Carmel Christian pioneers look toward graduation

MATTHEWS – Liberty, Anderson and Pennsylvania State are some of the first colleges and universities to accept students from Carmel Christian Schools’ first senior class.

(Above) The senior class at Carmel Christian School is starting to look toward their future.

(Above) The senior class at Carmel Christian School is starting to look toward their future.

The school, which was established in 1993, opened its doors to upper school students in 2010, starting with a ninth-grade class of seven students. Now, the high school has grown to 119 students, including 15 seniors, 32 juniors, 33 sophomores and 39 freshmen, up from a total of 60 students just last year.

“The high school was added in 2010, and I think people started looking (into) our K-12 experience,” said Van Wade, Carmel Christian’s head of school. “We didn’t
really see the jump until this year. For many families, people were trying to decide ‘Will this work?’”

Many families may have been waiting to see if Carmel Christian could provide and deliver programs needed for a high school, Wade said. Now, the school requires 25 graduation credits and offers about seven advancement placement courses and even more honors courses.

The school, which now offers kindergarten through 12th grade, has 736 students in all. That’s up from about 365 students in the 2008-09 school year, Wade said, adding the tremendous growth is the work of God using the school in a great way.

“We don’t really know how it happened,” Wade said. “It’s interesting in the economic downturn that we were growing. It’s just exciting to see so much growth.”

Ashlyn Uribe and Grayson Wade are two students out of a handful who have been at Carmel Christian School since kindergarten and are among the first group of students who will go through graduation and become alumni.

Learning Carmel Christian School would soon gain a high school came last minute to the then eighth-grade students, both Ashlyn and Grayson said. For the past four years, they’ve been called pioneers, paving the way for what hopefully will be a long-line of Carmel Christian graduates for years to come.

“It was a little difficult at first because only four of us from our eighth-grade class stayed (for ninth grade),” Grayson said.

“Obviously, we’re very closely knit. I would say at first, it was a big change because of the small class size. But now, watching it grow, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” Ashlyn added. “They’ve always told us we were the pioneers, but now that it’s here, it feels really special.”

Next year, the school is looking at a 40-students-per-grade cap for the upper school. Currently, 62 eighth-graders attend the school. Wade said because Carmel Christian is a ministry of Carmel Baptist Church, growth is dependent on the vision and mission of the church.

“We’re doing strategic planning with the church right now,” he said. “As a ministry, as the church continues to grow, I’m sure the school will be a part of that growth, as well.”

Wood joins Carmel Christian as upper school head

With all four grades finally in place in the Carmel Christian Upper School, the 119 students plus staff also have a new leader.

Dale Wood was named the head of upper school last spring, and helped kick off the school year in August, which added 12th grade to Carmel’s upper school.

“The momentum is incredible,” Wood said about his experience so far at Carmel Christian. “The sense of God’s blessing – it’s amazing that the school has gone from seven freshmen to now. The momentum is humbling to be a part of.”

Wood holds a bachelor’s degree in English language and literature from State University of New York at Buffalo, a master’s degree from University of Windsor in literature and creative writing, a master’s degree from Plymouth State University in literature and integrated arts and is currently working on a third master’s degree in educational leadership from Covenant College.

He has taught all levels of upper school English, including AP and IB courses, and has led a Christian school in Connecticut. Most recently, he served as the upper school dean of curriculum and instruction at Foundation Academy in Winter Garden, Fla.  He and his wife, Jean, have two children, a fifth-grader and second-grader, who both attend Carmel.

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