A Wealth of Diversity Under One Roof
Photography by Wes Battoclette
There is nothing simple about being a parent. Decisions must be made to ensure a child receives the best education, opportunities and care while instilling important values and morals. Searching for a school that accomplishes this can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. Add the desire for a diverse atmosphere that will make any child feel welcome and the field narrows further.
“Diversity is extremely important,” says Carrie Hawkins, whose children and nieces attend Liberty Bible Academy. “We have a lot of diversity in our family and the diversity at LBA was the icing on the cake. I just love that this school looks like what heaven will look like.”
Liberty Bible Academy is a non-denominational private school with top-notch academics and rapidly growing co-curricular programs. But perhaps one of the most unique things about the school is the diversity exhibited within the student body. Each classroom is representative of a wide variety of cultural backgrounds, creating an open and welcoming atmosphere for all students.
“When kids grow up in a diverse environment, they learn to appreciate others’ cultures … they’re much better prepared for the global world and society we live in,” says Iris Chiu, whose children have attended Liberty Bible Academy since kindergarten. “When children don’t experience that diversity, they don’t know how to interact with people of other cultures.”
But the school’s diversity doesn’t stop with culture. The curriculum offers that experience as well, with all students being taught to their levels without discouraging anyone. Children with extra learning needs, such as dyslexia, or students learning English as a second language, can participate in the Discovery program, which helps them get up to speed in areas where they may struggle.
“Our school shows what a loving relationship, passion and prayer can do, even with children who may score lower in testing,” says Dana Honerlaw, principal of Liberty Bible Academy. “We have staff members and programs to address learning needs or provide additional challenge to our gifted students. We accept students at varying levels of academic ability. Our school isn’t just about test scores. It is about providing a wealth of experiences and a community of belonging.”
Nearly 30 percent of students test in the gifted range and students on average score in the top 10-15 percent nationally. Hawkins, one of whose daughters is dyslexic, says she initially worried about her daughter, who had previously been homeschooled, transitioning to a high-performing school.
“I’m so grateful for this school because my daughter is being advanced at her own pace, just like when I homeschooled her,” Hawkins says. “She was scared of reading in front of the classroom because she struggles. But she was able to sense acceptance from the other students and see that there were varying levels of ability. That comforted her. In the classroom, they push her, but at a good pace. I can go to work and not worry if, when my children fall down when they’re at school, the person picking them up loves them.”
Grades aren’t the only important thing at Liberty Bible Academy. The community, acceptance and faith that students experience help to impart important life lessons that shape caring and curious individuals. The non-denominational Christian foundation helps students grow into their faith, which is something the school prides itself in fostering.
“This is a safe place for these kids,” she says. “We teach our kids to cross cultural barriers. We teach love and acceptance of others. Our students are from all kinds of different churches, and this fosters a safe place that’s very accepting of differences. This type of learning, of acceptance and communication, sets our kids up for success with experiences they’ll need in life.”
Whether it’s the diversity, the compassion, the faith or the freedom to be who they are, students thrive. Nick, a Chinese student, says his family searched online and specifically chose Liberty Bible Academy before he arrived in the United States.
“I came here last year,” he says. “I learned some English in China, but I felt lonely and like I couldn’t communicate well with the other students.”
He met with Iris and Peter Chiu’s son, who helped him translate and adjust to the different culture and community. “Now I know how to get home if I’m lost. I can talk to other people and I fit in,” Nick says. “When I first came here, I was afraid people wouldn’t like me, but people still hung out with me, even though I didn’t know the language.”
His host mother, Bea Wilson, works at Liberty Bible Academy with students learning English as their second language. Nick says that living with Wilson’s family and attending Liberty Bible Academy has helped him better understand and interact in American culture.
The school’s faith-based teachings are also evangelical in nature, encouraging students to engage in acts of charity. One group of students chose to sacrifice recess time to stand near the street holding signs declaring to passersby that “You’re loved” and “You’re beautiful.”
Peter says he noticed a change in his son when the normally frugal child decided to donate his savings to the school. “Johnathan is always very careful with his money. We don’t give (our children) allowances, so he works very hard to save his money,” says Peter. “The school did a fundraiser, and Johnathan wanted to donate all of his money. I was worried he’d regret it, but he said, ‘The school needs it, and I love my school.’ I was speechless. At that age, it can be hard to teach a kid to think beyond himself and recognize experiences bigger than him.”
The school strives to teach the value of humble leadership and of working to fill the needs of both the world and the local community. Students participate in service projects, working with programs like like Operation Christmas Child, food pantries, Matthew 25 Ministries, A Child’s Hope International and events through
“We’re training our kids to be leaders and giving them confidence,” says Honerlaw. “As a culture, we aren’t always good at overcoming differences easily. But it happens here.”
Liberty Bible Academy is located at 4900 Old Irwin Simpson Road, Mason, OH 45040. You can reach them at 513.754.1234 or visit their website at www.libertybibleacademy.org.