Chris Johnson, a recent graduate of Campion Academy, found himself working in a place he’d never expected—a nursing home. Granted, the Green House Homes at Mirasol, in Loveland, Colorado, aren’t your typical nursing home, but Chris had no experience and wasn’t even sure what the job entailed when he agreed to give ASSIST a try.
ASSIST is a grant-funded program managed by Southern Adventist University that pairs students with senior citizens to build relationships and offer assistance. Campion has participated in the program since 2008.
Chris spent two hours a day, five days a week with the residents, talking with them, going for walks, watching TV, or reading to them from the newspaper. “It became a natural friendship over time; it wasn’t like I was working,” he adds. “Some of the elders were really sad to see me go. One of them said, ‘You’re like a grandson to me.’”
“My last job [at Campion] wasn’t working out, and this was the last job available for me,” says Chris. “If you came to me before I had the nursing home job, I would tell you I didn’t want it. But once I got there, it was way more enjoyable than I thought.”
During the 2015-2016 school year, Campion was one of 151 schools qualifying to receive the ASSIST grant. “Over 1,900 families committed to Seventh-day Adventist Christian education will be impacted by as much as $2.4 million in tuition assistance… And, through a practiced attitude of service on the part of the students, as many as 2,700 senior citizens are served currently through this grant,” Southern’s website reports.
Working for ASSIST has provided an average of 10-11 Campion students with meaningful jobs each year, and in turn, the ASSIST grant provides 80% of student wages. Campion fundraises the remaining amount.
Student Labor Coordinator Toni Odenthal explains that student jobs like ASSIST “allow Campion students to work off part of their school bill and also teach them the skills needed to be good workers and thrive in the workplace.”
“I grew socially by doing this,” Chris adds. “I kept a relationship with a house full of people, which is something I don’t usually do. I’m usually not a talker, but over there I learned to enjoy it. If I ever do any volunteering, I’d look to help with elderly again.”
Jenny Sigler teaches English at Campion Academy
“If I was ever being lazy my dad and brother would get after me until I did my job correctly the first time,” says Kyle Rushold, recent graduate of Campion Academy and the school’s first student to get his own parking spot.
The work ethic instilled by his family paid off when he started working for the maintenance department at Campion after his sophomore year. When Kyle started his senior year, Plant Services Director Glenn O’Halloran hired Kyle to be the student assistant for Plant Services, a position that requires him to supervise up to six students on the morning work crew.
“When you work, you are rewarded by success—usually with money,” explains Glenn O’Halloran. Kyle did get paid a slightly higher wage, but the parking spot was part perk, part necessity since Kyle’s position would often make him late for class or chapel.
Kyle claims he doesn’t know why he got his own parking spot, remaining humble about his responsibility. “I guess Mr. O’Halloran and Principal Reeder had the confidence in me for this position, which doesn't really qualify me but gave me the confidence I needed for it.”
Paired with strong academics and spiritual emphasis is Campion Academy’s student employment program.
A long-time tradition of boarding academies, student employment fits in with Ellen White’s counsel to teach students a work ethic and practical knowledge along with theoretical. About 95% of Campion students work for the school or off-campus at Voice of Prophecy, HMS elementary school, a greenhouse, vet clinic, assisted living nursing home, paleo snack kitchen, or as literature evangelists, to name a few.
O’Halloran hopes his student workers graduate with the skills necessary to walk on to their college campus and get a job with plant services. At least three students in the last two years have gotten such jobs at Union College. “They’re not only becoming great students at Campion Academy, but great workers, too,” says O’Halloran.
“I am learning so much while working at Campion,” says Kyle, “from learning how to use new equipment to even learning how to drive a bus. The most important, though, is how to deal correctly with everyday problems and people. It is also teaching me a lot more of how the real world works.”
Jenny Sigler teaches English at Campion Academy
During April home leave, the senior class of 2016 experienced the island of Oahu, Hawaii. The group enjoyed many activities including snorkeling, hiking, and learning about Hawaiian culture. They stayed in cabins at Camp Waianae, the Seventh-day Adventist summer camp on the island. “Having the Hawaii Adventist summer camp as our “home base” not only made the trip possible, but it was a beautiful setting where we could relax and get away from the busyness of all of the other tourists on the island,” explained class sponsor Dean Helm. Breakfast was made at camp, followed by a worship thought given by a different senior each day.
A class favorite was the day spent at Pearl Harbor, visiting the USS Arizona Memorial and the Bowfin submarine. Senior Wesley Carle says, “It was cool being able to see the memories of what happened and memorials of the people lost.” Visiting the USS Arizona Memorial was a solemn experience as the seniors observed the sunken ship and read the names of those who lost their lives that horrible day in our country’s history. The seniors were also privileged to be able to explore the Bowfin submarine and imagine what life would be like living in those cramped quarters for months at a time.
Another favorite activity was snorkeling in Turtle Canyon, and just as the name implies, the class was able to swim with sea turtles along with lots of fish. After they finished snorkeling, the guide took the group on a boat ride farther out from shore to experience the ocean in a different way.
But more than the fact that Hawaii was full of fun activities and beautiful landscapes for the class to enjoy, they loved being together and making even more memories to keep even though they will soon be separated. As stated by class President, Gabrielle Williams, “Hawaii was a really great way to end our high school experience, surrounded by people we spent it with and love.” While the seniors still have a few weeks until graduation, they continue to make memories with their fellow classmates and push on toward reaching the ultimate goal: spending eternity with Jesus and the rest of their class in heaven, a paradise that will far surpass Hawaii or anything we can imagine.
Rachel Hammond and Kyle Rushold are both seniors at Campion Academy.