Each year at Hillcrest, the faculty and staff set aside a regular day of instruction for a focused time to speak into the spiritual life of students at Hillcrest Academy. The day is made up of various seminars on issues relating to Biblical manhood, Biblical womanhood and how to live as Christians in the world. Students are given time for contemplation and prayer as they walk through this unique day-schedule on the HLA campus. Spiritual formation day has proven over the years to be a valued part of what students receive, as well as a fitting benefit of the school’s mission to equip students for a life of significance.
Principal Isaac recently returned from a national conference in Colorado, presented by Summit Ministries. Summit Ministries trains Christians in apologetics, worldview analysis, and social engagement. Hillcrest’s Bible curriculum uses Summit resources to assist instructors as they incorporate Biblically-based worldview in their classrooms. Mr. Isaac found this conference to be of great value and plans to sends teachers to future conferences as an important part of their ongoing training.
Private Schools in Minnesota
Hillcrest is a member school of the Minnesota Independent School Forum (MISF) headquartered in St. Paul, MN. MISF represents the concerns of private schools throughout the state of Minnesota. Recently MISF sponsored a rally at the State Capitol inviting nonpublic schools to gather at the Capitol and celebrate the importance and value of private and independent schools. At the rally, both state and local representatives spoke on the value of private education.
Representatives commented on the ability of private schools to keep both operating costs and tuition rates down. About 60% of private schools in Minnesota reported annual income and expenses of less than $1 million. According to the Statewide Census of Private Education (SCOPE) survey, the private schools’ estimated average per student costs was $8,688.00, which included consideration for operational expenses covered by host organizations (churches or denominations, primarily). While every educational institution is forced to do more with less these days, private schools consistently demonstrate an ability to maintain high academic outcomes in spite of tight budgets.
Minnesota’s private education system is a $500 million industry that contributes to Minnesota’s
economy through privately financed school buildings and infrastructure, and by employing about
3,800 FTE teachers, managers and administrators. From 2008 to 2011, pressures on the economy led to an 11.2% decline in enrollment in private schools and the closure of 48 private schools in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Education.
Hillcrest was fortunate to maintain a consistent student population during those years, and has seen an increase of 5% over last year’s enrollment. Hillcrest also maintains a balance between day-students and dorm-students, including national and international students.
A Solid Footing
Using the Bible as the foundation in the classroom provides a significant means for students to grow in their understanding of God as they pursue their academic studies. The use of Scripture also makes them more aware of the power of God working in numerous ways as they go throughout their daily routines.
Senior Skyler Ruf from New Jersey recently testified to the work of Christ in his life through his educational experience at Hillcrest Academy. Skyler has been through great hardship in his life, losing his mother to cancer in Jr. High, yet has found encouragement and a deeper faith these past two years attending Hillcrest. Skyler’s story was printed in a school brochure called “Significant,” a written series of personal stories and reflections by Hillcrest students that communicate how they are being nurtured while attending Hillcrest Academy.
A number of other students added their testimonies in the most recent “Significant” issue. You can also view a few of the most recent video testimonies on Hillcrest’s website at www.ffhillcrest.org/significant
Chapel is a meaningful period in the Hillcrest school day. Meeting Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 45 minutes, Chapel is a highlight for students. Principal Jeff Isaac leads the Chapel program with additional support from Hillcrest faculty.
Currently, Principal Isaac is leading a series on apologetics, or a defense of the Christian faith. Much of his teaching reflects his own personal study as he completes a Masters degree in Apologetics from Biola University in southern California.
The chapel series will include insights from William Lane Craig’s series On Guard. The series will focus on logical proofs for the existence of God. Principal Isaac will also articulate the importance of developing a personal understanding of God, and his desire for a personal relationship that we can have with him.
Getting the Word Out
Over the years Hillcrest has sent out faculty and staff to teach and train parents, local church leaders, and youth leaders using Christian worldview material. This includes going beyond the local region to other parts of the United States. Seminars have been held in Pennsylvania, Colorado and Washington state, allowing Hillcrest instructors opportunities to share with others the training that students are receiving at Hillcrest.
This year staff will continue with these training opportunities, traveling throughout Canada, and visiting churches and a Bible school there. This is another way that God is using the ministry of Hillcrest Academy beyond the local campus.
