Houghton Academy Spring 2019 Update

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

Why Houghton Academy?
(Second in a series)

In my last message in December, I mentioned that ultimately truths and consequences are weighty and the Academy’s alignment of targets for students with biblical thinking is the ultimate answer to the question above.

“Nailing” student outcomes – hitting our big targets – requires both programs and the personnel to deliver them, and Academy personnel are wholly committed to the mission and vision of the school. Our constituents expect faculty to mentor students well, to care deeply, to be capable both pedagogically and in specific content areas, and to model and maintain a relationship with students, leading them to develop in faith, character, and service. The following will attest, in addition to the above, that HA faculty are creative and adaptive, engaging students in the real world to appreciate diverse cultures and influence positive change.

  • Each senior’s Capstone project engages a distinctly Christian response to a contemporary social issue.
  • English students celebrated National Poetry Month with a “March Madness” Poetry Competition in American Literature.
  • Mathematics students can participate in local independent study options in support of high-performing students.
  • Physics students employ PhET physics simulations online to study diffraction, photoelectric effect, and other phenomena.
  • Middle school science class studied constellations using Houghton College “Star Lab.”
  • Via interactive games led by the conductor, HA musicians improve aural skills by identifying melodic intervals and chord qualities.
  • Spanish 3 students analyzed media content for implicit messages and values and weighed those messages’ consequences against both biblical and different culture’s societal standards.
  • The Student Publications class explored “Live Authentically,” an expected HA student outcome, publishing articles, poems, and artwork in the “Thumbprint” and Pebble.
  • HA’s campus service club “Impact CREW” (Christians Ready, Equipped, and Willing) has organized and will host a collaborative benefit effort on April 25th “A Night for Change,” raising funds for Journey’s End Refugee Services.
  • Students made friendship bracelets and wrote accompanying letters of encouragement to Nepalese orphans through a “Climbing for Christ” missionary contact.


Clearly, learning at Houghton Academy is experiential, promoting engagement that correlates to “learning how to learn” as well as “making a difference in the world.”

Engagement excites learning. With learning comes commitment. Via commitment, lives are changed.

Looking ahead to Good Friday and celebrating Jesus’s resurrection this weekend, I ponder the prophet’s words from Isaiah 43:19 – the indescribable and unpredictable “new thing” that began during a Passover celebration nearly two millennia ago and continues to ignite our passions today. Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection – God’s means of fully engaging humanity – calls us to make a difference by being creative and adaptive.

With thanks for your prayers for Houghton Academy,
John Nelson
Head of School

“If you don’t take a Sabbath, something is wrong. You’re doing too much, you’re being too much in charge. You’ve got to quit, one day a week, and just watch what God is doing when you’re not doing anything.”
-Eugene Peterson

We all enjoy taking a break. Doing something different than our normal routine. Maybe it’s as simple as eating a different cereal for breakfast or as extravagant as going on a once in a lifetime vacation. While having a routine and schedule has been scientifically proven to increase productivity, it has also been proven that incorporating breaks into your routine is vital to improving productivity, creativity, and mental health. Not taking a break can lead to burnout, poor mental and physical health, and a negative outlook on life.

However, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to us! For it was God himself who created the first break from routine.

“And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.” -Genesis 2:2

In our 24/7 world where we can watch a movie in a few taps, communicate with people from across the world in seconds, and read tomorrow’s news today, we need to be deliberate in the breaks we take. Sure, God created the Sabbath in order for our bodies (physical) and minds (mental) to rest and recuperate, but most importantly he created it for our hearts (spiritual) to be renewed through him. 

At Houghton Academy, Winterim originated to give students, faculty, and staff a break from the normal routine of classes during the harshest part of winter. For years it served its intended purpose, and alums often fondly share their Winterim memories with us. However, just as we need a shake-up from our normal routines, so did Winterim. A need for spiritual rest, in addition to physical and mental rest, was recognized. Thus, last year Winterim was rebranded as Ignite and restructured to incorporate a spiritual emphasis in the week.

With the break from the traditional school schedule, after-school activities, and perhaps most importantly, homework, students engaged in over 51 elective classes. Some classes focused on arts and crafts and developing new hobbies like visual journalism, stick weaving, calligraphy, baking, fairy house building (top image,) and knitting (left.) Other classes were geared toward finding meaningful rest in our free time, such as rest for girls, rest for boys, visual journalism, and yoga. One student who took the visual journalism class (below left) commented that it was so enjoyable and relaxing, she has started to do it on her own time. A couple of classes focused on finding spiritual rest and rejuvenation, including worship team practice, hiking, and the prayer walk classes (below right.) Another student reflected on her experience in the class with an article in the latest issue of the school newspaper.

