An Interview with a CCS Alumnus - Calvin Tucker, Class of 2015

Despite several large hurdles throughout college, Calvin Tucker (Class of 2015) persevered and graduated from Nyack College earlier this month.

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Despite several large hurdles throughout college, Calvin Tucker (Class of 2015) persevered and graduated from Nyack College earlier this month.

During Calvin Tucker’s 8th grade year at Hartford Area Seventh Day Adventist School, he and his family starting exploring different options for high school.  Calvin loved basketball and hoped to play for his high school team.  After considering Glastonbury High School, The Master’s School, and Northwest and East Catholic, his parents prayed for guidance and then found CCS.  They believed God had directed them and therefore enrolled him for his high school years.

When Calvin drove into the parking lot on his first day of high school, he told his mother that she needed to turn the car around!  He was skeptical because CCS seemed so different from his previous school, but his mother insisted he give it a try.  He walked in to school wearing a basketball jacket and the basketball players immediately flocked toward him.  It was then that he began to feel part of the CCS community.

When asked about a word to describe his experience at Cornerstone, Calvin said “harmony” comes to mind.  He had an amazing experience with “zero drama” and was able to go about his day without any stress.  He appreciated the close relationship he had with all his teachers and enjoyed the special camaraderie with his classmates.  He loved being able to listen to his friends and give words of wisdom and comfort and appreciated that his friends could offer the same thing to him.  He especially treasured the times he prayed with his class.

The highlight of his high school career occurred during his senior year when the CCS basketball team won the Annual Invitational Basketball Tournament in Binghamton, NY.  It was the first time the boys had won in many years, and Calvin was glad to be part of making CCS history!  He graduated in June, 2015, with plans to attend college.

Because of the influence of Mrs. Karis Rowse, Spanish teacher at CCS, Calvin decided to attend Nyack College in Nyack, NY, her alma mater.  He felt academically grounded and spiritually prepared when he started, and he believes this helped keep him from being swayed by the ways of the world when he left home.  He remarked that “CCS got him all set” for college, and perhaps he was even over prepared!  After his first semester he earned a 3.7 GPA!

Being spiritually grounded helped keep him on track while he went through significant challenges during his time at Nyack.  During Calvin’s freshman year, he lost his Godfather and Grandmother.  In September of his sophomore year, his father died unexpectedly and he wanted to leave school for a time.  But his mother told him, “God’s got us, baby!” and she insisted he return to Nyack.  Calvin knew his Dad had worked so hard for his education and quitting was not an option.  It took him a little while to get back on his feet, but he was able to go back and graduate on time.

Calvin graduated in May, 2019 with Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and a concentration in Marketing.  He also received a Minor in Biblical Studies and Music Business.  He hopes to attend graduate school in the fall and obtain an MBA or a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership.  Ultimately, he would love to start a music business and use it as an opportunity for ministry to keep kids off the streets.  Whichever course he takes, we know Calvin will be successful!  We look forward to hearing how the Lord will continue to use him to be a blessing to others!

Thank you, Calvin, for sharing your story!  If you are a CCS alumni and would like to share your story, please contact Dawn Snellenberger at dsnellenberger@contactccs.org.

An Interview with a CCS Alumna - Kari (McCavanagh) Olson, Class of 1991

Kari (McCavanagh) Olson, Class of 1991, lives in Manchester, CT, with her family. Her children are now the second generation to be blessed with a CCS education!

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Kari Olson remembers Cornerstone Christian School from its earliest days.  In fact, she was a member of the charter class when CCS first opened its doors in 1981!  Prior to that, Kari had attended public school up through 2nd grade.  Kari’s mother, Nancy, was disappointed in the public school system which was teaching secular humanism to her children, and she wanted an alternative.  Nancy learned that Neale and Gladie McLain planned establish a school which upheld her Christian faith, and so she enrolled Kari and her brothers when the doors opened. 

