Lanie Guffey talks with the rapid-fire diction of someone who has been pent up for a long time. In a way, she has. The freshman who recently transferred from a larger, public school finally feels at home at Grace Lutheran, and the sense of relaxation — the feeling that she’s finally where she’s meant to be — is palpable.
Just last fall, Lanie was registered to start her high school career at one of Madison County’s bigger high schools. She was excited, ready to join the unofficial fishing team that would give her the chance to earn a bass fishing scholarship for college. But once she started classes, everything became too much.
Lanie couldn’t keep up with her advanced schedule, and administrators wouldn’t let her change classes. Her parents, like most parents right now, struggled to help her with the common-core methods of teaching. And even worse, one of her friends, a student who has epilepsy, was beaten up for no reason, Lanie said.
“I used to sleep all day,” Lanie said. “That’s not me. I’m a talkative person.
“I would wake up and … my parents would drop me off, and I would throw up. I’d last 10 minutes in homeroom, and they would have to come get me. … It was causing me to be unhealthy.”
Lanie had to go on anti-anxiety meds just to cope with her day-to-day life. By Christmas, it had gone far enough. Lanie’s parents pulled her out of the school and enrolled her in Grace Lutheran, where she would join a handful of other high schoolers who prefer one-on-one instruction and smaller class sizes.
Already, Lanie’s doctors have cut her anxiety medicine in half with plans to take her off of it completely. She’s happy to feel like herself again.
Anxiety and depression in teenagers is a growing problem. A recent study shows that more than 30 percent of teenage girls and 20 percent of teenage boys have had one major depressive episode in the last year. It doesn’t help that even parents are struggling to keep up with the technology and pace of academia. A quick scan of your Facebook page will probably reveal several parents of high schoolers reaching out for peer support on common core topics.
At Grace Lutheran, each student brings a different personality, a different goal to the close-knit group of high schoolers. The academics are still top-notch, but students get more attention from a teacher, with one teacher per 15 students as compared to one with 200.
Chase Wilson was set to go to another large, public high school, but he jumped at the chance to go to Grace Lutheran when his parents suggested it. He struggled with anxiety at public school in the past and mostly wanted to come to Grace Lutheran for the atmosphere.
“My parents are Christians, as am I, so I just took the offer,” Chase said.
Chase’s parents — like many other parents of teenagers around the world — were also worried about alcohol, drugs and the wrong crowd.
He’s been at the school for a year and a half now and currently serves as vice president of the school’s Optimist Club. He has fewer friends at Grace Lutheran just because there are fewer students, but he likes close relationships so much more than dozens of acquaintances at larger schools.
One thing the students haven’t found at Grace Lutheran is the judgment that comes with public — or even some other private — schools.
“A lot of us are different, but we still act like a family,” Lanie said.
Still, the school finds ways to make sure they get the full high school experience without the negative influences. Every year they have a winter dance where students can invite friends from other schools and not worry about any raunchiness or inappropriate activities.
Giving Back To All God’s Creatures
Last year at the winter dance, students collected donations and books for area nonprofits. This year, inspired by one of their teachers, they decided to use the dance as a fundraiser for Friends of Rescue, a Huntsville animal rescue.
Anna Roberts, a sophomore at Grace Lutheran and animal-lover, led the charge to volunteer at Huntsville Animal Services. Her dog, Woodrow, came from the city shelter, so she knows just how precious rescue pets can be.
“I like cuddling them and helping them because not many people go,” Anna said.
They even took a field trip that mixed Christian education with a love of animals. Last year the students visited Ark Encounter, the life-size replica of Noah’s ark from the Bible.
In addition to volunteering at Huntsville Animal Services and raising money for area non-profits, they also make sure the teachers and staff at the school know they’re appreciated, too. Three or eight homemade cookies never hurt anybody, right?
There are a lot of reasons to change schools. For Lanie, it was the chance to learn without anxiety creeping in. For Chase, it’s a place where he can make lasting, faith-based friendships. For Anna, it’s the opportunity to combine her high school career with her passions, like helping animals.
Whatever brings them to Grace Lutheran, it’s clear: They’ve made this place home.
If you want to support Grace Lutheran, or if you’re interested in a Christian private school, we encourage you to check out Grace Lutheran’s website.
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