20 Years Later, Summit Christian Academy Celebrates Growth and Remembers Beginnings
By Alice Minium

Academy imageIn 1996, a group of children sat at prop-up tables, reciting Latin declensions from a textbook. They were a misfit class of different ages, different families, and different backgrounds, but all of them were receiving a classical education. They were the first students of Summit Christian Academy, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

Originally founded in 1996 as a ministry of Peninsula Community Chapel, Summit Christian Academy is among the only classical schools on the Peninsula. It was awarded Best of 757 by Coastal Living Magazine in 2015. It represents over 60 different churches and 207 students.

In celebration of twenty years, the graduating seniors will be allowed to bury time capsules.

"Twenty years from now, we can open them and see what life was like for Summit at this time- including the different technology,” says Director of Admissions, Dana Tumminello.

Tumminello has been with Summit for most of its 20 years. After enrolling her children at Summit in 1997, she went on to serve as parent volunteer, PE teacher, and now as Director of Admissions and Marketing. She is familiar with Summit’s mission of classical education- a distinction which separates Summit from other private schools.

Classical education, Tumminello explains, is based on the Trivium of teaching Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric.

She elaborates, "It’s not just what subjects are taught, but how they are taught.”

Summit is comprised of an Upper School and a Lower School, in two locations. It approaches education in three stages.

The Grammar Stage, grades K4 through 6th, is when kids "love information.” Children are taught to absorb information through songs and chants. They learn the importance of communicating and speaking well, and they get to practice that. "A child gets to stand on stage and hold the Bible in chapel,” says Tumminello. "That’s teaching them to practice exhibiting these skills early on.”

The Dialectic Stage, grades 7th through 9th, is "when students take the information from earlier years and question it.” At this stage, students are taught Logic and Debate, as well as active listening and persuasion.

Finally, in the Rhetoric Stage of grades 10th through 12th, students prepare for their Senior Thesis, and a trip to Europe. Students are required to serve 120 community service hours to graduate, and are encouraged to exceed the requirement. The Rhetoric Stage is when students can finally "synthesizing all that information from the earlier stages” and prepare to go out in to the world, completing Summit’s selfascribed motto of "Discern, Articulate, Serve.”

"Back in the 80s, members [of Peninsula Community Chapel] felt called through prayer to start a school,” Tumminello says, speaking of Summit’s origins. "They didn’t want it to be just another Christian [school], since there were already so many good ones in the area.”

After learning about the classical model of education, the church members were inspired to envision a school like Summit.

"They wanted to teach critical thinking to kids.”

Summit first opened its doors in the Fall of 1996. It served students from K4 through 6th grade, and the school met daily in a rented space at Immanuel Baptist Church.

From there, Summit would be housed in a former Food Lion, a Gold’s Gym, and then at Peninsula Community Chapel itself. PCC expanded the size of its original church to accommodate and create separate areas for the school. They added student lockers, additional classrooms, and external modules for the sciences. They then went on to expand their building to include a café and concessions area, where teachers now host a monthly parent event called "Socrates Café.” In 2011, Summit added a gymnasium, significantly expanding and revitalizing their space. It was the realization of decades of prayer.

In the future, Summit hopes to install permanent bleachers in its new gymnasium, and to expand enrollment. "We still pray to God to grow our school,” Tumminello says confidently. "We give all our success back to God.”

Longstanding Summit teacher Cynthia Van Zandt echoes Tumminello’s sentiment.

Van Zandt has also been with Summit for most of its 20 years. She is the parent of an alumni, a ministry leader, math/science/Latin teacher, and mentor to many of her former students. To her, the school is unperturbed by twenty years of change.

"What has changed the most about Summit?” Van Zandt reflects, before replying with a smile, "Nothing. Other than size, nothing. Our mission hasn’t changed at all.”

Summit Christian Academy is located at 4209 Big Bethel Road in Yorktown, VA. More information about Summit Christian Academy can be found on their website at www.scaschools.org, or on their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


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