Houghton Academy Fall 2018 Update

News and information for Houghton Academy alumni, friends, and parents 

“Why Houghton Academy?”

(First in a Series)

As 2018 comes to a close and calendars move to 2019, the cycle of events at Houghton Academy turns to the January-March re-enrollment season. Every year, parents consider making renewed commitments to Christian education.

While Houghton Academy students, faculty, and staff are entering the Christmas holiday break December 21, the school is sporting a recently adopted set of  expected student outcomes  (ESOs). These statements serve to solidify the formal response – the commitment of an outcome – that the Academy provides parents who re-enroll (or initially enroll) their son or daughter.

The ESOs were established by the Board of Trustees after careful consideration over a two-year period, with input from current employees, students, and families. We allow ourselves a brief look back on the process, grateful for the input received, and recognize implementation is the next step. 

ESOs are vital because they provide perspective, a clearer snapshot, of what a Houghton Academy graduate embodies and how that graduate performs. The ESOs guide the school in selecting its personnel, tailoring its programs, and determining its curriculum in order that each student expresses these outcomes through his or her unique personality.

In the broadest sense, many of us are familiar with expected outcomes. If one believes God has a plan and purpose for life, he or she typically strives toward that end; a destination involves a journey. So also Jesus participated in a life journey, both through his incarnation as a baby that we remember this month as well as throughout his early years. He “grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man” as he matured toward the very real outcome – accomplishing God’s purposes.

So, why Houghton Academy? First and foremost, because our ultimate goals, our major targets, are aligned with biblical thinking. This is crucial for those who understand that ultimately, truths and consequences are inherent in every learning environment. 

Wishing you a Merry Christmas 2018,

John Nelson
Head of School

"Nothing is easier than saying words. Nothing is harder than living them day after day."
-Arthur Gordon

At Houghton Academy, it is and has been our mission to prepare young men and women to go out into the world and be difference makers. To prepare students to Live Authentically, Learn Deeply, Lead Globally, and Love Boldly for the glory of God. It’s easy to write these phrases on our website, letterhead, and other forms of communication. But what does that look like in a Houghton Academy student? How does the idea of “Living Authentically” manifest itself in our students? Where can we look to have definitive proof that someone is “Learning Deeply”? 

Jeff Prentice moved to Houghton this summer with his family to fill the vacant Physical Education teacher and Athletic Coordinator positions. Along with these responsibilities, he also took over coaching the boys varsity soccer team. Before he had even moved to Houghton, let alone before the start of the first practice of the season, Coach Prentice had a plan and a vision for the team. “I read as much information as I could find online and checked with several friends in the area to get a sense of what the team was like,” stated Prentice. “Coming into a new situation I wanted to make sure we played with pride, that we would compete hard and hold ourselves to a high standard, that we wouldn’t be pushed around by other teams. However, at the same time, I wanted our team to be a light in the community, to live out our Christian faith, and to love boldly.” 

With that goal and vision in mind, the team planned to pray at the center of the field after every game and to leave enough room for the opposing team to join if they wanted. “I figured the first year not many would join us, a couple of players here and there, but that it might grow each year,” explained Prentice. A couple of games into the season, some of the upper-class players came to Coach Prentice and suggested directly asking the other team to join them after the game for prayer. “I have to admit I wanted to stick to my plan and leave the option open to other teams, but not push or force our faith on others by asking them directly,” said Prentice, “but the boys kept asking after games and after they asked a third time, I said ‘ok’ and let them ask the other team.” What followed was a remarkable example of outreach. “Almost the entire team, including coaches, came out to the circle and joined us,” commented Prentice. After that game, the team continued to ask other teams to join them in prayer after games. Not every team accepted, and not every person on a team accepted, but many did, and it was encouraging for all of the boys to see that yes, even their opponents could respect them and their beliefs. Coach Prentice reflected on the season, “I’m thankful those boys did that; it challenged me to live out my faith more boldly.”

Similarly, and inspired by a tradition started by former Houghton College volleyball coach Wendy Jacobson, the girls varsity volleyball team, led by Kathie Hilsher ‘90, decided to pray as a team after every game of the season. “I was always amazed at how the college team prayed and sang after their games and the number of people who would join their circle,” explains Coach Hilsher. “It is something I’ve wanted to do and this year coaching the varsity team gave me the first opportunity to do so.”

