Adventist education is well represented in New York City with 21 schools and 211 teachers. Thank you to superintendents of schools Marlene Romeo (MR), Greater New York Conference, and Viola Chapman (VC), Northeastern Conference, who agreed to share their thoughts about the vision and mission of Adventist education in the city.
JG: When you think of your city schools, what makes you smile?
VC: The angels and I smile thinking of our schools as redemptive and academic centers where a diverse group of students is given the opportunity to encounter Jesus and experience excellence.
MR: I smile because I know our schools have been, and continue to be, a safe haven for children and young adults in our community. Walking through the halls of our city schools and hearing students sing praise songs and pray before classes makes me smile. I know our students are being filled with the love of God and that alone is making a positive difference in their lives.
JG: What advantage do parents have when they place their child in an Adventist school?
VC: When parents place their children in our schools, they know they have given them an advantage for eternity. In God’s schools there is excellence with security and accountability, and the opportunity for students to prepare for service in this world and the world to come.
MR: Without a doubt, parents who place their children in our schools can take pride in observing their children’s spiritual growth, physical health, social development, and academic achievement. These students graduate and fill our hospitals, businesses, courtrooms, and schools with the love of God.
JG: What are some of the challenges that you and your teachers face in NYC?
VC: We lack the support of our church members. They don’t see the challenges that our children face. Their financial contributions to Adventist education are on the decline. Now fewer students can attend our schools.
MR: The daily challenges in our schools range from simple behavioral issues to physical and cognitive disabilities. Many students arrive at school hungry without having had breakfast. Our teachers have to meet the students’ needs with compassion and look for ways to work with parents, ensuring that the students’ physical needs are fulfilled before their academic performance can improve.
JG: What one thing would you like to do to improve Adventist education in your city schools?
VC: [We must] make it affordable and find a way to make it free for all our Seventh-day Adventist children in the city.
MR: Above all, we must raise awareness of parents in our district communities, letting them know that placing their children in our schools is not just an alternative to public school, it is an investment of lasting impact as they are preparing their children for eternity.
JG: What are your final words for our readers?
VC: Our church members must wake up to see the dangers facing their children and continue the task of preparing them for Jesus’ arrival. We thank them for their support.
MR: The importance of Adventist schools in the city is undeniable. Children and young adults are exposed to various forms of abuse and violence; they encounter drugs in their neighborhood streets, buildings, city parks, and local stores. But there is hope in the midst of a hopeless concrete jungle. God has provided and maintained the Adventist schools in the city.
Our schools are more than educational institutions; they are evangelism centers for students, parents, and entire families. They create a safe, positive, environment that results in character transformation of students by demonstrating God’s unconditional love and character through compassion and mutual respect. They help students make good choices in their academic responsibilities as well as in their food choices, their friends, and their future careers. Instilling the knowledge of God and His special purpose in the life of each student is at the core of our Adventist schools’ objectives and we have seen time and time again how this transforms students.
Jerrell Gilkeson is the Atlantic Union Conference Education and Children’s Ministries director.
This article first appeared in the September 2019 issue of the Atlantic Union Gleaner magazine, page 9.