30 Years 30 Stories

On March 17, 2017, MCS celebrated 30 years of impacting young lives with its mission of “building a firm foundation through Christ-centered education.” To commemorate this milestone, we featured written and video stories to inspire our school community to see the legacy of God’s work through the history of MCS. There are countless stories to tell – from current students, alumni, founders, parents, grandparents – stories of great achievements as well as overcoming obstacles – stories of growth, community, and spiritual transformation.

Chris Spurgin as an MCS student“When I was a student at MCS, we only had one class of 13 students. I felt close with my classmates because of the small size. Above all, I had teachers that poured into my life and held high standards for my academics and character. They emphasized respect for authority, showing Christ’s love to my peers, and using God’s Word to guide my decisions.” This is Chris Spurgin’s perspective on being an MCS student from 1987 to 1993 – years before he would answer God’s call to become a math teacher at the very same school.

Fast forward to 2017. A lot has changed, but a lot has stayed the same. “We have new technologies, a wider variety of programs, and a larger student body – but the mission has never changed, and students continue leaving prepared to think critically and live out God’s Word.”

When thinking about how he became a teacher, Chris credits his MCS teachers who poured into him at an early age. Once he started at Biola University and began working as a math tutor, he knew he had found his calling working with children. Six years into his teaching career he noticed that MCS had a job opening, and the rest is history.

“I love the culture at MCS. The students are a privilege to teach, and the work environment is second to none. My colleagues are true professionals, excellent in their craft, and absolutely love what they do. We are a family here.” Chris is 100% committed to his students and ensuring that they are well-prepared for the rigor of high school mathematics.

As the one and only person who has experienced all three roles of MCS student, teacher, and parent, Chris now enjoys having his own daughter enrolled in first grade. “I see how her teachers love and connect with her, nurturing her growth not only academically, but socially and spiritually as well.”

Chris’s journey at MCS continues on as a dynamic teacher and devoted parent, and MCS students are blessed because of it!

An MCS Grandparent Comes Full Circle

When MCS Grandparent Barbara Crowell heard “30 Stories for 30 Years,” it took her right back to her time as the very first teacher hired at MCS. Forty-seven students were enrolled on that first day in 1987, and Barbara had a combo class of 2nd-4th graders to lead. She and her fellow teachers walked by faith as the school opened its doors on the former Mariners Church campus in Newport Beach.

Barbara recalls how involved the parents were in those early years. “Many of the parents had just gone through an abrupt closing of a local Christian school. They kept the curriculum and other materials and responded to every need we had.” From Barbara’s perspective, these founding families and teachers were determined to make MCS unlike any other Christian school in the area, equally strong in terms of academic preparation and spiritual training.

“We began every day in prayer together. Because we were such a small staff, we were very close – and I know that family-like environment is still true of MCS today.”

Mrs. Crowell’s former student, incoming MCS Parent and MCS Alumni Michael McClellan

“This family-like environment is one of the hallmarks of MCS. We have so many ‘full circle’ stories, and they all point to the connected community that God has knitted into MCS’s identity since the beginning,” commented former Head of School, Troy Moore.

One ‘full circle’ story recently came to light involving a former student of Mrs. Crowell’s, Michael McClellan.  There on that first day in 1987, Michael remembers Mrs.  Crowell as being a highly-skilled and effective teacher, yet equally kind, creating a welcoming learning environment for her students.  “I remember feeling very comfortable in Mrs. Crowell’s class, and that my classroom felt like a place that I belonged.  Mrs. Crowell exhibited the values and traits that have come to define MCS over the years.  There were only a handful of teachers in those early years, and Mrs. Crowell had a tremendous impact on the school’s culture.  Now 30 years later, my wife Samantha and I are about to send our oldest daughter Catherine to TK at MCS in the fall.  When we went on our admissions tour earlier this year, we had an amazing tour guide.  He was this phenomenally mature eighth grader – poised, well-spoken and totally comfortable answering a bunch of questions from a group of adults.  I looked at his name tag and it read ‘James Crowell’.  ‘Any relation to Barbara Crowell?’ I asked.  ‘Yes, she’s my grandmother,’ he said.   Needless to say, that was an emotional moment for me.  We feel incredibly blessed by the continuity in this community.”

As a grandparent of two current MCS students, Barbara is happy to see that the school’s mission to raise up students who are strong in the Lord has not wavered. “While I know my two grandsons are being challenged with excellent academic preparation, as well as fantastic arts and athletic opportunities; I am confident that, above all else, their teachers are intent passing on the baton of Faith.”

