Molding the Minds and Hearts of the Next Generation
By Rick Kern
Tucked away on a quaint, quiet street in picturesque Williamsville, New York, Christian Central Academy (CCA) has spent decades providing an exceptional education to its students. Instructing them from a philosophical stance that is based upon the existence of God and the Savior, Jesus Christ as the source of truth, CCA promotes superior academic quality teaching curricula that exceeds New York State educational standards. Additionally, to complement their academic excellence, the school instills in its students the skillsets necessary to make honest, informed, and confident choices based upon God’s Word and His direction for their lives.
Stuart S. Chen, Ph.D., P.E., Christian Central Academy’s Interim Head of School, views what is best for the student as the axis the school’s calling revolves around. It is a threshold question that CCA and the parent can join forces answering and find solidarity in. Furthermore, he says that he considers pursuing the best interest of the child, “…a sacred partnership in the limited number of formative years where, when the parent’s answer to that question coincides with the mission of the school — then we link arms in this sacred partnership, and we move forward together.”
CCA has an unusually long and storied history for a contemporary Christian school. In 1947 a group of parents from the Alden Mennonite Church grew dissatisfied with public school and the trend toward centralization, so they explored the possibility of starting a Mennonite school. The small, one or two-room schoolhouses were rapidly disappearing, and they knew that the inertia of consolidating schools would eventually give them even less influence on the choice of teachers, classroom, and school activities. These conscientious parents all felt that a school operated under Christian principles would lend itself to a better education. Consequently, in September of 1949, the first day of school was held in the basement of Alden Mennonite Church with nearly 40 students who were taught by two educators.
Much happened to bring the school from a church basement to its present facility, including different names, governance, and locations. Among CCA’s milestones was the school’s 1978 adoption by Pastor James Andrews and The Metropolitan Chapel of Buffalo, now called “The Chapel at Crosspoint.” Andrews and church realized the value of a Christ-centered education and assumed the responsibility of the school in August 1978, with incorporation following. The name was again changed to what we now know as “Christian Central Academy,” offering an academically based curriculum, and emphasizing the full development of the child — mentally, morally, physically, and spiritually.
Remarkably, in 1981 the Williamsville Academy Street School became available and once again, the school found a new home. Thus, in 1985, the building was purchased from the local school district for some $275,000. And as if the Williamsville Historical Society could grasp something of the spirit of CCA, they noted in their 1991 publication that since 1981, “…the Academy School has been the home of Christian Central Academy, with classes maintaining the traditional, historical, purposeful, educational character of the original building. In 1991, the location at the corner of Academy and School Street was declared a Historical Site.”
As a K-12 college-prep school, CCA has some 35 full time employed faculty members and around a dozen staff. Furthermore, the school is an academic powerhouse that has had 100-percent college acceptance for decades. They also offer a vast roster of extracurricular activities including athletics, clubs, student government, a praise ensemble, and more.
Additionally, the school offers a financial aid rubric that takes several variables into account, allowing the committee to render fair and compassionate awards. “More than half of the student body receives some form of financial aid one way or another,” explains Dr. Chen, this year we went through a two-stage process for evaluating requests for financial aid.” The program, something of a “coming-attraction” for the FAFSA form parents and students must fill out for college, begins online. From there, a committee reviews the information, makes informed, appropriate decisions, and sends out award notices.
With some 70 churches represented in the student body, CCA is a sort of microcosm of the local body of Christ. And at the helm of their education is a remarkable man who is a tenured college professor. “Yes, it’s a rather unusual career path for vocational pilgrimage,” Chen admits. He was originally recruited as an Academic Dean of Science Chair and Science Teacher while teaching overseas. “I came to CCA from the university career primarily,” Dr. Chen explains, “and I worked for years as a civil engineer before going back to grad school.” He adds, “Then I worked 27 years as a professor at the university. Migrating from there to the K-12 environment is unusual, but this is the school where I sent my own kids for 14 years as a full tuition paying parent so I was familiar with the school and I was certainly in line with its mission and philosophy.”
His own philosophy of education is impressively scriptural, down to earth, and well thought out. “All truth is God’s truth and each child who is being educated has unique strengths, gifts, calling, abilities — bent as it were,” he asserts. “I’m thinking of Proverbs 22:6, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.’” Elaborating he adds, “The way he should go has to do with the way the child is bent, the way that God has gifted, called, and prepared, the child.”
Summing up his thinking he explains, “And so a Christian philosophy of education needs to be partly about discerning that for each individual child and then fanning the flames to encourage growth and development in that area. Thus, a Christian philosophy of education is not an indoctrination of the one-size-fits-all Christian worldview and asking kids to parrot that back. It’s way beyond that! It has to do with shaping the child in the way God has formed that child to go, and to do so with excellence and to let everything glorify God.”
Christian Central Academy engages students with academic challenge and support. The teachers, many of whom hold advanced degrees, encourage students to reach their highest level of preparedness, to qualify for higher education, and to pursue their vocations or professions in a manner that is God-glorifying.
“This is a sacred partnership between the parents and guardians of their precious children who they’re seeking to mold them for the Kingdom in a Christian school environment,” Chen offers. “Nobody has to bring their kids to a private Christian school they can send them to the public school for free. They’re only going to bring them here out of a sense of: ‘Hey, we have to have shared values around Christ and the Bible.’ And we link arms to do that.”
Christian education at Christian Central Academy serves as a foundation for students to make honest, informed, and confident choices in the present and future, based upon God’s Word and His direction in their lives. For more information about CCA, visit their website located at www.christianca.com or telephone them at (716) 634-4821.