New faces and a facelift

Each school year is ripe with changes and possibilities, and this year South Lancaster Academy has that in abundance. We are welcoming our returning and new students with some new faces in the faculty and a facelift to the parking lot, athletics fields and gymnasium. 

Faces
We are pleased to welcome two new administrators to our team:

  • David Branum is the Principal (see July 2018 Fiat Lux)
  • Ginnie Hakes is the Vice Principal (see story below).

SLA also has three new academy teachers:

  • Damali Caine is the Religion Teacher/Chaplain. She comes from Pine Forge Academy in Pennsylvania where she taught religion. She relocated with her husband, Eric, and their young son, Nathan.
  • Veronica Iria is the Business/Technology/Art Teacher. She is not new to SLA as she's taught art here part-time, but now she is a full-time teacher taking over the business, technology and yearbook classes as well.
  • Karl Hernandez is the Maintenance/Transportation/Vocational Arts Director. He is well-known at SLA as a popular substitute teacher, but now is our full-time Maintenance Director and teaches woodworking and home repair.

We are happy each one has joined SLA to continue to share God's love while they educate our students.

Facelift
Perhaps the most obvious changes is on the school grounds itself. A newly designed parking lot and pick-up/drop-off zone increase safety and efficiency. Both athletic fields, one by the elementary building and one by the secondary building, were leveled for improved drainage and usability. The gymnasium got a fresh coat of paint with the school seal and Crusader logo gracing the walls.

We are extremely grateful to Allain Sitework and Comley Excavating, both alumni-owned companies, for their work on the parking lots and fields.

Good things are happening at South Lancaster Academy. God is leading, we are following.

Welcome to Vice Principal Virginia Hakes

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"I am very passionate about Adventist Christian education. I consider it an ACE. It has to be Adventist. It has to be Christian. And it has to be an Education. If it's none of those or any part of those are missing, we have a problem."

Our newest vice principal traveled across the United States to join us at South Lancaster Academy. Virginia (Ginnie) Hakes comes from Thunderbird Academy's elementary school in Arizona where she was a teaching vice principal.

Mrs. Hakes began her teaching career as a student missionary in Micronesia where she learned early on how to adapt, make things work, think on her feet, and keep things exciting for her 33 first graders with very few textbooks. Since earning her education degree from Southern Adventist University in 1991 and later a Master's degree in educational administration from North Carolina Greensboro, she has taught in many public and Adventist schools throughout the country. She has also taught music along the way.

"When we moved to Arizona I didn't have a job. We've always moved for my husband's position, he's a pastor, and he poised the question, 'Why don't you get into the public sector this time?'" says Mrs. Hakes. "I said, 'Honey, I don't feel called to do that. I need to be able to share my faith because it's as much as who I am as I am breathing in and breathing out every day. If I can't share my mission with these kids and help them get passionate about being in a relationship with Christ, I don't know if I can do my job.'"

Mrs. Hakes is very passionate about Adventist Christian education. "I consider it an Ace. It has to be Adventist. It has to be Christian. And it has to an Education. If it's none of those things or any part of those aremissing, we have a problem."

This time, the Hakes moved for Ginnie. Her husband, Jim, saw the job posting at SLA and encouraged her to apply. Pastor Hakes was the senior pastor at Paradise Valley Church in Phoenix and is now the pastor at Worcester Airport Church and Quinebaug SDA Church in Connecticut.

Although Mrs. Hakes is new to Massachusetts, she has some ties here. Her great-grandmother, Marion Simmons, graduated from AUC in 1933 and served as Elementary Education Superintendent at Atlantic Union Conference in the 1960s. Also, the Hakes honeymooned in New England.

The couple have two children. Anna is a sophomore at Union College in the International Rescue and Relief Pre-Med Program. Robbie is a freshman at Andrews University studying flight management and business information systems.

"I really want to help on the elementary level support these teachers in helping them feel confident in their positions, to help them with their spiritual growth as well as their academic leadership roles," says Mrs. Hakes. "I'm really excited to work with PK to 12. I just want to be there to help make the educating process for our young people easier for all concerned, be there for parents and help bring a team effort to everyone working together to make the best opportunity for our students possible."

Meet Principal David Branum

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"Adventist education is about helping our students find and follow Jesus, grow in that relationship and offer the best possible education we can provide. We have to stay cutting edge in every one of those aspects."

David Branum is South Lancaster Academy's newest principal. He comes with more than 30 years experience in Adventist education and 20 of those years as principal.

