Houghton Academy Update November 2017

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

Dear Friends of Houghton Academy,

The Thanksgiving season provides a special reminder of God's faithfulness to the Academy through faithful support of countless faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and friends, many of whom have dedicated their lives to Christian Education and the furthering of the Academy’s mission. I humbly give thanks for those who historically “set the stage” for this, our 135th school year.

Each year brings change, and this year is no different. I am excited to share new developments and programs in this and succeeding updates. I am encouraged by student feedback on the adjustments to chapel – now called “Zimala” – under the guidance of our two Discipleship Coordinators, Mrs. Sarah Gurley, and Mr. David Huizenga '90.

I trust you will have a restful and uplifting holiday as you spend it in gratitude with friends and family, remembering the words of Psalm 107, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

This update seeks to deepen your insight into God's ongoing work at Houghton Academy. Please keep us in your prayers as we continue to prepare students to Live Authentically, Learn Deeply, Lead Globally, and Love Boldly for the glory of God.

Sincerely,
John Nelson
Head of School

Houghton Academy chapel has looked a bit different this year. As Discipleship Coordinators, we have sought to revamp the regular chapel meeting to engage the students in a variety of ways, not just with a weekly message. We have had “regular” chapel services (singing and a guest speaker), but there have also been participatory events such as small group studies, breakout sessions, prayer stations, hands-on service and more. To reflect the new nature of our chapel activities, and to generate a bit of enthusiasm among the students, we chose a new name. In recognition of our international student body, we decided to choose a name from another language.

“Zimala” (zim-ah’-la) means fellowship in Arabic. It refers to many different aspects of fellowship, but easily applies to our fellowship with one another in Christ. (See 1 John 1:3,7 above.) We’ve chosen this new name for chapel because 1) its meaning can apply to both the explicitly Christian fellowship and the overall community-building goals for chapel, 2) it reflects our school’s international nature, 3) students appreciate something creative and unexpected, 4) it simply confirms that the chapel program will be new, pushing us all to learn and grow—to be nudged by Jesus “out of our comfort zone.” Please note that the word zimala is NOT Islamic and doesn’t carry any such connotations. Nor does our use of it intend “political correctness” or that the Academy embraces anything other than the old, old story—the world-upside-down truth of Jesus’ Gospel: I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6) If anything, using zimala in reference to our Christian worship can suggest a solidarity with one of the most marginalized groups on the planet, Arabic Christians, as they seek to remain faithful to Christ amidst tremendous opposition.

So far this semester we have had wonderful guest speakers in: Pastor Jon Cole, Pastor Jonathan Finley, former head-of-school Mr. Phil Stockin, and former NBA player Bay Forrest, accompanied by world-record ball handler Joe Odhiambo. In small groups, students have been divided and scattered around the school for student-led discussion. These groups were carefully selected to include students from each grade, nationality, and gender. The goal of these groups is to not only equip student leaders but to provide space for honest reflection while building our community. 

While these examples give a snapshot into Zimala, they are but a small glimpse of the content that the students are exposed to during the weekly meetings. Furthermore, simply stating the content doesn't capture the growth of the students as they seek to know more about the Lord. This semester, we've seen students rededicate their lives to Christ while others are walking closer and closer to a relationship with Him. We trust that next semester will bring even more variety and opportunities for students to interact with their faith.

Sincerely,
Sarah Gurley & David Huizenga '90
Discipleship Coordinators

This fall, former Houghton Academy soccer player, and current faculty member, Dan Gurley '01, switched from leading the varsity volleyball program to heading up the  varsity soccer program.  

“I wasn't sure exactly what to expect coming into my first season as the head coach, but I knew we had a lot of potential and I was excited to be coaching soccer,” Coach Gurley remarked. The team struggled to find a rhythm in the first nine games of the season, only winning 3. “It took some time to figure out what system worked most effectively for us, but once we did we hit our stride.” After dropping a 5-2 decision to Fillmore in the ninth game of the season to put the team at 3-5-1, the team went on a tear, winning five of their last seven and only losing to Belfast, the eventual Section V champions, in the second round of the Sectional Tournament. 

“I’m proud of how we finished the season. The kids worked hard and kept every game close,” commented Coach Gurley. “I’m excited we were able to capture our first home sectional win since 2013, and I look forward to building on this season, improving, and competing for a sectional title.”

