After some rousing singing and a friendly handshake from everyone in the room, President Brad Hoganson stepped to the front of the service group meeting to bring a greeting from Hillcrest. He spoke of a move from New Jersey, the ease of coming back to a place like Fergus Falls because it feels like home, and the first few months he's had in the office of President at Hillcrest. Following the introductions, President Hoganson introduced long-time staff member, Wayne Stender, to deliver an update from Hillcrest.
The update started with a short story of a student from Norway who clapped her hands in delight in driving down Alcott avenue, seeing Hillcrest over the top of the hill as the steeple peaked from behind buildings. The student was driving with her parents after a shopping trip in Minneapolis, and in returning to Hillcrest the student cheered from the back seat, "I'm home! I'm home!"
Stender then went on to explain why students have a love for Hillcrest and the Fergus Falls community. He started by outlining the three core values of Hillcrest: to build faith, develop intellect, and strengthen character. He went on to explain how Hillcrest does this with the interlinking of knowledge and virtue in a faith-based education environment.
To close, Stender pulled up a document from Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the man known as the father of American medicine. Rush was writing to a group in Pennsylvania as the nation looked to develop an education system.
Rush believed that education was a foundation that would equip people for productive citizenry in a republic. He spoke to a link in what some have called the triangle of freedom. Namely, Rush believed that in order to have freedom one must have developed virtue. He went on to say that in order to develop virtue one must have a religious order that builds virtue. But, in order for one to have a religious order they must have a system that provides freedom. Some have taken Rush's letter and developed a sort of engine they call the triangle of freedom, where freedom, virtue, and religion must all be developed in successive fashion if the mass of people are going to live in a free society.
Stender outlined how Hillcrest's focus in building faith in Jesus Christ, addressing all faith systems in hopes of educating students that the most comprehensive faith system that brings about the best human flourishing is the Christian perspective. Stender went on to say that Hillcrest's faith-building program is gaining notoriety, as students build faith in dormitory life, classroom instruction, and extra-curricular activities.
From these school functions, Stender explained that students develop intellect, studying the natural revelation of God through the systems and orders of the universe.
As students build their understanding of the world, noting that God has intricately designed it to function according to his character through order and design, students begin to internalize these truths. These truths then form and strengthen character that aligns to the nature of God because every academic discipline at Hillcrest uses the Bible as a primary text.
As Stender closed he noted the incredible international community that has come to Hillcrest, highlighting how this impacts the local community. Because the approach to education focuses primarily on students being made in the image of God, all students feel they have a place to belong at Hillcrest, as the school works to build faith, develop intellect, and strengthen character that is grounded in Jesus Christ.