19 Feb


By Karrie Myers — Denver, Colorado … Following an invitation by the RMC Administrative Committee, Paul Negrete accepted the position of associate superintendent of RMC education at the end of January and will begin his position on July 1.

“God has blessed Paul with many gifts that will, in turn, bless the schools and communities in our conference,” Diane Harris, RMC superintendent of education said. “His passion for Adventist education is contagious. His K-12 experience not only compliments the strengths already found in the department but will also serve as a valuable asset as we develop ways to better serve our schools.”

Negrete brings a track record of education successes that span 24 years. He began his career teaching at East Valley Adventist School in Baldwin Park, California, where he taught at the fifth through eighth-grade level for six years, later becoming the teaching principal. Following East Valley Academy, he transferred to San Gabriel Academy in Southern California where he occupied multiple roles, including head principal, a position he has held for the past 11 years.

He now joins RMC with a proven track record of meeting high expectations and a keen understanding of the importance of meaningful communication between teachers, parents and the community.

During his time at San Gabriel Academy, he oversaw the implementation of changes at a systemic level, a transition that happened six years prior to the North American Division initiative for the same changes.

Negrete credits this experience as giving him a unique understanding of how to transition and implement such changes within a large system. “I am grateful God has had a place for me in Adventist Education,” Negrete said. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity of working with superintendent Harris, who not only has a deep love and understanding for RMC education, but also a vision for where it can go.”

“Our work as educators is to continue to better understand His [God’s] plan for education and His ideal for the world we live in. My hope is to help bring many young people to Christ through the ministry of education so that they, in turn, can contribute to the preaching of the Gospel and be ready for Christ’s soon return,” Negrete added.

Negrete earned a bachelor’s degree in history and political science and a master’s degree in education administration and leadership from La Sierra University. He and his wife, Cindy, who supports and partners with him in the ministry of education, have two daughters, Natalie and Giselle. Natalie is completing her third year at La Sierra University, and Giselle is a high school sophomore.

–Karrie Myers is communication assistant at Mile High Academy; photo supplied

20 Jan


By Karrie Meyers – Highlands Ranch, Colorado … On January 14, 2020, Mile High Academy student Mya Peña lost her life in a murder-suicide, the victim of domestic violence. On the one-year anniversary of this heartbreaking loss, the Denver community, Peña family, friends, and Mile High Academy students and staff gathered to honor Mya’s legacy, remembering not only a kind-hearted individual, but also creating awareness about domestic violence and mental health.

They gathered on January 14 in downtown Denver where local artist Austin Zucchini-Fowler painted a mural in remembrance of Mya at the corner of 21st and Lawrence streets. This location holds significance as it is near the area where Mya frequently served food to the homeless.

Attending the gathering, Andy Nash, Littleton church lead pastor, reflected on the event, “It was very meaningful to see so many students and families come together for Mya and her family. As parents ourselves, we especially want Audra to know that her beautiful daughter will remain in our hearts until the day Mya herself is with us again.”

To commemorate the anniversary, Mya’s mother Audra Peña teamed up with local businesses, churches, Mile High Academy, friends and family, collecting donations to distribute to the homeless community. Food, water, coats, gloves, hats and blankets were brought to the downtown mural where volunteers distributed them to those in need.

While time, memories and friendships have helped with the loss, there will always be a hole in the school community.

“The loss of a friend is like no other loss. There’s no way of just ‘getting over it,’ but it’s possible to get through it with the support from others. Having created so many memories helps make everyday a little easier,” Emily Raymond, classmate and Mya’s best friend, said.

MHA planned to mark the anniversary by hosting a day of events in her honor. Unfortunately, due to an ongoing quarantine, upper school students weren’t able to be on campus; however, they shared stories about Mya and prayed together for Mya’s family during an online time of reflection.

Mya’s best friend Emily reflected on the day’s events, “Her [Mya’s] memorials give us a chance to remember her life, not her death. I’m thankful so many people cared about Mya. Seeing how many people loved and cared for her has helped me grieve, encourages me to give back to her and try to live a meaningful life for her.”

Audra Peña, Mya’s mother, was grateful to MHA for all the love and support shown to her family over the past year.  In an email to MHA she said, “Thank you again for everything! You all are such a precious blessing to my family and I. Mya would be so honored. We cannot express our appreciation enough!”

