2023 High School Student Writers Contest Essays

First Place Winner: Annika Swanson Lane

“A Lifetime of Education”

My life is deeply rooted in Adventist education. My father was a teacher, as well as my grandparents on both sides of the family; my Grandpa Evan taught at Maplewood Academy for 56 years. I always knew that I would be in the Adventist education system; I just didn’t know how much of an impact it would have on my life. 

The first school I attended was Northwoods Elementary School in first grade. My teacher Miss Weyant taught me about math, English, history, etc. These things were important, but more importantly, she taught me about God in new ways. My favorite part of being in her class was singing during morning worship. Miss Weyant had a special mailbox where we could submit song requests for worship and then she would play them and we would sing along. It may have seemed small at the time, but those years were the first years I started to truly connect with God through music. I still feel God’s presence when I worship Him through singing, and I’m grateful that Miss Weyant helped me find that for the first time. 

In fourth grade, I became a student at the newly reopened Blackberry SDA Church School. My first teacher there was Miss Nelson. When math frustrated me so much I wanted to give up, she didn’t give up on me. She patiently explained it again and again in new ways until it didn’t make me cry anymore. She was also patient when I refused to learn any of my memory verses. Memorization was hard for me, and so I thought I would fail whether I tried or not. But she helped us learn these verses in so many different ways. We played games on the white board, used Scripture Typer, and practiced reciting them as a group. Eventually I wanted to learn my memory verses, and those are verses I can still recite today. Without Miss Nelson I wouldn’t have so many powerful verses hidden in my heart.

By the time seventh grade rolled around, my dad was teaching at the church school. I got to see him doing what he loved as he taught me and other students about Christ as well as academics. Being one of the only “upper graders” in a one-room Adventist school is definitely different than going to a regular middle school. When I finished my schoolwork, I got to help the younger kids. I loved working with the kindergarteners on reading and math, and it made me realize how special Adventist education is. It made me want to work with kids and influence them for Christ. Because my dad gave me the opportunity to get involved, he inspired a desire in me to potentially be an educator one day. 

Now I’m a senior entering into my fourth year at Maplewood Academy. I couldn’t even begin to explain the impact that Maplewood has had on me. There are so many staff members who have changed my life here. For instance, my Bible teacher Mrs. Vigil has taught me so much about the character of God. Yes, through lesson plans and curriculum, but even more so in the way that she lives her life. She is loving, patient, humble, and kind. Always a friend. It is through her living example that I have chosen to walk with God daily. 

Proverbs 22:6 (NLT) says, “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” My teachers throughout the years have guided me onto God’s path, and they helped me see it as a path that I don’t want to leave. English philosopher and psychologist Herbert Spencer said, “The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.” This is the essence of Adventist education. My teachers have not only taught me about faith but have shown me how to live it.

This essay is the winner of OUTLOOK’s 2023 student writing contest for grades 9-12. The author is a senior at Maplewood Academy in Minnesota.


Second Place Winner: Camron Miranda

“The Values of Adventist Education: An Outsider’s Perspective”

Adventist education is something that has significantly impacted my spiritual life, even though I’m not Adventist. I am Messianic. For those that do not know what Messianic Judisam is, we are Jews and Gentiles that believe in Yeshua (Hebrew for Jesus), while also keeping the Jewish faith (eg. Kosher Laws, Sabbath, Feasts). When I first came to Midland Adventist Academy, I can honestly say that my faith was not as strong as it is now. As a result of just coming out of quarantine, I genuinely believed that my family was the only Messianics out there. I believed that I belonged to the one family in the entire world that kept Sabbath, while believing that Jesus died, and was the perfect atonement. That is, until I came to Midland Adventist Academy. Little did I know that this ‘religious education’ that I was going to receive would impact me dramatically.

 I had just come from 6th grade in public school, a place where if teachers referenced the Bible, they had to be obscure about it due to possibilities of offending non-Christians. Consequently, when my sister and I went down the halls of Midland for the first time, it was quite a change from Jesus being taboo. With a picture of Jesus on almost every corner, I was honestly confused. Class soon started, and it was time for worship. Worship? In school!? I was astounded. Here I was in a new school, a school with a religion that I had only heard of as a reference. Nevertheless, we were listening to Christ-centered music and talking about the Bible! It was amazing!

Undoubtedly, the Adventists around me truly cared about my personal walk with God. Before my experiences with Midland, I only did as I was told, not truly understanding why my family believed what we believed. However, due to such a strong passion for learning about the Father, my faith grew more and more. Even though I did not convert to Adventistism, my Messianic faith became strengthened. I could now actually talk to people about what I believed instead of saying,“Well, I think we celebrate the feasts, but I don’t know.” Now, I can answer questions like that with confidence. 

And yet, I wasn’t shunned or even treated as a stranger. On the contrary, I was welcomed and treated like a brother. I gave my testimony, and they gave me theirs. The people at the Adventist school I go to have become family to me. In public schools, there would be very few people you could say that about. My whole class in the Adventist school welcomed me, a completely opposite reaction to experiences as a new student in public school. 