In 1994, George Nichols and his wife Renee were looking for just the right school for their two young boys, with the clear intention of sending them to a Christian school. Through their connection with Alumni families such as Paula and Rob Boyer, Bev and Les Barkley, Karen and Tim McSunas – they found a way to reach their goal of raising children together in the Christian faith at MCS.

Their years as parents of school-age children were filled with incredible memories as Matthew and Taylor grew up too fast before their very eyes: wonderful teachers, life-long friendships being made, Bible memorization, field trips, Washington, DC… and especially being a community in Christ together at MCS, praying for each other, and supporting through life’s circumstances.

An Unexpected Hurdle: After the boys graduated from MCS and Matthew graduated from Mater Dei High School, the Nichols received the news that every family dreads: cancer.  In 2011, Renee was diagnosed with colon cancer as part of her 50th birthday medical testing.  The Nichols family would transition into a season filled with highs and lows, joys and sorrows, and walking by Faith during a time that held little clarity.

“Renee’s cancer shook our world, but not our faith. We gathered friends and family and began praying but never asking why. ‘Life is hard, but God is good’ is what we told people — believers as well as non-believers. Renee honored God in all she did and wherever she was — her faith grew stronger even when the news was bad (which was most of the time).”

Finding Purpose in the Midst of Pain: Then, on January 1, 2014, George and Renee received the news that would alter their lives forever: their youngest son Matthew lost his life in a tragic accident.  There were no words to describe the pain of that moment or the journey that would follow.  He was 22 years old when he went home to Heaven.

Even still, the Nichols were spiritual warriors and clung ever closer to the Lord.  Within a very short period of time, the Nichols felt a prompting – a calling – from the Holy Spirit to boldly carry on the legacy of Matthew’s life.  Through countless letters, texts, and calls, they learned of the quiet impact for Christ Matthew had been making in his world.  Hundreds of lives were changed for the better because of their encounters and conversations with Matthew. The Nichols family created a website and friends designed a special bracelet coining Matthew’s favorite phrase “Carpe Diem.”  George and Renee established the Matthew Nichols Memorial Fund at MCS, which presents inscribed Bibles to 8th grade athletes, as well as a time to connect, talk about Matthew’s life, high school, and “what matters most.”

Very shortly after, George learned that his wife’s cancer was back, in full force, and that she had a very short time to live.  Together they spent those final days connecting with Jesus, with each other, and with others who needed to hear the Gospel.

Matthew’s and Renee’s Stories Continue: Today, George stands with his son Taylor as a man with his eyes fully fixed on Jesus.  He is committed to continue telling Matthew’s and Renee’s story and seeing how God leverages that for His glory – helping young people, like the students at MCS, realize “What Matters Most.”

A Servant Leader at All Times

Every morning, rain or shine, MCS families could count on the smiling, welcoming face of former faithful Chief Administrative Officer Todd Perkins in carpool. During his tenure at MCS, he served with humility, excellence, dedication, and integrity – and now we celebrate the exciting adventure God has for him as new Head of School at Yorba Linda Friends Christian School!

In 2006, Mr. Perkins came to serve on the administrative team at MCS after leading Solano Christian Academy in Fairfield, CA, and Providence Christian School in Charlotte, NC, from which he had moved his wife Julie and young boys Caleb, Ethan, and Sammy across the country. He settled his family in the mountain community of Arrowhead, and then dove wholeheartedly into his roles over the years as Director of Operations and Finance, Interim Head of School, and Chief Administrative/Financial Officer.

“I don’t think there is anyone within the MCS community – including staff, students, parents, alumni, grandparents – that does not have grateful remarks to say about Todd.  It has been an honor to serve with him, and I look forward to maintaining our connection going forward and collaborating on Kingdom work as fellow Christian school administrators!” -Troy Moore, Head of School

Today we honor our esteemed colleague Todd Perkins and recognize his character and contributions to MCS for the past eleven years.  Mr. Perkins, our hats go off to you!

The following poem, written by Mrs. Celek, was read at MCS’s “Fond Farewell” reception for Mr. Perkins on June 6, 2017:

The Many Hats of Todd Perkins

Ohhhhh……What can be said about our beloved man Todd?
He’s worn many hats through the years on the job!
Finances, leadership, and new learning spaces
His fingerprints are all over MCS places.