She has created the foundation Mya’s World whose mission is to provide a place for young people struggling to come to terms with domestic violence and mental health, or struggling in a relationship or needing a place to call for help.

To follow the foundation as it continues Mya’s legacy of helping others, please visit https://www.facebook.com/MyaWorld-102439001318533.

–Karrie Myers is Mile High Academy’s communication assistant; photos supplied

16 Dec


By Karrie Meyers — Highlands Ranch, Colorado … Mile High Academy’s gymnasium was void of musical instruments and singing voices; however, that didn’t stop the students from spreading holiday cheer online.

The virtual event airing on December 14 began with a greeting from Brenda Rodie, MHA’s vice-principal of operations, reminding them that while things look a little different, there is one thing that hasn’t changed–“the love of a Savior who came to this earth to save us, and the promise of His soon return.”

MHA decided not to offer band or choir this year because of the COVID precautions implemented. Finding alternative means of musical instruction, lead to performances from table harps, handbells, boomwackers, ukuleles, a piano solo and kitchen utensils. Students couldn’t wait to record their masterpieces, showcasing their hard work for the community.

First-grader Andrew commented, “I love learning to play the harp. I play the piano too, so it makes me feel really musical.”

“It’s been fun watching these little ones start with what sounds like a beautiful mess, [that] with a little practice, eventually turns into a Christmas song,” said Kate Kamarad, first grade teacher. “Their faces light up when they all play together.”

The evening continued with a drama reading presentation featuring upper-grade students, their message, that no matter the hardships that become us, there was a great Man who died and rose again.

The gathering concluded with a special “Go Mustangs” message from interim school board chairman Brodie Philpott, and Michael Armstrong, vice-principal of academics thanked God for the gift of His son and asked for “help as we navigate life right now.”

Reflecting on the program Jocelyn Aalborg, vice principal of finance and development said,

“We are thankful we could provide the MHA community with a Christmas program during this unique time.”

To watch MHA’s virtual Christmas program and see photos of the kids’ artwork, please visit https://www.milehighacademy.org/2020-virtual-christmas-program

Karrie Myers is Mile High Academy’s communication assistant; photos supplied

04 Nov


By Karrie Meyers – Highlands Ranch, Colorado … Relationship building and helping students discover the joy and fulfillment of a life with Jesus is at the center of pastoral involvement at Mile High Academy.

During the school week, you can often see pastors from MHA constituent Denver area churches playing games at recess, eating lunch and praying with pupils, and learning real life experiences through Bible classes taught by Pastors Andy Nash and Chris Morris.

“It’s been a lot of fun having the pastors here on campus,” said Claire Philpott, fourth-grader.

To show appreciation during pastor appreciation month in October, MHA assembled “Dinner on Us” baskets and signed candy posters from the students.

“It was a fun surprise receiving the gifts,” said Jamey Houghton, Franktown Seventh-day Adventist Church pastor. “Our family enjoyed reading the messages. I’m so glad that we have an Adventist school close by for the kids at the Franktown church. I know our families are grateful for the Christian education and wonderful teachers. I’m thankful to be able to partner in ministry with MHA in preparing our kids for Heaven.”

MHA recently held a special week of spiritual emphasis with Pastors Daniel Birai and Seth Day from LifeSource Adventist Fellowship sharing with students about the character of God and how during hard or challenging times, God is always there providing love and support.

Rebecca Berg, MHA’s upper school teacher and chaplain reflected, “The beautiful messages brought to us during our week of prayer reminded me and our students of God’s unshakeable love.”

Jocelyn Aalborg, MHA’s vice principal of finance and development added, “Our churches have remained dedicated to our school even during leadership and financial struggles. We’re excited to have several new pastors joining our community and look forward to building a stronger relationship with them. Our goal is that area churches will see MHA as an extension of their ministry.”

— Karrie Myers is Mile High Academy’s communication assistant; photos supplied

21 Oct


By Karrie Meyers – Highlands Ranch, Colorado … Mile High Academy students learn skills for life in elective classes.

Students can choose classes including: art, woodworking, life skills, outdoor survival, drama, yearbook, strategy games, robotics and Spanish.

Life skills class was formed with the purpose of providing students with an opportunity to develop skills needed for everyday life as well as problem solving and decision making including: how to look for a job, write a resume, fill out an application.

