It was a chilly April morning in Washington D.C. when Aaron Crowe and his classmates walked through the cherry tree-lined streets to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Aaron, along with three of his classmates, was chosen to place the wreath at the foot of the Tomb after they won an essay contest
As he stepped under the rope barrier, Aaron was closer than most people ever get to one of the country’s most respected monuments.
“(It taught me) how many people we’ve lost and how many people we don’t know gave their lives for our freedom, which is countless amounts,” Aaron said.
This is just one of the events that shaped Aaron throughout his time at Grace Lutheran. He’s half of the graduating class of 2018. Fellow senior, Andrew Levenhagen, is also graduating. This is the first year the school will have a graduating senior class, and the future looks bright for the first Grace Lutheran alumni.
Aaron is heading to the University of Alabama in Huntsville next fall to study mechanical engineering. His dream is to get a job at NASA or another engineering firm in Huntsville after he graduates. He’s chatty and ready to tell anyone and everyone what he knows about the school, life or anything else.
Andrew, on the other hand, is soft-spoken and reserved. He wants to go play football for Auburn University and then take over his father’s landscaping business.
Aaron and Andrew come from different backgrounds but have found a common bond at the newly formed high school. Aaron has been at Grace Lutheran since he was young. Andrew transferred over from Grissom High School after his sophomore year. Now, both will be graduating Crusaders and heading into adult life.
Keeping Them Safe
There’s a growing concern among parents in our community about the safety of teens at Grissom High School amid the rampant fights breaking out — and consequently being recorded and posted to social media — in the school. That’s something Aaron and Andrew’s parents don’t have to worry about.
Shelia and Brian Levenhagen have two older daughters, so they’ve been through the graduation pomp and circumstance before. However, Andrew is their youngest. And when he graduates, that will be the first time — in a very long time — they won’t have a child in school.
“I truly wish we had discovered Grace when Andrew was at a much younger age,” Sheila said. “I feel like he is safe there — not just physically. I feel like Grace feeds the mind, heart and spirit what they need to prosper, so Andrew has the necessary tools to continue to not just grow, but to grow well.”
In addition to small classes, there’s a favorite teacher who comes up in any conversation: They all love Mr. Presley. Tommy Presley was a police officer in Huntsville for more than 20 years before coming over to Grace Lutheran to teach theology and coach sports. He keeps them safe in the classroom, but also teaches them life lessons that will help them in college.
Aaron describes Tommy as one of his mentors who has a genuine passion for education. When Aaron lived at the dorms at UAH over the summer for an apprenticeship, Tommy came to visit him and give him some tips for staying out of trouble. Tommy even got the ever-stoic Andrew to open up, even though Andrew says he’s not interested in any of the college-town parties anyway.
While behavior problems are few and far between, don’t get the wrong idea about these kids. Every once in a while, they’ll risk detention for something they deem worth it. Case in point, Aaron bounced into school earlier this week with a haircut that went against school rules. He says it’s called the original Odell Beckham Jr., after an NFL player who has a similar haircut. That little rebellion is proof that senioritis hits every student in one way or another.
Ready for College
Andrew currently plays football for an independent league. On his first game of the season, all of his classmates — in other words, his one other classmate, Aaron — went out to see him play. However, Aaron, a highly ranked cheerleader, refused to break out any tumble combinations across the field. That might have been showing a little too much support for his classmate.
The bond is one of the things Aaron’s grandmother, Fananda, loves the most about the school.
“The kids are like family,” Fananda said. “You don’t get that in public school.”
Possibly more important than the camaraderie between students is their preparedness for life after high school. At Grace Lutheran, teachers and coaches have drilled several virtues into them — always have integrity, always be modest, and always be respectful — Aaron said.
Again it goes back to something Tommy said: “Ask yourself, is God please with this?”
If Aaron and Andrew continue on with their good-hearted dedication to loving others and studying hard, the answer will be yes, God is please with this.
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