As final exams, the last day of school, and our graduation ceremony mark another successful year at our academy, classrooms and learning centers are full of memories reminding us of every life changed and made better because of leaders and teachers who have dedicated years of service to be there for our students from start to finish.
Onslow Christian Academy begins preparing children for a good life the moment they walk through the doors.
Brother Bobby Wadleigh is an alumni of OCA and he, and his wife, Sister Deborah, represent its mission and values that reflect our academic excellence and professional success—which we credit from having an educational framework centered on our greatest learning source, the Bible.
Today he is honoring our Chief Administrator, Elder LaFleur, appreciating his vision to open a private Christian school and his exceptional devotion to leading our youth to God.
Brother Bobby collaborated with teachers, parents, and alumni to give our readers a chance to hear from all sides.
Psst… Just letting you know he also rounded up some pictures (where in the world did you find some of these?!) that will be scattered throughout—no specific order. Thanks, Brother Bobby, for this outstanding, insightful article and a nostalgic walk down memory lane 🙂
Today is a big day with lots going on. You see, today is graduation day for two young men, Taylor James and Isaac Standridge. These young men extend a long tradition of hard work, sacrifice, and excellence. They represent our hope for the future and carry values forward as so many before them, but before I get too far ahead of myself, I’ll just say, “Congratulation, Graduates!, and move on.
If you haven’t heard (or guessed), this post explores a topic that is near and dear to many of us… our school! It has impacted so many people in many different ways.
When I began working on this post, my mind went to the many ways that Onslow Christian Academy has impacted my life. My time at this school truly shaped me into the person I am today, and I am always ready to lend my voice in support of it, the people who volunteer here, and the man who is responsible for its existence.
As the post progressed, I realized I could only give one viewpoint of the school that means so much to me. I recognized that in order to give the full picture of this unique and special place, I needed more perspective. In order to gain this perspective, I solicited feedback from three distinct groups. I asked teachers, parents, and alumni a series of questions and used their comments to develop this piece.
What follows below is truly a group project. I hope you enjoy it.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
This scripture certainly is good parenting advice, and it extends into the church in the form of a ministry guiding the new convert into ways of righteousness, but today I want to apply it to the way Onslow Christian Academy has nurtured the children from The Church at Onslow and its satellite churches and caused them to become successful naturally and spiritually.
Having been given a vision of a school where children could be educated while being protected from bullies, Elder LaFleur established Potters Hill Christian Academy in 1978. With a staff of volunteer teachers, the school produced one graduate that first year. In the subsequent 37 years, this school, now called Onslow Christian Academy, has graduated ninety-four students. These students have gone on to good careers and raised families of their own. Based solely on how long the school has existed and the quality of graduates that have came through it, it is easy to call Elder LaFleur’s vision a success, but that is only where this story starts.
The real story of Onslow Christian Academy lies in the spiritual lessons that are taught and demonstrated by the entirely volunteer staff that instructs and nurtures our children. These teachers are highly competent and extremely trustworthy. Their motivation lies in seeing the children of The Church at Onslow and its satellite churches learn in a loving environment that encourages prayer and seeks to instill a mentality that gives God the praise for their achievements. This staff gathers strength and purpose by seeing the children entrusted to them excel.
It is truly a phenomenal group, and I could go on, but I would rather you hear about the staff’s approach and motivations from them.
When thinking about what the school means to her. Sis Dee Dee shared, “It is a way for me to give back to the Lord, to the ministry and to his saints by sharing my vocation and life’s work. It has been a stabilizing force for myself…” In thinking about a time in which she felt she made a difference she went on to say, “I love to see the light bulb go on in a student’s eyes.”
For Sister Patti Mayer, her motivations revolve around a burden “to keep the school going. Without all of our volunteers, we wouldn’t have a school.” When asked about a time that she felt she made a difference she said, “I don’t have one particular time that I felt I made a difference. What brings me the most joy is seeing a student that is struggling to keep up with their peers and after getting the help they need begin to excel. That’s a blessing.”
Sister Trecinda shared, “I love spending time with the students, but the time I am able to spend in fellowship with my sisters is priceless as well.” She went on to say, “Although working at the school doesn’t provide monetary rewards, it is the most rewarding job that I have ever had.”
On what motivates her to volunteer, Sister Joyce said, “Our students love and respect their teachers which encourages me to want to be there. Another rewarding aspect is working with teachers who love their students and enjoy working with each other. I love children and I love to teach. Working as a teacher at OCA fulfills those loves.”