Twice in our history, he has captained our ship
And kept MCS going at a very strong clip.
He lovingly led and picked up the pieces
As Interim Head, his talent never ceases.

Golf games and luncheons, and helicopter drops
He’s a master at fundraising, making MCS tops!
Auction ideas aplenty, class baskets galore
Thousands of dollars to bring MCS more.

Budgets and line items, good stewardship order
He gave care for our land, the bricks and the mortar,
Contingency planning and sudden repairs
Heating and roofing, and awnings and chairs.

Each morning Todd welcomes our families to school
With a wave and a smile – please follow the rules.
He shows generous portions of patience and grace
Helping MCS drivers park in the right place!

Jumping stalled cars, parking buses, and city permits
He works hard to keep neighbors from our traffic fits.
Parent interviews, donor relations, and alumni, too.
There’s nary a thing this man doesn’t do!

For veterans and grandparents cherished alike,
He has brought great stories alive to our mic,
Beate, Mike, Walter, Honor, James and two Jacks,
We have travelled Google earth through history and back!

With a heart for our country, and a love of Boy Scouts
On Vets Day, our street flags each year were put out.
We have watched his sons grow, of them he’s so proud
And he even made driving the golf cart allowed!

Sweet husband to Julie, and friend to us all
He drives mountain to ocean each day – what a haul!
Devoted to God and student of His Word
He’s paying heed to a new call he’s now heard.

From Mariners to Friends he will continue to lead
We love him so dearly, and know he’ll succeed
To excite students to learn, and teachers to teach
And envision new goals that together they’ll reach.

We wish Todd the best, and over him pray
God’s blessing here at the end of his stay.
Together as family, we give God the Glory
And rejoice that Todd’s part of the MCS story!

Get inspired!

Difference Makers on a Mission

These are three young ladies on a mission.

It’s no surprise that middle school students generally spend a large percentage of their time focusing on themselves. A recent national study showed that only 20 percent of students identified caring for others as their top priority – yet MCS students Sydney, Natalie, and Keira have managed to blow that statistic out of the water with their vision, determination, and hard work.

Keira Raack is a rising 5th grader at MCS, and her passion is to bring joy to people who are sick. “Both of my sisters have stayed in the hospital before, and it really made them feel happy when they received special gifts. I wanted to do that for others.”

Inspired by chapel guest speaker Jessie Simonson of 31 Bits Jewelry, Keira decided that she wanted to get moving on her passion and “make a difference” for Jesus in her world.

From there she established Cases of Love – www.casesoflove.com, an organization dedicated to sharing God’s love and smiles to children who are in the hospital. Keira individually designs and sews pillowcases. With a $20 donation, donors choose a pillowcase and attach an encouraging message to be given to a child in the hospital. The pillowcases are then delivered to local hospitals and the donations raised are given to Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation (PCRF). With the help of her family, she quickly created her own website to spread the word, and things have been moving rather quickly ever since!

She continues to mobilize her peers at school to join her. In May, 20 fellow MCS students joined Keira at Fashion Camp at the Tustin Marketplace to learn how to sew pillowcases. Together the students created 28 pillowcases. Keira recently spoke at her grandfather’s church and hosted a booth at the PCRF Reaching for a Cure Run/Walk. To-date, Cases for Love has donated $2,445 to PCRF and, in May, Keira delivered 105 pillowcases to CHOC.

Amazingly, even with a vision this big, Keira has not encountered too many hurdles. “The biggest challenge for me so far has been focusing on the sewing. It’s hard work, and sometimes I get distracted!”

Read the feature news story on Keira in the On Faith section of the Newport Beach Indy!


Sixth grade buddies Natalie Ferdi and Sydney Shelton share a common bond in baking. They also have big hearts to serve people in need. Out of this commonality the girls developed a plan for “Bake to Save” – a new branch of support for Walk4Water, a non-profit organization that provides water wells in Africa in places with no access to clean water.

The gist of the project is that the girls bake items to sell at special events and then donate the proceeds back to Walk4Water. Their goal is to inspire other MCS students to start their own bake sales, generating proceeds for Bake2Save which will in turn support Walk4Water, multiplying their impact through numbers.

Even when faced with challenges, the students are committed to push forward with their vision. “It’s difficult right now because we are trying to design a website which is much harder than people think.”

Not only are they making a big difference on the other side of the world, Natalie and Sydney are receiving more than what they’re giving. “I feel really good and happy when we’re working on this project together. We both like to help other kids and we like being with each other,” shared Natalie.