Praying after games became a good way for the team to refocus, win or lose, and helped the team put things into perspective and create a team identity. As the season progressed, the team decided to invite others in attendance to join them - fellow students, parents, faculty and staff, and community members. 

“When we stepped out and invited others to join us, the girls were ready for it. They had already created that as part of their team identity, and it felt natural to do,” commented Coach Hilsher. By the end of the season, a couple of opposing teams even joined them for the post-game prayer. “I hope that it helped the girls to see that playing the game is not just about themselves or about what happens on the court, but that everything fits into a bigger part of God’s plan for our lives.”

Off the athletic field and court, students involved in Houghton Academy’s Impact C.R.E.W. (Christians Ready Equipped and Willing) have been working all semester long to make a difference for others. Impact C.R.E.W. was created by students as a service and mutual support club. Inspired by Christ's instruction to "love one another" as He has loved them, members seek to raise awareness of human need, injustice, and suffering. Students engage in projects that serve and assist others, blessing people in both their community and in the world. 

About half the student population is a part of Impact C.R.E.W. The club engages in service activities such as making and decorating cards to be distributed at a summer camp for underprivileged children in Western New York, writing letters of encouragement to children in Nepal as well as praying regularly for them, and organizing and running a school supply drive to benefit Journey’s End Refugee Services in Buffalo, NY. “It’s gotten really big,” comments Ann McNeill, Impact C.R.E.W. advisor, “and it isn’t like it’s just a couple of students doing all the work. We have about half a dozen student leaders who are really the driving force behind a lot of our activities and help encourage others to be involved.”

The club also serves to educate students on various social issues in our world. Several of the student leaders have presented to the group on topics that they have seen first hand from their experience on a short-term missions trip, or other issues that have directly affected them. In the latter instance, students decided to use their voices on social media to raise awareness and advance action for the social injustice happening in a classmate’s home country.

“The students love participating and they are always coming up with ideas, often meeting on their own time. I see the students doing things for Impact C.R.E.W. that they don’t always tell me about!... at least not right away,” McNeill says with a smile. 

One such activity that arose out of a student-led effort was a scarf fundraiser for Journey’s End. “Students wanted to wear scarves during the day as part of their uniform, so it was decided they could as long as it was for a cause,” explains McNeill. A portion of each sale will be donated to Journey’s End, and a donor will match the total amount the students generate. 

“The students are really getting out there, they are excited about these activities,” states McNeill. “Two of our upper-class students volunteered to go to the college and church to announce our school supplies fundraiser for Journey’s End. That takes a lot of courage.”

Love Boldly. It’s easy to say but harder to do or to even know how and where to start. Bringing people together from different backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, and religions is difficult; loving unconditionally those who are different than yourself is a challenge for many of us, and a seemingly impossible task for others. At Houghton Academy, it is our privilege every day to encourage and support young men and women from around the world to not just say words, but to live them day after day.

The fall sports season concluded on Monday, November 12 with the annual fall sports award night. Students, coaches, faculty, staff, and parents gathered to honor Houghton Academy student-athletes for their efforts and accomplishments during the 2018 fall season.

Coach Jeff Prentice entered his first season as the soccer coach looking to build the skill of this year’s team while focusing on playing good strategic soccer. “I knew we had a lot of individual skill, but I wanted to make sure we used that the best we could,” remarked Coach Prentice. “We established a defensive system and really focused on moving without the ball.”

The team started off well, winning seven of their first eight games while scoring 48 goals and conceding 10. “It was exciting to see the guys realize that they had a chance to win any game they played,” commented Coach Prentice. “To me that’s a highlight; when the lightbulb goes on and the guys believe they can win any game.” The team entered the final game of the season, a matchup against rival Belfast, with a 10-3-1 record. An earlier matchup between the two teams had seen Houghton drop a 3-1 decision in which they were heavily outplayed.

“The first time we played Belfast, we played on our heels and they were really a challenge for us,” stated Coach Prentice. In their second meeting, the Academy led 2-0 late into the second half before ultimately losing 3-2 in overtime. “It’s hard to say that game was a highlight of the season, but I think it really showed how we had developed as a team and how far we had come, to play at an even level against the league champion.”

