Friday, September 23, 2016

New school year, new students, new adventures

Here we are at the beginning of a new school year and I can't believe how fast the summer went by! We crammed in as much family and fun as we possibly could. We were fortunate to get to see quite a bit of our family in one trip to Colorado and Wyoming in July.

Touring the Chutes at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo with Lindsay's Grandma Terry

Waiting for the Cheyenne Frontier Days Parade with Lindsay's sister, niece, aunt and grandma.
Living in Alaska can make it challenging to stay connected with family. Fortunately with FaceTime, Skype, email and text we are able to keep in touch, but nothing beats face to face time, especially for the kids with their cousins!

Teaching Samantha how to take a selfie. :)
It can be bittersweet to leave family, especially when I have been home to Colorado where I was raised. As we were driving home from Anchorage after a LONG day of flying we looked out of the car window to see an amazing display of Northern Lights. It is very rare for them to occur this early (early August). When Steve and I came up to Alaska to interview we were treated with a display of the Lights, and this felt like repeated confirmation that we are where we are supposed to be.

We have enjoyed having students stay with us over the years that we have been here. Now that Steve's parents live a block away, they have joined in the "student hosting" role as well. Tia stayed with them for a month before school started and has quickly become part of the family. Grace was thrilled to spend afternoons shopping online or looking at fashion blogs with her new buddy, and Noah loved playing "hide from Tia." At the end of the summer, Grace asked if Tia could dye the end of her hair so they could match each other. The result was some fun pink hair and lots of giggles.

Steve and I have been notoriously bad about celebrating our anniversary because it occurs right at the beginning of the school year, when we are hitting our busiest time of preparation and planning. This year, we decided to end the anniversary-skipping streak and we planned a two-night trip to a lighthouse in Halibut Cove, off the southern tip of Homer. Our lighthouse didn't have electricity or running water, but there were beautiful views, whales playing in the water below, and lots of berries to pick! It was a great two days of recharging before coming back to start the semester.

Grewingk Glacier- a 20 minute boat ride and 2 hour hike away from Halibut Cove.

At the top of the hill on Ismalof Island overlooking Halibut Cove

Clem Tillion, 92, whose family owns Halibut cove, captained our boat on the way over. He is a six time Alaska State Legislator and has served on both the House of Representatives and the Senate, including as Senate President.

Lots of yummy berries along the trail
The lighthouse where we stayed as viewed from the water

My mom was able to travel up from Arizona to visit us and help out with the kids during the first week of school. We loved showing her around each day after work and school!

The beautiful Kenai River View hike- before Grace was stung twice by hornets!

At the North Kenai beach right by our house
All of our busy activity over the summer must have left us all a bit worn down, because right before school started the viruses began. First, Noah came down with the hand foot and mouth virus. The poor guy had it for a full week before I put 1+1+1 together to get hand foot and mouth! I just thought he had a bad head a sore mouth from too much candy... plus some blisters from not wearing some spots on his hands (yes that is when I finally figured out what was going on!) He had to be quarantined at home, and missed the first week of school. 

We were running a bit late on the first day and Grace was less than thrilled to be stopped for a picture!
Noah finally recovered, and was super excited to start school and see all of his buddies again!

Right after Noah started school, Grace came down with a head/stomach virus and was out for the second week of school. Thank goodness we have family living here now! Marsha and Curt were invaluable while we were juggling sick kids and the first week of the semester for ACC.

Thursday, August 25, Steve drove to Anchorage with a couple of other staff members to pick up the vans of students while the rest of us stayed here on campus finalizing last minute details. At 6pm we got the staff-wide text that the students were 15 minutes out. We all congregated on campus to welcome back all of our returning students, and greet our new students for the first time.

After students checked in and received their room keys, we all met in the Yurt to introduce ourselves and play some getting-to-know-you games. Our new Director of Student Life, Vince Eben, began the introductions.

Determining the smallest feet on campus
Playing a name game

The staff kids were just as excited as the students to meet everyone!

After the first orientation night the rest of the next week was spent doing lots of fun activities. We all hiked the Russian River Trail on Saturday, which is always a good time to get to talk with some of the students on a smaller scale.

There are always a few daring students who can't resist all of those fish just sitting at the bottom of the river.
Classes kicked of Monday, August 29, but the orientation week activities continued throughout that first week. Each area of the college took a night to entertain the students and get to know them better. Faculty and the Library chose to rent bubble soccer balls from the City of Soldotna. The result was lots of laughter, and quite a few sore shoulders!

Steve got a bit turned around.

After the second week of classes we held the second annual Ignite retreat. The goal of this retreat is to make sure that all students have the opportunity to connect with each other and staff from the very beginning of the semester, and more importantly, that every student hears the gospel before getting any further into the semester.

One of our new students decided that she wanted to commit her life to God during core group discipleship time on the Friday night of the retreat. Saturday at the lake she was baptized in front of her ACC family.

We are now four weeks into the semester and we have the best retention of students that we have ever experienced. I truly believe that this retention can be attributed to the extreme investment into the students in those first few weeks.

Last weekend ACC celebrated its 15 year anniversary. We invited alumni and past staff and friends of the college to come celebrate with us. A large barbecue meal was planned, a giant tent was donated, and then it started to pour rain! We moved everything inside (except for the groundbreaking for the new dormitory) and everyone had a wonderful evening. Students had the opportunity to dance, sing, and read scripture in their native languages. Watching all of these incredible students made me feel honored once again to be a part of their educational journey.

Ground breaking on the new dorm, which will be built next summer by volunteers and donors.

Curtis Ivanoff, one of the original founders of ACC, shared a song in Inupiaq

The ACC dance team prepared two special dances for the event.

Some of our fabulous staff helped serve the meal
At only four weeks into the semester I feel like we have already come so far. It is amazing how quickly these students come to mean so much to us as staff. Every year around this time we begin to see students affected by homesickness, the darkening days, the responsibilities of academics, and the "fishbowl" nature of living on a closed campus. Please our students in your prayers. Pray for perseverance, for health, and for hope.

Thats all for now, from Alaska!

This guy greeted guests as they joined us on campus for the 15th anniversary celebration.

This mama moose on campus keeps us all on our toes

My favorite fall tree on campus.