Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

God Wants Me at Shenandoah Valley Academy

Story by Samuel Girven ('25)

A growing crowd milled around me, exchanging greetings and hugs—signs of friend groups reuniting. I sat alone in the lobby of Twomley Hall at Shenandoah Valley Academy (SVA). It was handshake day, and I was a new student.

Several days earlier, I moved from my native Michigan, met by the heat and humidity of Virginia, to attend SVA. It was an abrupt change from how I had envisioned my last two years of high school.

Every plot worth its salt has a tragedy, and this one involved me switching schools before the end of my sophomore year. I didn’t want to stay online for the last two years of high school, and needed a school that would allow me to grow. I prayed, asking God to lead where he wanted me to go. After some searching, in July I committed to attending SVA as a community student and immersing myself in its vibrant student life.

Back to handshake day. People around me. Couldn’t place a single face in the room. “Did I make the wrong decision?” I wondered.

A student came over, introduced himself, and asked, “Have you met anyone in your class?” I replied I had not. He led me to some classmates. We hit it off, and they accepted me with open arms. Then as handshake started, and I began to meet everyone else, I knew I’d be OK. I would succeed at SVA. God had answered my prayer.

I quickly settled into classes and my daily routine. Prayer groups, chapels and Friday night vespers opened my eyes to the warm spiritual atmosphere on campus—just what I was looking for. My teachers were passionate about knowledge and, with their help, I knew I could reach for the stars. I began to make more friends and deepen existing friendships. Service opportunities beckoned, and soon I began to contribute by using my skills around school.

On a chilly September evening, I sat on the bleachers with a friend watching an intense varsity volleyball game. We were behind by a slight margin in the penultimate set and were tied 2-2.

A player fell on our side. The guest team scored. Our player got back up playing harder than ever. We scored a point. And another. Soon, we were back on track. The guest coach stopped the game to huddle. “SVA! SVA! SVA!” we cheered.

When we won, I jumped up and cheered the loudest I’ve ever cheered. We all poured onto the court. “SVA! SVA! SVA!” echoed throughout the gym. It was then I realized the immense pride I had for my new school and that this was home.

This is where I belong. This is where I can thrive. This is where God wants me. He wants me at SVA.

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