While the boys were eliminated from sectionals with a 1-0 loss to Bradford, it was overall a positive season. The team finished with a 10-5-1 record while scoring 67 goals and conceding 22. Shayer Khan ‘19Rick Ejizu ‘19, and Silas DeGolyer ‘19 were named Allegany County All-Stars and each received a player of the week award for the Allegany County league. Shayer Khan was also named a Big 30 All-Star by the Olean Times Herald. Perhaps the most important accolade received was the 2018 Official’s Sportsmanship Award. 

Looking to next year, the team will graduate eight seniors, leaving a young group to step up. “We’re young and we’ll take some lumps but we have a talented group of young players,” comments Coach Prentice. “I’m looking forward to building an off-season program: working on ball skills, lifting some weights, focusing on conditioning, and putting in the hard work. We have a good group of hard workers and I’m excited to see how they develop.” 

The varsity girls volleyball team was coached by Kathie Hilsher ‘90 and Steve Tucker. Both in their first year as a varsity coach, they worked toward helping the team improve. “We both hoped that we would help the girls discover a love for the game and a strong sense of team/community,” commented Coach Hilsher. “We wanted to empower them to play to the best of their ability, and to take risks as they learned new skills.”

The team compiled an 8-8 record, including a 3-1 victory over Arkport-Canaseraga in sectionals. The season saw the girls improve in individual skills, especially in serve receive and serve placement. “It was exciting to see them begin to believe that they could really play this game and to call plays and play smart,” stated Coach Hilsher. “They developed friendships that hadn't been there before and we saw some of them step into leadership roles beyond what we had hoped for.”

There were many team and individual highlights during the season. Carissa Hilsher ‘20 debuted a “jump-serve” during the season and scored several aces as a result, and Ali Tucker ‘20 utilized a “quick-attack” - a spike in which the hitter anticipates the setter’s play and is in the air before the set is executed - which was an important factor in the team’s offense. Carissa Hilsher was also named to the Allegany County All-Star Team. Another highlight of the season was getting all players on the varsity team into games. “Everyone was a contributor,” explained Coach Hilsher. “To me, that was a highlight.”

Looking to next year, the team graduates two seniors, Martina Ni ‘19 and Sophie Tang ‘19. “There's no question we will miss Martina Ni's hard-hitting,” comments Coach Hilsher, “but I think the girls will pull together well and create their own game.” The team will return 5 juniors to the starting line-up for next year and are looking forward to training for the upcoming season. Modified sports (middle school level) always presents an interesting dynamic for everyone involved - players, coaches, and fans. It is not uncommon to have some students who have an extensive background in the sport, while others are trying it for the first time. At Houghton Academy, the goal of modified sports is to provide opportunities; not only to play but also to develop new skill sets, and try something new. While winning is always a plus, the emphasis at the modified level is put on developing lifelong skills; skills such as working together with others to accomplish a goal, persevering even when it feels like you will fail, having the humility to give your teammate credit for the pass that helped you score the winning goal, and demonstrating a servant’s heart by being the last to leave practice because you were picking up. This year’s modified sports season saw great development for many young men and women.

The modified soccer team was coached by David Huizenga ‘90. “Our goals for the season were to foster positive attitudes toward soccer and team play, to grow in an understanding of the game regardless of winning or losing, and to demonstrate sportsmanship and Christlikeness,” remarked Coach Huizenga. The team compiled a 7-3 record on the year. They scored 41 goals and conceded 20 on the season. 

Reflecting on the season, Coach Huizenga commented, “it’s always encouraging to see the improvement from the start of the season to the end. Our biggest area of improvement was how well the team played together. We began playing largely centered around individual skills, but by the end of the season we were succeeding at true teamwork and ‘real’ soccer.”

In addition to her varsity girls volleyball coaching, Kathie Hilsher ‘90 also led the modified girls volleyball program this year. Finishing with a 10-1 record, the team showed that the future of the varsity volleyball program is in good hands. “My goal at the start of the season was for them to begin to think like a team, communicate, and work together,” commented Coach Hilsher. 