Kari loved her time at Cornerstone!  She thrived in the small environment and appreciated her God-centered education where “teachers prayed for and loved on her.”  She was also able to develop strong relationships with her classmates, many of whom are now life-long friends.  Being nurtured in this type of environment made it feel like she was surrounded by family.  Kari also appreciated the opportunity to interact with all kinds of people, even those she wouldn’t normally gravitate toward.  She believes this has served her well in life as she’s learned to forge relationships with those who are different than her.

After graduating in 1991 (as the second graduating class of CCS), Kari attended Eastern Nazarene College (ENC) in Quicy, MA.  She remained there for 1 ½ years before deciding to move home and begin hairdressing school.  Once completed, she moved to Nashville for the next 7 years where she met and married her husband, Kris. 

The urge to move home to Connecticut came once Kari learned she would become an aunt!  She and Kris moved back to be closer to family.  She also began her own family and gave birth to Sinead and Jaden, in 2004 and 2005, respectively.  After living in Connecticut for some time, God called her family to become domestic missionaries working at a Christ-centered recovery program called His Mansion in Hillsboro, NH.  She and Kris were staff members until God called them back to CT in 2016.

Ever since Kari became a mom, the prayer of her heart was to send her own children to CCS.  God answered that prayer in 2017 when Sinead and Jaden enrolled in the middle school program.  Kari wanted her children to be protected from the harmful philosophies of the world and has been blessed by the changes she’s seen in her children since they’ve started attending CCS.  Sinead has become “more settled spiritually” and she reported to Kari that everyone at CCS is “so nice!”  Kari believes Sinead has responded to the character of Christ in the people surrounding her.  For Jaden, Kari has watched him blossom academically.  He has become a more independent student and has experienced significant growth in his reading and writing abilities.

At CCS, we “have no greater joy than to hear that (our) children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4).  It’s wonderful to know that a new generation of students are being blessed by a Christ-centered education, too!  If you would like to share your experience as a CCS alumni, please contact Dawn Snellenberger at dsnellenberger@contactccs.org.

An Interview with a CCS Alumnus - Joel Kearny, Class of 2014

Joel currently resides and works in Washington, D.C. and is planning to serve overseas with South America Missions next year.

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Joel Kearney had several different schooling experiences before coming to Cornerstone in 5th grade.  Initially, he went to a private Christian school before his family decided to homeschool for 3 years.  Even though they had been involved in a co-op with other homeschooling families, they decided it wasn’t the best schooling style for their family.  Joel’s parents were set on their 5 children attending a private Christian school, so they explored Cornerstone.  His parents felt like CCS would be the best environment for their children to grow in their faith and gain an education with accessible teachers and faculty and so they enrolled all 5 of them!  Joel says, “Attending Cornerstone for the remainder of my elementary and high school career was such a big blessing in my life and I would not have wanted it any other way!”

One thing that Joel recalls about his time at Cornerstone is how the school felt like a community to him. He was able to know his classmates and teachers so well, and that was a great experience for him. Some of his favorite memories at Cornerstone were the high school retreats to Camp CONNRI, a group project reenacting Romeo and Juliet in Miss Mazz’s English class, the junior class trip to Gettysburg with Mr. Kirch, and his senior trip to the Jersey shore with Mr. Millington and Mrs. Clark.

After graduating from CCS, Joel attended Grove City College (GCC).  He believes Cornerstone helped prepare him for college in many ways. GCC is known to be an academically rigorous school, and at CCS Joel was able to develop strong study habits. GCC is a Christian college where his faith was challenged, so it was a blessing to have a strong foundation for his beliefs that developed while at Cornerstone. CCS’s extracurricular activity opportunities, such as varsity soccer, basketball and the leadership program, made it feel natural to get involved with numerous organizations in college.  He participated in a variety of ways including intramural sports, the orientation board, a national service fraternity called Alpha Phi Omega (APO), SEAD (Students Excited About Diversity), and the American Chemical Society.  Joel graduated in May 2018 with a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in biology and a Minor in psychology.

