By Carol Bolden

“If you want this facility for your kids, you’ll have to work out the details,” prayed Toakase Vunileva, principal of Mile High Academy (MHA) in Denver, Colorado, as she stood in the parking lot of Colorado Christian School, a facility for sale off the C-470 and University Avenue, in November 2014.

Nine months later, on August 16, after maneuvering through the buying, renovating, and moving processes, the new Mile High Academy held its grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and praise to God. The ceremony involved representatives from the building committee, Centura Health leadership, RMC leadership, the school board, and the graduating class of 2017.

Relatives of Vunileva flew in from Tonga and sang a worship song to the God who has done great things. While the academy choir, under the direction of Leandro Bizama, and a string ensemble made up of MHA children performed, representatives gathered to cut the ribbon .

Eric Nelson, vice president for administration for Rocky Mountain Conference, dedicated the building and staff to communicate Jesus to the students and called it a day of “immense gratitude.”

Parents, students, and other visitors toured the school with its cutting-edge design, featuring study rooms with walls that can be used for writing, stools that move according to the needs of kinesthetic learners, desks that fit together for group projects or move apart for individual work, smart boards that remember what is written on them and display internet information—and so much more.

Seeing the bank of gray-painted lockers, I pictured myself back in school. How much better would I have done, how much more would I have learned with all these advantages?

Participating in the event, students wandered the school looking excited to see their friends and to start the year in this new and wonderful place. Never before had they had a bright orange lounging chair that could be used on three sides. Nor had they enjoyed world-class photography on their walls.

Walking through the campus, the mood changed from one area to another—serious and worshipful during the opening ceremony, but with a back-to-school-night feeling as parents checked out rooms and talked to teachers, and an air of joyful celebration with small children riding the train in the parking lot, jumping in the bounce house, and eating shave ice on what turned out to be a hot day.

When MHA entered the scene as a party interested in purchasing the property, another private school was already in the buying process, Douglas County had announced that they were acquiring it, and Highlands Ranch had declared a moratorium on any more private schools. Vunileva’s prayer was answered in miraculous ways.

Even though the details involving a move to a new location were on Vunileva’s mind since last January, it was August 10 that saw the MHA staff begin the move into the elementary section of the building. Transferring more than 60 years’ worth of items from the “old” school and into the “new” school was a huge undertaking. Luckily, the staff didn’t have to do it alone.

Don Reeder, principal of Campion Academy (CA) in Loveland, Colorado, brought his staff down to help. Reeder said that although Campion staff were in a push to get ready for school to start, “they figured Mile High’s push was greater.” The rivalry between the two academies has, at times, been fierce, but MHA and CA put that aside and had fun working together as a team.

The teachers shared more than just labor. During lunch, there was discussion of having the two schools work together on community service projects and social activities.

It was made clear, however, that the goodwill between the schools would be put aside during the famed CA/MHA basketball games!

Vunileva was emotional as she thanked Reeder and the entire Campion delegation. “It means so much to us that you would take a day out of your prep time and come help us. I look forward to a time that we can repay the favor and help you,” she said.

“It was really great to have both schools working together,” said Amy Rasco, MHA alumna and parent of a current MHA 7th grader. “Having Campion here today has made a big difference.”

Just as MHA and its leaders can list numerous miracles that made it possible to arrive at its grand opening, the students and their parents and guardians can complete the story with their own personal experiences leading to Adventist education at MHA.

Mile High Academy is one of four academies in the Rocky Mountain Conference and is among 109 in the North American Division. It was established as Denver West Church School in 1913 and moved to the Yale Avenue location in 1949. As of this writing, its enrollment is at 197, up from 166 last year, and continues to climb. [Carol Bolden with Kelly Waller]

Carol Bolden is RMC communication administrative assistant.