergarten teacher, has spent her career teaching in the public school system and homeschooling her own children. SLA is the fourth school she’s taught at and the first one that is a Christian school.

“It’s been the best place I’ve taught so far,” says Mrs. Chitu.


“We’re shaping their little minds and characters. That’s the whole goal, otherwise we’d send them to public school, otherwise we’d teach in public school.”

 “I really like the term, Building for Eternity (SLA’s capital campaign), because I feel like that’s our goal. It’s what we should be doing as teachers here in a Christian school is building them up for eternity,” says Mrs. Chitu. “We’re shaping their little minds and characters. That’s the whole goal, otherwise we’d send them to public school, otherwise we’d teach in public school.”

A lifelong Southerner, Mrs. Chitu and her family moved to Massachusetts from Georgia in May 2016. Her husband, Ben, was working as a paramedic and taking classes to become a physician assistant (PA). They were interested in a PA program in Manchester, NH and visited the area. They decided SLA was a good fit for their children as well and moved here.

Their two oldest children, Scarlett and Landon, began attending SLA last year, and now are in 5th grade and 2nd grade. Their youngest, Bella, began PreK this fall.

“Then this opened up and it seemed like the right time to apply. Ben wasn’t working; he’s in school full-time, so I felt like God opened up the door for me to come and have the position,” says Mrs. Chitu.

Mrs. Chitu got into teaching because it’s one job where you can make a difference. “You’re not just clocking in 9-5, you know. The students always remember their teachers. That just motivated me,” she says. “I love the students, just being with them, being able to influence their learning, just who they are. Especially in a Christian school you have a chance to actually be involved in their thinking, their morals, their Bible, how they view God.”

In addition to teaching and raising her children, Mrs. Chitu is an avid ice skater. She began skating when she was 17, progressed through all the levels and became a coach as well. She performed in The Nutcracker on Ice for a few years in Tennessee. She even had the thrill of performing in it when it aired on PBS one year.

Mrs. Chitu continues to skate most Sunday afternoons with her family. They also enjoy hiking, camping, biking and visiting sites in New England.

6th graders wow at Wax Museum

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The sixth graders wowed the students, parents and staff with their creative costumes, props and presentations as historical figures at their annual wax museum event.

The students each chose a person from history to study. They had to research the key information about their chosen person, create a display, design a costume and memorize a speech that they prepared as if they were that historical person. When a visitor came along to push their “on” button, the student came to life as that character.  

Brianna Small received 1st place for her presentation as Queen Elizabeth I.

Brianna Small received 1st place for her presentation as Queen Elizabeth I.

“I love that we got to dress up as the character,” said Brianna Small who received first place as Queen Elizabeth I.

Teacher Brandy Rich has been conducting a wax museum for many years with her students ranging from 3rd grade up to 8th grade. “I’ve had adult students say they still remember the information they shared back when they were in my class. The fact that it is really truly going into their long-term memory is pretty cool.”

Camila Morales-Fernandez, who took second place as Florence Nightingale, said, “I like that we got to learn more about the people that took care of other people.”

In addition to retention, the wax museum experience teaches kids research, presentation and speaking skills. Some of them even differentiated their speech depending on their audience, whether that be kindergarten students, academy students or parents.

The students were graded based on a clear list of requirements and awarded first, second and third place recognition. The judges were Principal Jeffrey Lambert, Vice Principal Theresa Robidoux and SNEC Education Superintendent Beverley Bucknor.

“I hope my character was an inspiration because I like music,” said Lucas Barbosa who got third place as Johann Sebastian Bach.

Camila Morales-Fernandez received 2nd place for her portrayal as Florence Nightingall.

Camila Morales-Fernandez received 2nd place for her portrayal as Florence Nightingall.

Lucas Barbosa, as Johann Sebastian Bach, took third place.

Lucas Barbosa, as Johann Sebastian Bach, took third place.

