Have you met Gabi McDermott, one of the ten seniors in our Petra Academy class of 2017?
Two weeks after Gabi enrolled at Petra four years ago, her older brother died tragically and unexpectedly. Todd Hicks – my predecessor as Headmaster (and now much-beloved guest teacher and mentor following his bout with brain cancer) – walked through the grief with Gabi and her family, but it was not easy due to the sadness of the situation and complications with Todd’s health.
When I first met Gabi last fall, she told me gently but plainly that it was going to be hard for her to trust me as Petra’s new Headmaster, since Mr. Hicks (as well as then-Operations Manager Hope Sukut) had cared for her so well. As with any student, I knew it would take time, but I especially didn’t want to let Gabi down in her final two years at Petra.
Thankfully, God has been faithful to us both. Academically, Gabi is having a good year in her studies, working on her senior thesis, which argues for continued use of drones in the American military so long as they are used alongside humans and not fully automated. Athletically, Gabi was our lone senior on the varsity volleyball team, showing much improvement in ability and encouragement of others. Personally, she has grown and matured in how she relates to her friends, her family, and our faculty, as well as in her love for the Lord.
I wanted you to see this photo of Gabi with her parents, Tim and Martha, as her smile is a beautiful testimony of what God has done in her life here at Petra as a student, athlete, and young woman.
Petra Academy, now in our 21st year in Bozeman, is the only K4-12th grade classical Christian school in the Gallatin Valley. With a student body of 212 students, Petra has experienced steady growth of 7-10% every year for the past five years. Parents, in addition to funding their local government school by paying their taxes, make further sacrifices in order to send their students and partner with us in preparing students to live purposeful, godly lives.
And the students? Here’s the typical refrain (particularly of alumni): “Petra is hard, but I love(d) it.”
Ian Laird is one such alumnus. Graduating from Petra last spring, Ian enrolled as a freshman at Baylor University in Waco, TX, this fall, studying Computer Science and beginning to learn cryptography and data sorting methods in his spare time for possible future specialization.
“I have really been enjoying Baylor,” he writes. “While I really like that there are more than seven other people in my class,” he continues, “I do miss the pointed discussions we would have in Humanities. I cannot think of any very deep classes I have been involved in so far, and my Freshman English class is super easy.”
Ian says he’s taking full advantage of the time freed up by his preparation at Petra to pursue more extra-curricular activities and to try to get ahead in his Computer Science classes at Baylor.
Deepening Our Influence
What happens at Petra has made a difference for Gabi and Ian – personally, spiritually, academically. Below is a list of ways we’re working to make a difference for more Petra students. Just this year, we:
– added orchestra for 4th-6th graders so students who have taken violin with us in the previous three grades can continue their musical study as an alternate option to choir;
– added Lyceum (7th-12th grades) to facilitate deeper thinking and application of Humanities material via communal lecture by faculty and student discussion;
– added our first-ever dual enrollment course (Computer Science I) in conjunction with Gallatin College/Montana State University, by which students can earn credit from us as and earn transferable college credit for the same class (and at a fraction of the cost) as well. 100% of our 10th graders signed up for this dual enrollment course this first year;
– added Computer Science II (11th grade), Drama IV (11th-12th grades), and additional secondary math instructors to better accommodate students who need and want more challenge or help in mathematics.
In addition, we continue to:
– refine one of the best classical Christian curricula in the country;
– expand our new elementary playground (we cut the ribbon on Phase One in November);
– deepen our 7th-12th grade house system to develop a community of students encouraged to love God completely, love others well, and love themselves rightly;
– work to secure our third 5-year accreditation and ensure excellence as a member in good standing of the Association of Classical and Christian Schools (onsite visit in March);
– plan our new Summer Scholae Camps (June 12-16 and 19-23, 2017) for kids ages 7-12 in the Bozeman community this summer (details to come by Spring Break 2017).
Finally, we are daily striving to be:
– a good neighbor to the city of Bozeman by making our space available for rent to various community organizations (athletic, Christian, and other). People love our facility!
– a leader in our local Christian community by modeling healthy transdenominational relationships in our school of families from over 40 churches in the Gallatin Valley;
– and a leader in Christian education statewide as well as nationally, serving as a resource to new start-up schools, working to stay current on pending legislation and school choice initiatives as part of the Montana Federation of Independent Schools, and contributing content to the Association of Classical and Christian Schools’ journal, The Classical Difference.
Help Us Meet the Need
As is the case with all private education, some families are just not able to pay full tuition without some kind of scholarship assistance. While our policy is that no family pays less than 50% of tuition, over 30 current families (49 total students) would not be here without the $93,500 we have provided in scholarship allocation.
We’ve just completed our first of three major fundraisers this year: our elementary school Spell-a-thon exceeded our goal of $20,000 and yielded $24,291.83! Later this winter, we’ll ask for personal and business sponsorships for our annual play – Meet Me in St. Louis, which will run March 2-4, 2017 – with the goal of raising $45,000.
But today – at the end of 2016 and as our second of these three major fundraisers – could I ask you to prayerfully consider helping us raise $24,209 to keep us on track in meeting our fiscal goals?
Some may be able to give $100; others may be able to give $1,000; for a few, a $5,000 gift may not be out of the question. However the Lord might guide and provide, we would be grateful for your consideration. All gifts are tax-deductible.
God is doing amazing things at Petra Academy. On behalf of students like Gabi, Ian, and others, thank you for considering a special gift to support the work of our school. Your contribution will help instill truth, goodness, and beauty in the life of our school and community for years to come.
May God’s riches in Jesus the Christ be yours this Christmas season,
PS: If you have questions or would like to speak with me personally about a question you have or a gift you would like to make, please contact me via email or at 582-8165.
PPS: Please make your check out to Petra Academy and mail it to Petra Academy, 4720 Classical Way, Bozeman, MT, 59718 by December 31. We will provide a tax receipt in January. Thank you!