WHAT STUDENTS SAY
Jongkyu (JK) Lee stepped into Hillcrest not knowing how God would change him. He left South Korea focused on academic performance, choosing Hillcrest Academy as his path to an American university. He arrived with his sister in January of his sophomore year. JK’s wry smile and mischievous personality instantly made him the center of fun, but sarcasm and wit didn’t overshadow his true desire to learn. It wasn’t long before Hillcrest’s distinct Christian program and a new group of friends began to present a Biblical perspective which called JK’s atheistic reasoning into question.
JK’s Junior year brought on an impasse in his worldview. Concepts from english, history, and biology began to connect with his biblical studies, spurring questions about human origins suffering. JK’s background in atheism had trained him to approach these questions with logic and reason, which ultimately pointed him towards a deeper investigation of Christianity.
Dorm in-hours provided many opportunities for weighty conversations with friends. Even after lights-out, JK found his mind turning, often sneaking down the hall to continue discussions he started earlier. He was conflicted. He knew Christianity made sense, but he wasn’t swayed.
The restlessness in JK’s heart revolved around one verse, Psalm 14:1, heard in his Proverbs class. “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” He didn’t believe he was a fool—he was intelligent.
JK’s senior Bible class forced action on his haunting thoughts. Principal Isaac introduced profound ideas to the class on a daily basis, calling for original thoughts from the class as they wrestled to make sense of the world. The Kalam Cosmological Argument led JK to shudder. His rational mind raced to make sense of the complexity of the universe. The naturalistic explanations he used to embrace no longer offered satisfactory answers.
JK kept his slow slide towards Christianity silent for much of his senior year. Close friends noticed a gentle softening in his spirit. He treated staff with more respect. He grew chivalrous and cared deeply for his female friends in the dorm. He signed-up for the Dominican Mission experience most seniors look forward to. His friends didn’t know, but the senior mission was logical for JK after the Holy Spirit’s work in forming his faith.
During the second day of the Senior class’ Dominican Mission, Gregg Preston asked the group for a volunteer to share a testimony at the evening church service. Students were busy packing backpacks with ministry resources when JK confidently walked to Mr. Preston’s bedside and said, “I’ll do it, Coach.” Startled, Mr. Preston looked JK in the eyes. Unsure of JK’s testimony, Gregg said, “JK, remember when we left that we said there is a difference between a testimony and sharing the Gospel. A testimony is telling someone the work of God in your life.” JK nodded his head with a resolute look that gave Mr. Preston confidence. The two boarded the bus to the church where JK would grab a mic and stun his classmates in sharing his testimony. Later in the week JK was baptized in the ocean, another public declaration of the Holy Spirit’s work in his life.
“Christianity was the most consistent to its teachings and went along with the morals I have so I could accept it well,” JK recalls as he thinks back to his conversion. He notes that Christ has remade him and his desires during his time at Hillcrest. ”I had to give up pursuing pleasure. That was the main struggle, we don’t want to give up stuff Christianity doesn’t agree with.”
Hillcrest offers a rigorous and challenging academic program. Students who attend Hillcrest may use secular text books, but teachers are well versed in founding all knowledge on Scripture. This often means that the Bible is found side-by-side with texts like A Tale of Two Cities, Hammurabi’s Code, and the Epic of Gilgamesh. Students see the world as designed in their science, mathematics, history, and social studies courses. They often use college preparatory textbooks that don’t outline or highlight a Biblical perspective. Students are trained to pick apart ideas, identifying assumptions and logical fallacies in arguments, while holding tightly to facts that are highlighted in texts. It is common for students to say that their history or english courses feel like a Bible class, and their Bible classes feel like a study of History and English. Hillcrest integrates various disciplines inside each classroom, offering a robust and well-rounded program that challenges students to think outside the box and apply knowledge.
Hillcrest also sees a direct and inseparable link between knowledge and virtue. Where students study gender theory and climate change in the upper level classrooms they wrestle with logic and identity. Students are growing in a world that is more multi-cultural and diverse in connections and conflicts in thought and ethnicity than at any time in history. It is important for students to see that the various thoughts, ideas, and identities can be unified and restored in the person and character of Jesus Christ. In this academic and spiritual endeavor of acquiring knowledge students are challenged to develop wisdom. The application of their knowledge is consistently held to a Biblical standard inside the Hillcrest learning and living community. Students have virtue forged as they understand the purpose and design of learning is wholly linked to worship, an action that transforms not only our minds to better thinking but our hearts to greater living and loyalty.
Hillcrest works to hold an open posture in the dialogue of ideas. Because students attend from around the world there is a vast diversity of thought. It is common for an economics classroom to hold students who benefit from a capitalist, socialist, and communist government. Where students from the United States might naturally dominate a conversation, students from Norway and China also have opportunity to share perspectives. Classrooms therefore focus on logic and order, helping students think through the web of ideas to come to build an organization for their thoughts using strong forms of thought and communication. Students build a reasoned defense for beliefs, and at Hillcrest the entire program centers on a Biblical foundation.
- Not Simply College Preparatory
Hillcrest has a strong history of equipping students with a foundation in Biblically-based thought. Our students do well in college, prepared for the academic rigor and social and emotional challenges they’ll face. However, Hillcrest has a greater benchmark than simply holding a banner that students attend college. At Hillcrest students are challenged to develop mental toughness. Being located in Minnesota, students experience highs and lows, not only in temperature and climate but also in emotion, faith, and academic progress. Going through difficulties builds muscles to handle challenges later in life, and in Hillcrest classrooms students are trained to navigate difficulties. Hillcrest has a benchmark not only of their 18 year-old graduates, but our 28 year-old alumni.