03 Mar


By Jodie Aakko … “Don’t worry, it is on the other side of the world. It doesn’t affect you.  Don’t think about it. Don’t worry about it.”  Are these the best answers you can give your child when talking about the war in Ukraine? Absolutely not.

Our world has a violent war happening at this very moment. Russia is aggressively invading Ukraine. Sirens are screaming, women and children are fleeing, teens are wearing rifles instead of backpacks, buildings are standing silent. What is going to happen? Will this war grow larger?

This is the subject of every news source worldwide and is the topic of conversations everywhere. Certainly, your child is asking about this war. How does one talk to their child about such a dreadful global event?

The children want answers. “From my experience, it’s best to summarize the war. Don’t go into detail; be very loose about it. That helped me because I know what’s happening, but I wasn’t told the gory details and about all the killing and violence,” said Gregory, seventh-grader at Brighton Adventist Academy (BAA).

Nathan, a fifth-grader at BAA, says he wants to know the facts, “I feel like adults should let the kids know what is going on and why it is going on. Let them know everything.  This is what my parents do. That way, we can know what’s going on in the world.”

Children are very concerned and worried. “I am a little bit worried about the war. I wonder if it will ever end or if it will come here or not. But Mr. Morrison, my social studies teacher, helped me to learn more about it in class and it helped me know what is going on, so that I don’t have to wonder,” explained a student at BAA.

Christopher Morrison, fifth through eighth social studies teacher at BAA, explains how he handles the war in his class. “I ask them, ‘What do you know about this already?  What questions do you have about this?’ I even ask them, ‘Who do you think the good guys are and who [do you think] the bad guys are?’ so that they have a chance to express their opinions. I will take opportunities to input balance into the conversations, and encourage my students to think about the subject critically.

He adds, “I encourage the students to reflect on what the life of a soldier must be like.  For example, I pose this scenario, ‘Did you know that a Russian soldier may not have the same mindset as their leader?’”

Morrison explains that at the middle school level and above, it is essential to urge students to evaluate and analyze information, to discuss point of view, and how to identify propaganda.

“By observation of our discussions about this war, it is apparent that each student gleans a great amount of information outside the classroom about this war. Historically, this is the most public war that has taken place because of social media. My students only need to click, and a large collection of first-hand account videos is at their fingertips. This can create questions for kids, so it is important for adults to address it,” Morrison said.

BAA is not avoiding the subject of war in Ukraine. On March 3, a joint seminar for the sixth through tenth grade was held with a presentation on the history of Russia and Ukraine by Doug Inglish, RMC vice-president of administration, who holds a degree in Russian history. Students are also creating posters using the hashtag Ukraine=U_____. An example is #Ukraine=Ustrong. The hope of BAA is for these pictures to reach Ukrainians.

Here are five tips parents can utilize at home talking to their children about war.

1. Explain the war to your child using kid-friendly words. During the conversation, use a map, and as a bonus, watch a time lapse video on the map of Russia and the map of Ukraine. Most likely, you recall the day in 1991 when Ukraine became independent; your first-hand account of the celebration of that historic event is priceless. Children want answers, and they want information. Let them see that you are a great source for answers.

2. Maintain an open and honest channel of communication with kids. Listen, invite questions, and ask them how they are feeling about this war. Acknowledge their emotions or worries. If a child needs an outlet for their fears, remind them to also draw, sketch, journal, and play outdoors. Family time is a vital and crucial activity during this worrisome season.

3. Be intentional about screening and limiting media information when children are near. Value educational and informative reports.

4. Assure children that just as you always use seat belts and helmets, you have a household emergency plan should anything happen. Remind your children that as a responsible adult, you are prepared to care for your family; therefore, they can rest assured that safety, health, and happiness are a priority.