"I've worked in Adventist schools because I've got a genuine interest in our kids, in our church. We do a really good job teaching them what our religion is about, our policies and our beliefs, but I think we miss helping our kids develop that relationship with Jesus and helping them to grow that relationship," says Mr. Branun. "It's all about having that relationship with Christ first."

Mr. Branum was most recently the principal at Greater Boston Academy. He and his wife, Jane, moved to Massachusetts three years ago to care for her father in Orange. She is a native New Englander and works as a nurse at a care facility in Baldwinville. When this position opened up it was a good opportunity to shorten the commute. 

"I think Mr. Lambert did a great job and I'm looking forward to picking up where he left off. Keep moving things forward," says Mr. Branum.

His desire to move forward pairs with his philosophy of seeking improvement. "I'm not a big fan of 'that's how we've always done it.' I don't ever want to hear that," says Mr. Branum. "We have a pretty decent program, how can we make it better." 

Mr. Branum goes on to say, "As far as I'm concerned the education and the spiritual both weigh the same in our school system. We gotta have a quality educational program. We can't just rely on the fact that we'rean Adventist institution anymore. That doesn't cut it with the Millennials and the Gen Xers. Adventist education is about helping our students find and follow Jesus, grow in that relationship and offer the best possible education we can provide. We have to stay cutting edge in every one of these aspects."

It's no surprise then that Mr. Branum strongly supports professional development and a positive school climate. "I'm making sure I'm taking care of my teachers and my staff, making sure they have what they need to do the best job they can do. That means I'm going to have a happy staff. When I have a happy staff, I have happy students. It just permeates right down to the classroom."

The Branum's have two children, Tiffany, 30, lives in Washington D.C. and Sam, 23, lives in Lincoln, NE. The family lived in Lincoln for many years when Mr. Branum was principal at College View Academy. "They're great kids in spite of their parents," jokes Mr. Branum. "Love 'em to death."

Mr. Branum originally graduated with an accounting degree. He worked in that field for two tax seasons and decided that he needed more people interaction and switched to education. His first teaching job was at Pine Tree Academy. He taught for ten years then went on to a earn a master's degree in educational administration.

"I do a lot of listening my first year," says Mr. Branum. "I welcome parents and alumni to come in and chat with me about how they see the school and what they'd like to see."

Homeschool Bridge Program offers music and PE for local homeschoolers

South Lancaster Academy is excited to announce a new program to partner with homeschool students in our community.

Our Homeschool Bridge Program provides an opportunity for students in grades K-12 to participate in SLA's music and physical education courses. These students are also eligible to take part in the school sports programs, music concerts, weeks of prayer, school photos and yearbook ownership.
 

The tuition rate per year is:
K-4: $500 constituent; $650 non-constituent
5-8: $520 constituent; $670 non-constituent
9-12: $1,000 constituent; $1,250 non-constituent

Contact the office at (978) 368-8544 to register.

Upgraded athletic field, parking lot and drop-off/pick-up lane

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When students arrive for the first day of school on Aug. 23, they will see a revamped drop-off/pick-up lane with clearly marked lines, a sidewalk with a curb to provide a safe walkway between the elementary and secondary buildings, more parking spaces, and a newly leveled sports field so our athletes don't have to play soccer in a muddy swamp.

These improvements are possible thanks to generous donations of time and resources from Allain Sitework and Comley Excavating, both companies with ties to South Lancaster Academy as alumni or current parents, as well as your donations to our Building for Eternity campaign.

Thank you for continuing to support South Lancaster Academy in providing improved facilities in which our students can learn and grow in their relationship with God.

Graduates earn more than $1.1 in scholarships

Class of 2018

Class of 2018

South Lancaster Academy celebrated its 135th commencement on Sunday, June 10, 2018, graduating 18 students. These seniors were awarded more than $1,165,000 in scholarships.

Of the 18 seniors, 13 plan to attend Seventh-day Adventist colleges, one is attending New York Institute of Technology, one attending Quinsigamond Community College, one entering the Navy and two are undecided. Eight students are National Honor Society members with five earning highest honors with a cumulative GPA of 3.9-4.0, one with high honors of a cumulative GPA of 3.75-3.89 and one with honors of a cumulative GPA of 3.5-3.75.

Four additional awards were presented. The Prudential Spirit of Community Award was presented to Daniel Hammond andGeovanny Sanchez. The Worcester Telegram Award went to Danielle Malivert. Evan Garrity received the Caring Heart Award. Michaela Hernandez was the first recipient of Melissa Martinez Kidder scholarship.