“Prayer walking was a wonderful opportunity to retreat from the busyness of regular life and experience the presence of God in His beautiful creation. The silence of the woods provided a chance to be alone with the Lord without distractions. Setting aside time specifically for the purpose of prayer is an incredibly valuable experience, and prayer walking is a unique and meaningful way to do it.”

“The break from responsibilities, chores, homework, and daunting tasks brings us back to the center of the joy that the Lord intends for us in discovering his kingdom and all the creativity that He has poured into our world,” commented Discipleship Coordinator and Ignite co-organizer, Karin Craton. “Students had very positive attitudes about Ignite and their classes. Many students found that they enjoyed classes they may not have been expecting to. Several expressed how they appreciated the opportunity to interact with students of different grade levels; they enjoyed the new friendships that arose from the different classes.” 

While the classes are certainly a highlight of Ignite Week, perhaps the most important components of the week are the daily chapel services and messages. This year, four guest speakers were invited to share messages with our students about their identity. Reverend Todd Daningburg spoke about finding our identity in Christ and our response to Christ. Reverend Rebecca Rowley spoke about obstacles that prevent us from viewing ourselves as God does. Juwan Moore, a Houghton College student, engaged our students with a message about Image vs. Authenticity. Erica Henderson, a recent graduate of Iowa State University, spoke (via written letter and delivered by Karin Craton) about the effects of social media on our identity. 

“It is exhausting to live up to an image of ourselves that is defined by others or worldly standards instead of Christ’s,” commented Dave Huizenga ‘90, Discipleship Coordinator and Ignite co-organizer. “Each of our speakers this year addressed aspects of our identity in Jesus and how, if we rest in who He alone declares us to be, we can ‘Live Authentically,’ which is our school theme for the year.”

Student feedback on the week of activities and chapel messages was positive, and as Dave stated, “there seemed to be a genuine and special enthusiasm for the particular events and priorities of Ignite itself.” Students participated in a student-led forum on Friday and it proved to be a fitting capstone for the week. “The honesty, vulnerability, humility, and insight of the panelists was encouraging and helpful to the student body and faculty as well.” 

While Ignite week was not the Sabbath, it proved to be an effective break that captured the spirit or ethos of the Sabbath. The respite from normal classes, responsibilities, and school functions enabled students to “more deeply hear the messages of the speakers and reflect on God’s nudging of their hearts in a fresh and significant way.” The follow-up chapel the next week gave students a chance to reflect on what they had learned from speakers, and many were willing to engage challenges imposed on them by the speakers.
We’re so blessed to have been given the gift of Sabbath by our Lord and Creator. As you go about the rest of your day, week, month, and years, don’t forget to take a break. Because if you don’t, “something is wrong. You’re doing too much, you’re being too much in charge.”

The winter sports season concluded on Monday, March 11th, with the annual winter sports awards night. Students, coaches, faculty, staff, and parents gathered to honor 40 student-athletes for their efforts and accomplishments during the 2018-2019 season. 

The 2018-2019 basketball seasons were characterized by marked improvement from the previous year, with each team improving their win/loss record. The boys' varsity team improved their win/loss record by 4, the girls’ varsity team by 10, and the boys’ modified team by 11.

The boys’ modified basketball team was led by first-year head coach and Houghton College student, Joel Vinciguerra. The team also had a significant and impressive improvement from their previous year’s record, finishing with an undefeated 13-0 record while averaging a 20 point per game win margin.

As with most modified level sports, the primary focus for the team was on the development of basic skills. “I expected to see a growth in the fundamental areas of the sport, both from individual and team perspectives,” stated Coach Vinciguerra. As the season progressed, Coach Vinciguerra noticed improvement not just in terms of basketball skills and knowledge, but also in terms of personal development and growth of the team. As the wins kept coming, the team practiced harder, showed more respect, and became more disciplined. “Not to say they were lacking in these critical areas,” commented Coach Vinciguerra, “but rather they were very exemplary in these areas. This spoke volumes about their work ethic, both on and off the court.”