Students help feed more 1,000 people in need for Thanksgiving

South Lancaster Academy students took part in the Greater Lancaster Holiday Gift Baskets and Food Drive that provides food for the Thanksgiving holiday to families in need in the Lancaster area. They provided enough food to feed 1,037people, in more than 300 families, for one week. 

Each year, students participate by helping to prepare bags, sort and pack boxes of food, as well as make cards for each family.

A quarter of SLA students in National Honor Society


SLA inducted six students into the National Honor Society (NHS) on Nov. 1. These students became part of the 26 percent of the students in grades 10-12 who are members of the NHS.

The six new NHS members are: Hannah Allain, senior; Lisette DeLeon, junior; Anji Lee, junior; Joel Morin, junior; Jayda Tulloch, junior; and Amaris Vanegas, junior.

Students qualify for membership based on four pillars of excellence established by the NHS: scholarship, service, leadership and character. SLA students must have a 3.5 GPA, remain current with required volunteer hours and exhibit leadership and quality character.

Current NHS members plan the special ceremony with a spiritual message, special music and prayer to welcome the new members to the NHS. They light five candles representing each pillar of excellence and one for the NHS. New members receive a NHS pin and sign the SLA registry of NHS members.

Being a member of the NHS is helpful when applying to college and scholarships. Since 1946, more than $14 million in scholarships has been awarded to outstanding NHS senior members, according to the NHS.

Another benefit is the opportunity to help people. Students in the NHS host two blood drives each year. The fall blood drive was held this year on Oct. 2, and the spring blood drive will be held on May 2. SLA’s chapter of the NHS has helped the Red Cross collect 273 units of blood since 2014. The students are currently working on the Coats for Kids campaign to donate clean coats to underprivileged children. They are accepting coats until Jan. 7. This semester, the students also made gift bags for 10 children in an orphanage in Africa. An additional service they do is to pick up recycling weekly in each of the school buildings.

NHS is a national organization recognizing outstanding high school students since its establishment in 1921. It is estimated that more than one million students participate in NHS activities in all 50 states. South Lancaster Academy’s chapter of the NHS has been in existence since 1987.

Antibullying education a priority at South Lancaster Academy

ImprovBoston presented a fun, informative and interactive assembly about anti-bullying where the students got a chance to role play and share their thoughts.

ImprovBoston presented a fun, informative and interactive assembly about anti-bullying where the students got a chance to role play and share their thoughts.

Between 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 U.S. students say they have been bullied at school, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. We don’t want those statistics to be reflected in our students at South Lancaster Academy and we are doing everything we can to combat bullying in our school.

During National Bullying Prevention Month in October, SLA hosted two special assemblies, one for the elementary students and one for the secondary students, to further educate them about bullying and how to prevent it. ImprovBoston presented a fun, informative, and interactive assembly with 9th-12th grade students role-playing various bullying situations and how to handle them. The actors also invited the students to talk about their experiences in an empathetic and constructive manner. The elementary students enjoyed magician and motivational speaker Jim Vagias and the message he shared about respect, responsibility and caring.

Most bullying happens in middle school, the most common types being verbal and social bullying. Only about 20 to 30% of students who are bullied notify adults about the bullying. Yet when bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The teachers and staff participate in continuing education regarding anti-bullying and are currently involved in a bullying awareness workshop held monthly in conjunction with the Massachusetts Department of Education.

If you or your child witness bullying behaviors, please report it. Call Principal Jeff Lambert or Vice Principal Theresa Robidoux at (978) 368-8544. Or you may anonymously report an incident online at

Our elementary students enjoyed a magic show by Jim Vagias demonstrating respect, responsibility and caring for their antibullying assembly.

Our elementary students enjoyed a magic show by Jim Vagias demonstrating respect, responsibility and caring for their antibullying assembly.