Looking ahead to this summer, the girls are excited to continue fine tuning their baking skills and accomplish as much as they can to help people who desperately need clean water!

Read the full story in the LA Times about the MCS Difference Maker Grant Program!

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.”
-Mother Theresa

A Ministry-minded family doing life in MCS’s Connected Community

Brian Darrow had his plan firmly in mind: jump back into the business world, transition his ministry role to a volunteer capacity, and enjoy a season with his family worshipping in a larger church. All systems go!

And yet … that still small voice began catching his attention with dozens of direct confirmations that, in fact, God wanted the Darrows to launch a ministry in Newport Beach. From providing all the right worship leaders, administrators, youth pastors, advisory board members, financial backing – there was no mistaking His call.

“I was in final negotiations for a business venture with a long-time college friend. He runs a successful company in Irvine and always wanted to work with me. So I entered the final meeting ready to finalize salary, equity, and benefits for his new division. Now, I had not shared with him any of the ministry ‘nudges’ that were taking place. In our meeting, he looked uncomfortable. He then proceeded to tell me that he and his wife had been praying and felt the Lord telling them, “Brian can’t proceed with this venture because he needs to start a church!”

That was the final affirmation Brian needed, and from there the launch of the W Church in Newport began to take off. Brian is the lead pastor at the W, and he welcomes a number of MCS families under his teaching each week.

The Darrows are a legacy family with bonds that run deep within the MCS community. They attest to the fact that, as a ‘Christian school for Christian families,’ MCS is a perfect complement to their spiritual focus as parents.

“We recognize that MCS, grounded with loving and godly teachers and staff, is helping our children grow in their own relationships with Jesus and equipping them to bring Jesus to the world. Our kids are growing up in a largely ‘anti-God’ culture, and we believe our kids will benefit greatly from a solid Christian education during their formative years.”

Now, our entire connected school community will benefit from Brian’s ministry-focus as he steps into his new role as an MCS Board member! As the Darrows continue building relationships with MCS friends through their 3rd grader Jedediah, as well as watching their older students Levi and Hannah blossom as young leaders in high school, they are thankful for the community and the preparation MCS has nurtured in their family.

Encouraging Students to Pursue Their Passion

“I always knew I’d become a surfer because my Dad and Grandpa were. In fact, my Grandpa made me my first surfboard, and he still surfs today.”

At 8 years old, now MCS middle school student Zeke Choi was already in the water pursuing his newfound passion: surfing. He instantly fell in love with the ocean, jumping with both feet into the surfing lifestyle.

Zeke is now a member of the North American West Coast Hurley Youth Surf Team. According to Senior Vice President of Hurley Surf Marketing and former pro surfer Pat O’Connell, Zeke competes at the national level with the NSSA and WSA, and he receives training and guidance from Hurley personnel and elite coaches.

For Zeke, there is nothing quite like being in the water every day. “Even during recess, I’ve got my eyes on the weather, checking to see if it might be a good day to surf. Every time I’m out on the ocean, it’s a new opportunity to see God’s power alive in His creation and to be grateful for all He has given me.”

Zeke loves being an MCS student because he feels that he’s supported in a community where kids are encouraged to never let fear hold them back. “At MCS, we feel the freedom to be who God made us to be. When we’re in chapel together, we are a community worshipping Jesus, and we’re not afraid of what others think. This actually helps me when I’m surfing in a competition, because I think – hey, if my friends can overcome their nerves at school, then I can be fearless, too.”

Zeke knows that his MCS community is rallying behind him. “I love the fellowship I have at school. My friends are always supportive of what I do, and my teachers, too – they really cheer me on. I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned from my teachers and my family is to care more about God’s opinion than man’s opinion.” His perspective is that kids today worry too much about what others think – instead of what God thinks.

Zeke does dream of becoming a pro surfer someday, but he holds that dream loosely. “I know not to set it in stone in my mind.” At his young age, Zeke understands that God might have other plans … and those plans are always best.

Get inspired!

A Remarkable Educator at MCS

Jesse and Brandi Gibbs, Adalee Maiah, Sophia, and Sammy

MCS teachers are passionate, talented, and driven to instill the joy of learning in the hearts of their students.  Brandi Gibbs is just one of dozens of the extraordinary men and women who inspire children every day at MCS.

The story of the Gibbs Family begins at Concordia University: Brandi Mapes meets Jesse Gibbs!  Brandi was pursuing a degree in youth ministry, developing her passion for discipleship.  “I absolutely thrive on face to face time with children, walking alongside them every single day and encouraging them in every area.”  With their common bond in ministry, Brandi and Jesse were married on June 25, 2005 and set down their roots in the ROCKHARBOR Church family.

