To know Brian and Andrea Hanson is to know two people on a mission––and to know they have the skillsets necessary to accomplish that mission. Thankfully for RCLS, when the couple sought a partner in the mission of raising their two children––Joshua, now a sophomore at Century High School, and Elizabeth, a current 8th-grader at RCLS–they found RCLS in 2008 as Josh started kindergarten and Elizabeth began preschool. Andrea notes that RCLS was and has been a great fit for their family, not just because it is a school that offers “faith-based education and [. . .] lots of extra components that [they] love––music, Spanish, art, and extracurricular clubs and opportunities,” but also because it “felt very ‘familial’” when they first toured, and remains so still today. “Having both been the product of public schools,” Andrea continues, “Brian and I anticipated that for our kids as well, so it was a big decision to do otherwise. Looking back, this has been a great investment for our family, and we have zero regrets!”
What RCLS Has Been
As Brian and Andrea reflected on the investment they have made in their children through RCLS, I began to hear the same sort of praise for the school and its faculty that I have heard from so many others. Still, as each child is distinct, it never gets old to hear how RCLS teachers rise to the occasion of each of their individual students. In fact, when you subscribe to the reality that each child is uniquely created, it’s rather thrilling to hear how this school’s teachers minister accordingly. “Our kids are so different from one another,” explains Andrea, “both bright and hard-working, but with different spirits and approaches to life. RCLS has been a good fit for both even with the dichotomous ways they go about their days.” In her word choice in describing how each of their kids has benefited at RCLS, Andrea suggests that dichotomy. Josh needed “to be challenged academically while having teachers place an importance on character, social development, and leadership,” she says, while Elizabeth needed “to be nurtured and encouraged while working hard academically.” In each case, she notes, teachers directed attention to the “heart of the child,” a priority that has served to develop a sense of confidence and a mature “moral compass” in each of the kids. “The school has high expectations for work and behavior,” Andrea continues, and “by incorporating faith into their daily learning, students […] leave RCLS with ‘head’ knowledge of the Bible and also ‘heart’ knowledge that they are loved by a God that can’t be extricated from science, art, math, music, and English.” This expectation that is permeated with a sense of purpose and grace–– this is what makes RCLS the “exceptional place” the Hansons sought for their kids.
Brian succinctly names the outcome of that place as “maturity and clarity of focus,” two qualities he credits his kids as having as they enter high school. “As a consequence of their years at RCLS,” he acknowledges gratefully, Josh and Elizabeth both “have the ability to make good choices and both exhibit an appetite to serve.” As a student-athlete at Century High School, for example, Josh serves as a leader in Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and both of the children have plans to serve on a short-term missions trip with their church this summer. From Brian’s perspective, the education, the character emphasis, and the individual attention his kids received during their “formative years” have positioned Josh and Elizabeth to be confident, responsible students in high school. Ultimately, he expected from RCLS a solid education. That they got, he says, but he is also delighted with these outcomes that arise out of a school culture that is Christ-centered.
What RCLS Is
When pressed to describe RCLS in a word, Brian suggests that Christ-centered culture: “RCLS is community,” he says. The implications of that for raising his kids have been huge. “Andrea and I always knew we could lean into anyone at school––the teachers, the principal, other parents––to properly influence our kids. It’s a community that wants the same outcome for our kids that we do. Behavior. Faith. Academic performance. We’re all after the same outcome.”
Andrea agrees. “RCLS is a place students can thrive” because it is a place that is filled with adults that challenge and support kids “in an environment of love and forgiveness.” Her kids have a strong academic foundation that is complete with good study and work habits “that will take them into high school and beyond,” she contends, but they’ve also grown up in an environment where they have learned that “serving others is a way to express God’s love.” Beyond that, Brian and Andrea and their kids are thankful to have formed friendships with other families that will endure long past their RCLS years.
What RCLS Might Be
It is that future––the future of RCLS and the legacy of RCLS in their own family’s life––that has given shape to one of the family’s most significant missions in recent years. Appreciative of RCLS as they are, Andrea has long been a part of the mission of the school. “I love helping the school and teachers, in particular,” she insists, something a number of the school’s teachers can surely confirm. Andrea spent years volunteering in the classrooms and helping teachers with needed tasks, but as her kids got older, she became more involved in the school’s “bigger picture” needs, particularly Blue & White Night, the school’s most significant fundraising event. For a few years, Andrea led a committee of volunteers who planned and produced the gala-auction evening, now a highly anticipated event on the school’s annual calendar.