Join us for next Alumni Weekend, Oct. 5-7, 2018

We enjoyed visiting with former students, classmates and staff at our recent Alumni Weekend. Pictured above are members of the class of 1992, commemorating their 25th reunion at Alumni Weekend, Oct. 6-8, 2017.

Plan now to celebrate with us the 135th anniversary of South Lancaster Academy at our next Alumni Weekend, Oct. 5-7, 2018. Invite your friends. Bring your family. We want to see you!

Class of 1992 celebrating their 25th reunion at Alumni Weekend, 2017.

Class of 1992 celebrating their 25th reunion at Alumni Weekend, 2017.

Being a good role is aim for 1st grade teacher

Rebecca Raposo, new first grade teacher.

Rebecca Raposo, new first grade teacher.

Rebecca Raposo was doing her student teaching in a high-poverty area and saw that the community subtly pressured the children to only be as good as their surroundings and discouraged them from aiming toward higher goals.

“That was the first time I realized I could be a positive role model in those kids’ lives and I could do something. Help them push past their social standards,” said Ms. Raposo. “That was when I fell in love with teaching and ever since then that has driven me. With God’s help I can make a difference.”

Rebecca is our new first grade teacher but is a familiar face on the campus at South Lancaster Academy. “A lot of the people I work with now were my teachers in high school,” said Ms. Raposo, who is a 2009 graduate. “In my mind they’re Mr. Lambert and Mrs. Robidoux, but now they’re like, ‘Call me Jeff. Call me Theresa.’”

Rebecca came to SLA as a sophomore and attended through her senior year. She was a member of the National Honor Society and enjoyed running in cross country.

“I had a great time,” said Ms. Raposo. “I still have friends to this day that I made back then.”

Ms. Raposo went to earn an education degree from Washington Adventist University. You will most likely find her at school early in the morning and working late in the evening as she’s establishing her classroom, grading papers and preparing for the next day of learning.

When she can fit it in, Ms. Raposo enjoys travel and anything outdoors, including hiking, biking kayaking and camping. She spent this last summer on a backpacking trip through Europe with five other female friends. She’s been to 15 countries so far.

Ms. Raposo is eager to see her students develop spiritually and academically while enjoying their experience at SLA. “I like knowing that my kids are learning and having fun at the same time,” she said.

Elementary students raise more than $2,600 for sister school

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If you think your loose coins don’t amount to much, consider that our elementary students brought in their pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters to raise more than $2,600 for The Oaks Adventist Christian School in Houston that was flooded by Hurricane Harvey.

The 6th grade class hosted The Penny Wars, a fundraiser to support The Oaks where their teacher, Brandy Rich, once taught. The school had five feet of water in their classrooms and sustained so much damage the classes are now meeting in the gym with temporary partitions. They lost desks, books, school supplies and more.

“Every day we prayed that God would multiply this money like He did with the loaves and fish and bless The Oaks,” said Mrs. Rich. “Little by little the kids brought in their coins. Ultimately, we raised $2,635.86! God is so good!”

All classes from Kindergarten through Grade 8 participated in the competition from Sept. 18 to 29 to see which class could bring in the most money. The 6th grade class came in first place bringing in $913.43 of the total money raised.

“Penny Wars was an amazing experience! I felt like God was telling our class to help The Oaks Adventist Christian School! I was so happy that we raised over $2,000, and we helped another school. I will never forget this wonderful experience,” said 6th grade student Khali Muth.

“I learned that a little blaze of fire (pennies) can create a giant fire! I also learned that we didn’t just put pennies into a jar. We also put in love, compassion, and life savings. It was all done to help another school,” said 6th grade student Jacob Alce.

What an amazing lesson for all of us that even our littlest bits, when joined with others, can make a big difference.

Make a difference in a child's life


Studies show that the longer children attend an Adventist school, the higher their test scores. According to CognitiveGenesis, a 4-year study of 30,000 North American Adventist school students, grades 3-9 and 11 conducted at La Sierra University, each year at an Adventist school improves students’ average scholastic achievement.

