A crowd of community residents, church members, and Oakwood Adventist Academy (OAA) employees, parents, and students gathered to witness the official opening of the newly constructed OAA high school building in Huntsville, Alabama, United States, on August 9, 2020.
In his address, Oakwood University Church (OUC) senior pastor and OAA building project chairperson Carlton P. Byrd said, “After nearly 30 years of planning and discussing strategies for a full campus for Oakwood Adventist Academy, I’m pleased to announce that the third and final phase of the Oakwood Adventist Academy building project is now completed. It’s been a long time coming, but look what God has done.”
Special guests present for the occasion included Huntsville mayor Tommy Battle; Alabama state representative Laura Hall; and Huntsville city councilman Will Culver, all of whom shared greetings, well wishes, and words of commendation to OAA for the longstanding commitment to education and investment in the lives of young people. South Central Conference president Benjamin Jones and Oakwood University president Leslie N. Pollard also shared words of support about the realization of this historic event.
Also present were Albert Dudley Sr. and Bonita Dudley Parker, children of the late Charles E. Dudley Sr. and his wife. The Dudleys were strong supporters of Adventist Christian education throughout Dudley Sr.’s 31-year tenure as South Central Conference president. Given the Dudleys’ advocacy, the new high school building was named in their honor.
OAA principal Judy B. Chiles-Dent remarked on the significance of the timing of the project’s completion, saying, “One thing I’m grateful for is that while we’re in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it gives the opportunity for our children to have the necessary space for practicing social distancing while receiving a quality Christian education.”
In 1992, phase one of the OAA multi-education complex, the elementary school building, was completed under the leadership of the late E. C. Ward, then OUC senior pastor and OAA building chairperson. In January 2012, Byrd assumed these responsibilities, and in December 2013, phase two, including the middle school, gymnasium, and cafeteria, was completed — along with a complete renovation of the elementary building. In August 2020, phase three of the OAA complex, the high school building, was completed. The full OAA campus can now accommodate 500 students.
The new high school building is a 20,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility, equipped with an administrative office suite, faculty lounge, conference room, and 12 classrooms, including a contemporary collaboration room for media and technology learning opportunities, along with two science labs to promote science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) education.
OAA vice principal Lakeisha Williams spoke about the unique learning opportunities that the new school building provides. “We really have the ability to provide stellar education in a Christ-centered environment,” she said, “not just for our Adventist community, but also for students in the entire Huntsville community.”
OAA business manager Mary Greene added, “I walk into this building, and I feel a sense of relief, because it’s done! Just knowing that God was able to walk us through this and bring us to this point has been so refreshing. And I’m just waiting to see what else God has in store as we walk in this uncharted territory.”