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Joel is currently living in Washington, D.C., and working at a biostatistics company as a Research Assistant. He helps create reports that doctors review to monitor the progress of cancer and disease studies. He also helps with the youth program at his church, and serves as a live events volunteer at National Geographic!  Starting next year, Joel plans to move to Recife, Brazil, for 2+ years, where he will be serving alongside a Christian organization called South America Mission. His primary role will be to help lead a soccer and devotionals outreach program for young boys. He will likely be involved with their music ministry and outreach to juvenile delinquents as well. God has given Joel a heart to work with kids for His kingdom, and he’s excited to have that opportunity in Brazil. He says, “It is a truly awesome experience and a blessing to look back at where God has directed my life thus far and to know God’s got my future in His hands!”

Joel is demonstrating that following God’s call is an exciting adventure!  Our mission at CCS is “to engage and educate young people to know Christ and be equipped to impact the world for God’s Kingdom.” We rejoice that Joel, along with many of our alumni, are achieving that goal! 

If you know other alumni who would like to share their stories with us, please have them contact Dawn Snellenberger at dsnellenberger@contactccs.org.

An Interview with a CCS Alumna - Rebecca Burger, Class of 2009

Few young women can say that they’ve been an eye witness to the fighting on the front lines of ISIS, but Rebecca can!  She has had an adventurous life from growing up as a missionaries’ kid (MK) in Turkey, to traveling all over the world obeying God’s call.  We’re glad God gave her a “pit stop” at CCS for two years!

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Rebecca’s journey to Cornerstone had many twists and turns!  Initially, she began homeschooling in Turkey where her parents were missionaries.  After they returned to the states, she spent her middle and early high school days at The King’s School in Bolton.  Once King’s closed their doors, Rebecca’s family decided to send her to CCS for her last two weeks of high school.  Begrudgingly, Rebecca started and eventually found a home at CCS.

After the adjustment of her junior year, Rebecca said she was excited to begin her senior year.  There was a different feel for her.  Their small class was more bonded together and it felt like a family.  Part of the reason was because they had the opportunity to regularly join together in prayer.  Rebecca said she thrived in her leadership classes where she felt empowered to become a young leader both inside and outside of school.  Staff members like Tammy Gerhard and Beth Russell were instrumental in coming alongside her.

After graduation, Rebecca decided to attend a ministry school in Tyler, Texas, called Teen Mania Ministries.  She attended a program called the Honor Academy, which utilized a holistic approach to learning and being involved in ministry.  Specifically, she was in the school of worship where the focus was on fasting, prayer, missions and practical ministry experience.  At the end of her second year, she had an opportunity to tour with the band, Acquire the Fire.

Rebecca took the next two weeks to seek God’s direction, and felt like He was calling her in a new direction.  She did not join the band, but instead enrolled in a program called “The World Race” through Adventures in Missions.  She backpacked through 11 countries in 11 months with a team of 45-50 people where they learned practical ministry skills and then put them into practice to people in those countries.  This experience gave her a heart for long-term missions.

She returned home to Connecticut where God had her in a “hidden season”.  She sought Him for direction and learned to trust Him in the waiting.  After two years, in 2014, Rebecca ended up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania working for another ministry.  While she was there, God connected her with others who were drawn to the Middle East.  In January 2015, she was part of a scouting team that went to Iraq.  They wanted to minister to the Yazidi people groups who had displaced by ISIS.

For her first trip to Iraq, she spent two weeks connecting to the people who had been traumatized.  She and her team listened to stories, prayed, encouraged, and cried with the people who had been displaced and were living in tents.  She returned a month later and for the next year traveled in and out of Iraq.  During that time, she raised support and rallied churches to become involved in the work.  She was even approached by a Kurdish general who was fighting ISIS, and he asked her and her team to come pray near the front lines.  Even though the general was a Muslim, he wanted an end to the genocide that was happening and recognized the power of prayer.

Rebecca loved her work in Iraq so she stayed there for three years.  Her vision was to have an emphasis of prayer and see God bring about societal change for the people of Iraq.  Practically, she helped with a monthly distribution of food, facilitated women’s trauma clinics and lead in children’s worship.  She basically “did life” with the people to whom she ministered.