Sister Sherry Whaley put it like this, “I am so thankful for Elder LaFleur’s vision and for allowing me to teach at the school. It has helped me keep Christ first in my present and future endeavors. It helps give me the spiritual tools to stay centered and focused on what is most important in my life. I draw strength from being around God’s people where we are able to blend our spirits and fellowship daily while providing God’s children the faith-based education they need.”
Sister Tiffany Denson, reflecting on staff dynamic at Onslow Christian Academy had this to say, “Each teacher has a unique gift, and those gifts come together like a strong staircase allowing the students to rise higher each day and achieve their goals. In other schools, a student might hear phrases of affirmation, but are they actually believed by the speaker? At OCA, I have seen the staff invest more than just words into the students. Of what motivated her to volunteer she shared the parable that states, “To whom much is given, much is required” often comes to mind. There were many people who invested time in my life, and so I feel a responsibility to “pay it forward” so to speak.”
Sister Rachel shared these thoughts about volunteering: “I consider it a privilege to volunteer at Onslow Christian Academy. I’m so thankful that the Lord put it on the Elder and Sis. Jean’s heart to open up a private school for our children. I attended a public school when I was younger, and I would have loved for the opportunity to have gone to a school full of loving and caring teachers. Teachers who pray for you and will talk about the Lord. You can’t find that anywhere… I consider it one of the most important jobs that I have. I love being around all the students and staff… I’m thankful to be a part.”
In reflecting on her time working at the school, Sister Anna Jenkins shared, “It did not feel like a sacrifice to me. It was a privilege to help God’s children and to be able to work in the school Elder LaFleur had started. Being able to watch as the children learned new things was priceless to me. I am truly thankful for being able to give my time to the school.”
On the sacrifice and burden to donate her time, Sister Gena expressed, “I’m thankful to have the opportunity to volunteer… although it may be a sacrifice, as the Elder has been teaching, I consider it a privilege to donate my time to teach our children about the magnificent Earth our Lord created… I experienced my mom’s sacrifice for my education. It taught me that in order for OCA to continue, I, although part time, need to do my part. It is well worth all we do when we look at our children (past, present, and future).”
When asked about working in the school, Sister Leatte shared, “I felt it was a privilege to have been able to give other students the same opportunity that I was blessed to experience.” She went on to say, “I was motivated by the students. Just knowing that I was able to help them academically, but more importantly being able to pray with them, give them hugs when needed, or just do something simple like give them a sticker and see their faces light up.”
Sister Clara James shared a time when she felt she really got through to a student. Listen to this… “Once I shared my own story about difficulty I had as a student and how I figured out that even though I wasn’t as fast as some other kids, I remembered what I learned, and later on I realized that I was smart, I just learned differently. The student I shared this experience with was encouraged to continue working with confidence. We still have a special connection—when we look at each other—we know we are looking at smart people. I LOVE THAT!!!!!!”
See what I mean! These women could be doing anything with their time, but they feel a burden for and find gratification through working to ensure our next generation is prepared for a good Christian life.
The story of Onslow Christian Academy continues back at home where the teachers’ efforts make a pronounced difference in the home lives of the families of the local churches.
Maybe these comments from some of the parents will make my point for me:
When sharing how the school has benefited her children and family, Sister Trecinda said, “There are many examples of fine graduates that are products of Onslow Christian Academy, but as a parent, I am especially thankful for the most recent graduates. My children are old enough now to start noticing what people do (and don’t do), and there are so many excellent examples for them to look to around our assembly. These young adults have made the transition from high school to college and life in the real world with grace and I am so proud of them.” Of the educational environment, she went on to say, “Not only do they learn what they need, but there are also a lot of things that they are blessed not to learn about at this school such as bullying, drugs, and other inappropriate behavior that is becoming so common in today’s world.”
Everett Smith reflected, “OCA has taught my daughters how to have love and compassion that will benefit them throughout their life.” He went on to say of the staff, “These God-fearing women have taught my daughters how to be women and their example will exist for a lifetime.”
In thinking about how their daughter benefited on attending OCA, Brother James and Sister Fleurette shared, “Emily has just completed a course of study in Early Childhood Education through Ashford University with a 94 average. The commitment, dedication, and Christian values that were taught at Onslow Christian Academy are a true testament to the goals she has set out to achieve. The teachers and alumni of this great school have yielded Christian and positive fruit of the same.”