Brandi completed her teaching credential and started teaching first grade at a local private school, immediately falling in love with the early elementary age group.  “Children are so formidable in those years – like little sponges that can be shaped into readers, writers, and Jesus followers!  The best part of my job is walking alongside parents and partnering with them in raising up their most precious treasures.”

From that experience, Brandi learned of an open teaching position at MCS, and the timing of her interview could not have been more perfect.  Though difficult to leave her former students, she knew it was time to transition into God’s new phase at MCS.  Her first day as an MCS kindergarten teacher surpassed all expectations: “Is this how incredible teaching at MCS is every day?!”

The Hills and Valleys of Starting a Family

In the midst of Brandi’s career path as an educator lingered her dream to become a Mom.  God answered the Gibbs’ deepest prayers, but along the journey of their first pregnancy, they discovered that they were both carriers of the Cystic Fibrosis gene.  Their family and friends walked through the disappointment and fear with them, and in the end their Faith grew stronger than ever.  After months of prayer, they received the phone call that brought sighs of relief and led to a safe delivery of Adalee Maiah Gibbs.

Growing Through Adoption

When Adalee was five months old, the Lord began to speak to Brandi about expanding their family through adoption.  God gave her a vision of a little boy, running into her arms to call her Mama, and Brandi told her husband confidently, “We have a son out there somewhere.  Now we just need to find him!”

God said NOW.

Through their relationship with the (current MCS family) Leeper’s grandparents, the Gibbs were referred to an international adoption ministry in Ghana, and from there a series of open doors and confirmations led them to meet their son Sammy.  However, the road to bring Sammy home was more difficult than they had imagined, and once again their Faith would be tested and strengthened.

The United States Embassy refused to provide Sammy’s Visa, and Brandi learned of under the table payments and the web of child trafficking taking place in Ghana.  She knew she needed to stand up not just for Sammy but for future children in this plight, and through Brandi’s fight to the White House, Hillary Clinton’s team traveled overseas to secure their visas and help bring two-year-old Sammy home.

Saturated with the love of Jesus through his new family, Sammy grew 10 inches during his first year!  And not too long after, they adopted third little miracle Sophia, growing the Gibbs to a family of 5.

From Gibbs Family to MCS Family

Fast forward to 2017 and the Gibbs children are content in their Spanish immersion program at a local charter school.  Brandi is content teaching in her first year at MCS, and Jesse is content in his role as pastor at ROCKHARBOR Church.  “All good!”  And then … God leads again, this time impressing upon their hearts that He wanted their family more connected in community, and a bigger part of the amazing things happening at Mariners Christian School

“Every day, as I witnessed the amazing learning environment at MCS, I felt more strongly that my children could not miss out.  I knew they had to be a part of this!”

And so on November 2, 2017 The Gibbs had their first day of school – walking on campus, they were enveloped with love and support, and after just one week, Adalee talked about finding her new “great friends” – and how she could actually pray out loud in class – they were home now, in the best Connected Community they could imagine.

The Gibbs Family’s Future

Mrs. Gibbs is fulfilled in her calling as a kindergarten teacher at MCS: “I am honored to teach at an elite school like MCS.  I am living my dream!  The support I receive is beyond what I could have imagined: joy-filled, positive – it rubs off on me daily.  The faculty is extraordinary, and I know that I am teaching amongst the best of the best.  Not only that, but I am encouraged to be the best MOM I can be to my kids.  The educational opportunities and spiritual mentorship they receive on a daily basis is phenomenal.

We are grateful to be a part of building MCS for the next 30 years.”

“This is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face…”  Psalm 24:6

Stephanie and Bob McClellan (Grandparents)

Little did founders Stephanie and Bob McClellan know, as they helped build the foundation of Mariners Christian School in 1987, that one day they would watch their own granddaughter reap the fruit of their prayers and labor.

This is just the sort of legacy that MCS is known for: a uniquely connected community with roots that run deep and a history filled with relationships that will last a lifetime, strengthened with an eternal bond in the Christian Faith.