5. Most importantly, as a family, turn to your strong faith in God’s care and protection.  Do this regularly, deliberately, and without restraint. Witness to your children your firm belief that, assuredly, God will care for His people. Invite family members to share a favorite Bible promise of God’s deliverance, such as, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10. Spend family time daily in prayer for Ukraine and Russia. Finally, point to the soon return of Christ when we shall be face to face with our Creator, and when the sadness and wars and strife of this world will end.  “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:3

“Kids will ask if World War III is a possibility, but I turn to the fact that we know God is coming to save His people. We are told that there will be wars and rumors of wars, but God’s got it. The world is in His hands. The entire world’s history has always been in His hands, and it will be till Jesus comes. God promised that He will come again, to save those who are eagerly awaiting Him. Acts 1:11 promises us, ‘This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’ Remember, we are alive in Christ,” said Morrison.

–Jodie Aakko is headteacher at Brighton Adventist Academy; photos by Jodie Aakko

10 Feb

Brighton Academy Blesses Brighton’s First Responders

By Jodie Aakko – Brighton, Colorado … Students and staff at Brighton Adventist Academy (BAA) in Brighton, Colorado, asked themselves the question, ‘How can we say thank you to the team of police officers and firefighters that serve the community daily, rain or shine?’  The answer was simple: create blessing bags and deliver them with smiles.

Students from BAA and Little Lambs Learning Center eagerly gathered on February 2 to help assemble the bags, filling them with various snacks, including hot chocolate packets, popcorn bags, chips, candies, fruit cups, drinks, and more to show appreciation to the first responders who protect the community. The activity was more than a community-appreciation event; it was part of their Bible labs learning.

Caleb, a seventh-grader, enjoyed assembling the bags. “It was cool, and there was a lot of good stuff for the bags! It is important to help others.”

Emiliano, a fourth-grader, helped supply items for the gifts. “It was nice to make the bags. I am glad that we brought a lot of gifts from home to make the bags full!”

Kiera, a fourth-grader, said, “It felt good because the stuff we put into the bags can help them.  We had some hand warmers for the bags, and this will help keep them warm.”

Students also designed and created cards of appreciation for the bags.

“They were fun to make, and I am glad that they are helping the firefighters and the policemen because they help everyone, and they save lives,” said Irene, a seventh-grader.

Reflecting on why it was essential to do this activity, Gizelle, an eighth-grader, commented, “It was important because they do so much for us, and they keep us safe. It was good to make them happy.”

After the bags were filled to the brim with snacks and small gifts of appreciation, Grade nine and ten students hand-delivered them to the Brighton Police Department and the Brighton Fire Department. The first-responders were extremely grateful for the tokens of appreciation and the act of kindness exhibited by the students’ eagerness to say thank you.

Fritz, a third-grader, summed up the event perfectly by saying, “I had to help put things into the bags, and we also made cards. I hope that the bags were a blessing because it is God’s will that we help others.”

–Jodie Aakko is the headteacher at Brighton Adventist Academy; photos supplied

28 Oct


By Jodie Aakko, Brooklyn Hill, Kierstin Syvertson, James Adams, and Caleb Fish – Brighton, Colorado … Brighton Adventist Academy (BAA) completed its first quarter of in-person education for the school year. To celebrate, the staff and students planned and participated in three jubilant events.

In August, the school year began with anticipation and excitement as 61 students enrolled with a ten percent increase in enrollment from last year, a number not seen at BAA in nearly a decade.

The week of events began with students showcasing their musical talents for the members of the Brighton church in a special worship service. The service included students not only performing but getting involved behind the scenes.

The K-4 choir shared three songs with stirring choreography, and the upper grades’ ukulele class and hand-chimes class offered several other sacred numbers. Bob Dunkin, BAA ukulele and band director joined the ukulele musicians, playing the recorder and the trumpet.

The pre-school and pre-kindergarten classroom recorded a special video where the youngest students beamed with joy and happiness while citing Psalm 23 and thanking Jesus for His many blessings. The program’s highlight was when BAA graduates, Lexi Contreras, Brie Bell, Staci Baker, Hailey Baker, and Abigail Segovia, led the song service with Zane Meyers operating the sound system.

“I liked the songs that we sang in church. The words were very meaningful, especially saying that we are a grain of sand that needs pressure in order to turn into a diamond,” Sienna, a fourth-grader, said.