Of what the school means to her as a parent, Sister Dee Dee said, “It was a refuge for my children in troublesome times. I can’t imagine my family’s life without it. The principles of the Body of Christ were woven into every part of my children’s subconscious and conscious thinking… I gave them every opportunity to lead Godly lives and I am expecting great outcomes as a result of this effort.”
Sister Joyce had this to say about how the school impacted her grandson, “The words of encouragement from the staff at OCA have lifted him up when he was going through difficulty in his school work or his personal life. He learned the importance of an education and working towards goals. Their love for him gave him a desire to be at school. He knew they loved him even though he had faults. They showed him unconditional Godly love, for which I am and will be forever grateful.”
On how the school has benefited her family, Sister Tiffany said, “While striving for academic excellence, the school also views the student as an individual with spiritual and emotional needs. This holistic approach goes beyond the numbers on a page and addresses the needs of each student.” She went on to share that while going through a very dark time personally, “The staff at OCA took extra time with my son… the staff went above and beyond and demonstrated true Christian charity and love.”
Brother Jonathan and Sister Rachel Shepard shared, “As parents, one raised in our school and one raised in the public school system, we have something with which to compare our school. Coming from the public school system, we can definitely see and appreciate the need for the sheltering that our school provides. This includes sheltering from drugs, bullies, gang-related violence, and the most recent attempts by cultural influences to invert and blur the lines between right and wrong. Thank God we do not have to worry about such disturbing agendas!”
Of what the school has meant to her family, Sister Gena said, “As a parent of one alumni and another child to begin next year, it is important for my children to be at OCA for the safety, love and education they receive. The bonds they make will be with them as they continue on in life and in their walk with God.”
So far, we have heard from teachers that love and nurture our children and from parents that understand and appreciate the effort that the teachers invest into their children, but the biggest dividends of Onslow Christian Academy are manifested in the students and alumni. It’s from them that we hear personal accounts of what Elder LaFleur’s vision has yielded.
Let’s listen closely, and I think it will be clear…
Sister Trecinda (Class of 1995) recalled her transition to college, “When I graduated from Onslow Christian Academy in 1995, I went straight into nursing school and graduated from college as a RN in 1997. The education I received at Onslow Christian Academy was second to none. There were some nursing instructors watching and waiting for me to stumble because I was young and they felt I had been too sheltered, but they soon saw that I had been equipped with all the tools I needed to be successful. Not only was I given a top notch scholastic education, more importantly I was educated about God and what is really important in life.”
Brother Everett Smith (Class of 1999) shared, “As a father and small business owner, the values I learned at a young age have helped me with the faith and confidence I have in raising my children in the Lord and the relationships I’ve developed as an entrepreneur.” He went on to say of Elder LaFleur’s vision, “The Lord put it on his heart for all of his children both naturally and spiritually to be raised and educated in a safe and Godly environment. Nearly 40 years later, the vision is alive and well!”
When asked about a teacher that positively impacted her life, Sister Fleurette (Class of 1989) had this to say, “There were two that helped me in great times of strife and trouble. They knew my inabilities as well as my fears. They worked with me in those areas every day. Even now they still help me in those areas of my life. They were and are steady, consistent, and resolved in their approach and heart and unwavering in their words. When sweet words of encouragement were needed, they were there. When constructive criticism was the last resort, they were not hesitant. When it would take more than their advice to help, they sought out the right people to help guide me through the problem or situation. They prayed with me daily, they encouraged me often, and they helped to put my life on a good path.”
Of Elder LaFleur’s vision, Sister Bailey (Class of 2015) said, “Opening the school gave so many children a chance to be free from bullies, receive quality education, and grow spiritually as well. This is a chance that so many people want for their children, yet do not have.”
When asked about how her time at OCA shaped her, Tiffany Denson (Class of 1999) shared, “When I think back to (now) hilarious memories of meltdowns in high school Chemistry class or “impossible” Algebra word problems, I see how problem solving and teamwork were woven into each lesson plan. That no matter how impossible a situation looks, if you put your faith in God and are willing to put forth the effort, you will succeed.”
When thinking about the vision that brought this school into existence, Sister Tiffany shared another story. “I was teaching algebra classes for Coastal Carolina Community College. One of my classes was a GED night class. My students would work all day and then come to class from 6-9 each night to learn algebra. It was only as I began to hear their stories, the different circumstances leading them to drop out of high school, that it began to dawn on me. I realized I could have been in their exact school, having to combat the same challenges, and the Lord offered us a different way. I will be forever grateful for Elder LaFleur’s tenacity to build a school and keep it operating against all odds.”