We were honored to welcome alumnus Melissa Kidder, class of 1982, to present this scholarship. The scholarship was established this year by Lanu Stoddart Williams to honor her friend diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The scholarship is awarded to students going to a SDA college to study STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics). Donations to this scholarship can made in the business office at SLA.

We applaud the accomplishments of each student. We see bright things in their future and look forward to seeing them return to SLA as shining examples of God's love in their lives.

Many alumni attended the graduation ceremonies. We welcome each of these alumni back to SLA at any time.

Many alumni attended the graduation ceremonies. We welcome each of these alumni back to SLA at any time.

Farewell to six staff members

We are having to say good-bye to several staff members at the end of this school year. Each of them has left an indelible mark on South Lancaster Academy committing countless hours of service to our students. Their work here was more than a job as they made it a true mission. We will miss each one. Our prayers go with them on their future endeavors.

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Jeffrey Lambert
Principal
Years at SLA: 11
Moving to Florida

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Jonathan Nino
Religion/Chaplain
Years at SLA: 10
Focusing on mission work

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Jon Nosek
Maintenance/Transportation/Vocational Arts
Years at SLA: 13
Retiring

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Theresa Robidoux
Vice Principal/Registrar
Years at SLA: 13
Transitioning to Assistant Education Superintendent at Southern New England Conference

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Elizabeth Sassone
Teaching Assistant
Years at SLA: 18
Retiring

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Patti Vandenbroek
Business/Technology/Yearbook
Years at SLA: 22
Retiring

8th grade students enjoyed educational trip to Washington D.C.

8th grade students visited the Marine Corps War Memorial inspired by the iconic 1945 photograph of six Marines raising a U.S. flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.

8th grade students visited the Marine Corps War Memorial inspired by the iconic 1945 photograph of six Marines raising a U.S. flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.

Each year, the 8th grade class at South Lancaster Academy takes a trip to Washington D.C. to visit important historical sites. The following article is one student's impressions.

By Jhoan Ogando

It was Tuesday, May 29th. The day was finally here! I had my suitcase packed and I had my outfit on. My dad drove me to school and everything was ready for the class trip. We prayed and then we went in the bus to start driving before we hit traffic. WE STILL HIT TRAFFIC!

This year, my class got to not only visit Washington D.C., but also New York. We stopped at the 9/11 memorial where the people who died that day are remembered. It was a beautiful place and it was good to pay respects to the people whohave passed away.

After long hours of driving, we stopped at Golden Corral where everybody had a good meal and good time. We went to the Holiday Inn Hotel in Largo, MD. It had free breakfast, a pool and the rooms were big. We had lots of conversations and watched TV. 

We visited many monuments and museums on the trip, including the Smithsonian, the Arlington Cemetery and the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial.

Even though we didn't get rolled ice cream, it was such a great experience. It was like a mini vacation with your closest friends. I thank all the chaperones who came with us and my teacher Mrs. Oliveira, who did her best to make the best class trip we could get.

Windows to the World gala and auction raised nearly $40,000!

We are excited to announce that our 2nd annual gala and auction, "Windows to the World" with a focus on raising money to replace the 50-year-old ineffective windows, raised nearly $40,000. Thanks to the support of our many generous donors and attendees, that's double the amount raised last year.

With more than 80 items to bid on, ranging in value from $5 to $3,500, attendees had lots of choices to purchase. Several people also chose to sponsor windows. Among the unique items available were handmade art projects created by students in PreKindergarten to Grade 8 with the help of art teacher Veronic Iria.

"Some of the most enjoyable parts of the evening were viewing the student projects and listening to the descriptions and motivations behind each project," said Lanu Stoddart-Williams. "Kudos to the students andtheir teachers for a superb job yet again!"

Principal Jeff Lambert once again offered his hair as an auction item and this year Pastor Luis Gracia from the College Church joined him with a twist--the winning bidder could choose to save or shave their hair. A lively bidding ensued with Pastor Luis's hair being saved and Mr. Lambert being shaved. 

The event featured six tables of various cuisines from around the world. Kristie Stevenson, parent of two SLA students and one SLA alumnus, put together this feast that met with rave reviews with the help of other volunteer parents.

"The gala was not just a fundraiser. It was a social event where hard-working volunteers gave of their time and money to celebrate Christian education," said Home and School President Laurie Segar-Collins.