The 2018-2019 boys’ modified basketball team season will certainly be remembered by the team and their families as a highlight of the school year. “I wanted these boys to complete the season as better young men, rather than better basketball players. And I am absolutely elated to say that we accomplished that goal,” Coach Vinciguerra reflected on the season. “I’m very thankful to have had the opportunity to coach these young men. We had a successful season, with a lot of fun, laughs, and growth in many areas. I look forward to returning to coaching at Houghton Academy next season.”

The varsity girls basketball team entered their first season with coach Jeff Prentice with a renewed sense of optimism. While the varsity girls basketball team hasn’t had much success in terms of wins over the last few years, this year’s team looked to change that with a combination of skilled young players and coaching stability. 

“Heading into the season I had only a few team goals,” commented Prentice. “I wanted us to primarily focus on working hard in practice and games, earn the respect of our opponents while displaying a Christ-like attitude, and to be confident in our abilities while saturating each other with encouragement."  

The team started off by dropping their first two games to Alfred-Almond (39-22) and Fillmore (38-21) but quickly rebounded to win their next four out of five games to bring their record to 4-3. “We were definitely a bit nervous and unsure of our roles and jobs at the beginning of the season,” commented Prentice. “But we improved quickly, primarily through how we played as a team; learning where to be in every situation and how to work together on the basketball court.” 

After two more losses brought their record to 4-5, the team reeled off eight straight wins. The highlight was beating Alfred-Almond in a rematch of the first game of the season. “There was an exciting change in our team attitude,” stated Prentice. “We expected to have a chance to beat anyone on our schedule.”

While the girls ultimately bowed out in the second round of sectionals to Romulus, the season has everyone looking forward to what they can accomplish together next year. “With a year of experience and graduating only one senior, I expect that we will begin next year with a new sense of confidence and excitement,” commented Prentice. “These ladies have been given some great talents and can really make a difference in the lives of people they come in contact with daily. I hope they develop these abilities on and off the court to make an impact in their families and communities --now and in the future. 

 The varsity boys team entered their second season with Coach Phil Nelson at the helm. “Going into the season we were really focused on improving from last year,” commented Coach Nelson. “We wanted to improve our win/loss record from last year, but more importantly we wanted to do it through teamwork; placing an emphasis on involving the whole team and not only relying on individual skills and abilities.”

The team improved their skills, fitness, and basketball knowledge on the court, and also developed their friendships off the court. “The guys really bonded and became better friends, which led to a more positive atmosphere at games and practices where they encouraged each other to grow and develop their skills," commented Nelson.

A first-round sectional match-up saw the team matched up against Friendship Central School. The team won easily, 69-30, and faced Belfast Central School in the second round. While the team played well and gave it their best effort, they could not overcome the eventual Section V champions and succumbed 71-43. The team finished with a record of 9-13, an improvement of four wins from last year’s season.

Looking to next season, the team will graduate five seniors, including county All-Star Silas DeGolyer '19. “I expect our three juniors, Aiden Feng '20, Ayo Banwo '20, and Lee Murray '20 to lead the team, as well as some sophomore players,” commented Nelson. “The five senior players made a great contribution to the program and will be missed.”

Reflecting on the season, Coach Nelson remarked, “this season went by quickly and what made this special for me to coach was the great attitude and hard work these young men put in each and every practice, allowing us to be a competitive team in this league."

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

In January 2019, five friends from the class of ’94 (a fifth of their graduating class) gathered in Golden, Colorado, proving that although time may pass and bring change, friendships built at Houghton Academy truly last a lifetime. Heading to Denver for a conference, Adria Willett ‘94 contacted previous travel buddies Christy Shea ‘94 and Sean Jennings ‘94 to see if a mini-reunion with Deanna Wesche ‘94 and Joel Dudley ‘94, both residents of Colorado, would be possible. Plans were outlined, flights were booked, and the rest is history.

"Something about our class was truly special. We were definitely different types of kids, and I think that's what allowed us to bond and have so much fun together. We all came from differing backgrounds but shared the common existence of being who we were, with each other, in the same setting, at the same time, and for the same reasons. So, in many ways, our differences blended and became similarities, to some extent. It was a true blessing during those years of growth and maturing; as a result, my classmates helped me become the person I am today, and for that, I am truly thankful,” explained Sean.

Classmates Pictured L to R: Adria Willett (Chicago, IL), Deanna Wesche (Denver, CO), Sean Jennings (Grand Rapids, MI), Joel Dudley (Cañon City, CO) Christy Shea (Philadelphia, PA)

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