Voices of Gratitude: Student Perspectives on Covenant

At our 20th anniversary banquet in November we asked both a current and former student to share about “what I am thankful for about my classical education at Covenant.” We thought their speeches were worth sharing again as they well describe many of the things we thank God for at Covenant.

Lucas Lanza: The Joy of Fellowship

Lucas Lanza, Class of 2018

I thought about what I would share with you all here for a while, because I really do owe so much to Covenant Christian Academy. I’ve attended Covenant for a little over 12 years so there’s a lot to be grateful for. I thought about critical thinking, social skills, and art, but in the end I decided I would share my gratitude for an equally important take away from Covenant.

I owe my love and desire for fellowship to Covenant. Obviously, everybody enjoys time spent with friends, but I would make the distinction between that time and my idea of fellowship. To me, fellowship is a time when believers come together and talk with one another about their walks with Christ, what they’re grateful for, and their struggles. It’s a yearning for this kind of interaction that Covenant has implanted in me. Many of my classmates have been at Covenant since kindergarten, we’ve matured together and experienced many of the same struggles throughout our young lives, so I find it extremely rewarding to fellowship with them. As I’ve grown older, I’ve been able to grow much closer to my friends in this way. As Covenant has encouraged us to engage the word in more depth, I have been able to think about my life and my faith with the same depth, and I’ve observed this in my friends as well.

As well as encouraging this idea of fellowship in me, Covenant also provides a number of great opportunities for fellowship. Various activities during the day, such as hallway liturgies, lunch, and class discussions, as well as extra curricular activities like sports are great environments for this kind of Christian interaction. For me, a fantastic fellowship opportunity was opened when I joined the Covenant soccer team.

Seniors on Covenant’s Soccer Team

Personally, this past soccer season, my final season, was an incredibly formative experience that I shared with a really solid group of guys. Despite how short and mildly depressing this season was, it actually was an incredibly positive experience compared to its preceding years, and it was really exciting to see how God worked through us during the good times and the hard ones.

I feel this same excitement when I think about my future. In a couple of months my high school journey will come to an end and I’ll be shipped off to college. I’ll be in an entirely unfamiliar place filled with new people, but I rest assured knowing that because of Covenant I have what it takes to glorify God in this new place. And that I have made lasting relationships with people who I can rely on for fellowship during hard times even if they are far away. I’m eternally grateful for the skills that Covenant has given me that I know will be useful for the rest of my walk with Christ. Thank you, God bless.

Erin Burlew: Thinking and Conversing Well

Good evening! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Erin Burlew. I graduated from Covenant, or more affectionately known the to alumni as CCA, in 2010 and work in public accounting in Richmond, Virginia.

Erin Burlew, Class of 2010

It’s been wonderful to see so many familiar faces tonight. Some of you might remember one of the last times I spoke at Covenant, though probably not as vividly as I do, a nervous 18 year old dressed in a plaid skirt presenting my senior thesis hoping the board would be gracious with their questions and critiques.

I’m astounded that that day was almost 8 years ago. At that point I could never have anticipated being asked to stand here today, celebrating twenty years of this school.

In line with the theme of this evening, I was asked to share with you what I am grateful for about Covenant. But the evening is too short to truly convey all the gifts my time here provided. I could tell stories from the good old days of Covenant for hours, but for the sake of time I’ve chosen two elements of my education for which I am particularly thankful that continue to impact my daily life, both in and out of the workplace.

Evening of Gratitude Banquet, Nov 11, 2017.

Covenant was the place where I was taught to think and was taught to converse.

Now, certainly CCA was not my only classroom for these. In fact, I primarily learned to think and converse at home. But school often felt like an extension of home, partially because of my family’s involvement, but also because the values which were taught at CCA aligned with what I learned at home. Learning was always part of life in the Burlew household.

But the classrooms of CCA provided the formal setting in which I discovered how to learn and how to follow my curiosity. Of course, by learning, I mean so much more than memorizing facts. I learned how to think, to problem solve, to ask good questions, to read critically and evaluate teaching. Our teachers answered questions with questions to lead us to conclusions and taught us to defend positions with valid arguments.

These skills have served me well – not only during my time at Grove City College, but also in my career.

Guests enjoying Covenant’s Evening of Gratitude

I know that accountants don’t have the most exciting stereotype. I can’t say that I ever dreamed of being an auditor growing up, but I’m thrilled to have found a career that uses my skills and encourages both personal and professional growth.

At its roots, my job involves learning about an organization – from the big picture down to the small details. We make conclusions about how facts affect money. In this way we are able to evaluate our client’s accounting records. What it really looks like is asking “Does this make sense?” many times throughout the day. This question is one that I learned to both ask and answer in logic and rhetoric class at Covenant.

I’ve used these skills in all areas of life, not just my career. Since leaving my parents’ home after high school, I first moved to Grove City for college, back to Harrisburg after graduation, and finally to Richmond. In each of these stages of life I’ve entered into a new community and searched for a new church. This isn’t a situation I was directly taught to handle. There was no class for how to move to a new city and find a church. But because I learned how to think, to read, and to listen critically, I’ve been able to apply these skills in evaluating the teaching and theology of a new church.

The second element of a CCA education that I am grateful for is my ability to converse.

Accountant’s aren’t generally known for conversation skills. In fact, when I explained my job, some of you probably pictured me crunching numbers on a calculator alone in a dark windowless room. But knowing how to have challenging conversations is a critical part of an auditor’s role. There were several times as a recent college graduate where I needed to challenge a [decision made by a] client’s CFO. To say that these conversations are intimidating is an understatement.

Students enjoying the Evening of Gratitude.

But walking through life avoiding intimidating conversations is what creates adults more equipped to spout off a disagreement on social media than work through an issue in real life. CCA makes students face these conversations head on, in an environment that encourages speaking the truth in love, an environment that doesn’t equate being respectful with being in agreement. We not only had classroom debates with fellow students, but visited a mosque, a hindu temple, and other religious sites in apologetics class, enabling us to have an educated view of other religions. We learned to see those in disagreement as people to be loved, not enemies to avoid.

To think and to converse are behaviors that all humans engage in. But to think and to converse well are honed skills, that must be trained and ingrained over time as a partnership between teachers and parents. I consider it an honor to have been educated in a school that put more effort into these disciplines than in scores on standardized tests or acceptance rates to prestigious universities. However, many who attend CCA are blessed with the opportunity to continue on in their education, as I was. I made my way from the halls of CCA to the halls of Grove City College.

This leads me to my second reason for standing here tonight, to introduce the main speaker for the evening, Mr. Paul McNulty. Prior to returning to Grove City as President, Mr. McNulty worked as an attorney in Washington D.C., including holding the position of Deputy Attorney General. Many of his other impressive accomplishments are listed in tonight’s program. As a Grove City alum, I think of President McNulty as the one who tirelessly leads Grove City College as it provides a liberal arts education to young adults. He is much beloved by faculty and students alike.

It is my profound honor to introduce to you the Honorable Paul McNulty.