Angele Noel won scholarship to pay for half of college

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Who gets a scholarship after arriving at the interview 30 minutes late? That's the question Angele Noel couldn't help but ask herself after receiving notice that she was a recipient of the Christian A. Herter Memorial Scholarship that pays up to half the cost at a college of her choice.

Noel, a junior at South Lancaster Academy, is one of just 25 students in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to be awarded this competitive scholarship. "My mom said, 'Maybe it was meant to happen this way so that you can never say that you got it on your own. You know forever that the only reason you have this is because God gave it to you," said Noel.

The Christian A. Herter Memorial Scholarship is awarded to students who have overcome significant adversity in their life and show academic promise but whose socio-economic backgrounds and environmental conditions may inhibit their ability to attend college. One 10th or 11th grade student from each school in the state can be nominated.

Noel immigrated to the United States from Haiti when she was 6 years old. She is the third in a family of six children. "This scholarship opens up options that were unimaginable before," said Noel. "God will place me where He wants to place me."

Noel, an honor student and active in student leadership and community service, intends to study law and political science so she can work in international and human rights law. She had an internship with the Worcester District Attorney's Office this year. "No matter what I do I want to make sure I am making an impact in my community."

"Angele stood out because I knew she came from a background where her parents had come from another country and they had started from scratch with nothing and they had made a commitment to have her in an Adventist school," said Jeffrey Lambert, principal. "She has always been dedicated to her schoolwork and to helping the students in different organizational capacities such as being the president for the Student Association or helping with class office. She has a road map in place to do great things in the future as well."

Noel is the second SLA student to receive this scholarship. Hannah Knowles, graduate of 2017, won the scholarship in 2016 and is now attending Southern Adventist University.

Defibrillator near gym doors

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Defibrillator near gym doors

Thanks to a gift from our Home and School Association, South Lancaster Academy now has an automated external defibrillator (AED). 

The AED has audio and video prompts to aid anyone to save the life of someone experiencing a cardiac arrest. The AED is portable so it can go between both buildings and outside to the playground, sports field and parking lot.

The AED is located in the hallway just outside the gymnasium doors and next to a fire extinguisher.

SLA awarded $10,000 STEM grant

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Our students will be able to enjoy more opportunities to learn robotics and other STEM initiatives thanks to a $10,000 grant from Versacare, Inc. This grant will help SLA provide more technology education for our students to learn vital skills for today's workforce.

This year, we began offering robotic programming through our newly formed CPUsaders Club to participate in First Lego League. We purchased one Lego Mindstorm's robot and opened the club to students in grades 5 through 8. With this grant, we are able to buy more robots, challenge kits and other necessary equipment, allow more teams, possibly travel to competitions and to extend the club to students in grades 9 through 12.

The students picture above are inaugral members of the CPUsaders. They've been meeting on Sunday mornings with volunteer coaches Dionne Blackwell and Haniel Olivera, both engineers.

The students are learning programming, robotic design, engineering principles, teamwork and more as they work through hydro dynamic challenges, the theme set by First Lego League. The focus on hydro dynamics is for participants to learn all about water--how we find, transport, use, or dispose of it--while completing robotic missions. 

Thanks to this grant, we're excited to be able to expand this program to more students for next year.

Windows to the World auction to raise money for new windows

Please plan to attend the "Windows to the World" gala and auction, April 22, from 5-8 p.m. in the SLA gymnasium. The focus is to raise money to replace the 50-year-old windows with double-pane, energy-efficient ones to keep our students warm and comfortable while learning. Every cent raised will go directly into replacing the old windows as soon as we have raised enough to do the entire building.

Enjoy international cuisine while browsing and bidding on a wide selection of auction items. There will be adventure outings, weekend rentals, household items, multiple gift certificates, museum and park admission tickets, and fabulous art projects by each class. New this year is the opportunity to buy a window for your child's classroom. Buy a single window or pool funds with class parents to purchase windows for the entire classroom. Own a business and would like to contribute a window or two? We'll post a plaque showing your sponsorship. 

  • $600 to sponsor a windowpane.
  • $3,000 to sponsor a window.
  • $15,000 to sponsor a classroom or windows.

Tickets on sale now for $25 at www.mysla.org. Childcare is provided as a fundraiser for the senior class. For only $5, kids ages 5-12 can enjoy pizza, a movie and games. Come and enjoy the evening while supporting our students' learning environment.

For questions or to donate an item to the auction, please contact Shauna Neidigh, Director of Development, at 978-368-8544, ext. 108 or development@mysla.org.

