Gathering in Hillcrest's historic chapel is a group of students going through a nearly century long tradition. With sunkissed cheeks the students have a certain glow. Their shirts read, "Live. Learn. Go.", a motto at Hillcrest that will grow real through explanations of Hillcrest's culture, explained during orientation.
As students open the first page of the handbook they see the leader lean forward. The first page is read aloud, with simple pauses after important phrases. "The mission of Hillcrest," the first pause causes students to raise their heads. "That's where you are," says the leader. A chuckle follows. He continues, "The mission of Hillcrest is to equip students in a Christ-centered, Bible-based environment, for a life of eternal significance." The following moments in the orientation give students a picture of what they signed-up for. I will share the outline for you below:
A mantra echoing through Hillcrest this summer was, "We don't simply care what kind of student you are at 18, we care what kind of person you are at 28." The simple phrase is a play on what many schools prepare students for. While some schools want students to graduate, others want students to attend a prestegious college. At Hillcrest, the staff want students to receive a training that will prepare them for their 28th birthday and beyond.
This training involves providing students some equipment. At Hillcrest this equipment is the ability to think and reason, ultimately to prefer the good, beautiful, and truthful. Students have heard a lot about truth during their few days at Hillcrest. Truth, defined in the orientation meetings, is that which is consistent to reality, coherent and understandable, and complete. At Hillcrest, we call this the 3-C test of truth. It drives our classes to analyze the world and understand what is beautiful and good.
So students understand that they will receive a training that will outfit them with equipment. Equipment to look at the world and analyze the ideas and concepts being thrown at them. Equipment that will allow them to test whether ideas are consistent with reality, wholly coherent, and universally complete.
I love walking through Hillcrest's main doors. After climbing the century-old stairway, visitors are greeted with a set of wooden doors that cause a sense of grandeur in walking into the historic front hall. Looking straight ahead, visitors find the Chapel. It is a centerpiece of the Hillcrest experience, located in the heart of the Hillcrest campus. It is a small marker to Hillcrest's culture that is centered on Christ.
Students will find that each classroom uses the Bible in their daily presentation of truth. Stop by Spanish class on the second floor and you'll hear students reciting the Lord's Prayer in Spanish, students found learning Spanish to communicate the Gospel to the world. Continue down the hallway and you'll peek around the door of Mr. Undseth's class, whose pencils are writing down portions of Scripture from the best literature available to mankind. Round the corner of the classroom section and you'll hear Mr. Preston behind you. The devotional is carrying into the history lesson for the day while he explains mans depravity throughout history while he opens the Bible to reveal the resolution.
As students transition from the classroom to the dorms they pass by Bible-verses hung on walls in the hallway before meeting their Resident Assistants in the dorm office. Students sit down and share the highs and lows from their day. The dorm staff communicate Christ in their mentor interactions, sharing a Biblically-based perspective of the trials facing Hillcrests' students.
Visitors quickly see that Hillcrest doesn't baptize its culture with Christ, a sort of sprinkling of Jesus around school. At Hillcrest the faculty and staff follow the lead from administrators in focusing on Jesus. Classes exist to communicate the plan of God through specific academic disciplines, showing how Jesus is communicated in loud voices through their studies. Dormitory engagement calls out personal relationships where reflecting Christ is the ultimate goal. The culture at Hillcrest is unique because it exists to communicate Jesus.
The Definition of Significance
As students work their way to the final phrase of the mission statement there are two words that cause a raise of eyebrows. "Eternal Significance", heard repeated in whispered tones around the circle of teenagers, is an important phrase at Hillcrest.
The leader takes special care at this point of the orientation. Pausing so all eyes meet his, the leader slowly turns his head to make eye contact as he explains the phrase. Students hear that staff at Hillcrest treat everyone with a special respect because all of mankind is made in the image of God. This reality, held tightly by Hillcrest Academy, bestows a value on each student. Every student is significant because they are all created in the image of God.
As if being an image bearer is not enough, the leader explains that students are eternally significant because Jesus Christ recognized their image, identified mankinds sin that separates them from God, and paid the penalty for sin and death by dying on the cross and rising again some 2000 years ago. This selfless act performed by God has made each student eternally significant. The mission of Hillcrest is that students would be equipped, in the Christ-centered Bible-based environment to believe and live-out the fundamental reality that mankind's worth is wholly dependent on the reality of God and His work on the cross and in the resurrection of Christ.