The Charles Finney School At The Quarter Century Mark

The Charles Finney School Students In new science lab
The Charles Finney School Students In new science lab
The Charles Finney School main entrance
The Charles Finney School main entrance

By Susan LeDoux

What began twenty-five years ago as a Christian high school has now become a college preparatory school for students from pre-K through grade 12.

Paula Guardalben, Finney’s new Director of Admissions, spoke about the coming Gala this April that will celebrate Finney’s past and highlight its bright future, from sports to robotics, and from academics to molding compassionate young adults.

The Charles Finney School now holds two impressive accreditations — the Association of Christian Schools International (ASCI) and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA-CESS).

As if validating those accreditations, an anonymous donor recently contributed one million dollars to the school. Guardablen said donations from people, and a donation that size, tell her “that they believe in what we’re doing.”

They used some of that money to complete Phase I of the school’s renovated sports complex. A new scoreboard, concession stand, announcer’s booth, and more seating enabled them to have their first Section V Football game on home turf. In general, they have experienced growing successes with their teams, such as the Spring 4 Class D Sectional Title for track.

Finney excels not only in sports, but in robotics as well. Winning the regional competition at RIT last April allowed them to compete in the international robotics competition in St. Louis. With 900 teams from 39 countries in the running, Finney’s team placed an amazing 2nd place.

As Admission Director, Paula Guardalben is eager to share with prospective parents the value of a Finney education. “When I look at the overall health of the school, the Board is made up of a variety of people in the community, representing different professions and different backgrounds. That’s a healthy school, where there isn’t one mind-set running the show. There’s a lot of checks and balances.”

She meets with families and prospective students to show them around the school, answer their questions, arrange for parents to audit classes, or for a visiting student to shadow a Finney student throughout the day. She is busy planning open houses and orientations that are coming up soon.

Preview days – Experience Finney for a day:

– Elementary Preview Day (Pre-K – 5) Thursday, February 2, 2017 8:30 AM – 2 PM

– Middle School Preview Day (6-8) Thursday, February 9, 2017 8:30 AM – 2 PM

– Open House Thursday, March 9, 2017, 6:30 PM – 8 PM

– Pre-K and Kindergarten Orientation, Thursday, May 18, 2017 9:30 AM – 10:45 AM

As a parent of Finney students, who home-schooled them up to 6th grade, Guardalben believes a Christian education is an option, but not necessarily the only option; it depends on the child. However, she strongly believes in maintaining the health of area Christian schools. Finney absorbed 60 students from the recently closed Christian school in Webster, and welcomed students from Catholic and other private schools, and even public schools. Total enrollment is now 381 students with up to 30 full time teachers.

The Charles Finney School Principal Michael VanLeeuwen
The Charles Finney School Principal Michael VanLeeuwen

Finney’s International Program, overseen by the school’s President, Michael VanLeeuwen, has 23 students from China, Korea, Italy, and Panama. Van Leeuwen recently traveled to China, and if the connection between China and Finney grows, Finney students will be able to travel there as well.

“We want to make the connection between the two — not just where we’re the hosts. We want to go over and experience what the culture in China is like. We’re trying to expand into other countries,” Guardalben said.

Since students from other countries, or from public schools, may not be Christian, The Good News wondered if that posed a barrier to admission, since parents are asked to sign the statement of faith as part of the admission process.

Guardablen shook her head. For those who do not believe the statement of faith, signing it merely indicates they read it. Even though they may not agree with it, they know they are sending their children to a school where instruction is Christian and Biblically based. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to share the Gospel with them,” Guardalben said.

The Gospel message travels with Finney’s Project Compassion, run by Dr. Peter Burch, who teaches the one-semester course, Servant Leadership. Project Compassion began in 2012, and since then, Finney students have gone on 21 mission trips to 13 states and 3 countries.

Recently, Dr. Burch became Development Director, connecting with businesses and organizations in the community to highlight the school and promote partnerships that will garner funds from various donors. He is starting an Alumni Association to re-connect Finney graduates with their old school.

The Charles Finney School Paula Guardalben Admission Director
The Charles Finney School Paula Guardalben Admission Director

In the area of academics, students can find help if they are struggling or enrichment if they are already working above grade level, in the elementary school’s Literacy and Enrichment Room.

While the honors program is alive and well in this college preparatory school, the dual credit courses with Roberts Wesleyan College are becoming more popular than the AP courses. Additionally, Roberts Wesleyan College now offers graduating Finney seniors a $10,000 scholarship for each of the four years they matriculate at Roberts Wesleyan.

To help seniors decide their future careers, the College and Career Readiness course offers internships at various sites. Potential teachers or administrators have interned at Finney; others have gone to lawyers’ offices or health care institutions. Students gain experience and network to help determine if a particular career choice is right for them.

As a home-school mom herself, Guardalben appreciates Finney’s offer to admit home-school students for two classes and to engage in the school’s musicals and plays. After a while, many students transition from home school to Finney full-time.

From testing the “Finney waters’ with just two classes or attending Finney from Kindergarten through twelfth grade, an education from The Charles Finney School prepares young adults to contribute to community, have a strong Christian character, and be full of compassion and creativity. They will be prepared, as the school slogan says, to “do something greater.”

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