The following Monday, Wayne Morrison, Brighton church pastor, began BAA fall week of prayer. The students were encouraged to pray and walk with Jesus as their best friend and Savior at the daily morning gatherings. The students were urged to “Be still and know that I am God,” so the students spent quiet moments each morning resting at the throne of God.  In addition, Pastor Wayne urged them to remember the words of Philippians 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Students thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Morrison and the messages he shared.  Christopher, a fourth-grader, exclaimed enthusiastically that the “week of prayer with Pastor Wayne was interesting.  My pastor is awesome!”

The week of celebration ended on the evening of October 21 when staff, students, parents, and community members enjoyed a time of fellowship at the annual fall festival. The teachers and volunteers elected to attempt a festival that was outdoors and shortened in length. While wondering how successful this plan would be, all eyes quickly noticed that this event would go down in the books as the “biggest comeback ever!”

Cars were parked down the street, as the school parking lot filled up with carloads of students, friends, and family members who wanted to fellowship, laugh, visit, and play. The crowd was thrilled with the face painting, bouncy houses, corn hole challenges, free throw competitions, water balloon tosses, obstacle course races, dino dig expeditions, and s’more roasting.

“We had the best Fall Festival ever because a lot of people were here, and I liked the obstacle course, and dino dig the best,” Ericsson, a third-grader, commented.

The evening continued with a silent auction of baked goods that provided winners with a homemade treat, such as key lime pie, toffee, peanut butter cookies, brownies, apple pie, meringue pie, Scotchies, apricot bars, and much more. The event was topped with delectable corn dogs, cheese sticks, pupusas, spring rolls, horchata, and pancit for the masses to fill their appetites.

Pastor Wayne helped with the decorations by hanging festive lights while the festival’s co-directors Marilee Rego and Ashley Radu, decorated the school’s courtyard and playfields with colorful autumn decor.

As the students begin their second quarter, memories of the special week remain fresh in their minds as the staff starts planning out the next event to honor and showcase the students.

— Jodie Aakko is Brighton Adventist Academy’s head teacher, and Brooklyn Hill, Kierstin Syvertson, James Adams, and Caleb Fish are BAA’s student reporters; photos courtesy of BAA Facebook page.

25 May

Brighton Adventist Academy CELEBRATES THE CLASS OF 2021

By Jodie Aakko – Brighton, Colorado …”Hi Mom, I made it!” seemed to be the catchphrase among the Brighton Adventist Academy graduates at their graduation ceremony on May 19.

The evening served up the standard fare of diplomas, balloons, photographs, cake, and punch, yet a BAA graduation is much more. Teachers took time to acknowledge the students’ shining qualities and expressed their love and admiration for each graduate. Wayne Morrison, pastor of Brighton church encouraged the each student to go forth and be God’s disciple, since they have soundly learned that they are a child of God.

Addressing the graduates, Molly Santana, member of the Brighton church and commencement co-speaker said, “You have met some challenges to get where you are today. The pandemic has made you stronger, and you are a better person because you persevered,”

Carlos Santana, member of the Brighton church and commencement co-speaker highlighted his wife’s charge to the class by saying, “Don’t forget that God loves you no matter what, and with God, you can do anything. In the same way that God has helped me, He will help you.”

Students also shared testimonies of gratitude to their parents, teachers, and friends for making it possible for them to reach this milestone.

The class selected Joshua 1:9 as their Scripture verse. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged, For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

BAA administration has one final message for the graduating class of 2021: “Well done, Students. Choose strength and courage always. God has chosen you to do His work. Go. Be everything for God.”

Among those receiving their diplomas included Shaun Alexander, Omar Castaneda, Hannah Lechleitner, Felipe Quintana Baca, Nathaniel Ramirez, and Vashty Segovia Santos.

–Jodie Aakko is the principal of Brighton Adventist Academy; photo courtesy of Brighton Adventist Academy Facebook page.

18 May

Brighton Adventist Academy CLASS OF 2033 Graduates Stand Tall

By Jodie Aakko – Brighton, Colorado … May 13 marked the day five young Brighton Adventist Academy graduates stood taller than ever. Although a pre-kindergarten or a kindergarten graduate may look small in size, they are giant in accomplishments and pride.

