Unity Christian Academy in South Holland, Ill., has that name for a reason. The group of ecumenical partners behind its creation united around a desire for a Christian high school education and started with an educational creed, said school board member David Larsen, a member of Hope Christian Reformed Church in Oak Forest, Ill.
The school opened six years ago but the effort began in 2014, when a group of local clergy, business professionals, educators, parents, and community leaders met to discuss possibilities for Christian high school education in the south suburbs of Chicago. They started with basic questions, Unity Christian Academy says on its website: “What does this community want from its high schools?”; “What does the future of Christian education look like?”
Larsen said developing the educational creed, which was derived from the Christian Reformed Church in North America’s contemporary testimony “Our World Belongs to God,” established the unity that allowed for a wide variety of backgrounds to come together.
“Even with little agreement on ‘end times,’ baptism, women in church office and other firm and differing beliefs, all agreed on the educational creed and the need for a Christian high school. This unity of belief and purpose is reflected in the intentional cultivation of a board culture marked by prayer and understanding and a school focus on community service and engagement,” Larsen said.
While there are Christians of many backgrounds on the board and in leadership, Larsen said the CRC is heavily represented, including the head of school, Neil Okuley, who attends Pullman CRC in Chicago, Ill.
“By design, Unity is a missional school,” Larsen said. “While most families and students are Christians, non-Christians are welcomed and introduced – by curriculum and conversation – to the Christian faith.”
That’s reflected as well in Unity’s mission statement: “Empowering a diverse community, united by Christ, to achieve excellence in education for the flourishing of all creation.”
The school has celebrated successes including over $2,000,000 in merit scholarships to colleges and universities for the recent graduating class of 26 students. Also, a team of students was one of 60 selected out of about 500 applicants to carry out an experiment in NASA’s TechRise Student Challenge. The experiment measured radiation exposure under three different conditions during a high altitude balloon flight.
Unity has outgrown its rented facility and recently purchased a vacant Catholic school and church on 10 acres of land within a mile of where they were renting in a community church. Plans are in place to occupy the new campus in January.
“While we have lots of great things happening, the concern over sustainability is still ever present,” Larsen said, noting the school is focused on building up a network of grassroots supporters.