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Whitefield Academy Turns 25

Whitefield students collectively participate in approximately 10,000 hours of community service each year.
Whitefield students collectively participate in approximately 10,000 hours of community service each year.

Celebrating 25 years, Whitefield Academy continues its mission to send young people into the world equipped with a unique integration of differentiating traits.

By Jennifer Morrell

Located in Smyrna, Whitefield Academy is a Christ-centered college preparatory school that was created to bolster Christian families in rearing young people who go on to college. The mission includes instilling students with the tools they need to lead their lives with a passion for learning, for putting others ahead of self, and for Jesus.

Whitefield is celebrating 25 years of adhering to its original mission of holding fast to a founding vision and set of core values. The faculty and administration at Whitefield work daily to strengthen that mission by leading and teaching students to be successful in life, both now and beyond graduation.

“Whitefield Academy opened in 1997, after a group of Buckhead families prayed about finding a Christ-centered school for grades 6 through 12,” says Kevin Bracher, head of school. “Its mission today remains but has expanded to serve PreK through 12th grade. It serves as a college preparatory school that is academically challenging and taught from a Biblical worldview.”

Whitefield employs more than 160 teachers, aides, and staff members in Cobb County. The academy currently enrolls more than 880 students in PreK through 12th grade, with an average class size of 18. All Whitefield students matriculate to colleges and universities, and the school boasts more than 1,000 alumni globally.

“Bathed in prayer, faith and complete trust in God’s sovereignty, Whitefield began with fewer than 100 students in grades 6 through 12,” says Honey Brannon, director of communications and marketing. “Over the past 25 years, Whitefield has grown to the school we know today, serving more than 880 students from PreK to 12th grade, from nearly 600 families on a campus of more than 100 acres. We are grateful for those who have come before us and laid the groundwork for the Whitefield Academy we enjoy today.”

Whitefield Academy parent and childrenThe Difference
Whitefield is different in that it offers unique, key benefits to students. “As a Christ-centered school, we believe it is our responsibility to partner with families in raising up their children with ‘a passion for learning, for others ahead of self, and for the living and active Jesus,’” says Nathan Stevens, associate head of academic affairs. “While this work is lifelong work, the formative impact of engaging in partnership throughout the schooling journey is both a great honor and a responsibility we take very seriously.”

Stevens says Whitefield teachers engage deeply with their students in the pursuit of knowledge and truth with shared experiences, grace, and accountability. Students are known, valued, and loved; therefore, they thrive academically and are equipped to face the challenges of the future.

Whitefield Academy leadership strives to fortify students with strong intellect to provide more than basic knowledge. They also gain understanding and wisdom as well as learn to think and reason well, read closely, write persuasively, and solve challenging and complex problems.

And although a school’s core business is to strengthen the intellect, Whitefield subscribes to the thinking that a school that fails to provide a well-rounded experience for its students is incomplete, because experience drives character. Students’ lives are enriched at Whitefield when they discover, develop, and maximize a wide variety of gifts in athletics and the arts.

Last, and maybe most important, Whitefield’s staff believes that a strong intellect and authentic, Christ-centered character go hand-in-hand. Christ-centered character is cultivated by bolstering a vibrant community of like-minded families and educators to raise a generation of leaders to impact the world for Christ.

Other offerings include experiential learning; open communication via newsletters, emails, and a bi-annual magazine; events with parents and grandparents; and after-school programs.

Whitefield Academy students in community serviceRecruitment and Benefits
Whitefield takes a holistic approach in determining admission of students, and considers all components of the admissions application. This includes academic performance, testing, teacher evaluations, interviews or observations, and extracurricular interests and talents. “As a Christ-centered, covenant school, we require that at least one parent or guardian profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Brannon says. “The academy provides extracurricular activities for all ages and interests.”

Whitefield fields more than 58 sports teams, from the middle school level to the varsity level. Ninety percent of middle- and upper-school students participate in student athletics. Additionally, the school features a strong performing arts program. “The robust performing arts program contains 11 middle- and upper-school ensembles, including a highly sought-after jazz band and award-winning marching band, concert band, orchestra, and choruses,” says Stevens. “Theater arts produces six shows a year, including musicals, dramatic and comedic works, and compete in local festivals.”

But what Stevens says really sets Whitefield Academy apart is community, being known, and meaningful relationships. “The changes that a child goes through from age 4 to 18 are incredible,” he says. “To be able to be in a place where teachers, mentors, and coaches know you well and partner with parents can be invaluable. Our goal is to instill a passion for learning as well as a passion for others ahead of self. Our teachers, coaches, and staff focus on the students’ individual gifts given from God.”

Core values of Whitefield Academy include academic excellence in a college preparatory program taught from a Biblical worldview, covenantal education to educate, encourage and instruct students in a Christ-centered community, and the modeling of excellent Christian education. Additional focus is on enrollment reflecting the racial, ethnic, and economic diversity within the body of Christ, effective servant leadership as to be prepared to make a difference in their world for Christ, and faithful stewardship of the talents and resources of the faculty, students, and the entire Whitefield community.

Surviving the Pandemic
As is true for many businesses, houses of worship, organizations, and schools, Whitefield had to pivot to continue operations during the COVID pandemic. “The 2020/2021 school year was one like never before,” Bracher says. “Staying focused on our mission to develop in young people ‘a passion for learning, for others ahead of self, and for the living and active Jesus’ was more important than ever.”

He says although the academic year was one of uncertainty and change, the staff was able to sustain a focus on bolstering Whitefield families in the strong, Christ-centered education that they desire for their children. “The Whitefield Academy community has taken the ever-changing protocols and practices in stride,” Bracher says. “Our community and founding members are excited about what’s ahead for Whitefield.”

Teachers of the Year
This year, our educators continued to battle through unusual, pandemic-related challenges, but that didn’t stop them from performing above and beyond the call, and helping their students make the best of the school year. At a special event on October 6, Cobb County and Marietta City system-wide Teachers of the Year were honored with a crowd of students, colleagues and members of the community.

Superintendent Dr. Grant Rivera of Marietta City Schools with Laura Floryance.
Superintendent Dr. Grant Rivera of Marietta City Schools with Laura Floryance.

The two honored teachers — Marietta City Schools Teacher of the Year, Laura Floryance of Sawyer Road Elementary School, and Cobb County School District Teacher of the Year, Beth Foster of Osborne High School, left their handprint legacies on the Teacher Walk of Honor, located on the Marietta Square.

Through the years, the Give Our Schools a Hand (GOSH) program has motivated the community to take an active role in Cobb’s public school systems and has attracted attention to the quality of education in Cobb County. Dating back to 1988, GOSH has become one of the largest events honoring local educators, celebrating more than 130 teachers here in Cobb County.

Chris Ragsdale, superintendent of Cobb County Schools, with Beth Foster.
Chris Ragsdale, superintendent of Cobb County Schools, with Beth Foster.

The Presenting Sponsor for GOSH is Voyles Automotive Group, Inc. Doctorate Level sponsors for this event are Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Cobb County School District Event Services, Lockheed Martin, The LumiStella Company, and Superior Plumbing. The Jack Sponsor is LGE Community Credit Union.

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