Meanwhile, Brian played what he describes as a “peripheral role” to supporting the school, but when the school entered a financially tenuous time around the turn of the last decade, he directed his own time and talent to helping the school establish fiscal certainty. With experience in establishing non-profits, Brian and Andrea developed the idea to establish a foundation that would be “a permanent legacy for the good of the school.” That legacy, The Grace Foundation, established in 2014, finds its genesis in a parent-led effort “to organize to have a financial impact” on the well-being of the school. The goodwill and vision of the dozen families that established the foundation is now shared by the several dozen families that are TGF members and the RCLS association churches and supporters who are regular foundation donors. The synergy of a shared mission and the real impact of a strategic, collective effort to benefit RCLS can hardly be ignored. Consider that in the five short years of its existence, The Grace Foundation has donated more than a quarter of a million dollars toward capital improvements at the school:
· 2014: Chromebooks and an outdoor classroom
· 2015: The MakerSpace
· 2016: Air conditioning units in the Lower-L classrooms
· 2017: A renovated gym
· 2018: A fiber-optic technology upgrade and enhanced security equipment
Even more encouraging is the nearly $180,000 in an endowment and pledged funds that the Foundation has on record, seed money that the TGF Board of Directors plan to grow to be a permanent source of third-party funding for the school. “Imagine the potential of donations that are wisely invested on behalf of the school,” explains Brian. “Instead of being subject to the ebb and flow of enrollment and operating expenses, RCLS would be supported not just by generosity of its supporting churches, but also from this third-party source of funding, a constant stream of income that can offer insurance against market changes.” As TGF’s current president, Brian sees mission opportunity in what The Grace Foundation could do. One of the Foundation's bigger priorities is to help fund the school’s Variable Tuition program, a means by which RCLS makes a Christian education available to more students. In this, TGF clearly imagines not just a long-term financial impact, but an eternal impact, as well.
Participating in the Legacy
So, then, what can individual RCLS parents or supporters do to participate in the work of this mission? Brian and Andrea are ever-so-glad you asked! They offer two very tangible means for participating in building this legacy.
First, the Hansons invite you to consider becoming TGF members. Membership dues are offered at varying levels, and the Foundation has mechanisms in place to allow members to direct gifts as they wish and to offer complete transparency and accountability for the funds. It’s important to remember that The Grace Foundation is a “member-driven organization” that depends upon the engagement of its members for both support and direction. “TGF is designed to perpetuate itself,” Brian explains, “because it was designed with the intention of passing it on the next generation of parents. We welcome that generation to join us now.”
Then, Blue & White Night, the Foundation’s premiere event, is just around the corner, and TGF Board of Directors and the Executive Director would love for you to come. Planned for Friday, April 12 at 6pm at the DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Rochester, the night will be brimming with community and camaraderie as more than 200 TGF members and RCLS supporters rally to benefit the school both in the short-term, through an effort to raise money for a new stage and theater department needs, and in the long-term, through a continued effort to fund the Foundation’s endowment. Whether you simply buy a dinner ticket and enjoy the evening or donate $10,000 at the event, Brian advocates, “the fact that we all come together to celebrate our beloved school enables us to do some truly amazing things.” He imagines one day his own children and their friends participating in the mission of the school that had such influence on their lives. “Imagine what this might mean to the school,” he says, “if current students, as TGF members, engage in carrying on the legacy.”
RCLS does imagine, and we are grateful, indeed.
Please do join the Hansons, other TGF board members, and many other school families and faculty members at Blue & White Night. Dinner, silent and live auctions, and even an after-party at the Bleu Duck promise opportunity for great fun in the comfort of the remarkable RCLS community. You can purchase tickets and learn more about The Grace Foundation at https://grace-foundation.org/. Have questions? You’ll find an email address there, too. Blue & White Night is just three weeks away. Ticket sales will close on April 1, so NOW is the time to register. We hope to see you there!