Another thing I have realized through Adventist education is that we all worship the same God. As Mishneh Torah-Positive Mitsvot (a rabbinic commentary on the Torah) notes “To love every member of our people, as [Leviticus 19:18] states: ‘And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Moreover, we’re all in God’s family, let alone neighbors. Through Adventist education, I’ve been able to grasp that concept. The concept of love throughout the Christian faith, despite differences. 

In conclusion, despite my difference in religion, Adventist education has become a very important thing to me, as it helped shape my faith and understanding of my religion and of the religion of my family in Christ. Proverbs 27:17 states, “Just as iron sharpens iron, a person sharpens the character of his friend.” Undoubtedly, the Adventist education that I’ve been blessed with is proof of that. My friends ask me questions about my beliefs, and I ask them the same. This generation needs foundation. Nonetheless, Adventist and other faith-based education are the best options, as they help create a realization of a foundation that never shifts. The unshakeable foundation of Yeshua. 

Camron Miranda is a student at Midland Adventist Academy in Shawnee, Kansas. This essay won second place in the 2023 high school student writing contest.

Other Essays Submitted

“The Importance of Adventist Education” by Alyssa Boyko from Dakota Adventist Academy

My name is Alyssa Boyko, and I am 18 years old. I live in Fargo, ND however I currently attend Dakota Adventist Academy (DAA) as a senior and live in the dorms. From pre-kindergarten through ninth grade, I attended Park Christian School in Moorhead, MN until I started longing for something deeper. I started attending DAA during my sophomore year and have noticed a significant positive impact on my life. I firmly believe that Adventist education is forming and will continue to form the future of the Adventist church by teaching students to grow, defend, and share their faith.

Students attending DAA are required to take Bible classes each year. Each Bible class teaches a different part of scripture or a unique way of studying it. Through these classes I found my favorite verse, Exodus 14:14 Although the focuses and goals of each Bible class vary, one commonality they share is their use of apologetics. Each course teaches students to grow, defend, and spread their faith. During my junior year, my class learned prophecies from Daniel and Revelation and the different ways they have been interpreted over the years. Learning about prophecy opened my eyes to reality and gave me a different outlook on the world as I now can compare current times to promises God has provided in scripture.

In many Bible classes, we are taught the fundamentals of what we believe not only as Christians but as Adventists. Although I previously attended a Christian school, it was non-denominational and there were very few students who believed what I did. At DAA I receive an education that is based on the Bible and Adventist principles, so I am no longer looked down on by my peers for Adventist practices such as keeping the Sabbath on the seventh day. In my current Bible course, we are reaching beyond Adventist fundamentals and looking into various world religions, and in the future, we will study ethics and relationships. Learning about other major world religions has helped me become more open-minded in my discussions with those who do not believe the same as me and encouraged me to search for a better understanding of others. Through this, I have a better understanding of how to defend my faith and how I can best share my faith with those who believe differently.

Aside from required Bible courses, there are many opportunities for students to grow in their faith such as church, vespers, and the many small groups on campus. This year I am the student chaplain and the spiritual vice president for Student Association. Through these roles, I have built a strong connection with God as I stretch my comfort zone by working to maintain a healthy spiritual atmosphere for students and speaking at local churches. There are so many opportunities to be involved in campus ministries such as praise teams, prayer meetings, Bible studies, children’s church, and so much more. These groups teach students to take charge and become leaders in their community while developing and sharing their faith with others.

I believe that DAA has set me up not only to improve, defend, and share my faith but also to be successful in the real world. DAA provides a solid foundation of knowledge for me to build upon with wisdom from personal experiences. The school has helped me to form a strong ethical code for myself and given me life experiences such as conflict resolution, dorm life, and the ability to build strong communities. The teachers are invested in helping me to succeed in all that I do, and I am confident that I will have a smooth transition into college after I graduate. In conclusion, Adventist education is crucial to the future of the Adventist church by creating lifelong learners and leaders who can stand firm in their beliefs.


“On the Wings of Prayer” by Kiki Kilanko from Midland Adventist Academy

As an Adventist, I’ve always been ‘surrounded’ by prayer – bedtime prayers, devotional prayers, mealtime prayers, prayers in the car, and, of course, the many prayers that take place during church services. Recently, however, prayer has become much more personal to me.

Broken Arrow Ranch, August 2023

It was a hot and humid summer day, and the bugs were loving it! I was floating in the pool, wary of the wasps hovering above me, when my friend waded over and asked, “Are we going tubing, or should we take our names off the sign-up sheet?” “I already took mine off, so let’s just stay here; the long walk to the lake doesn’t sound very appealing right now,” I replied. Having spent most of the afternoon outside, we both agreed that tubing would be too much of a “high-intensity” activity to take on at that point.

