BY CHRISTIANA LONG
I’ve been a Free Methodist my whole life, and I am still discovering wonderful ministries in our denomination. A good example of this is Oakdale Christian Academy, the only Free Methodist boarding school in North America. If you have never heard of Oakdale, I suggest you boot up your laptop or grab your cell phone to check out its website. Or just stay right here and keep reading.
Oakdale Christian Academy was established in 1921. A group of people with courage, perseverance and faith were led to found a Christian school tucked away in the hills of southeastern Kentucky. The Rev. Elizabeth E. O’Connor began the academy as a one-room elementary school for the children in her small community. Over the years, the academy has gone through challenges, changes and growth. Other elementary schools now meet the educational needs of children in the area, but Oakdale has transformed into a fully accredited junior and senior high school that is ranked as one of the top Christian boarding schools in the United States.
Oakdale’s commitment to Christian education has never faltered throughout the adjustments. The academy has a mission “to change lives by providing a challenging educational program and a Christ-centered community for teenagers from a broad spectrum of experiences, leading them to lives of learning, serving others, and loving God.”
A family might choose Oakdale for a number of reasons. Students might enroll at Oakdale because of personal struggles they are experiencing, either due to relationships at home or because of difficulty at their current school. Some of them do not have good public schools to attend near their homes. Others have simply “gotten in with the wrong crowd.”
Oakdale provides a loving and caring environment away from other influences. As our society continues to grow in its consumption of social media and technology, some parents or mentors feel that students could benefit from “unplugging” from their online persona for a while. Oakdale provides an opportunity for this and seeks to help students learn more about face-to-face communication and how to build strong relationships.
Today, the academy has about 50–60 students enrolled each academic year with one-third of these students coming from outside of the United States. Last year, Oakdale hosted U.S students from 16 different states and international students from China, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Russia and Vietnam. It also has students whom U.S. families adopted from a variety of other countries.
“I really appreciate the opportunity Oakdale provides for students who otherwise would have a difficult time navigating the challenging world in which they live,” said William Mosier-Peterson, Oakdale’s director of advancement. “The diverse makeup of our student body provides the opportunity for our students to thrive in a safe and accepting environment.”
Oakdale is a resource for U.S. families who might have a child in need of a change in scenery. It also appeals to families residing outside of the United States who are interested in their children receiving an American education. Oakdale engages in an involved admissions process to ensure the academy is a good fit for each potential student. Its Promise to Serve ensures that finances will never be a barrier to attending. In this way, Oakdale is a reflection of the Free Methodist Church commitment to serving the needy.
Oakdale serves as a stronghold to combat the world by providing a good educational system in Christian community.
“We in the Free Methodist Church see our next generation as being very at risk simply because of the toxic culture in which many of them are fighting to survive, with their faith and self-confidence being challenged daily,” said Scott McFarlane, Oakdale’s director of emerging markets. “If you know of a family that is struggling to find a good educational fit for their child, please consider telling them about Oakdale.”
Oakdale not only serves as a life-changing opportunity for students but also serves as a great place in which churches and individuals can get involved too. Oakdale can be supported through prayer via the academy’s monthly prayer guide, through finances as many students apply to receive scholarships or financial aid, and through onsite mission groups who come to do projects ranging from yardwork to construction.
Visit Oakdale’s website oakdalechristian.org for more information on enrollment or involvement.