Pupils also discovered how to cook and how to integrate vegetarian options into the recipes and the importance of a well-balanced meal. They made guacamole, tortillas from scratch, quesadillas, banana nut bread, smoothies, spring rolls and mashed potatoes.

“I really enjoyed life skills because I got to learn how to cook – and eat it,” Mitchell Nudd, seventh-grader said.

MHA strives to provide students a well-rounded education, including unique elective class options for upper and middle school.

“Keeping the students involved and excited about leaning is a priority at Mile High Academy,” said Brenda Rodie, VP of operations, admissions and records. “The world as we know it is constantly changing and providing instructional and interactive elective classes help the students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills that stay with them for a lifetime.”

Woodworking is offered to upper school students teaching how to safely use hand and power tools.  Their first project was to make birdhouses. The students were tasked with creating their plan, cutting and building as well as painting. The birdhouses are almost complete, and they will be selling them to family and friends.

“I enjoy the experience of helping the students learn a hands-on skill and giving them the opportunity to plan and execute their own project from start to finish,” Brian Howard, woodworking teacher said.

Robotics is also a popular elective. The class of twelve is in its initial design phase of this school year’s robot. They are currently raising funds to attend a Florida robotics competition in April 2021, with an upcoming drive-in movie to be held on November 7.

— Karrie Myers is Mile High Academy’s communication assistant; photos supplied

21 Oct


By Karrie Meyers – Highlands Ranch, Colorado … Mile High Academy students walked during the 2nd annual walk-a-thon fundraiser for MHA’s annual fund.

The event took on a different look, due to the ongoing pandemic restrictions causing the daylong event to be divided in 90-minute block schedules for each cohort, with the event expanding over two days.

Laughter and cheers could be heard as the classes raced around the soccer field during the gathering held at the end of September.

Faculty, staff and volunteers were on the sidelines, cheering the students and passing out prizes including: sunglasses, stress balls, stickers and ice cream.

Participants wore a blue tie-dye 2020 walk-a-thon t-shirt, encouraging them to remain #MHAStrong.

Following Douglas County health guidelines, parents were allowed on campus to volunteer with helping count laps, handing out prizes and fellowshipping with students and teachers.

“As a parent that has always been heavily involved in volunteering on campus in years past, this year has proven to be a huge adjustment. With limited access to be able to be on campus this year due to COVID restrictions, I was ecstatic to learn of the opportunity to volunteer in-person for the school’s annual walk-a-thon,” Abby Helm, parent of three students, said.

“I felt a sense of normalcy helping with the event, and the excitement of my children seeing me back on campus volunteering was nothing short of heartwarming,” she added.

Pizza parties were awarded to the classes who raised the most donations through the competition.  Individual awards were also awarded. The walk-a-thon was able to raise around $16,000 for the annual fund.

“The MHA team worked hard to develop a plan for a safe, fun event, one the students could enjoy while taking pride in helping the school raise money,” said Jocelyn Aalborg, MHA’s vice principal of finance and development.

— Karrie Myers is Mile High Academy’s communication assistant; photos supplied

01 Oct


By Karrie Meyers — Highlands Ranch, Colorado … Due to a mandated closed campus for large events and COVID unknowns, Mile High Academy shifted its 2020 Alumni Weekend to a virtual celebration on Sabbath and an in-person golf tournament at Arrowhead Golf Course on Sunday.

The virtual Alumni Sabbath event began, September 26. A video was posted via MHA’s YouTube channel as a premiere event and linked to the Alumni website. A .pdf of the program was also offered on the website.

Throughout the video, alumni reflected on the question, “What does MHA mean to you?” Volunteers from many of the honor classes offered the welcome, prayers, Scripture reading, and sermonettes. Celebrating 55 years since his graduation, Alumnus Dave Ferguson (’65) shared humorous memories of his time as a student at Mile High Academy. Elder James Brauer (’70) challenged his alumni family to get to know Jesus, and a new promotional video highlighted the campus and cast light on the values that make Mile High Academy the special school it remains today.

A beautiful morning dawned Sunday, September 27, but turned blustery and cold for the 80 golfers who participated in the annual Alumni Golf Tournament at Arrowhead Golf Course. The teams, nevertheless, enjoyed the morning of fellowship and laughter. The event raised more than $5,000 for the school’s Annual Fund. Prizes were given for first, second and third place as well as a for closest to the hole, longest drive, and a putting-green challenge.

