What is the Covenant Difference?

Around this time last year, I began preparing for my first year of teaching at Covenant. My family and I were moving to the area from Brooklyn, New York, and I was thrilled about becoming part of the Covenant community, but not sure what to expect in the classroom. Up to this point I had been a college professor, and my training had prepared me for working with older students. I imagined that my new students here would be, by virtue of their youth, restless and unfocused. And I worried that, with high-schoolers, even polite ones, I’d eventually encounter disinterest if I failed to conclude each discussion by making it about them, asking how they personally related to each literary or historical figure rather than helping them discover times and places that were not entirely like their own.

After a full year of teaching at Covenant, I can report with great delight that not only was none of this the case, but that the students at this school are some of the finest I’ve ever worked with. I found this year, that, as a group, Covenant students have several outstanding qualities, which I will try to summarize here.

1. Covenant students have a deep capacity to learn. By this I mean that they have become accustomed, from their earliest school days, to listening with sustained attention, a skill that in turn allows them to wait patiently for a big idea to emerge from discussion and, more important, to pursue it. Our students can take a difficult question and use it not only to look backward (When else has this question occurred, and in what circumstances? What did Augustine, Dante, Shakespeare, Brontë, or C.S. Lewis have to say about it?) but also forward (What other ways can this issue be framed? How should I look for it in my future reading?). This allows them to seek out and articulate answers independently, a habit of mind that will, I believe, shape and support them for the rest of their lives. That they can already practice this approach to the world is, in my experience, rare, and a pleasure to engage with.

2. Covenant students have been taught to use their whole selves, and use them well; it seems to me that, rather than separating intellectual pursuits from other aspects of their lives, they bring everything they know and enjoy into the classroom, and, conversely, are able to apply classroom disciplines and pursuits to what they do outside of school. This may help explain why so many of my students this year, in addition to regularly engaging in discussions, participated in conversations in other ways: by drawing on paper or on the board, reciting a memorized verse or musical refrain, and even, in one case, respectfully requesting permission (and receiving it) to execute a cartwheel in the classroom, to illustrate a point. This kind of free, open pursuit of understanding is what Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain suggest, in The Liberal Arts Tradition, is the goal of education, with students who are “cultivated in body and soul – mind, will, and affections” (2), and it seems to be flourishing here.

3. Covenant students have a quality of joy. I of course don’t mean that they are always happy (nor, I think, would anyone want them to be), but rather that they generally have an air of expecting, when they enter a classroom, to enjoy themselves, to hear something pleasing, intriguing, or worthy of their consideration, not only after they’ve mastered something fascinating or difficult but even before they experience learning. I think this is the fruit of Covenant’s Biblical pursuit of that which is “excellent and praiseworthy”; it is also, surely, another habit that this school’s outstanding faculty has formed in these young people, by shaping them over the course of their education with such love and with such high standards. I can gratefully say that my colleagues and students have, this year, given me the expectation of joy in the classroom as well.

– Dr. Flora Armetta June 2016

Andrew Peterson and Classical Education

Andrew Peterson gave two masterful talks to our students on May 16th – what a treat to have him visit Covenant and join our conversation. He enjoyed it, too, saying “I was so impressed by the students at Covenant – not only were they good listeners, but the quality of the questions they asked bore witness to the good conversations that are cultivated in the school. I found myself wishing that this model of education had been around when I was a kid, because I would have loved it.”

Our faculty are stewards of a great conversation where students learn to LOVE to learn and to seek what is good what is true and what is beautiful. It was encouraging to have a kindred spirit like Andrew enliven our conversation and inspire us toward even greater things!

 

Photos from Andrew Peterson’s Visit

You can learn more about Andrew Peterson at here.

Falcon Graduates: Ready to Fly

2016-Graduates-Meme-Schools

It is with the intertwined feelings of joy and sadness that we send off our Class of 2016 graduates to pursue their callings. We will miss seeing them in our classrooms and halls, but we are excited to send them out, knowing they are ready and that the time is right.

