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Making Space for Students

Making Space for Students

By Fernando Chavez, Portland Adventist Academy vice principal and spiritual life director

A famous African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” At Portland Adventist Academy, we recognize the need for our students to be surrounded by people who will take them seriously, who will love them even when they fall short of expectations and who seek to build relationships with them beyond school walls. We strive to create an environment of collaboration among school staff, parents and other “villagers.”

We understand that the many places our students come from are not perfect. Some are fragmented, some need more support than others do, and some feel isolated. Many are thriving, but even those who thrive may find themselves lost at times. PAA provides support and guidance to students and their families. However, this is only possible because of the people we work alongside.

Caring for our students and their families is a shared responsibility that our local churches and pastors take seriously. Our local pastors understand the concept of the “village” and they make space to connect with our students on a regular basis.

Many of our local pastors help us when we need substitute teachers, many others come speak at our weekly chapel worship and some even help us coach our sports teams. Our pastors are opening up their churches to host Friday night vespers for our student, which we're calling Fusion, a time for church and school to join forces in discipling our youth.

If our pastors only connected with youth during church hours, they would only be able to see our students once or twice a week for a few hours at a time, and that is if the students are at church. Our pastors know that in order to make meaningful connections with their youth, they need to be where the students are doing life. And that pays dividends.

Our pastors are well-known by PAA students. Pastors are enthusiastically greeted and welcomed, and students go out of their way to talk and connect with pastors they get to regularly see on campus. When substituting or coaching, pastors spend extended time helping and supporting students in ways that build trusting relationships.

If you are a pastor reading this article and you are not already involved with PAA or with your local Adventist school, I would like to invite you to make space for us. Substitute, guest teach, coach, lead chapel, provide vespers, go on field trips, read stories to young students, or supervise elementary recess. I know you are busy and have many other things to deal with, but spending time with students will be the highlight of your week. If you are a pastor who is already involved at PAA or with any other local Adventist school, thank you for making space for us.

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