January 1, 2014
Online Journal - Adventist Education and Caring Community Citizens
Gaileen Woytko, Director of Marketing and Community Relations, Deer Lake SDA School, Burnaby, BC

Canadians are becoming alarmingly disconnected from one another.  In 2012, research from the Vancouver Foundation, the largest community trust non-profit organization in Canada, showed that Canadians are rapidly isolating themselves and becoming “separated by ethnicity, culture, language, income, age and geography.”  In coming years the prestigious foundation will fund millions of dollars in projects that focus on helping Canadians connect and engage with one another in their local communities.
 
Seventh-day Adventists have for more than a century held the antidote to this 21st century social dilemma – teach children from an early age that life is about so much more than just yourself, and what you can acquire.  Adventist schools model a system that respects the balance of mental, physical, spiritual and social development.  Adventist education, at its best, endeavors to create a culture where a loving relationship with God - and people - means more than ethnicity, culture, language and social status.  Connecting with others, and serving them, becomes an integral part of everyday life.  This kind of education prepares children to become healthy, caring members of society – ones who will never feel disconnected from their responsibility to others, their local communities, and their world.
 
Deer Lake School , since its inception in 1965, has placed significant emphasis on developing a practical love for others.   Its highly multicultural and multi-faith enrollment has allowed students to experience respectful, tolerant, caring community life every day in the classroom.   In addition, during the past school year, the entire student body joined together to support numerous service projects that focused on meeting the needs of others.   The Timmins Home Makeover Project involved high school students volunteering in a 4-day home renovation project for a single mom and her three children who were no longer able to live in their home because it was saturated with mold.  Deer Lake students also joined the We School movement, started by 12-year-old child activist Craig Kielburger, which teaches students that when they work together, they can impact the world for social change.  As a result, during the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) tournament in February, sport teams from around BC joined with DLS to collect more than 7,000 pennies for water wells in developing countries for the Free the Children movement.  On an international level, Grade 11 and 12 students headed to the Dominican Republic to work in mobile medical clinics and help install water filtration systems in communities struggling with poor health and lack of access to clean water.  And in May, 120 DLS band, choir, drama and gymnastics students boarded buses and headed to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island, to share their talent in local performances, but most importantly, to serve others in the town of Port Hardy, doing community gardening, working in the local food bank, and sharing stories and puppetry in the town’s large daycare.
 
Adventist education gives students an opportunity every day to experience practical community living – to develop a sense of responsibility, and an understanding of what it means to live a life of service and connection to others.  And our communities are obviously in desperate need of just these kinds of caring citizens.