Adventist Academy Notes Centennial,
Plans Rebuilding Effort

On California’s coast, Valley View school’s impact remembered (Posted May 10, 2013)

By CARON OSWALD, vice president for communication, Central California Conference, writing from Fresno, California

V
REBUILDING DUE: A surprise gift of $150,000 for rebuilding the facility from a commu-nity parent was the stimulus to rebuild the Arroyo Grande church school. With nearly $900,000 of the $1.3 million goal raised, Phase I begins with ground breaking on June 10, 2013. The rebuilding is a two-year project.  [PHOTO: Arroyo Grande Archive]
alley View Junior Academy (VVJA), a Seventh-day Adventist school in Arroyo Grande, California, celebrated its centennial on April 5-7, 2013. More than 600 guests, including 300 alumni, attended the weekend event, held at the Clark Center for the Performing Arts. The town is in central California, about three hours north of Los Angeles on the Pacific Ocean coast.

Friday night’s guest speaker was alumna Atonte Myers, a member of the Templeton Hills Seventh-day Adventist Church. Alumnus Scott Nelson taught Sabbath school, and Union College’s Chris Blake, a former VVJA English teacher, preached Sabbath worship. On Sabbath afternoon there was a concert by Monterey Bay Academy’s Oceanaires and Wood Winds. At the Saturday night mixer, alumni shared memories and participated in a fund-raising auction. A Sunday morning golf tournament completed the celebration.

Generous guests gave more than $70,000 to the school’s building fund. The 80-year-old schoolhouse needs to be completely renovated.

In 1886 Edwin Paulding, the town’s only doctor, became the first Seventh-day Adventist there. Clara, his new wife and a Presbyterian, refused to attend and never agreed with his new religious beliefs. Expecting an imminent end of the world, Paulding had little interest in building wealth. Instead, he and two friends bought land for a church near the corner of Short Street and Allen Street.

 
SEASONED CITIZENS: Members of the Allen Street Gang, named for the address of the first Adventist church and school, spend time celebrating with friends.  Pictured left to right are: Harold Rowe, George Juler, John Robison, and Leta Jane and Ken Juler. The oldest one in the group is 91. “We had such a great time,” said John Robison. “We look forward to the next one.”
Camp meetings continued to grow the congregation. John and Elfrida Becket, successful landowners, joined the Adventist Church in 1912. After the tragic death of their son in 1928, the Beckets deeded land to the Adventist Church for a school. Built in 1938, in his memory, it sits on a hilltop with a view of the ocean and valley hillsides.

Recently a surprise gift of $150,000 from a community couple was given to renovate the 80-year-old building. The benefactors’ children attend VVJA because their parents believe the education is superior. Phillip Ermshar, school principal, described the task of repairing the facility as an enormous challenge: “Fix one problem and something else happens. Because of termites, new doors are impossible to hang.”

The $150,000 was given on one condition: “You need to do something about this [facility]. You need to get a fund-raising person.”

The school board agreed. Tony Reyes was hired in September 2011 as the school’s director of development, to organize and lead a $1.3 million fund-raising campaign.

Peter Nelson, a dentist and member of the San Luis Obispo constituent church, agreed to chair the Capital Campaign committee. “I love this school,” Nelson said. “My kids got a great education here. I feel like I can contribute to upholding and sustaining Christian education for our church and community.”

 
YOUNG SCHOLARS: Kindergartners and first graders are in training to be God’s champions in this world. Friends and nice teachers are their favorite things at school. The school’s current enrollment is 70 students. [PHOTO: Cetnral California Conference]
Reyes thought the campaign was off to a good start until he discovered the school’s 100-year anniversary was during the 2011-2012 school year—his first year on the job. Planning a centennial event was overwhelming, he said.

Reyes called Cheryl Vines. She grew up in the area, had attended the church school, and knew a lot of people. She agreed to serve as secretary of the Centennial Committee and spearhead the 100-year celebration.

There was no budget; 100 years of alumni records to locate, setting a date, and choosing a venue were urgent tasks.

As the database began to fill with alumni, former staff, church members, and names by word of mouth, the numbers were amazing. “You usually don’t see this kind of turnout for elementary schools,” Reyes said. The response from former and current students, staff, pastors, parents, and church members is evidence of their passion for Christian education.

“It [Adventist education] really gives us a good foundation for life,” Vines added. “It plants those seeds very early, how you should live your life; and God is the center—Someone who walks with you anywhere.”


 

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