Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

The first LNAA high school graduating class: (left to right) Karissa Osorio, class secretary*; Tania Tumundo, class treasurer*; Daniel Colón; Brendan Sierra, Student Association sports coordinator*; Juan Fernandez; Lyden Stanislaus-Niles, Student Association treasurer; Elinihaki Ngoye; Jenny Pontarelli, class vice president*; Taylore Williams; (sitting) Bethany Washburn; Naomie Charles, Student Association president*; Graciela Gonzales, class president* (Antonio Bermudez, not pictured) *NHS

Lake Nelson Adventist Academy—60 Years in the Making

By John Hakizimana

On a sunny Wednesday afternoon, I sat with my Senior Class of 2018 students and listened as they struggled to define what kind of impact, if any, they had made on the younger students. These seniors, dubbed “Genesis,” will forever be remembered as the first graduating class of New Jersey Conference's Lake Nelson Adventist Academy (LNAA). They recognized, as does every pioneer, it isn’t easy to be the forerunner; it requires great personal and collaborative sacrifices to accomplish something no one else has ever done.

While the former Lake Nelson Seventh-day Adventist School experienced growing pains transforming into a K-12 academy, these 13 young men and women attended classes in the most creative ways imaginable. At times they sat in tiny rooms crammed in like sardines. On other occasions, classes were held outside, weather permitting. Other times they used the gymnasium or the pastor’s study. And who could forget the church balcony or the hallways when all other options had been exhausted? Being constantly on the move, these high schoolers had to pack their belongings each Friday in preparation for the Sabbath, only to unpack them again on Monday.

After these many delays, move-in time arrived, and on that Wednesday afternoon, the high school students moved into the new building. They recalled the large number of growing pains during this transition period, but, most importantly, they remembered the greatest impact they, the “Genesis” class, had made—the acceptance of one another.

It is my extreme privilege, blessing and pleasure to have mentored many of the seniors since their freshman year. I can agree they not only accepted each other but also the challenges of building a senior academy as a true stakeholder in the process.

Of course the faculty and staff guided them through this journey. However, “my children”—as I affectionately call them—are an example to many, as they persevered in the face of surmounting odds. Whether it was a smile, a joke, a card, a snack or just a well-timed word of encouragement, this senior class has indeed made an impact in our lives.

As “my children” prepare to graduate the first weekend of June, many of them have received acceptance to various universities. My heart swells with pride as I witness the growth and transformation God has already accomplished in these young lives, and I cannot wait to see what their future holds.

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