Five boys beamed from ear to ear as they were filled with love and recognition from teachers and family.

“Ricky, you are receiving an award for future firefighter, because you never leave a friend behind!”  announced Mrs. Sandra Santos, pre-kindergarten teacher. The graduates were honored with awards for exemplary character and individual personality strengths.

They also received a large bag filled with gifts which matched each student’s interests and talents including science kits, art supplies, teacher materials, adventure tools, and other items including an over-sized teddy bear graduate which they hugged.

“Keep this T-shirt with you until you graduate high school!  Each year, add your hand print on the back, above the school year. And in the year 2033, you will still remember how much I loved you, and you will remember that you learned how much Jesus loves you!” explained Gina Davison, kindergarten teacher.

Wayne Morrison, pastor of Brighton church and commencement speaker, reminded the students that even though you can’t see God, you know what He looks like because He loves you, and He knows your name, and you will know His voice. Pastor Wayne ended with a charge to the students to always stay in tune with Jesus and keep your child-like faith.

–Jodie Aakko is the principal of Brighton Adventist Academy; photo courtesy of Brighton Adventist Academy Facebook page.

24 Feb


By Jodie Aakko – Brighton, Colorado … Each week at Brighton Adventist Academy (BAA) culminates in an all-school Thursday chapel. On February 18, the experience was a rock-solid message of God’s eternal promises.

Unna Trunkenbolz, retired teacher and BAA volunteer, also known as rock hound extraordinaire, displayed an extensive rock collection during chapel as an illustration of God’s character. “God is my rock. He is a solid foundation,” Trunkenbolz explained. She continued by sharing stories of adventures to collect special rocks, gems, and crystals, including rocks from the Lake of Galilee and rocks from the Valley of Elah where David’s battle with Goliath took place.

Included in the large collection of fancy rocks and minerals was a box of ordinary rocks, each marked with a Bible text. “As you travel through life’s journeys, take the time to collect simple rocks along the way and mark them with a Bible text of God’s promises, because just like rocks, God’s promises are solid and will last forever,” challenged Trunkenbolz.

“It was interesting how she collected rocks from when Jesus was around.  I like the messages that she gave us about how we can learn lessons from rocks,” Fidel Valdez, fifth grader said.

To conclude the week, students were given the opportunity to shine as young leaders during the Brighton church service bringing to life the rock-solid promise that, like Daniel, we can “shine like the brightness of the heavens” See Daniel 12:3.  The school’s ukulele group and hand chime choir recorded videos of musical numbers, and the five-member drama group shared a skit for the children’s story.

“I told Pastor Wayne [Morrison] that I wanted to preach a sermon, and he let me preach a sermon even though I am just in first grade!” beamed Landon Lopez-Ramirez, who preached about Lazarus being raised from the dead.

The special service concluded with kindergarten through fourth grade and the drama team presenting an interpretive demonstration of Matthew West’s song, “Truth be Told.” As the song played, the drama team acted the scenes for the verses while other students displayed cardboard word signs during the chorus to present the song’s message in a clear and meaningful way.

“The drama team got to make up the acting to the verses,” said Brooklyn Hill, a drama team member. “We decided to paint black boxes and use them to represent lies that people hide behind in life, or the secrets that they carry,” Hill said.

“The students’ presentation of this song brought me to tears, and I had to race home to watch the archived livestream video to catch this inspiration a second time,” said Randy Bell, an elder at the Brighton church.

To view the church service https://livestream.com/brightonsda/events/9540454

To view “Truth Be Told” skit https://vimeo.com/516446052

–Jodie Aakko is Brighton Adventist Academy’s head teacher; photos by BAA Facebook page

20 Jan

BAA students celebrate MLK Day with community service projects

By Jodie Aakko – Brighton, Colorado … “My role as a young person [is] to support and promote social justice to help out with community service and telling others to not judge people from the outside,” Elid Provencio, fifth grader at Brighton Adventist Academy (BAA) reflected after a day of community service events to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. at BAA.

The academy staff and students celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a “day out” in the community, rather than a “day in” at school.

