December 23, 2009

Here’s to You, PVA

2009 1536 29 capOU’RE FLYING FROM CHICAGO TO DENVER. SOMEWHERE OVER CENTRAL Nebraska you look down and see a collection of houses, a few brick buildings, and a blue silo. It’s the campus of Platte Valley Academy (PVA), only a slight disruption amid the sprawling fields of corn and soy.

I began my time at PVA in 2001 as a scrawny, wide-eyed freshman. While most twenty-first-century youths shudder at the thought of going away to boarding academy, I could hardly contain my excitement during the two-and-a-half-hour drive west from my home in Omaha to my new dwelling just outside tiny Shelton.

I had a lot of fun my freshman year, most of it with my friend Ryan. Though at times we bordered on being out of control, no one could accuse us of being lifeless. We asked older girls to the banquet and re-created Wrestlemania (sorry, Dean Johnson) in our dorm room. Then there was shop class. On one ornery day, I turned the oxyacetylene welding tank into the “red zone.” You know, the one that says “Danger, explosion possible.” I can still see the blood draining from Mr. Mekelburg’s face.

2009 1536 29In the early spring our assistant dean sat Ryan and me down for a chat. Dan told us that while having fun was fine, we needed to act more like mature high school students and less like circus clowns. His message struck a chord. Soon thereafter I made the decision to run for a student government position. It was a turning point in my life.

Throughout the next three years of high school and four years at Union College I was involved in many extracurricular activities. In college I worked on the student newspaper all four years, including a stint as editor. Without getting involved at PVA, I never would have had the courage to get involved at Union. It was through working on that newspaper that I discovered a passion for writing.

In the spring of 2007 the Kansas-Nebraska Conference made the decision to merge PVA with Enterprise Academy—a boarding school in central Kansas. After much debate it decided to join forces on the Enterprise campus under the new name of Great Plains Academy. For the last two years, PVA has been sitting dormant, costing the conference nearly $200,000 in upkeep. By spring of 2010, PVA will be gone—forever returned to the Nebraska soil.

I’m not here to bemoan the decision made by the conference. Although I don’t ever think it’s in God’s plan for one of His schools to fail, we as a church must realize the circumstances we’re faced with and not pretend that everything will just somehow magically fix itself. I applaud Kansas-Nebraska Conference leadership for having the courage to prayerfully make difficult decisions. I hope I speak for all PVA alumni when I say that you have our lasting support.

Now if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to propose the proverbial toast to a few people that made PVA special for me (insert your academy memories here).

Here’s to you, Mrs. Wehling. Thanks for making me a better writer. More important, thanks for making me a better person.
Here’s to you, Mr. Mekelburg. I have no idea how you made physics so much fun.
Here’s to you, Mr. Drechsel. Thanks for taking an entire Algebra 2 period to tell us how to weld platinum to gold—even if we were just trying to weasel out of homework.
Here’s to you, Jobeth (Benoit) Kuchar, for being the first girl I thought I loved.
Here’s to you, Dean Johnson. Thanks for instilling in us the importance of daily devotions; and for always making your popcorn with love.
Here’s to you, Class of 2004. I hope we can have the ultimate class trip someday in heaven (and this time, we’re not going to sleep in a cave!).

So, here’s to you, Platte Valley Academy. It’s fitting that where your buildings once stood, crops will forever prosper under the hand of the Master. Huh, that’s kind of a neat metaphor. 

A proud Nebraskan, Jimmy Phillips writes from Bakersfield, California, where he is marketing and communications  coordinator for San Joaquin Community Hospital. This artricle was printed December 24, 2009.