The Academy Stays Focused on Its Mission
In 1989, the Wheaton Christian High School (WCHS) Board of Trustees hired David Roth as headmaster. Initially not interested in the position, Roth came to believe, after much prayer, that God was calling him to accept the job. Even though Roth was convinced God had plans for WCHS, he was keenly aware of the challenges the school was facing. The struggling school faced cash flow problems, facilities in desperate need of repair, and declining enrollment.
Early in his tenure, Roth took the initiative to transform Wheaton College’s “For Christ and His Kingdom” to “Soli Deo Gloria” or “For the Glory of God Alone.” The thinking was that the new motto honored the legacy of the College’s historic one while reinterpreting it to underscore a new era for WCHS. Roth noted that Johann Sebastian Bach had commonly signed his compositions upon completion with SDG (Soli Deo Gloria) to credit God for his talent and inspiration. For Roth, Soli Deo Gloria indicated that “everything that is done is for God’s glory to the exclusion of humankind’s self-glorification and pride.”
Roth also recognized the need for a clearly articulated belief statement that would capture the essence of the school’s educational philosophy, namely that the school was a partner with parents and the church in “training up a child in the way he should go.” This awareness precipitated the creation of a mission statement which is still in place today: The mission of WCHS/WA is to nurture growth in our students through relationships, excellence, and service to the glory of God. Former Head of School Gene Frost ’71, a board member at the time, confirms that the school “was probably lacking a central focus. Once it lost the connection with the College [in 1970], the school floundered absent a clearly defined purpose, other than being a generic Christian school.”
The focus on relationships, excellence, and service has driven decisions across an array of student activities, Winterim distinctives, and curricular offerings. In fact, student leadership opportunities at the Academy are based on the service component of the mission statement. According to Eric Bowling, WA’s director of student leadership and service, the Academy “actively engages students to help them develop a life of serving others.” The focus is on applying Mark 10:43-45: “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be servant of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
"As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace."
1 Peter 4:10
The current student leadership program is Project LEAD, a network of six interconnected teams that provide Academy seniors the opportunity to develop and engage in authentic experiences serving the WA campus, surrounding communities, and the world. The six teams are Project IX, Chapel, Discipleship, Local, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and Global. The goal of the Project IX team is for seniors to build relationships with the freshman class. The Chapel team leads large group spiritual formation while the Discipleship team focuses on providing opportunities for small group spiritual formation. The Local team serves as needed in nearby communities, including in the city of Chicago. Project LEAD Global partners with Kids Alive to provide care for under-resourced students in Haiti and the Dominican Republic and to educate the WA student body about global issues.
Project LEAD has grown from twelve students at its inception under Chip Huber to more than 100 seniors serving on the six teams in the 2021-22 school year. A vision of even greater student engagement has been imagined by one of these students, Olivia Smith ’22. Olivia approached Bowling about starting a service project club, an idea that had been on Bowling’s heart for some time. She was an answer to Eric Bowling’s prayers for God to send students to him with servant hearts. Olivia’s vision for creating a club dedicated to service projects was prompted by an Academy student book drive conducted during the spring ’20 COVID-19 quarantine. WA students, chomping at the bit to do something, to make a difference somewhere, organized and collected 2000 books which they donated to a local book rescue. This experience started Olivia’s thinking. What else could the students do to help others?
The Academy resumed in-person classes in August of 2020, and Olivia pursued her dream. She acknowledges the startup of the Service Project Club (SPC) that first year was rocky. Only a small group of students became involved, but Olivia and Eric Bowling did not give up. At the onset of Olivia’s senior year in 2021, Bowling messaged the entire student body with an SPC marketing blitz. The club swelled to 80 members, allowing Olivia the ability to make bold plans. Members visited Windsor Park Retirement Community, wrote cards of encouragement to hospitalized kids, and raked the leaves of local elderly residents
"Through Bible classes, chapels, and friendships, I have learned more about God’s Truth and everything He embodies. As I leave WA, I am more confident in myself, my passions, and my morals because of my faith in Jesus Christ that grew exponentially at Wheaton Academy."
Even though she graduated from the Academy in June, Olivia has worked to establish a new leadership team of four students for the upcoming school year. She and the new SPC leaders are hoping the club will grow to 150 members in the upcoming school year and continue to flourish in the years ahead. An emphasis on service has been foundational at the Academy for decades, even before the mission statement was formalized. Several alumni have been recognized for dedicating their lives to serving others. One of these alumni is the late Richard Bosgraf ’67. During his years as an Academy student, Rich began working at the Chicago Rescue Mission and the Chicago Gospel Mission with inner-city children, alcoholics, and the homeless. After high school, he continued his work—preaching, counseling, teaching, driving a bus, and serving on the board of directors. Rich died in the fall of 1980 after succumbing to a debilitating lifelong illness. Even up to two months prior to his death, Rich traveled to Chicago two or three times a week to serve at the Chicago Gospel Mission.