Weather Forecast


Graduation 2012: Hope Christian students to miss school's 'little bubble of warmth'

It's all about the feeling of family at Hope Christian Academy in St. Paul Park.

Each member of this year's graduating class said they will miss the close-knit community that characterizes HCA. One has been part of it from kindergarten, two came after homeschooling, two had a friend or cousin already at the school and one started at HCA, rebelled, went away, and came back to complete high school.

Philip Gibbens was homeschooled until sixth grade, then started at Hope Christian Academy. "The size of the school allows me to get to know if someone is having a good or bad day. If it's bad, maybe I can help. If it's good, I can share the joy."

Gibbens, who is already attending Bethel University through the state's post-secondary education program, is planning a double major in computers and math with a minor in physics. "Many nights when I had too much homework, the students and teachers here encouraged me and gave me the strength to finish."

Senior Suzanne Brown, who started at HCA in the seventh grade, said she never did her homework while being homeschooled. "My friends here encouraged me to excel," she said. Brown, who lives in Grey Cloud Island Township, will attend Indiana Bible College in Indianapolis for two years to study music and then four years at the University of Arizona in Phoenix to study industrial pharmacy.

Cottage Grove resident Ricky Jensen--and his parents--tried various school systems. He started at HCA, hated it and tried public school. "Then I went through my crazy phase," he said. "My dad sent me to Restoration Boys Camp in Alabama for a year. It's run by former Marines and Christians."

At the boy's camp, Jenkins became a Christian, learned to preach, and returned to finish his high school career at HCA. According to his classmates, he is a good preacher.

Jenkins has enlisted in the Army National Guard and will head to boot camp in early July. He will train to be a cavalry scout and attend college. "In the meantime, I want to learn to play the violin," he said. He may also do something with his preaching skills.

Carise Allen, a Cottage Grove resident, has been a student at HCA since kindergarten. She will miss the "positive Christian environment and close knit community of the school," when she attends Winona State University where she plans to major in elementary education.

Allen's friend Samantha Fischbach lives in St. Paul and entered HCA as a junior after a not very enjoyable career in public schools, she said. "I like the small size and the support of Christians," Fischbach said. She calls the school a "little bubble of warmth."

Fischbach plans a double major at North Central University in Minneapolis. She wants to study youth development, urban studies and possibly sign language interpretation. "My goal is to show inner city kids that they can get out of the poverty cycle," she said.

In the fourth grade, Cottage Grove resident Angie You followed a cousin to Hope Christian Academy. She will miss the friends she made and the teachers, she said. After school mission trips to Panama and Mexico, You decided to major in teaching English as a Second Language and Spanish. She already speaks Korean. You will attend Northwestern College in St. Paul. Along with the school's other seniors, she is very musical, plays clarinet, piano and saxophone and sings.

The Class of 2012 is one of the largest to graduate from Hope Christian Academy, which opened its doors in 1975 at Hope Community Church in Cottage Grove. Seven years ago the independent, non-denominational community Christian school moved to the Activities Building at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in St. Paul.