Remarkably, the McClellan family tree has a number of branches that extend from that founding year:

  • Michael McClellan (married to Samantha), now a proud current MCS parent
  • younger brothers Tyler and Gunnar McClellan, graduates of Alumni Classes 1997 and 1998
  • cousins Taylor Nichols, Alumni Class 2004, and Matthew Nichols, Alumni Class of 2006 (Matthew passed away in 2014)
  • cousins Mason and Merrick Nichols, current Kinder and 3rd grade students
  • and now the youngest of the McClellan generation: Catherine, daughter of Michael and Samantha, current student in Miss Chandler’s TK class.
Michael and Samantha McClellan and Family

Michael and Samantha McClellan are the first of what MCS considers a ‘Legacy’ Alumni family: parents who attended MCS and are continuing that legacy by giving their own children the gift of an MCS education.  Michael was a student in MCS’s very first class in 1987, on the original Mariners Church campus in Newport Beach, though he graduated in sixth grade because the middle school program had not yet been established.

When Michael and Samantha were evaluating schools for their children, there was no question that MCS was at the top of the list.  “MCS has always been a special place for our family, and we had hoped Catherine would have a chance to attend. We want all of Catherine’s conversations both in and out of school to build a moral foundation for her that she can carry with her into the rest of her life. MCS helps us give that consistency in her world.”

The MCS elementary program has surpassed their expectations in every way.

“We love that Ms. Chandler has been consistent with the goals she shared at the beginning of the year.  Her priority is not high pressure academics with homework; it’s mastering the ability to follow directions, be part of a group, show kindness to others, and – have fun.  This aligns with our priority as parents that she feel safe and joyful at school, and we feel this describes her everyday experience at MCS.”

From Michael’s perspective, the distinctiveness of the MCS mission has remained strong: “I’m really excited about our school community – from the teachers to the parents to the kids. It is unique to be in an environment where the goals of so many families are aligned. I think that was true back in the late 1980s, and still holds true today. It’s pretty amazing how resilient that culture has been at MCS.”

Michael, currently a partner with Newmeyer & Dillion Law Firm, a 75 lawyer law firm headquartered in Newport Beach, is the start of a new generation of MCS families, as more and more Alumni in the Orange County area seek to partner with MCS in providing a top-notch private education for their children.  What greater evidence is there of the long-lasting impact of the MCS mission than the success of our Alumni?

Imagine the day when MCS hallways will be filled with ‘legacy’ families to carry on the tradition and embrace the BRIGHT FUTURE of Mariners Christian School!

Should other Alumni consider sending their children to MCS?  If you ask the McClellan family, the answer is “100% yes.”

MCS Student Cellist Andrew Buda – Arts Education with a “Whole Child” Focus

“In the future, I hope to study music at Julliard, maybe one day play at Carnegie Hall.” That’s a big dream for a 12 year old! But Andrew Buda likes to dream big, and he’s completely thrilled to have found his passion: the cello. “Being a part of the Middle School orchestra is the best part of my day. Dr. Um is awesome. He encourages and challenges us to be the very best musicians we can be.”

Andrew’s interest in the cello was piqued in 3rd grade, inspired by older sister Annie who was involved in the MCS elementary orchestra. As he began experiencing the program for himself, an excitement began to awaken for his newfound passion.

“Whenever I play the cello, I feel very relaxed, like I’m in another world. It makes my day refreshed whenever I have music class!”

Through his involvement in the Elementary Orchestra, Andrew discovered his true love for the cello as well as his ability to be a leader. The MCS 4th and 5th grade band and orchestra program is a supportive community for students to “test” their potential interest in instrumental music. Once he transitioned into Middle School Orchestra in 6th grade, Andrew’s experience began moving to a deeper level. Orchestra Director Dr. Um leverages his remarkable professional background and high level training (including The Julliard School), challenging students with more rigorous training, more advanced songs, helping them soar to new heights in their musicality.

“Dr. Um is really good at knowing how to push us to grow at the same time as being encouraging. We keep getting better and better.” “Being a part of the orchestra has helped me so much. I can’t explain it, but I am actually doing better academically since I have been playing. I feel like it’s affecting my brain in a good way. Also spiritually, I find fulfillment by reflecting God in my music. I feel happy that he gave me this gift, to glorify Him.”

An MCS education is one that truly addresses the shaping of the “whole child,” giving students myriad opportunities to find their passion and test out new potential interests. God has given each one their own special gifts and abilities – some shine on the stage like Andrew, and some are behind the scenes or out on the athletic field – but all giftings are unique and deserve to be challenged and fostered.

Andrew can hardly wait to play his cello on the stage in our future Center for Worship and Performing Arts – it’s a Bright Future at MCS!