This is not only a student spotlight, but the story of how a family found the right educational environment at Christ’s Greenfield Lutheran School. Meet the Stephens family: Silas, the oldest is going into fourth grade, the middle daughter, Journey is going to be in first grade and the youngest, Bravery will start preschool in 2019. Geoffrey, the father is a Gilbert, AZ fire fighter of 22 years, and Lindsay, the mother is a photographer who has a passion for documenting life. Their family has some unique financial circumstances which are costly due to their daughter Journey’s many medical needs. She has been clinically diagnosed with Down Syndrome, Celiac Disease, hypothyroidism, hip dysplasia and sensory disorders.
When choosing a school, they were first focused on what would be best for Silas. The family noted that Silas being a first born is an overachiever, but he also doesn’t like large groups of people. This all went into consideration when they decided to take a tour of CGLS on the recommendation of their cousins. They were surprised and excited to see the quality of the curriculum and student to teacher ratio. The final deciding factor for the family was when they started to ask questions about the option of having their daughter, Journey attend the school a few years later. With Journey’s Down Syndrome, would this school be the right place for her as well? The school responded honestly that they had never had a child attend CGLS who has Down Syndrome but opened the door to explore the possibility of ‘What if’. As the family left Lindsay said that she broke down in tears, not out of defeat, but because she had hope. Hope that all her children could go to this school and that they could all be welcomed and loved equally. From that day, they had meetings with a core group of administrators and talked about what it could look like to have Journey attend CGLS. This process took them two years and now Journey attends CGLS in a regular classroom, with assistance of one spectacular aide who pushes her to work to her ability.
Journey has had two amazing years in Kindergarten at Christ’s Greenfield Lutheran School. The family chose to have her repeat Kindergarten to give her a more stable platform to grow upon. It seems to be working as she is now reading, and they are so excited to see her continue to grow from there this coming year. Journey’s favorite subject is fundations, this is an English portion of the curriculum in the lower grades. It is building words from sounds, to words, to reading, to understanding the parts of a sentence. At Journeys grade level the material they cover and work through uses pictures, rhythm, and hand motions / taps to help the children remember the foundations of the letters and words. Journey loves music and so this is a portion of the day that she excels in and shines as a leader in the classroom. Journey has participated in many singing productions at CGLS. She has a deep passion for music and the stage. In addition, she has been in dance class for three years now and has made great friends. She can keep up, follow directions, and remember the dance moves just as well as her classmates.
Journey also loves to play sports with her big brother, especially baseball and football.
Silas is an excellent athlete but in addition to playing sports he really values the opportunity to be on a team and work together toward a common goal. His parents commented on how he is a natural leader in their family but that has also carried over to his role at school. He was chosen by his classmates to serve as a Playground Leader to help moderate and solve issues that arise with other kids during recess. In addition to being a leader, he loves to learn and has done quite well in all of his academic pursuits. He craves knowledge and the family feels like the environment at CGLS has been a wonderful fit for them in so many ways.
The Stephens family is so happy for the spiritual connection and religious aspect of the school as it really fits with who their family is and their values. Lindsay commented on how that was something that was greatly important to Silas when they first started looking at schools and how it has carried over to all of them and how they live their life.
When asked about what the support from the Arizona Leadership Foundation means to the family they responded by saying, “We would not be able to have our children attend Christ’s Greenfield Lutheran School without financial support. The Arizona Leadership Foundation is a wonderful organization that is changing lives. With their support, Journey has been able to attend school with her brother and get all of the extra support she needs in order to learn and grow in an inclusive setting. We are so grateful!”