Salutatorian Azra Dees will study molecular biology at Rutgers in the fall.

Salutatorian Azra Dees will study molecular biology at Rutgers in the fall.

As they pursue a wide array of interests and fields of study – from medicine to the military, from business to biotechnology – we know that their liberal arts education has prepared them for success. In her Valedictorian address, Allie Good spoke about the impact that her fellow students have had on her during her career at Covenant. “We have grown together, laughed together, worried together, cried together, and celebrated together. We have deep roots that spread throughout years of growth and learning and friendship, and I am truly grateful for each and every one of you.” This theme of community was also emphasized by fellow graduate Azra Dees in her Salutatorian speech. Dees offered a prayer that “we never forget each other and the time we spent here together. I pray that we never forget that we are loved.”

Allie Good’s closing remarks are a fitting way to remember the Class of 2016: “This is what

Allie Speaking2

Valedictorian Allie Good will study biomedical engineering at The Ohio State University.

I hope we find as we go out and ‘conquer the world.’ I hope that as we depart and go our separate ways that what Covenant has imparted to us, is the example of a truly Christ-centered, loving, unique community. I hope that in our lives beyond these walls, we all seek and find something like this, a community that we can consider a family. And I know that if we ever get lost and need a little reminding, we can always follow our feet back home.”

 

 

 

Commencement 2016: Celebrating God’s Faithfulness

On May 26, 2016, fourteen graduating seniors stood on stage at Covenant Christian Academy’s Commencement Ceremony while the auditorium filled with the lyrics of the ancient hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”

At a time when most students are told again and again that the world is their oyster and that they can do anything, Covenant chose to celebrate the achievement of their graduating seniors by praising God for his faithfulness to the school and the families within it. Headmaster Dr. David Sonju recognized the faithfulness of God in giving them such a tight knit and supportive community.

“One of the great joys of this school is that you’ll leave this stage and enter into the alumni community,” said Sonju. “We pray for many more years of God’s faithfulness to this academy.”

Valedictorian Allison Good and Salutatorian Azra Dees both spoke about the community and faithfulness they experienced during their time at Covenant. “There is always a plan for us,” said Dees. “We only have to go. I pray that along the way, we never forget each other and the time we spent here together. I pray that we never forget that we are loved.”

Good echoed that sentiment in her speech. “What is truly beautiful about this school is…the experience of being part of a people that fill these halls, who ultimately create the identity of Covenant Christian Academy. As a member of the since-kindergarten club, after thirteen years, I can attest to what we’ve experienced growing up at Covenant, what we’ve experienced as fully integrated members of a community.”

In the fall, Allison Good will attend Ohio State University to study Biomedical Engineering. Azra Dees will attend Rutgers University to study Molecular Biology.

Mr. Gordon Zubrod, J.D., delivered the commencement speech. Zubrod worked as an Assistant United States Attorney for thirty-five years. He served in his last assignment as Senior Litigation Counsel for the Department of Justice, a career which has taken him to Romania, Malaysia, Uzbekistan, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. He worked against organized crime, political corruption, and human trafficking. Zubrod has close ties with Covenant Christian Academy. His son-in-law Chris Perrin is the founder of the school and three of his grandchildren graduated from Covenant. Next year Zubrod will be teaching a Mock Trial Elective at Covenant.

Zubrod’s speech also reflected on the faithfulness of God in the lives of these graduating students. “Way to go,” Zubrod congratulated the seniors. “God’s been faithful, and so have you, and tonight is the harvest you reap. Well done.”

