Pre-COVID, the sixth- to eighth-graders at Escondido Adventist Academy (EAA) and Oceanside Adventist Elementary (OAE) got together on a regular basis so the students could get to know each other and build relationships through activities, sports, chatting, and having chapel at OAE. When the pandemic put a halt to cross-school visits for the 2020-2021 school year, everyone was disappointed.
“We want EAA to be a positive and likely option for the Oceanside kids when they’re ready for high school,” explained Bill Davis, EAA principal. “The whole purpose of getting our students together is so that if the OAE kids do decide to come here for academy, they already have a group of friendly, familiar faces waiting for them.”
During the SECC virtual Jr. High Bible Camp in January, Davis hit upon an idea.
“The students were cheerfully engaging online through this virtual event, connecting and having fun,” he said. “It occurred to me that we could do something similar between our two schools.”
And so the idea for joint virtual chapel services was born. The first one was held in February, and—after extremely positive feedback from teachers and the 75 students involved between both schools—shortly thereafter a couple more joint chapels were scheduled.
“On a basic level, we want the kids to form friendships with other kids their age who are also attending an Adventist school,” said Brooke Lemmon, OAE principal. “But we also want to help them form bonds that will hopefully lead to friendships when our students head to EAA. The kids really enjoyed it and were immediately excited about the prospect of doing it again.”
During the February chapel, EAA chaplain and religion teacher Gabe Martinez started with an interactive activity to get the students engaged with each other and comfortable with the format, and then he presented a short talk.
“COVID has actually made events like this much more easily accessible,” Davis pointed out. “This isn’t something we’d ever really considered before because logistically you’re always thinking of in-person and how you’re going to haul an entire bus full of kids across town for a 30-minute chapel. But I think we’ve been inspired to continue trying things like this even when we’ve achieved some sense of normalcy again.”
Lemmon feels that events like this are the epitome of what Adventist Education is meant to be.
“This is the reason Adventist Education exists,” she said. “To promote godly relationships among young people and help them grow together in Jesus. I hope this partnership lasts a long time, and I hope it inspires other schools to look for ways to collaborate, too.”
By Becky St. Clair