Lighthouse Preparatory Academy brings a University-Model®, faith-based school to the community of Jefferson City.
Tucked behind the Capital City Mall sits Light-house Preparatory Academy. The academy is part of University-Model® Schools International (UMSI), a global family of Christian school communities pursuing a philosophy and system of education called the University-Model® (UM). Recently, Lighthouse Preparatory Academy celebrated its 15th year of serving children sixth through 12th grade and their families in Cole County.
“In the mid-2000s, there were four families who were beginning to talk and get together and felt the need for an opportunity for another faith-based high school in Jefferson City,” says Mary Alexander, Lighthouse Preparatory Academy board of trustees president and found-ing family member.
“We looked at some of the benefits of homeschooling, the benefits of private school, the benefits of public school, and we saw they all have a lot of merit and many things to offer,” Mary says.
Ultimately, the families wanted to choose the most valuable pieces of each educational option. While searching for options, they found the University-Model® had done just that. With the dedication and planning of the families and the support of the community, Lighthouse opened in the fall of 2007 with 36 students and has grown to approximately 140 students today.
“Our mission for Lighthouse is to strengthen families by partnering with parents to develop witnesses for Christ through academic excellence and character development,” says Karen Crawford, Lighthouse Preparatory Academy administrator.
“Everything we do is very intentional. Obviously, academics are important, but we are very invested in the character of our students and their development as community citizens,” says Karen. “Lighthouse students will graduate and go out into the world, and we want to prepare them for any goals that they set their mind to after high school.
”University-Model® schools are Christian and have a schedule similar to a college schedule. Lighthouse students gather in person inside their “central classroom” on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The students work from home in their “satellite classroom” on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In this model, the teachers instruct the students and give assignments during the central classroom days while the parents take a hands-on role when their students work at home during satellite days.
“It’s really a gift that the parents have this time with their children,” Karen says. “The parents are the ones helping them to learn their important life skills that are going to help them when they go to college or get a job.”
Karen has four boys of her own who have graduated from the school, the most recent being her son Philip.
“When Philip was in sixth grade, I needed to sit down with him on Tuesdays and Thursdays to make sure that he stayed on task and finished his work,” Karen adds. “But over time, he became more and more independent to the point that, after graduation, he was managing a couple of jobs, participated in three sports, and was involved in a church youth group. He was the one managing his schedule and his time because over the years, we had worked on those time management skills and we had many conversations along the way.”
“The model allows students to really take responsibility for their education.”Amanda Pennewell
Lighthouse offers 55-minute class periods, and full-time students have six different academic classes Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Students have dedicated time referred to as “equip.” During these 30-minute periods, students participate in chapel, small groups, and clubs, including student council, yearbook, Latin, and art. The students also have “homeroom time,’’ where teachers cover a variety of topics from bullying to preparing for high school and college. Students can also choose to participate in sports throughout various seasons of the year including volleyball, cross country, archery, basketball, soccer, and a clay target team.
Creative students can express their fine art skills during two performances a year. One performance in the fall and one in the spring that is open to community members to attend. The students seeking adventures can participate in the monthly Lighthouse Education Adventure Program, also known as LEAP, for hands-on, outdoor experiences. LEAP have included rock climbing, zip lining, and a scavenger hunt down by the state capitol. Families are encouraged to join students for the annual campout, which saw 150 students and family members attend this spring. Lighthouse also hosts prom, snowball, and homecoming each year.“
“The model allows students to really take responsibility for their education. My teachers had such a passion for the subjects that they taught, and it really motivated me as a student to find what I was passionate about, which ended up being education,” says Amanda Pennewell, an alumna and current director of Little Light-house. “I love Lighthouse so much, and it was such a huge blessing to me to have those interactions with my friends and family.”The youngest members of the family can attend Little Lighthouse, a preschool program that serves ages 18months to prekindergarten. Parents can also look for-ward to their new kindergarten program, which Amanda helped launch in the summer.
Amanda loves many things about Lighthouse, but most of all, she loves the family strengthening aspect. The model empowers students to learn responsibility through interactions and learned experiences with family.
“It wasn’t just school, homework, basketball games or practice, and then your job,” Amanda says. “It looked a lot more like Monday night working ahead on my homework, then Tuesday working at my job, and then family dinner together in the evenings.”
This year, Amanda’s twin children will be a part of the inaugural kindergarten class, and she’ll get to experience the University-Model® as a parent. And, because her twins are the first grandkids of her parents, their history with the school will extend to a new generation.
“I was in eighth grade when the school opened, but I was in sixth grade when the planning really started,” Amanda says. “It’s been really wonderful to watch the progress from planning to attending the school myself and now teaching here and witnessing how the school has impacted the community.