The CHERISH (Christ-centered, Honor, Exploration, Responsibility, Integrity, Service, Heroism) core values shine brightly in the mission and purpose of  Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership; therefore, the day provided an excellent opportunity for the students to put the values into action.

To begin the day, the student body assembled for worship which included a personal, inspirational message presented on video from Dr. Alexander Bryant, president of the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists. Bryant shared his personal testimony, and highlighted the lives of Martin Luther King and Joseph from the Bible.

“I thought it was very cool because it meant a lot to us for him to make a video for us even though he lives near Washington, D.C. and has a bigger job to do. He told us to dream big with God’s plan,” Gizelle Luna, seventh grader said.

After worship, students spread into the community in groups to participate in Covid-safe outdoor community service projects.

One group circled Brighton Care Center to visit residents through the windows. The senior citizens’ faces beamed with jubilation and glee as students held up signs, called out greetings, sang songs, and jumped for joy. “It was fun to make people feel better even though we were seeing them through the window,” Liliana Marr, fourth grader exclaimed.

A few miles away, another team presented congratulatory posters to the Platte Valley Medical Center for sixty years of service, along with a basket of treats for the doctors and nurses. One poster spotlighted doctors and nurses as super heroes for their work during this pandemic, while another poster featured young students’ praying hands.

“It was nice that the doctors and the nurses and the directors came outside to meet us. I appreciate that they help keep us safe,” Kierstin Syvertson, seventh grader, stated.

A final group of students created personalized greeting cards for many Brighton church members who need a little bit of cheer during the current pandemic. Each card was safely hand-delivered with roses, and the surprise visit was complete with pleasant front-porch visits.

The day concluded back at BAA with a variety of learning activities and projects on Martin Luther King Jr., the Civil Rights Movement, and the lives of famous Black Americans. Some students studied King’s speech, “My Life’s Blueprint”, and Maya Angelou’s poem, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” while others were challenged by guest speaker Debbie Jackson, director of the Park Hill Pathfinder Club, to be a part of social justice today.

Jackson reminded students that King was a dreamer of what others could not dream.

–Jodie Aakoo is principal of Brighton Adventist Academy; photos supplied

26 Aug


By Jodie Aakko – Brighton, Colorado … Brighton Adventist Academy (BAA) is back in school, real school, but with a five-page safe reopening COVID-19 protocol.

As plans were laid to reopen in-person education in North-Central Colorado, a common question was asked again and again. Will this list of regulations compromise what a Seventh-day Adventist Christian school has to offer, the real-life experience of the love of Jesus?

No one knew. Only God knew, and only time would reveal the answer.

As BAA opened to 51 students, eager to see their friends, classmates, and teachers, the question remained.

A few days in, the answer began to take shape, but wasn’t yet distinct.

The answer came during the first chapel of the academic year when staff witnessed students praising Jesus, talking with Jesus, and seeking Jesus as a best friend.

It was evident Jesus was saying, “See, I took care of you.  This is my school; these are my children.  We are together again.  Go teach.”

The moment was priceless, with students joining together–preschool through grade nine– hanging out to worship Jesus corporately.  It looked a bit different than usual, with students in the grass courtyard instead of inside a building, relaxing on beach blankets or mats or here and there, a chair. Their happy faces were partly covered by masks, and classmates were separated by six feet; cohorts, by twenty-five feet, yet despite this nod to pandemic regulations, they were happily praising God.

The assembly began with an enthusiastic and invigorating song service led by Tammy Kelley, ukulele and piano teacher, with her daughter Raelynn Kelley. The accompanying flashing laser light show ended with a new school theme song titled, “All About Jesus Love for Me,” an original composition Kelly wrote to fit the chapel theme for the school year, “All about Jesus.”

Traveling evangelists Lee and Marjie Venden were there to share a favorite parable, “The Elevator and the Ferrari.”  The message, “It is best to listen to Jesus and let Him be the driver on the journey of life,” will help educators and pupils traverse the unknown world ahead.

–Jodie Aakko is principal of Brighton Adventist Academy; photos courtesy of BAA Facebook page.