Zubrod drew from extensive experience in his own life to encourage the graduates to carry well the tools they have been given. He spoke about pursuing truth and justice in a world that is so often filled with the lack of it. “I’ve seen witnesses willing to die for the truth … and defendants who would kill them without a conscience. I have seen, and prosecuted, policemen, judges, and high ranking, elected, public officials who sold themselves to the highest bidder. The core of my labors has involved the assessment of character.” Zubrod said the assessment of character has been his life’s journey—and will be for the graduates as well. Zubrod argued that Christians can look at the world in a different way, knowing the ending has already been written. The graduates, he said, must choose to live and work as a labor of love.

For them to achieve success in life, Zubrod charged them to play more, develop a love for truth, pay attention to detail, do hard things, and build their lives around the legacy they’ll leave behind. “You are the heirs of a classical tradition, learned through a rich theological culture,” he said. “This journey is really just beginning.”

The fourteen graduating seniors were then presented their diplomas by Dr. David Sonju, Headmaster; Mrs. Kristen Miller, Upper School Dean; Mr. Greg Lowe, President, Board of Directors; and Mrs. Emily Dixon, Guidance Coordinator. Current Covenant students lined each side of the auditorium, cheering on their older classmates. Each student of the graduating cohort was then prayed over by Dr. Matthew Hunter, Upper School Humanities Teacher.

Perhaps the best example of God’s faithfulness to these students was seen in what wasn’t said: the smiles, the proud parents snapping pictures, the high fives, the excitement on each graduate’s face. All fourteen graduates have been shepherded and encouraged by caring parents, teachers, and staff members. Though they are pursuing a wide variety of careers—design, social work, military service, and nursing, among others—they each leave Covenant as confident, optimistic young men and women who, because of the care, guidance, and education they have received, may truly change the world.

Commencement 2016 Scenes

About the Author

Rachael Dymski is a freelance writer and blogger living in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. Her work has appeared in places like Relevant Magazine, Humane Pursuits, Patheos, The Burg, Healthy Leaders, and her personal blog rachaeldymski.com. She is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of The Crawl Space Journal, a literary journal for readers and writers of Young Adult Fiction.

Senior Thesis 2016

Hello. My name is Allie Good, and I am a senior. I’d like to invite you to an annual special event for Covenant Christian Academy, Senior Thesis. I’ve attended Covenant since kindergarten, and for the past thirteen years, I have seen and heard about this daunting task each senior faces. The thesis is a year-long research project culminating in a public speech and defense before the entire Upper School student body – along with parents, guests, and an intimidating panel of school board members.

As I approached my senior year, I must admit that I was nervous to uptake such a momentous assignment. The process took all year and a great deal of effort. However, I knew I was prepared, not only because I had experienced thesis teachers, but because of all I have been given leading up to this year. Senior Thesis represents the focus Covenant places on writing and rhetorical skills, but it also shows the commitment and years of work our teachers have poured into their students since kindergarten. They have each guided, molded, and prepared us to attack Senior Thesis with experience and confidence, and we are excited to share what we have learned.

Covenant’s senior class of 2016 will be presenting their theses on Tuesday, May 17th and Thursday, May 19th in the Edger and Elizabeth Dunlap Center starting at 8:30am. In addition, three students will also be presenting at Messiah College at 7pm on May 23rd.

Tuesday May 17th

Thursday May 19th

8:30-9:00

Allie – Pursuing Canine Communication

8:30-9:00

Natalie – For Sale By Owner

9:05-9:35

Monica – Tiger Mom

9:05-9:35

Tim – Seeking Change: A Biblical Approach to Money

9:35-9:55                       break 9:35-9:55                        break
10:00-10:30

Joseph – Taxed to Death: The American Way

10:00-10:30

Matt – Reducing Internal Police Stress

10:35-11:05

Azra – Know Your Stuff: The Basics of HIPPA

10:35-11:05

Wesley – Money Behind Bars

11:10-11:40

Gary – Does Marketing Kill Creativity?