At the end of her time, her team had doubled in size and she felt like she needed to decompress at home.  She is now back in Connecticut and awaiting her next assignment.  I’m sure God will have other adventures in store!  At CCS, we have “no greater joy than to hear that (our) children are walking in truth.”  3 John 1:4

If you know an alumnus of CCS who would be willing to share their story, please contact Dawn Snellenberger at dsnellenberger@contactccs.org.

An Interview with a CCS Alumna - Kristie (McLain) Lojzim, Class of 2011

Dawn Snellenberger interviewed Class of 2011 alumna Kristie Lojzim. Kristie currently resides in Billerica, MA, with her husband and fellow alumnus, Josh. She works in special education for Newton Public Schools.

Not many can say they have a direct connection to the beginning days of CCS, but Kristie can! Her grandparents, Neale and Gladie McLain, were instrumental in establishing Cornerstone in the early 1980s. Her grandfather, Neale, was pastoring the Manchester Church of the Nazarene at the time when he and his wife simultaneously felt God’s nudge to start the school. With much prayer and hard work, the doors of CCS opened in 1981!

With a rich heritage and commitment to Christian education, Kristie’s parents moved from Moodus to Manchester in 1997 so Kristie and her brother, Ian, could begin school. In those days, CCS did not have a preschool program, so Kristie attended half-days for the first year and spent full days in Kindergarten the following year. She says she is “forever grateful” to her parents for making the move!

For Kristie it is hard to pinpoint the most valuable thing about her experience at CCS, because it all seems equally precious. She appreciated the excellent education she received, but she believes her greatest treasures came from the extended family she found in teachers, mentors, and peers who walked alongside her. She recalls seeing examples of faithful people with God’s power at work in their lives, and this allowed her to experience God in a real, tangible way. By the time she was eighteen, she had heard and seen such evidence through the many examples of people who shone with God’s light! What a beautiful testimony!

After graduating high school in 2011, Kristie attended Eastern Nazarene College and majored in Early Childhood Education. She felt prepared for the academic, emotional and spiritual rigors of college. Academically, Kristie found that she was better prepared than many of her peers for the demands of school. She had learned how to study effectively, research and cite sources, and write papers of considerable length. She took honors classes in college and even was able to earn additional credits so she could double minor in Child Psychology and Child Advocacy, all while being on the Dean’s List each semester.

Spiritually, Kristie did not waver in her faith like many of her peers did. She found that she was able to stand in her convictions and was able to engage with her classmates who were struggling. It helped that she established a personal habit of Bible reading and prayer, and she was able to reach out for advice from some CCS teachers and friends. That really helped her!

In the years following graduation from ENC, Kristie has had a lot of excitement! She married her high school sweetheart, Josh. She also substituted in the Quincy, MA, public schools, taught second grade in Weymouth, MA, and nannied in Scotland while her husband was studying abroad. Kristie is now working with autistic students in the Newtown (MA) Public Schools.

We delight to hear how God has used CCS in the lives of our alumni! Thank you, Kristie, for letting your light shine!

If you are a graduate of CCS and would like to be interviewed in an upcoming publication, please contact Dawn Snellenberger at dsnellenberger@contactccs.org.

An Interview with a CCS Alumnus - Daniel Snyder, Class of 2015

Dawn Snellenberger interviewed Class of 2015 alumnus Daniel Snyder. Dan is preparing to graduate from the University of Connecticut (UConn) in May 2019 with a bachelor's degree in Actuarial Sciences.

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Dan was homeschooled through the 4th grade, although he also had some involvement in The King’s School (TKS) through his family’s participation there. When TKS had to close its doors at the conclusion of that school year in 2007, his family joined Cornerstone, and Dan began the 5th grade in Mrs. Donna Corbeil’s class.

Before starting school in September 2007, Dan was a little worried about being a new student and meeting new people. Those fears were further realized when he unfortunately missed his first day of school due to illness!

Once he was finally able to start, he found that everyone was so welcoming to him. One of the students took the time to introduce him around, and in no time he felt like he was a part of the class. Dan liked his time in the elementary school and felt it was a positive experience. He enjoyed the close bonds he formed with everyone, including his self-contained classroom teachers.