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SLA buildings need new windows

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Windows are symbolic of showing a clearer picture, of allowing light to shine in illuminating all, of providing a view to the greater world. Education is meant to broaden students’ view beyond themselves.

When you look through the windows of SLA you see full classrooms with teachers leading students in learning activities. As in any school, students stare out of windows daydreaming. Teachers look out windows to check the weather for recess. Studies show that students have higher test scores when they are in rooms with natural light. We even use windows on our computers. Windows are an integral part of our world.

Come closer, you’ll also notice the cold air emitting from the cracks. Our windows are in dire need of replacement.

Why we need new windows

All the windows in both the elementary and secondary buildings are original. They were installed when the buildings were built in 1965 and 1967, at a time when energy standards were nonexistent. We have three main issues with our windows:

Poor insulation

The windows are single-pane and not designed to withstand the New England climate. “Our buildings are unnecessarily cold,” states Jeffrey Lambert, principal. “We meet the minimums for what the building heat should be, but we lose it as quickly as we put it in.”

Ineffective locking mechanisms

The locking mechanisms for the windows are so old that they don’t hold properly anymore. A strong gust of wind can loosen the latch so that air is coming in, or even worse, blow the window open.

Eroded caulking

The caulking around the outer edges of the windows has eroded to the point that cold air can enter around the frame.

What it will cost

Our building committee has gathered quotes to replace the windows in both buildings. They are looking at double-pane, energy-efficient, commercial grade windows that meet code. The design of both buildings feature large windows that creates a wall of light, but their custom size increases the cost. Due to the age of the buildings, there is likely to be asbestos that needs to be abated as well.

It will cost an estimated $285,000 to replace the windows in the secondary building, and an estimated $185,000 to replace the windows in the elementary building. That comes to a total combined cost of $470,000.

What about our Building for Eternity campaign?

Our Building for Eternity campaign came about because we knew there were many building repair needs beyond our annual operating expenses. Thus far, the campaign has addressed updating the essential issues--removing the outdated underground oil tanks, installing a new heating system, and re-roofing the elementary building. The oil tanks needed to be done for safety and code reasons. As for the roof, students sat in classrooms next to buckets collecting drips when it rained. We are happy to report that both of those issues have been completed. We are in the process of improving our traffic flow, parking lot and athletic field. The funds raised thus far have been able to be used to address these essential operational and safety issues.

We also knew that the windows needed to be replaced, the bathrooms updated, and buildings updated to become handicapped accessible and increase student safety by uniting both buildings. We still needs fund to accomplish these goals.

As we near the end of the three-year Building for Eternity campaign, we are extremely thankful for those who gave so generously and sacrificially so we could meet these needs. Now we are entering into a new phase of Building for Eternity, turning our focus to fundraising for specific projects we need to address, beginning with the windows.

We saw an $8,000 annual savings in heating costs after replacing the elementary roof. We are looking forward to seeing even more savings now that the academy building has a new roof. We can only speculate how much more savings we can realize once we replace the windows.

How we plan to raise the needed funds

We are approaching all our constituents--alumni, current families, church members--to help us support Adventist education at SLA.

We are excited to announce that all money raised at our upcoming auction, “Windows to the World,” on April 22 will go toward replacing our windows. The auction will feature a creative art project from each grade from PreK to 8, multiple gift certificates and admissions to popular local attractions and businesses, household items, adventure excursions and more.

This year, you will also have the opportunity to purchase windows for our school. Each window will also have a plaque affixed to the window with the sponsor’s name. A family, a class, or a business can sponsor the windows.

  • $600 to sponsor a window pane.

  • $3,000 to sponsor a window.

  • $15,000 to sponsor a classroom of windows.

Of course, we will only be able to replace the windows when we have enough funds to do an entire building. Replacing the windows one at a time or one classroom at a time will increase the cost significantly. So if you sponsor a window pane, whole window or enough windows for an entire classroom, we will keep the money safe and designated for that purchase until we have all funds to replace the windows in the building.

We have 1,114 email subscribers to Fiat Lux. If each person reading this email donated $421.90, we would be able to replace the windows in both buildings. We know that not everyone is able to give that much, and some are able to give much more. Please prayerfully consider what you are able to contribute. You may make a donation at www.mysla.org.

Additionally, please plan to attend our “Windows to the World” gala and auction, Sunday, April 22 from 5-8 p.m. It promises to be a fun evening for all. You may purchase tickets at www.mysla.org.

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.

Source: www.americansforthearts.org

Veronica Iria emphasizes expression while expanding Art Department

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"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."