The girls improved vastly from the start of the season to the end. The team focused on improving their serving accuracy and adding to their serving skill set; serving overhand rather than underhand. “We even had several girls work on a jump serve and try it in a game,” stated Coach Hilsher. Another big highlight for the team was beating the one team they had lost to at the beginning of the season. “It definitely solidified for the girls how much they had improved,” explained Coach Hilsher. “The best highlight for me though was when I asked the girls to write notes of encouragement to players on the varsity team. They were so excited to do this and took the opportunity to write specific and heartfelt words of encouragement.” 

Looking to next year, the team will have several girls move to the varsity level. Reflecting on the season Coach Hilsher stated, “I hope the girls loved playing the game and playing together enough that others will ‘catch the bug’ and want to be a part of their team. Having a young team is so important to developing a successful varsity program. The girls who will still be able to play modified next year are athletic and have learned so much about the game. I think they have the potential to play lots of pass, set, hit volleyball. It should be fun!”

Congratulations to all of our teams for a great fall sports season!

New to students this year is the reintroduction of the Blue vs. White competition. The year-long contest pits students, faculty, and staff against one another in a series of friendly and fun competitions.

The competition’s origins can be traced back to the 1950s before the advent of interscholastic athletics, which were introduced in 1967. “The competition would usually start after the basketball season concluded,” explains Headmaster Emeritus  Phil Stockin '63

"We would do some things during the fall and winter, but it got serious after the basketball season.” Every single student would be assigned a team at random when they would first come to Houghton Academy. The only exception to the random assignment was if a sibling, or in later years a parent, had already attended. If that were the case, the student would be assigned to the team of his or her relative. The Blue vs. White competition was at its peak from 1972 until the early 1990s. “We did everything imaginable that was possible, and we’d keep records every single year for who won what competitions,” explains Stockin. Activities included baseball, basketball, table tennis, badminton, flag football, tennis, chess, and much more.

“We wanted students to be participating in some sort of activity, and not everyone could be on a varsity team,” comments Stockin. “The Blue vs. White competition, it’s what everyone did, it gave everyone a chance to participate. It was always encouraging to see a student who was not a star athlete find something they were good at that they might not have expected to be good at.” Students were assigned points based on participation and how they finished in their respective activities. At the end of the year at the annual athletics banquets, students who had accumulated enough Blue vs. White points were awarded a mini varsity letter for their efforts in the competition. While Mr. Stockin was unable to specifically remember what the winning team received each year, reliable sources indicate that the most rewarding part of winning the competition was the bragging rights one inherited over friends, all in good fun of course.

While the Blue vs. White competition was a source of competition, bragging rights, and friendly, good-natured trash-talk for the better part of 40 years, the first adaption petered out sometime in the mid-90s when the Academy introduced softball, baseball, and golf. This summer under the direction of Jon Retz, Activities Coordinator, the competition was organized and reintroduced by the Houghton Academy Student Senate. “The initiative to reinvigorate the traditional Blue vs. White Academy Challenge or Competition grew out of discussions at School Leadership meetings. As we considered ideas and options to add some additional activities, this traditional program was brought up,” commented Retz. “Student Senate had been considering school-wide activities for the week between Fall and Winter sports seasons. Combining these two initiatives was a natural progression. The initial response from students, faculty, and staff was fantastic and Student Senate is in the process of planning additional activities and competitions.”

Activities for this year’s competition have included academic contests, pop-culture trivia contests, pumpkin decorating, a school supplies drive, a dodgeball tournament, and a pep rally with games. “Everyone has been pretty excited about the competition so far this year,” comments Gabe Huizenga ‘19, Houghton Academy Student Senate President. “We (Student Senate) still have a lot of work to do to plan more activities, but we’re looking forward to the rest of the year’s competitions.”

The Blue vs. White competition was a great Academy tradition for a number of years and we look forward to it becoming a “new” tradition for our students for many years to come. The following excerpt from the 1980 edition of the Pebble captures not just the spirit of Blue vs. White competition but the Houghton Academy experience as a whole.

“‘Social’ - This aspect of the Academy is what’s remembered long after leaving. Junior-Senior banquets, Blue-White intra-murals, college films, hanging out at the campus center, Athletic Association banquets, dining with Kip, competing in sports, food, and fun in the dorm, even down to doing your laundry-without all of these experiences, it just wouldn’t be ‘home’.”

Go Blue! Go White! 

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