Music Directors David Strom and Steve Doering provide a wonderful community Christmas event each year using the talents of Hillcrest high school vocalists and instrumentalists. The Annual Christmas Concert Weekend on December 15 and 16 at Bethel Church portrayed in song and word the Christmas story through the eyes of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The concert was live-streamed on the internet for friends and family to view. Those wishing to watch the concert may visit the Hillcrest website at www.ffhillcrest.org/livestream-archive. We express our appreciation to the Hillcrest Music Department for enriching our Advent festivities!
With the Senior Class halfway through the school year, the Hillcrest Guidance Office kicks into high gear, supporting, encouraging and directing seniors toward their next educational steps. Guidance Counselor Ruth Juliot reports that over 75% of the 43 member class has completed their college entrance exams with approximately 70% already set on their college or university plans for the fall. The Guidance Office will work with the remaining students, anticipating that about 95% of the graduates will attend a college or university following their education at Hillcrest Academy. This percentage has been the standard for many years, keeping the Hillcrest classroom a “college preparatory” learning environment.
The Class of 2013 has listed Engineering, Christian Counseling, Nursing, Political Science, Business, Biology, Accounting, Global Studies, Vocal Performance, Music Education, and Early Childhood Education as fields of study in their undergraduate work. Some have expressed interest in graduate work as well.
Hillcrest’s enrollment this year is above 200 for the first time in 5 years. The HLA Board of Directors authorized the hiring of Mr. Wayne Stender as Marketing Director last year, whose work is paying off as Hillcrest is being introduced more intentionally on the national and international levels. We look forward to 4 more students joining the Hillcrest student body at the start of the second semester.
Anticipating an increased enrollment trend gives urgency to a classroom renovation project that has been announced as one of the initiatives of the “Fresh Breeze” Capital Campaign. This successful campaign will conclude on December 31st. The Hillcrest Board will meet in January to begin the timetable for phasing this important campus improvement. Campaign participation has come from alumni and Hillcrest families and friends. It is a remarkable blessing to experience such a generous outpouring of response toward the campaign!
Rev. Steven Brue is the President at Hillcrest Lutheran Academy in Fergus Falls, MN
Faith Formation is a Priority
I’ve just returned from a morning chapel program at Hillcrest. Chapel is a 30 minute time built into the school day, where time is taken for prayer, worship, and listening to testimonies of faculty members, staff and students. Chapel is an obvious and important aspect of the school’s mission to equip students in a Christ-centered, Biblical-based environment for a life of significance. The goal of this time is to minister to both mind and spirit and provide devotional and inspirational times for students in the nurturing of their faith in God.
Memorable Mission Trip
Today’s chapel program featured students who participated in a short mission trip to the Dominican Republic during the week of Thanksgiving. Four of the 23 high school seniors shared personal reflections of their time in the Dominican, highlighting experiences that impacted them. A group of seniors also shared a skit that they performed in parks while they were there. The message of the skit was clear. Teenagers struggle with temptations, but the good news is there is a Savior who has power to deliver us from making bad choices when we cry out to him. The chapel time closed with comments from History instructor Gregg Preston and Art instructor Gaylen Peterson, who with 8 other adults accompanied the students to the Dominican.
It is clear that these student gained valuable insights that have changed how they think about life. They spoke of their own fears being replaced by confidence, and a joy that came to them while they served others in humility. They noted an obvious contrast between the poverty of those they encountered and their own personal wealth and daily blessings that are easily taken for granted. All in all, they were grateful for the experience of a profound and unforgettable Thanksgiving time.
In the bigger picture, this 7-day mission outreach has created for Hillcrest a unique partnership with the Sante Fe Primary School in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Santa Fe has grown in enrollment and facilities since the partnership began five years ago, bringing additional salary resources and upgraded classroom facilities for the small school in the Caribbean. According to the Santa Fe Headmaster, the elementary students get excited every October, knowing their Hillcrest visitors will soon be arriving.
Advent is Here
Sounds of the Christmas season have been heard from the Music Room since well before Thanksgiving. Students are preparing for the upcoming Annual Christmas Concert Weekend to be held at Bethel Lutheran church on December 15th and 16th at 7pm. This year the Saturday evening concert will be available to families around the world through LiveStream programming. (www.ffhillcrest.org/livestream).
Steven Brue is the President of Hillcrest Lutheran Academy in Fergus Falls, MN (www.ffhillcrest.org)