11:10-11:40

Albert  – Death with Dignity

11:45-12:45                   lunch 11:45-12:45                    lunch
12:50-1:20

Sophia – Loneliness in a Connected World

12:50-1:20

Molly – Calling All Customers

1:25-1:55

Kyle – NCAA: Dropping the Ball on College Athletes

1:25-1:55

Colsen – Finding a Winning Story

– Allie Good, Covenant Class of 2016

Allie Sr Pick

Forum et Agora

Forum et Agora

Forum et Agora… an open-air public address in the style of the ancient Roman Suasoria, where a novice student of Rhetoric would deliver an argument acting as an advisor to a famous historical or legendary figure. At Covenant, we have adapted this method of training to involve an eighth grade student speaking as a famous historical figure to a group.

A beginner’s level rhetoric class -especially in the Dialectic School- is a challenge met by dedicating a pattern of learning to an end goal: a culminating event. Culminating events in this way give the student a motivation, and in the case of the Forum et Agora the motivation is a visible, reachable, rewarding, public end.

The public-communal nature of Classical education dictates that the student is not alone. Not only is she part of a family, and part of a tradition, and part of the Church, but she also partakes in a school community where her gifts will be honed and her voice will be heard. Modern education makes learning a private thing, quantified by numbers and personal achievement. At Covenant, achievement is a public phenomenon. To succeed publicly in the presence of the community -in that moment- forms the student and community together in a kind of seal. We become evidence of a promise.

The Forum et Agora does take work. Eighth grade students study the elements of Rhetoric… that course of study that identifies and categorizes the best practices of language with regards to persuasion. They drill and practice and repeat schemes and tropes and topics of invention and the panoply of terms many of which we don’t naturally believe exist. We play games with them. The eighth grader analyzes famous speeches with them. He constructs a framework of terms by which he applies content to form his own speech. He discovers content though choosing a thesis from this question: What is it that sets the Greek mind apart from the Roman mind or vice versa? He chooses a famous Greek or Roman. He researches a historical context or event to speak about. He practices his speech before his peers.

It is in this process of discovery of Rhetoric that the eighth grader begins to apply lessons of Elocution and Memory and Delivery. Written out, it all reads as a complex study of intertwining technical jargon and sequence, and it is that, yet Rhetoric is simultaneously artful and personal and delightful and intuitive. The Forum et Agora event provides a platform for your student to be heard and celebrated. Come watch her sway her crowd just as she intended.

– Mr. David Kemper has taught Humanities in Covenant’s Upper School since the school’s founding in 1997. In addition to teaching rhetoric, history, and literature, Mr. Kemper also directed Covenant’s highly regarded theater production of Arsenic & Old Lace.

Mr. Kemper

Andrew Peterson Visit

Covenant is thrilled to welcome award-winning author and musician Andrew Peterson for a visit to our campus on Monday, May 16. Peterson is an acclaimed singer, songwriter who has recorded some 15 albums over the past two decades, including the well-loved Behold the Lamb of God Christmas album. He is the author of the four-book Wingfeather Saga for young adults which has won multiple awards and recognition and has also become a favorite among some Covenant faculty members. Peterson is also the founder of the online community called the Rabbit Room which fosters creative conversation and collaboration among lovers of music, the arts, Scripture, and the Christian faith. As a musician, Peterson has forged his own path, refusing the artistic compromises that so often come with chasing commercial success and instead creating a catalogue of songs that “ache with sorrow, joy and integrity, and that are, at the end of the day, part of a real, ongoing, human conversation.”

Peterson will speak to our Grammar School students about his Wingfeather Saga book and will then address our Upper School students about The Cultivation of a Christian Imagination. Covenant is excited to bring people like Andrew Peterson (and Jonathan Bean, Gregory Thornbury, Don Opitz . . .) to campus to help instigate and inspire our students and community.

Click on this link to read an excellent review of The Wingfeather Saga by our own Dr. Matt Hunter.

