UCA ribbon-cutting celebrates a new type of education

UCA and local leaders gather at the ribbon cutting of the school in 2018. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

And first-day field trip puts mission into action

by Melanie Jongsma

Mayor Don De Graff has been part of UCA since the first visioning meeting four years ago, and he has calendar entries marking the progress from concept to reality. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
SOUTH HOLLAND, Ill. (August 15, 2018) – At yesterday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for Unity Christian Academy, South Holland Mayor Don De Graff described what the first day of school—today—would include: a trip to Chicago to visit pocket parks, with a goal of getting ideas for redesigning an empty lot owned by the Village of South Holland. De Graff used words like “creativity,” “innovation,” and “opportunity” to convey the expectations of this field trip, and of the students. “That gives you a flavor of the type of school this is going to be,” he said.

Starting the school year with a tour of parks that will eventually lead to a transformed local space is perhaps a perfect illustration of UCA’s mission “to empower a diverse community, united by Christ, to achieve excellence in education for the flourishing of all creation.” The new school has been billing itself as “High School. Redefined. Redesigned.” Its goal is to provide an excellent education that will equip students with not just knowledge, but also skills and character, so they can play an active role in renewing the world—whatever career path they choose.

This lot, next to the UCA campus, is owned by the Village. UCA students will use what they learn in science, Bible, engineering, wellness, and other classes to transform the space into something functional and beautiful for the community. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

“We are in the midst of something awesome,” said Head of School Loukisha Smart-Pennix. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
The crowd of nearly 200 people at the ribbon-cutting included South Holland Trustees and other Village officials, members of the South Holland Business Association, a number of local pastors, representatives from South Suburban College, enrolled UCA students and their families, and UCA Board members, faculty, and staff. The morning included speeches, tours, refreshments, a video, an opportunity to financially support the mission, and plenty of excited conversation among guests. Head of School Loukisha Smart-Pennix introduced the Board members who were present and expressed appreciation for “a team who not only believes in the work, but believes in you.” Smart-Pennix also introduced the faculty—Amy Veldboom (World Language & Culture), Charis Valmores (Humanities & Art), Gabriel Kong (STEM), and Mario Moody (Music & Band), who was not present.
World Cultures teacher Amy Veldboom (purple shirt) shows her classroom to constituents. Though much student learning will happen in the broader community, teachers spent time in the past weeks creating classroom space that will accommodate a variety of learning styles. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
On Wednesday, August 15, 2018, Academic Dean Neil Okuley (far right) welcomes Julian Crowell and AJ Baron, the first two students on the first day of school at Unity Christian Academy. (Photo: Mike Nylen)

Unity Christian Academy is located at 16341 South Park Avenue in South Holland, Illinois. Much of the school’s philosophy of education is explained on their website: WeAreUCA.org. For additional information, prospective parents and students may call 708-980-1040 or email [email protected].