On February 2 and 3, Larry Blackmer, Ph.D., the Vice President for Education for the North American Division (NAD), visited Simi Valley Adventist School (SVAS). According to Blackmer, the reason for his visit was because of the very strong relationship between SVAS and Simi Valley church. “The school and church have united in a partnership that has helped both the school and the church in many ways,” Blackmer noted, “including baptisms of more than just students — it has truly become a church school.”
SVAS shares a vision where all Adventist elementary schools become the school of choice not only for their constituency churches but also for their local communities. Stephen Stokes, M.A., SVAS principal said, “If we can reimagine our elementary schools for the 21st century and become the best schools in our communities, we can support academy attendance and eventually stop the decline of enrollment in both the academies and our higher educational institutions.” Stokes’s immediate goal is to build a large “maker space;” a hands-on, project-style learning environment incorporating science, technology, engineering, art, and technology (STEAM) as their calling card for the local community. Stokes’s over-arching purpose is to make SVAS the community’s school of choice and, thus, develop a model for other Adventist elementary schools across the NAD.
SVAS is well on the way to accomplishing just that. Enrollment has increased from 18 students to 50 in three years. They are projecting up to 65 for next year. The local community has also become involved and supports the school in many ways. One recent community donation included loads of dirt for the rebuilding of the school’s habitat grounds. Parents, both Adventist and non-Adventist, are involved with multiple projects at the school. “The buy-in is great and the excitement contagious,” Stokes said. “Projects and the school’s enrollment continue to grow. Dr. Blackmer’s visit was an encouragement to the school to continue to persevere even in these days of decline. SVAS will be a beacon to the NAD.”