While this event is intended primarily for our students, Covenant would like to also welcome guests who are interested in learning more about classical Christian education to join in our conversation with Andrew Peterson. A ticket is required. You may register for your free tickets here:

Click here to register for Andrew Peterson’s talk to Grammar School students on The Adventures of Great Stories (appropriate for ages 9-12).

Click here to register for Andrew Peterson’s talk to Upper School students on The Christian Imagination (for grades 7-12).

 

 

Dr. Matt Hunter Reviews The Wingfeather Saga

We asked Dr. Matt Hunter to write a review of Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga which he and his children enjoyed reading last year. Dr. Hunter teaches humanities in our Rhetoric school and is the father of two boys in our Grammar School. Be warned – you may find yourself wanting to immediately purchase or borrow these books!

The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson
Review by Dr. Matt Hunter

I read a lot of fiction to my children, and a lot of fantasy in particular; some of it quite decent, some rather shabby. Of course we are fans of the Narnia Chronicles and the Lord of the Rings, but what could compare to those? When Dr. Sonju recommended Andrew Peterson’s 4-Volume fantasy series Wingfeather Saga (and let us borrow his copies) last year, I assumed it would be of the decent variety; but frankly, I was not prepared. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is the first book in the series (followed by North! Or Be Eaten; The Monster in the Hollows and The Warden and the Wolf King, which won the 2014 World Magazine, Children’s Book of the Year award).

The Dark Sea of Darkness. The intentional redundancy struck me as pretty funny, but it’s really funny. It’s my kind of funny; a bit dry at times, but witty and clever. Within a few pages, I felt like Peterson, my children and I had a few inside jokes together. We are also introduced to the central characters, the Igiby family of the land of Skree, Glipwood Township: Grandpa Podo Helmer, an aging swashbuckler, rough around the edges, but adoring of his grandchildren; his daughter Nia Igiby, a beautiful widow; and her three children Janner, Tink and Leeli (and Leeli’s little dog Nugget). Though you might be tempted to see them as caricatures at the outset, each with their unique gifts and foibles, it’s only because you don’t know them well enough yet. Throughout the series, these characters unfold in believable complexity and we are introduced to a much larger cast of equally compelling characters, good and ill (and somewhere in between). We are also introduced to the villains of this series, Gnag the Nameless (Did you catch that? It’s funny.), who rules the greater part of Peterson’s fantasy-world (Aerwiar, another joke, you’ll understand when you read) and his reptilian servant-soldiers, the Fangs of Dang. And there are the dragons…

I want to speak to the value of these books as a Christian classical educator. The works of literature that we consider “classics,” and which we read at Covenant have some things in common. In no particular order of priority, I think they do three things. First, they stand the test of time. We don’t trust ourselves to be the arbiters of greatness. We count on some collective consensus that cannot be ruled by the whims and fashions of one time period or another. Obviously, time will tell whether The Wingfeather Saga endures, but I plan to do my part and have requested my local library to procure copies (I might donate if they do not, but my overdue fines should cover it at this point). Second, the “classics” demonstrate excellent use of the English language, in translation if not the original. The incredible range of styles that still demonstrate excellence (from Shakespeare to Shelley, Hawthorne to Hemingway) should encourage students that excellence doesn’t mean one single style. Peterson has his own style. Perhaps because he was a songwriter first, the series can be beautifully lyrical at times, but there are probably others who are better equipped to evaluate this and linguistic excellence in fiction can be somewhat subjective. Third, the “classics” speak about great universal human themes.