Thinking about the staff at Onslow Christian Academy, John Shepard (Class of 1995) had this comment. “There were several teachers that helped me individually along the way, but I believe it was the group effort by all that I can say helped inspire me the most.”
Of how the school has benefited her, Sister Leatte (Class of 1983) shared, “Attending OCA enriched my academic opportunities and challenged me. The open communication between staff and parents and safe environment was also a great benefit. It allows you to thrive in a supportive environment and build independence, along with gaining unique skills that fit your learning style.” She went on to say, “The teachings that are instilled in the students at OCA gives them the tools needed to accomplish anything and be an overcomer.”
Sister Patty Alexander (Class of 1991) put it like this, “It gave me the tools to strive to be the best at whatever job I am doing, big or small. The importance of putting God first, so he will make a way for everything else. I exercise respect to all, rich or poor, which I personally think makes me very successful at my job.”
Sister Emily Leffew (Class of 2015) reflected on the Elder’s vision by saying, “When God gave the Elder the vision about the school, it was about a good education, but also about teaching the students about the Lord and keeping them on the right path. What helped me was the teachers having prayer with students. Also, it allowed me to be able to read my Bible every day!”
In thinking about OCA, sister Kara (class of 2015) was thoughtful beyond her years, “I feel so blessed to be an alumni for OCA. This place has left footprints filled with knowledge and preparation for each student to follow. Being a student at OCA not only allowed me to grasp knowledge of a natural curriculum, but it also enabled me to grasp knowledge of the Word of God, which I need every day. Putting on that uniform for OCA was something I considered a privilege. I was blessed to be representing something so much more than just a school. This school was where I was being built and where I was being set up for success, naturally and spiritually. I give thanks to the Lord for blessing Elder LaFleur to keep this school held to a high standard. Though we received so much love and great teaching at OCA, nothing was handed to us. We worked hard to keep a good standing in the school, which prepared me for college.”
She went on the speak directly to Elder LaFleur (PaPa, as she calls him), “Without you being so merciful to me and keeping me strong, I would not be where I am today. I hope I have been able to walk in those footprints that were left for me to follow, and I hope this school is never taken for granted.”
I don’t know about you, but when the feedback started coming in, I was blown away by the thoughtful reactions to a few simple questions. You can tell this school has meant and continues to mean something to the teachers, parents, and alumni of Onslow Christian Academy. Throughout this post, we have heard about lives being shaped, examples set, and bonds forged. We have heard about how prayer changes things and have seen examples form right in front of us. We have heard of a place where everyone is treated equally regardless of their abilities and where each student is valued and given a chance to thrive.
Yes, Onslow Christian Academy is truly a rare place where academics are stressed, spiritual values are demonstrated, and bullies are not tolerated. The teachers have strong convictions, work to understand each student, and impart Godly manners and morals on each student. The alumni grow up to be well rounded men and women with families and businesses and a sense of responsibility to give back to the school (and church) that means soooo much to them.
I think it’s easy to see how OCA has affected the family. Sure, listening to parents responses, you can see how it has influenced individual families within the church, but now I am talking about the family of God. If you come to The Church at Onslow, you’ll find these men and women (and many others) actively building this family in the righteous way.
I know this post is a little long. So I will try to wrap it up by saying 37 years later Elder LaFleur’s vision has obviously had a profound impact on us, and I think you will agree that his vision is a SUCCESS!
We have seen and heard about the legacy that the past 37 years has produced, but today is a very special day for Onslow Christian Academy.
As mentioned in beginning of the post, tonight, two very excited and nervous young men will join the 94 alumni who have preceded them. Congratulations, once again, Brother Taylor and Brother Isaac!
Enjoy your moment.
You have earned it.
You are the OCA Class of 2016!
Be sure to stop by The Bridge next week for a full recap of the graduation ceremony and other 2016 school year closeout events.
LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD
I want to personally thank everyone that contributed to this post. Given a few broad questions, you made the this post your own. This post is truly a snapshot of how Elder LaFleur’s vision has impacted so many lives.
If you didn’t have an opportunity to share your feelings about this school, please comment below. The school obviously has deep meaning to us. Whether you fall into one, all, or none of the above groups that were interviewed, you have been directly or indirectly affected by Elder LaFleur’s vision if you are a part of The Church at Onslow.
Onslow Christian Academy is OUR school and WE THANK GOD FOR IT!