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
A Good Work Ethic Pays Off
“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
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HMS Richards Elementary, pre-K to grade 8
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