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OACS schools embrace citizenship, unity

Written on October 5th, 2007

Students attending one of the 78 member schools of the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) are taught about responsible citizenship and what it means to be part of society.

“OACS represents a particular view of education, a particular view of Christian education that helps prepare the young people for lives of responsible citizenship,” says John Vanasselt, the OACS director of communications.

“OACS education is not about isolation or withdrawing from society,” says Vanasselt. “It’s about helping kids understand the world around them and how to make it a better place.”

Ren Siebenga, principal at Toronto District Christian High School (TDChristian), says it is his job to pass onto the next generation what is true from the Christian perspective.

“We are trying to pass on a Christian approach to the world, and it is our hope and prayer that we give some depth and we give some meaning, we give insight, we give skills, we develop habits whereby our students can then contribute to the culture as Christians and make their impact on Ontario culture and on Canada,” says Siebenga.

TDChristian has themes for each grade — Grade 9 is community, Grade 10 is diversity, Grade 11 is post modernism, and Grade 12 is global village. Siebenga says the school looks out to the community.

The school recently won an award in Vaughan for helping to beautify the city. On an international scale, the school has started a co-op program where students spend a semester in Belize.

Siebenga says the students already participate in the public sector. Students from TDChristian play sports with schools in the public system.

Siebenga says he is upset by the sense that there has to be one monolithic system.

“It’s high time that the Christian schools were acknowledged as a contributor to the culture. It’s high time that they were part of the mosaic and part of the contribution,” he says.

Jennifer Richmond, principal at Belleville Christian School, says that while the elementary school is primarily a service to families they strive to build up the community spirit within the children.

“What’s first and foremost in my mind is building up a community spirit in the kids, and you can’t do it just by staying within the four walls,” she says.

Richmond says the sense of Biblical unity is the strongest sense of unity, and by teaching students they are the body of Christ there is teaching of tolerance.

“I am trying to give my students eyes in which to view one another in love,” she says. “We are not all the same and we can’t all pretend that we are, and what we need to do is to embrace each other’s differences and in an academic setting it’s so much more important.”

Richmond says unity addresses every part of the child, and the spiritual dimension of a child should not be separate from every other aspect of their personality.

“It’s a spirit that unifies us, it’s not a curriculum,” she says.