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Why I Attend an SDA Academy

by Shari Johansson

A lot of people will tell you that they love public school. No rules. Freedom. Unfortunately, that was not my experience. My name is Shari,* I am 15 years old and have been blessed to be a Seventh-day Adventist my entire life. I am now a sophomore at an academy in Georgia, but my public school experience happened last year. My first semester of freshman year I attended the local academy, and then I left to attend my local public school as recommended by my psychologist and psychiatrist. I remember walking in on my first day feeling so lost, so alone. I finally made it to my first class—late of course.

It seemed no matter how much I asked, people would ignore me or find it funny to send me to the wrong classroom! Fortunately, I had a class with a friend I had met at Pathfinders. I was able to sit with her at lunch, and she helped me to the rest of my classes. But there was a problem: nobody seemed to like me. I would hear rumors about that “new girl.” They would talk about the way I dressed and make fun of what I believed. But I am thankful I was able to make a few good friends who helped me get through the year.

Now, I’ll tell you straight up that I prefer my academy over public school. I’m not going to tell you that Christian schools don’t have problems, such as cliques or bullying, but I can tell you this, in Christian schools:

1. Problems between students, such as bullying, get dealt with carefully and quickly.
2. Being surrounded by people who believe similarly helps you grow spiritually.
3. Christian school surrounds you with God!

I can tell you that one of the hardest aspects of going to public school is that you are constantly surrounded by things that you know are wrong. Things such as premarital sex, underage drinking, and drugs. But Christian schooling helps build your relationship with God.

If I ran a school, there would be zero tolerance for bullying, verbal or physical. Also there wouldn’t be any distributing or use of drugs. (In high school I remember seeing boys sell chewing tobacco in the back of the room during math class!) I also would only hire teachers who truly cared. For me, the teachers I had in high school didn’t care about one-on-one. But at my academy the teachers cared about my success not only academically but also spiritually.

I would want kids to be able to come and feel safe, to know that people cared because I know that being a teenager is hard. And that’s why I would have one more thing added to my school: God. I would want my school to be centered on Christ. Worship, prayer, Bible class. With one exception: I wouldn’t want people who believe otherwise to feel as if we were shoving religion down their throats. My school would be open to questions. Sometimes the older generations of the Christian community can be, let’s say, closed to questions.

Now with all that said, please don’t think I’m trying to dis on the public school system! But the truth is that being a Christian at a public school is not easy. You are constantly being bombarded by temptations . . . and as teenagers we, to put it simply, are kind of depressing people. We feel the need for independence; we’re rebellious and want to “stick it to the man”! We feel lonely, sad, like no one will ever know how we feel. But that’s why having a Christ-centered school has meant so much to me. God has promised us so much. He has promised that when we are tempted, we can say this to temptations: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly” (Titus 2:11, 12). When we are confronted with loneliness or bullying, God will say this to us: “Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

There’s one thing I don’t want you guys to think of me: “Here we go again . . . another Christian teenager rambling about how awesome their life is with God.” Wrong! My life with God has not been at all “easy.” So here we go, it’s story time.

Once there was a little girl named Shari (that’s me). Now, Shari was born into a pretty good family. Shari grew and grew, and at a young age she decided she wanted to get baptized, just like her big sister. So at 7 years old she was baptized, not really knowing anything but her parents’ religion. Just a year before, she had moved, and she was getting sad. This sadness consumed her. It picked at her every day until one day she couldn’t take it anymore.

Shari was already deep into her depression, so deep that she took many kinds of medicine. So one day she decided to take every single one of the pills she owned and end it all. The one question she kept asking was “Where’s God now?”

But that’s not the end. She lived through that attempt. She spent her next week at a behavior health hospital. They tried to teach her things that would help her, but she didn’t care. So she went home just in time for Christmas. But the jolliness soon ended. A few days after Christmas she woke in the middle of the night. She rose from her bed, walked down the stairs, and walked out her front door into the rain. Once again she tried to take her life. And once again she lived. And once again she spent a week at the same hospital, but this time she listened.

She left that hospital feeling good. But the devil hit again. Soon after her release from the hospital, her parents decided to end their marriage. And still Shari wondered where God was. But she knew she had to keep going. And that is when her public school experience began.

Finally school ended, and Shari knew that she needed rest. She spent the summer trying to find herself. But she didn’t realize she was looking for the wrong thing. Shortly after school started, she finally found God. It was Week of Prayer when she rededicated her life to God. And that Saturday she was rebaptized. She thought that finally she would have rest. She was wrong.

Just a week after her baptism her parents signed the divorce papers. She felt hopeless. Why couldn’t her family just be happy for a little while? She soon realized that this couldn’t hold her back. She had to keep going. The devil would not leave her alone. Temptation after temptation. Bad news after bad news. She just couldn’t understand why this was happening. The end.

Now, I know it’s kind of a terrible ending, but that’s where I am now. And maybe you don’t think I’m in a position to tell you all this, but who better than someone who understands—someone who’s been through it? I may still be searching, but I am further clinging to God’s promise: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Can’t you see? You may be in public school. It may seem as if your world is falling apart. People make fun of you. They call you a “Jesus Freak” because you refuse to do the drugs, alcohol, and partying. Nobody wants to hang out with you. In short, to them you’re a loser.

Or maybe you’re in a Christian school. You’re on fire for Christ, but it seems as though no one else is. Your once fiery heart is now numb. Nobody seems to care, and you’re a zombie.

 Yes! The answer is yes! God does hear you. He does see your suffering. Like the Bible says, He is the potter, and we are His clay. He molds us into the best we can be for Him. We go before Him with so much baggage that we don’t want to get rid of. And so He stands there chiseling away all the junk we pull around ourselves to try to keep from getting hurt or all the medications we take to try to relieve our pain. Yes, it probably will hurt, but believe me when I say that God can do it. Wait, what? Aren’t we the ones who can do it? No! Guess again—we can’t do anything by ourselves. Why, you may ask? Because ultimately we are all failures. We’re all selfish, stubborn failures. So when we try ourselves, we—well, for lack of a better word—fail. What does any of this have to do with school? You may ask. And here it is . . . Drum roll, please!

School is for building relationships with God. The experts say that you choose what you believe in your early teens. So imagine it: a younger teen, just beginning puberty, walks into a public school. What they see is drugs, alcohol, porn, the whole nine yards. It’s all there because it’s “cool.” Tell me, what side do you think they will choose? Being surrounded by people who help build them up can help their way and your way—and my way—to salvation. “Do not fear, or be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? You are my witnesses! Is there any god besides me? There is no other rock; I know not one” (Isaiah 44:8).

Seventh-day Adventist schools have helped me to get to know God and to build my life more strongly on the rock that is God. When the hard times come, and they’ll come—trust me, you want to build your life on something more than drugs, alcohol, and porn. You’ll want to build it on God. He’s the only thing solid and stable in this world of death, depression, despair, and decay.

*Not her real name.

Shari Johansson (a pseudonym) attends an academy in Georgia.

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