This third mark of the “classics” is perhaps the most important to me. I want the content to generate “discussion,” the verbal pursuit of questions and answers (however provisional) that are worthy of our time and energy. This is certainly the case with The Wingfeather Saga. A great mystery surrounds the entire series and many questions arise that are only really answered much later. I want to avoid giving anything away. If the books possess any weakness, it might be that there are stretches where the Igibys “wander in the wilderness” (literally and figuratively) and you really want them to arrive in the Promised Land, but it’s worth it. This too is a great human theme (and a biblical one, obviously). Suffice it to say that, in addition to humor, there is great adventure, skirmishes and battles, quest and exploration (like many of the recognized “classics”). There is much to hold one’s attention, but there is also much to talk about. There is terrifying evil and brilliant goodness, jealousy and generosity, betrayal and loyalty, cowardice and courage, incipient selfishness as well as self-sacrifice. Heroes and heroines in classic literature often have fatal flaws. In Peterson’s fantastical series, weak characters are found to possess incredible powers. Beloved characters are found to have monstrous secrets, evil characters are found to be heart-broken and sometimes monsters are found to possess heart-rending goodness. This is what I was least prepared for: the heart-rending, the occasional choking back of tears for the beauty and truth conveyed in these stories, the moments when I had to risk the catch in my throat and keep reading because I desperately want my children to know the truths these stories tell.

“Is this a “Christian” fantasy series then? Like Narnia?” I might argue that any work which tells the truth about humanity (an aspect of my third mark of the “classics”) must be “Christian” in some sense and Peterson is a Christian, but it’s not like Narnia. Besides the fact that Peterson’s writing style is entirely different from that of C.S. Lewis, his world does not overlap with ours. Aslan and Jesus both exist in some sense in the Chronicles of Narnia. Peterson’s series isn’t like that. “Well, there’s the whole good-versus-evil theme right?” Yes, but it’s so much more complex than that and I tend to think good-versus-evil is a weaker basis on which to call something Christian than “truth about humanity.” “But you said there’s self-sacrifice, so there’s a Christ-figure like Aslan and what-not?” Yes, there is both redemption and self-sacrifice, but while Lewis clearly tries to tell the story of the cross in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Peterson’s story doesn’t get there as quickly, nor does it try to be an allegory of the Gospels in the same direct sense. I think if I had to explain why Christians should read these books, it’s because they are really good, and because they possess the emotional and relational content of the Gospel. In other words, these stories could only emerge from the imagination and heart of someone who understood the world through the Gospel. The “deep magic” that works in Narnia in some sense must also be working in the land of Aerwiar. I’m thrilled that he is coming to talk with our students (and my children are beside themselves). Prepare yourself; or maybe don’t. Tolle lege!

Arsenic and Old Lace

Friday, April 22 and Saturday, April 23

Covenant Theater presents Arsenic and Old Lace
Please join us to see the show during a limited engagement in the Dunlap Center.

The Upper School students at Covenant have been hard at work on the spring drama production, Arsenic and Old Lace, a farcical black comedy written in 1939 by the American playwright Joseph Kesselring.

The story takes place in the living room of the Brewster sisters, Abby and Martha, in Brooklyn, NY and includes their three nephews: Mortimer, a drama critic who has promised to marry the neighboring Reverend’s daughter; Jonathan, a homicidal maniac; and their insane brother who believes he is Teddy Roosevelt. According to the New York Times drama critic, opening night was “so funny none of us will ever forget it!”

Online ticket sales are closed. Tickets may still be purchased at the door.

Performances on Friday at 7PM
Saturday at 2PM and 7PM

Adult Tickets $12
Student Tickets $7

**Please no children under 6 years of age.

Grammar School Open House and Showcase

Are you curious about what a classical Christian education is all about? Come and join us at Covenant on Saturday, March 19th for our Grammar School Open and House and Showcase. Guests will see our students demonstrate how they love to learn at Covenant! This is a great night to discover the Covenant difference and to get to know our faculty and staff. Our Grammar School Showcase will be followed by a wonderful Upper School Art Reception with food, live music, and a lot of fun. We look forward to seeing you on the 19th! 

For more information, please contact our Admissions Coordinator, Ann Rasmus (Ann.Rasmus@DiscoverCovenant.com or (717)540-9885 ext. 231).

 

Covenant Christian Academy

1982 Locust Lane

Harrisburg, PA 17109