The average achievement of an 8th grader just starting at an Adventist school scores in the 50th percentile nationwide. The number goes up to the 57th percentile after just one or two years at an Adventist school. After three to six years enrollment, the average achievement is at the 64th percentile. An 8th grade student who has attended an Adventist school for all previous seven years scores, on average, in the 73rd percentile nationwide.

A Seventh-day Adventist education makes a difference academically in a child’s life. Yet we know that it can make an eternal difference as well.

Of our 290 students enrolled at South Lancaster Academy this year, more than 45 percent require financial assistance. Communication is coming soon asking for help in financing tuition for students who would not otherwise be able to afford a Christian education. Watch your inbox or mailbox for your chance to sponsor a child or click on the donate button at Thank you.

Students strive for excellence through Honors Program

Nathan Johnson, sophomore at South Lancaster Academy.

Nathan Johnson, sophomore at South Lancaster Academy.

Sophomore Nathan Johnson is glad to see honors options available at SLA. His class is the first to be able to participate in the newly established Honors Program for academy students.

“Honors is a good plus,” said Nathan. “I’m happy Mr. Lambert brought it to the table--that added spice.”  

Nathan plans to major in biomedicine in college with the intention of going on to medical school. He joins the high percentage of our seniors who choose to pursue higher education. 96 percent of our graduates last year planned to attend college and we want to make sure they are not just prepared for advanced coursework, but that they can reach their highest potential. SLA has instituted a new Honors Program to aid students gaining acceptance to the college of their choice, increasing the odds of getting scholarships, strengthening their critical thinking skills and deepening their knowledge base.

SLA has two new choices in the Honors Program for high achieving students:honors diploma and honors coursework.

To graduate with an honors diploma, the student must take 29.25 credit hours and earn a 3.5 GPA. This distinction is offered as well as two other types of diplomas at SLA. There is a general diploma that meets the minimum requirements to graduate. The general diploma requires 24.75 credits with a 2.0 GPA. The College Preparatory diploma, for students planning on attending college, requires 28.25 credits with a 2.5 GPA.

The honors coursework involves additional assignments for grades 9 to 12 with an emphasis on exploring the subject matter more thoroughly to provide greater breadth and more enrichment. For each chapter or unit in a semester, there is an extension unit specifically for honors students to complete. These units challenge higher-order thinking skills and cause the student to show a higher level of mastery than students in the standard course.

Students choosing to earn an honors diploma must complete the honors assignments in at least 50 percent of their classes with at least half being done in their junior and senior years. That means a student can choose to do honors in math and science all four years, or focus on doing honors in social studies and language arts instead. A student who didn’t choose to do honors assignments in their freshman or sophomore years could complete honors assignments in all subjects in the junior and senior years.

For students unsure whether they want to tackle honors assignments, Nathan advises, “Test it out, see how you like it. If you find it’s too much work, you can drop it.”

“I like the feeling of accomplishment I have when I see the honors distinction on my transcript,” said Nathan.

Let there be light

We are proud of our school seal and the history it represents. South Lancaster Academy is the oldest, continually operating Seventh-day Adventist school in the world. Founded in 1882 and officially incorporated in 1883, we have a rich history of providing quality Christian education to generations of children in New England.
The Latin words, “fiat lux,” that emboldens the seal above the Bible and quills mean “let there be light.” These are the first recorded words that God spoke. “Let there be light, and there was light,” Genesis 1:3.

As Christians we are admonished to be a light unto the world. Light is the source of goodness and drives out darkness. Light illuminates understanding. God is the source of light.

We want to continue sharing that light with our students and their families, our alumni, our church family, and all in our community. There are many ways to do this and this email newsletter is just one way by providing regular updates on what we are doing at SLA.

Welcome to our first monthly edition of Fiat Lux, shining light on the happenings at South Lancaster Academy.