When the Poncelet family enrolled at RCLS eleven years ago, Cory and Rachel Poncelet were the parents of three young boys: Ethan in 2nd grade, Carter in Kindergarten, and Mitchell at home. Now, a few hundred spelling tests, music concerts, and basketball games later, Ethan is a pre-med student at Bethel University in St. Paul, Carter is a hard-working student and athlete at Century High School, and Mitchell is soon to graduate with this year’s 8th-grade class. Mitchell’s graduation from RCLS in May will mark the poignant end of an era for this longtime school family, a cornerstone of the RCLS community in the last decade.
The days are long, but the years are short, as they say. It is fair to be so sentimental in such a circumstance, isn’t it?
As they looked for a school home for their boys those many years ago, these Rochester-area parents had always been familiar with RCLS, but they didn’t dream the school would be as important to their family as it has been. They were looking for a Christ-centered learning environment for their boys, and they knew from one of Rachel’s college friends (an RCLS alumna) and Cory’s co-workers that Rochester Central Lutheran School would offer them that. “We strongly believe that elementary and middle-school are such a formative time,” Rachel explains. “We wanted our kids to be influenced by teachers and peers who had the same values that we were trying to instill at home.” This was Cory and Rachel’s “first and foremost” priority, they say.
Though they are not Lutheran themselves––the Poncelets attend Christ Community Church––they at first perceived and then experienced a faith community at RCLS in which everyone is welcome. In fact, when pressed, Cory and Rachel say that is one thing they would tell others about their boys’ school. RCLS is not an “exclusive school,” they insist. It is “a place for everyone wanting a Christ-centered learning environment. You don’t have to be Lutheran.”
Certain, then, that RCLS offers the faith-based environment and Christian worldview they sought for their young family, Cory and Rachel also noted that RCLS stood out among other options for two particular reasons. First, the class sizes are small, something they recognized as fundamental to academic well-being in the early elementary years. Then, extracurricular options are many at the school, something they anticipated would be especially valuable as their boys grew. Even as the parents of young children, the Poncelets anticipated that these aspects of the school––a Christ-centered environment, small class sizes, extracurricular opportunities, and a caring community––would together form a foundation of spiritual, emotional, and academic wellness that would equip their boys for success in high school.
That anticipation has been realized, and as Cory and Rachel marvel at the successes their boys have experienced, we here at RCLS cannot help but burst with pride for these remarkable students––especially because this family is so humble about it, themselves. “Ethan and Carter both left RCLS with a confidence in who they are in Christ,” which has informed not just who they are, but what they do, Rachel says. “RCLS helped build up their gifts and talents. Ethan is majoring in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology with a minor in Physics at Bethel; he feels led to go into medicine. He also has a heart to serve others through missions in Honduras. Carter is a three-sport athlete at Century and a humble leader among his peers.” While we’re grateful to count Mitchell among RCLS’s middle-school students for a few more months, Cory and Rachel say they are “excited to see what God has in store for Mitchell when he leaves RCLS.”
RCLS is excited for what God has in store for Mitchell, too, but we sure are going to miss this family, who has played such a significant role in the community here. In fact, as I write, Cory is busy coaching the 8th-grade boys’ basketball team, something he has done for a number of years now. “All who are involved at RCLS become part of the family,” Rachel says as she recounts the various ways she and Cory have been involved: serving in the classroom, chaperoning field trips, coaching athletic teams, and more. She notes that parent involvement is encouraged at RCLS, and she recommends that young parents be as involved as they can. “This allows parents to have a vested interest in their child’s education” and to “reap the many blessings RCLS has for parents, as well,” Rachel says. As she describes it, parental involvement at the school is a win-win; parents enjoy the community that comes as a result of serving together, while children benefit from their parents’ regular presence and investment. (Volunteering in the classrooms, lunchroom, and athletics program is a pretty great way to listen in now and then, after all.)
As they look back on their boys’ formative years at RCLS, the Poncelets say they aren’t sure they “could ever fully measure the impact RCLS has had on [their] entire family.” What they had hoped to find in a school they can now look back on as an “invaluable” experience that has given their boys what they wanted them to have: a Christian worldview, an academic and spiritual foundation, and the confidence to work and be faithful in a public setting. The friendships their boys have made and taken with them are a part of that “invaluable” experience, as well. “It’s been such a blessing to see Ethan continue to be such close friends with his RCLS buddies. Even as they have all gone their separate ways, they continue to be a tight-knit group of boys. You can’t put a price tag on those lifelong relationships.”
We couldn’t agree more, and we sure couldn’t be more thankful for this family, which has made RCLS such a priority in their life these last eleven years.
Given the circumstance, we think it’s fair to be sentimental about them, indeed.
Looking for a place to build a spiritual and academic foundation for your kids? We invite you to imagine your place in the RCLS family. Please join us at an upcoming Welcome Event:
March 6- Shadow Day, 8-10:30a, Grades 3-8, Registration required
March 10- Open House, 5:30-7p, Grades Preschool-8, Registration encouraged
Learn more at rcls.net/visit.