“I am thankful Mile High Academy was still able to host an Alumni celebration. We appreciate the continued support from all our alumni. It’s because of such support that the school is able to celebrate serving the Denver area community for 107 years,” said Jocelyn Aalborg, MHA VP of finance and development and Honor Class of 2005.

To view the alumni weekend video, please visit www.milehighacademy.org/alumni2020.

–Karrie Myers is Mile High Academy’s communication assistant; photo supplied

16 Sep


By Karrie Meyers –Highlands Ranch, Colorado …The health safety of students and staff remains a top priority for Mile High Academy during this unique school year. Many changes to the school routine have been forced by the COVID pandemic, changes that aren’t taken lightly by school administration, teachers and staff.

“COVID has certainly changed the structure of our school day and the appearance of our campus and classrooms,” said Brenda Rodie, MHA VP of operations, admissions and records. “We work closely with the Tri-County Health Department and a contracted nursing team from Children’s Hospital to make sure we consistently follow all pandemic guidelines.”

What has become a new normal for students includes daily temperature checks and health screening before students leave their vehicles each morning. In turn, students are given a wristband after screening, showing clearance to enter their classroom. They also enter and leave the premises through separate doors.

Two-layer masks are required for all students in fourth-grade and above and staff and teachers inside the facility and classrooms, with preschool through third-grade are required to wear masks during transitions from one classroom to another. Plexiglas is installed in classrooms and common areas where social distancing space can’t be maintained. Students are required to handwash frequently for 20 seconds. Hand-sanitizing stations are available outside classrooms and in other key locations on campus. A specific COVID sickroom has been identified with another room set up for injuries and those without COVID-like symptoms.

Classrooms are divided into cohorts, the Lower School cohorts, by grade, and Middle School and Upper School separate cohorts. In addition to cohorts, the campus is divided into zones, allowing cohorts to maintain social distancing while outside.

“A blessing about living in Colorado is our beautiful sunny days,” said Rodie. “We are encouraging our teachers to utilize the outdoors as much as possible, including moving classroom instruction outside.”

Teachers remain with their cohorts throughout the day, and the school week has moved to four-days.

If a teacher needs to enter quarantine for any reason, including the chance their own child may have COVID-like symptoms, they have the ability to teach via Microsoft Teams, while an on-site proctor monitors students in the classroom. Students also have the ability to learn remotely from home in case they need to self-quarantine due to COVID exposure by someone in their family.

Signage reminders are found throughout campus, including reminders to maintain social distancing and floor circles depict where to stand to social distance properly, “Because we are Mile High Academy” graphics are on rotation via the school’s digital boards reminding kids to wear masks, take their temperature, wash their hands and social distance. Every other sink is shut off in restrooms, again enforcing proper social distancing regulations, and supporting signage from the Colorado Health Department can be found throughout the campus.

The school has also ramped up its cleaning procedures. Not only do teachers wipe down high-traffic areas in the classroom, but a contracted cleaning service is on-site during the school day. The cleaning crew is responsible for cleaning high-traffic areas such as restrooms and sinks at least three times during the school day. In addition, the crew wipes down doorknobs, chairs and other items that are frequently touched as well as assisting with any general clean-up requests. The school undergoes a deep-cleaning process in the evenings and on Fridays when students aren’t on site.

Most notably missing from campus are the traditional events and parent volunteers. This year, parents are required to remain in their cars and are not allowed to enter the facility. Students are only allowed to be dropped-off or picked-up through the school’s detailed drop-off or pick-up procedures. If a parent needs to get something to their student, they are requested to call the front office and a staff member will go out to get the necessary items. Special events, such as Alumni Weekend and Back-to-School evening, have gone virtual, and Parent-Teacher Conferences are mostly via scheduled Zoom meetings. All other events, including Fall Festival, have been cancelled. “The administrative team and teachers are continuously looking for ways to host our events in a virtual format and will communicate through email, the weekly school newsletter and the school calendar on our website of any date, time and format changes,” said Rodie.

