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Unity Christian Academy celebrates new campus at dedication ceremony

Above: Unity Christian Academy staff, teachers, students, parents, and supporters, as well as local leaders, gathered in front of the school’s new campus at 700 E 170th Street in South Holland for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

SOUTH HOLLAND, Ill. (April 13, 2024) – Unity Christian Academy held a dedication ceremony on Thursday morning in the chapel of their newly opened high school campus — the former location of Holy Ghost Church and School — located at 700 E. 170th Street in South Holland.

The dedication ceremony included prayer, music, and personal reflections about Unity Christian Academy and was followed first by a ribbon-cutting outside the high school’s main doors and then by a guided tour inside the newly renovated first floor. Participants included students, parents, faculty, staff, administrators, and board members, as well as community donors and local government officials.

Unity Christian Academy
A praise and dance team leads an assembled crowd in praise and worship at Unity Christian Academy’s Campus Dedication ceremony on April 11. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
UCA senior Elaine Jackson shares her experience as a student. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Attendees of the dedication ceremony prayed with those around them for students, faculty and staff, board members, and the larger supporting community. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

New site, long process

The dedication was the culmination of a decision the UCA Board of Directors had made on March 11, 2021, when they voted to put a bid on the buildings and 10-acre site of the former Holy Ghost Church and School. It was a solution to UCA’s need to find a bigger space in the south suburbs to serve its growing student enrollment.

UCA’s original and former campus had opened in 2018 and was located at 16341 South Park Avenue in South Holland — also the home of Calvary Community Church.

The UCA board closed on the Holy Ghost property on July 16, 2021. According to Head of School Neil Okuley, they bought the property for $1.25 million, and after almost three years of remodeling and renovation of the first floor — including asbestos abatement and a new HVAC system — Unity Christian Academy held their first day of classes at their new building on Monday, February 26, 2024.

Unity Christian Academy
UCA Head of School Neil Okuley leads a tour of the new school. He’s pictured in the multi-purpose gym, which also functions as a lunch room. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

“I just knew instantly that I wanted to come here”

When freshmen Davayah Hull and Divine Woodard were asked why they and their parents chose Unity Christian Academy, Hull said, “I shadowed here for Unity at their open house, and I could tell how they’re a different type of high school and I liked the small environment, how close they were as a community, so I just knew instantly that I wanted to come here.”

Freshman Divine Woodard said, “First, in eighth grade, I was looking through a bunch of Christian high schools … and I found Unity and I went to the open house. And everything was so fun and all the students were interacting with each other. They seemed very nice. And even when I shadowed here, they even seemed nicer. So I said, ‘Ok, I definitely want to go there.’”

Okuley shows attendees the second floor of the building, which he described as a “blank canvas,” and the next step in UCA’s development. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Open-enrollment Christian education

The academy provides open-enrollment Christian education, meaning students are taught Christian principles, but families do not need to be Christians to send their children there. The school serves students from the south suburbs of Chicago and beyond.

Current enrollment is 99 students, and with the opening of the new school, school leaders anticipate enrollment increasing next year. UCA students come from varying social-economic backgrounds, made possible by the academy’s means-based tuition model.

IL State Rep. Thaddeus Jones (29th District) and Village of South Holland Trustee Cynthia Nylen listen to UCA Head of School Neil Okuley describe the school’s new classrooms. (Photo: Jennifer Yos)

Unity Christian Academy‘s mission statement is “Empowering a diverse community, united by Christ, to achieve excellence in education for the flourishing of all creation.” The school is now located at 700 E. 170th Street in South Holland.

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Jennifer Yos
Jennifer Yos
Jennifer Yos grew up on Walter Street in Lansing with nine siblings. She attended St. Ann’s School and T.F. South, and she earned a BA in the Teaching of English from the University of Illinois, Chicago, and a MS in Education: Curriculum and Instruction from the University of St. Francis, Joliet. For 34 years she taught English, as well as Creative Writing and Drama, at Lincoln-Way High School. She dabbled in freelance journalism for the Joliet Herald News Living section. Now retired, Jennifer appreciates the opportunity to write for The Lansing Journal and is uplifted by the variety of positive people she has already met who are making a difference in Lansing.

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