From there, he moved over to the middle school and began his 7th grade year. (Grade 6 was still housed in the elementary building at that time.) He recalls middle school as his "least favorite time," but how many middle schoolers have their mother as their principal?! Despite the awkward years of middle school, he said he had fun and continued to build relationships with the students in his class.

In high school, Dan grew academically, spiritually, and socially. He took a demanding course load, but he feels the rigor of his classes helped him to be “over prepared” for college. He recalls special times, like Spiritual Emphasis Weeks and High School Retreats, as spiritually significant times in his life. He enjoyed spending time in community and worshiping God. In fact, he feels that he would not be in the place he is today with the Lord without having attended school at CCS and experiencing those special times with his classmates. Through it all, he continued to build relationships with the students in the entire high school. Dan has maintained close friendships with many of them, even since graduation. He counts this as the biggest blessing he received from his time at CCS.

With the encouragement from his high school math teachers, Dan decided to pursue a degree in Actuarial Sciences. He first attended Manchester Community College for two years as a GAP (Guaranteed Admission Program) student and then transferred to UCONN to complete his bachelor's degree. While the program has been challenging and was an adjustment initially, he has done very well in his classes. He is currently serving as an intern at The Hartford (insurance company) and hopes to obtain a full-time job in the actuarial field after graduation.

We are proud of your accomplishments, Dan, and we look forward to what the Lord has in store for your future.

If you are a part of our CCS alumni and would be willing to share how God has used CCS in your life, please contact Dawn Snellenberger at dsnellenberger@contactccs.org.

An Interview with a CCS Alumna - Karisa Rowse, Class of 2014

Dawn Snellenberger interviewed Class of 2014 alumna Karisa Rowse. Karisa is a recent graduate from Nyack College in Nyack, NY. She graduated with a nursing degree and is currently employed at Yale New Haven Hospital in New Haven, CT.

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Karisa began attending Cornerstone in the fall of 2011. Prior to that, she had attended South Windsor’s public schools and had an overall positive experience. However, when she began high school, she started to struggle a bit. Being a quiet, reserved student, she experienced harassment from other students. Additionally, she found that one of her teachers was presenting questionable material in English class, which she found offensive. After speaking to the teacher about her concerns and being disregarded, she discussed the issue with her parents, and they decided that a change was needed. Karisa wanted a fresh start and enrolled in Cornerstone for the beginning of her sophomore year.

She was apprehensive about the change at first. It was difficult joining a school where many of the students had known each other for years; however, she was comforted by the fact that she happened to be one of three new students to join the same class that year. She also found it difficult to transition from a school of 1,200 to a class of only 18, but she signed up for the basketball team that year and found it to be a great way to meet people and become part of the CCS community.

During her junior and senior years, Karisa found that her personality changed from being shy and reserved to becoming more outgoing. She enjoyed being in a smaller environment and being able to get to know her classmates on a deeper level, due in large part to their shared faith in Christ. She also found that she was able to step into leadership roles because of her

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These years were also a time during which Karisa began to “own her faith.” She drew closer to God during a health crisis with her brother. Her faith became further cemented after taking a senior Bible class called Worldviews, which compared Christianity with other faiths and helped her determine what she truly believed. Armed with the knowledge she gained, she graduated with the Class of 2014 and attended Nyack College in Nyack, New York.

Her years at Nyack were challenging, yet they were also years of growth for Karisa. As God often does, He began to strip away some of her comforts so that she would draw closer to Him. It was during these years that her faith grew even stronger. In addition to her spiritual growth, she endured a rigorous nursing program and graduated in May 2018. After passing her nursing boards, she was able to secure a job at Yale New Haven Hospital on a medical floor. She hopes to continue her education and would like to one day work in health care administration.

Karisa looks back on her time at Cornerstone and is thankful for the experience. She says, “I don’t know where I would’ve been if I stayed in public school.” We are thankful for the opportunity to teach young people like Karisa, and we are blessed to watch them walk into the call of God on their lives!

If you are a part of our CCS alumni and would be willing to share how God has used CCS in your life, please contact Dawn Snellenberger at dsnellenberger@contactccs.org.