Another addition is the contract with a Children’s Hospital nursing team. An assigned nurse checks in daily with the administrative team, also checking on students with possible symptoms including their general health and well-being. The nurse also makes routine visits to the campus, to make sure immunizations, staff medical training and medical procedures are up-to-date and followed.

“I work with many childcare facilities and schools throughout the area,” said Donna Anttila, BSN and Children’s Hospital school/childcare health consultant. “From the start of our partnership, Mile High Academy and I have worked closely together in preparation and collaboration for this school year. We continuously review the latest guidelines for keeping everyone safe on campus. This collaboration and hard work have translated into what parents and students experience now. I am very, very pleased with how well the school year is going.”

–Karrie Myers is Mile High Academy’s communication assistant; photos supplied

10 Sep


By Karrie Meyers … Highlands Ranch, Colorado – Mile High Academy’s Senior Class of 2021 was tested by Mother Nature when she poured rain during the annual Senior Survival weekend.

A yearly tradition for the Mile High Academy Senior class, Senior Survival weekend was created with the intent that Seniors kick-off their last year of high school with an outdoor retreat, electing class offers and challenging students to overcome obstacles, extend outside comfort zones and bond as a class. This year’s class along with two chaperones departed Mile High Academy on Thursday, August 27, to camp at Mohawk Lakes after hiking the Spruce Creek Trail located near Breckenridge, Colorado.

It was dark by the time students arrived at the campsite, so students quickly pitched their tents, prepared dinner and gathered for an evening worship. Lead by Lisa Venteicher, Upper School teacher, her devotional thought reminded students the weekend was set aside for them to grow as a class and personally while enjoying time together in nature.

Students awoke Friday morning to clear Alpine Lake views with Mount Helen in the background. Everyone prepared their own breakfast, which was followed by another encouraging devotional thought, this time by Brady Tull, athletic director. He focused on encouraging Seniors to enjoy each other and make lasting memories during their final year of high school.

“It was awesome seeing all the students together in nature, trying something they’ve never done before,” said coach Tull.

Once camp was cleaned up, students and staff hiked a mile and a half to the Lower Mohawk Lake. During the hike, it started to rain, but not yet enough to dampen their spirits. They appreciated signs of nature including a moose encounter along the trail on their way back to camp. By the time Seniors arrived back at camp, it was pouring rain. After diving into tents, laughter ensued from intense Uno games and small talk. Finally, the relentless rain and cold forced the decision to return to back to school.

Reflecting on the experience, Seniors were disappointed to end the weekend early, but were thankful for the memories they made. Senior Mcjaden Fievre commented, “The most challenging part about Senior Survival was becoming one with nature. The thing I will remember about the weekend was the moose that was 30 feet away from us.”

Senior Brooke Henry was taken out of her comfort zone by the challenge of backpacking. However, “backpacking with my friends made it more fun. I will always remember sheltering in the tent with the girls while it rained, enjoying time to talk and reconnect after a summer apart,” she said.

–Karrie Myers is Mile High Academy’s communication assistant; photo supplied

26 Aug


By Karrie Meyers – Highlands Ranch, Colorado … “Rooted in Christ, We Will Not Be Shaken,” is the spiritual theme for Mile High Academy this academic year.

Chosen by the student association, the theme was inspired by Psalm 16:8, “I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me.”

“I love that the student association picked this theme. It’s been a year of uncertainty that has shaken many of us. When we stop and remember that we are rooted in Christ and not our circumstances, we can live from the strength, grace and love of our unchangeable and unshakable God,” Rebecca Berg, MHA chaplain and upper school teacher said.

Brooke Henry, senior and MHA student association president added, “I’m excited about this theme because it ties so well to the challenges, we’ve all had to face this year. Focusing on the fact that we won’t be shaken if we are rooted in Christ is really reassuring during this time of uncertainty.”

In the first chapel service of the year held outside on the soccer field, the theme was revealed. The graphic on canvas, painted by the student association, featured a large tree with roots. Students were invited to dip their hands in different paint colors and use their hand prints as the leaves of the tree.

The large canvas picture was stretched and hung across the wall of the upper school to serve as a reminder for students to remain connected with Christ.

Along with the message of the theme, the song “We Will Not Be Shaken” by Building 429 will be used at weekly chapels, morning meetings and events throughout the year to highlight the overall spiritual message.

–Karrie Myers is Mile High Academy’s communication assistant; photos supplied