For the season the team scored 45 goals while allowing 35. Four players—Zebedee Ayorinde '18Aziz Kangbeya '19Rick Ejizu '19, and Shayer Khan '19—finished in the top 15 for scoring in Allegany County. Ayorinde and Khan were both named 1st team Allegany County League All-Stars. Kalem DeGolyer '18 was named a Sectional Tournament All-Star, and Zebedee Ayorinde was one of two league representatives to the Section V Exceptional Senior All-Star Game.

The modified soccer team, led by Andrew Roorbach '09, compiled a 5-2-1 record. The team focused on building fundamental soccer skills, improving their conditioning, and learning about basic strategy. “I’m excited about the season we had,” remarked Coach Roorbach. “At this level, with players who have varied backgrounds in soccer, it can be challenging to cater to every player's skillset. However, I think the team really came together, worked well with one another, and showed their determination and resilience when competing.”

The varsity girls’  volleyball program was led by former Division I volleyball player (Liberty University) and interim Athletic Coordinator, Jess Nelson.

“It was exciting to be able to step into the head coaching position of the volleyball program here at the Academy,” remarked Coach Nelson. "Any time there is a transition to a new head coach, there can be a tough adjustment period." The adjustment period manifested itself in the form of a slow start, with the team losing four of their first six games. "We really struggled to find consistency in our lineup and play from set to set."

The team entered the ninth game of the season with a rematch against Genesee Valley, who they had lost to earlier in the season 3-1. “The game against Genesee Valley was where we really played up to our potential; we made the plays we needed to, worked well as a team, and didn’t let the fact that we had lost to them before faze us,” stated Nelson. The team dropped the first set 9-25 but proceeded to come back to win the next three sets (25-14, 26-24, 25-20) and capture the win. The team finished the season winning four of their last seven, including a first-round sectional win against Lyndonville. The team bowed out to #1 seed Hammondsport in the second round of sectionals.

Reflecting on the season, Coach Nelson commented, “we battled through many injuries and illnesses, but we continued to work to get better each day and had a lot of fun in the process. I’m thankful for this opportunity and look forward to seeing what the team can accomplish next year.”

The modified girl’s team was coached by Kathie (Christensen) Hilsher '90, who saw the girls improve immensely throughout the season. “Modified volleyball usually starts with each girl learning the right touches on the ball and solely focused on herself and the ball,” commented Hilsher. “It is hard for them to see the big picture, anticipate where the ball will go, and back each other up. By the end of the season, they were doing that and were able to play multiple hits on the ball through a series of rallies.” The girls also saw a vast improvement in their serving accuracy; at the beginning of the season it was as low as 35%, but by the end, they had improved that number to 90% accuracy as a team. 

Coach Hilsher concluded, “I’m really encouraged by this group of girls. Their commitment to the team and positive attitudes really impressed me. They are going to be a big part of the future of volleyball at Houghton Academy.”

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

Houghton Academy forms Math Team

In recognition that not all competition occurs on a field or inside a gymnasium, the Academy has established a math team this year. The team, comprised of 11 students who are in grades 8 to 12, will compete against eight other teams in the Genesee Valley Math League.

"I had an incredibly positive experience as a high school student on a math team. We have a number of gifted students here at the academy and want them to have that opportunity as well," stated  Patrick Barringer, mathematics instructor and math team coach. “My goal is to get our feet under ourselves and have fun developing as problem solvers, understanding that while winning is fun, it isn’t our primary focus. We want the student’s interest and curiosity to be sparked.”

Competitions are comprised of three different phases. The first is an individual phase, consisting of each team member answering 15 questions of varying difficulty. The second phase is the team relay round, where team members are broken into three groups of three. Each of these groups is given a question to solve. Both the second and the third groups' questions are incomplete and require a number to be passed to them to plug into their question. The first group's answer plugs into the second group's question, and their answer plugs into the third group's question. The third phase of the competition is the team round; team members work together to answer ten questions in 25 minutes.

“I’m very pleased with the students’ performance,” Barringer commented about the team’s first competition on November 8. “We scored a total of 188 points placing us just behind two teams that tied for 3rd with 189. The first place team earned 199. We are definitely in the mix, competitively speaking.”

The team will compete in 3 more competitions this school year, following their strong showing in their first competition.

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