Around that same time, away from the aquatic fun that was pool-basketball and Marco Polo, what was supposed to be a fun activity had suddenly taken a turn for the worse. While tubing, a female student, Nevaeh, had been thrown off at high speed. She hit the water with such an impact that even after she was pulled out and given first aid, she had no feeling in her left side. The situation was serious enough that first responders were called, and the decision was made to airlift her to KU Medical Center.

As the helicopter took off, I thought,“If I hadn’t lacked the motivation to walk down to the lake, that very well could have been me.” As we all stood around, we wondered what to do next. The consensus? Pray. Up until that point, my prayers had always been fairly ‘normal’. Prayers for family, for friends, an upcoming test…things like that. This prayer, however, had a weight and sense of urgency to it like I’d never felt before. That’s when it occurred to me – we were praying for a miracle! That Thursday evening, our parents were notified of the incident by email. Pastors, prayer groups and ministry leaders of local area churches were informed and before long, our entire community was lifting Nevaeh up in prayer.

When we returned to school on Monday, something miraculous happened. Nevaeh was back! No one thought such a quick recovery was even possible, but there she was – a walking, talking miracle! During worship that morning, we all stood in a circle, looking around, waiting in anticipation. On cue, Mr. Borne, our science teacher, asked for prayer requests and praises before turning our attention to…the elephant? No, the ‘miracle’ in the room! He revisited our joint experience and left no doubt in our minds that this was evidence of God’s love and the power of prayer. Without prayer, this story might have had a much different ending. 

 Ten years at Midland Adventist Academy has played an important role in shaping my views and beliefs around prayer. It’s not just one thing, though. It’s Bible class, daily devotions, weekly chapel, class prayers, campus ministries, band, choir…everything. It’s Adventist education. Ellen G. White, in Chapter 19 of Christ’s Object Lessons, said, “Prayer unites us with one another and with God. Prayer brings Jesus to our side and gives new strength and fresh grace to the fainting, perplexed soul to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil.”

One of my favorite verses, Philippians 4:6 (NIV) says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” Looking back on that fateful afternoon, to the physical eye, that helicopter was simply a machine propelled by an engine and rotor blades. To the spiritual eye, however – given the precious cargo on board – it was a nest, placed in God’s hands, carried “On the Wings of Prayer.”


“How Adventist Education Has Helped Me” by Rebekah Thingvold from Dakota Adventist Academy

Adventist education is very important to people who care or want to care about God. Adventist education is important because it helps us grow social skills. Everyone is so friendly and understanding when you want to talk to them about something personal.

Adventist Education has impacted my life by helping my social skills grow. Whenever I was at home it was hard for me to play outside with my brother because he would always have his friends over. There was and still is nobody in our neighborhood who is my age. Now that I am a DAA I have people my age that are always around me and ready to hang out with me.

Something that I have learned that is valuable is God. With Adventist education we are able to speak freely about God. I have learned how to talk to him like a friend and how he lived. It is easier for me to understand how to live when I learn about God. Another thing that I have learned that is valuable is taking things out. I have had to do it a couple of times with my dean. It is hard but I have gotten better and better at it the more I do it. Adventist education has taught me that there are people that understand what I am going through.

Adventist education has helped me connect to the Adventist church because of trips like the church-to-church ministry. I once went to the church in Cleveland, North Dakota and shared my love of God with different people. I was able to touch people’s hearts through my gift and love of singing.

Adventist education has helped my connection with Christ grow through prayer. We also have the free will to talk about God whenever we want to. We will not get beaten up or punished for talking about Christ. It is nice to be able to talk to God whenever I want. I have never actually experienced the criticism, but I have heard about it before from other teachers. I have heard that they once earned detention because they sent a prayer to God asking Him to help them throughout the day.


“Importance” by Sami Hoffer from Maplewood Academy

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I applied for a job in my community. Lifeguarding was something I had done before, but it had been at an Adventist camp. Never before had I worked in close quarters with people that did not have the same beliefs as me. It was an interesting experience, and I didn’t anticipate the thoughts that I was going to have during my time working. There were a few specific times that I remember thinking about how my experiences in life were vastly different from anyone else around me. I remember my heart beating in sadness, thinking about how many of the people I interacted with had not heard the Good News. I remember praying, asking God that at least one person would be able to see Jesus through me, recognizing in myself a need to share Jesus with others. This brought me across an article written by Jerome Thayer. In his article, he says “The primary aim of Seventh-day Adventist education is to provide opportunity for students to accept Christ as their Saviour, to allow the Holy Spirit to transform their lives, and to fulfill the commission of preaching the gospel to all the world” (2). My experience with lifeguarding this summer made me see that this is exactly what Adventist education has done for me, and how grateful I am for my Adventist upbringing. 

I started my Adventist education journey 12 years ago as a kindergarten student at one of the many Adventist elementary schools in Minnesota. From then on, my schooling has always been centered around Christ. I am very grateful to my parents for this because growing up in our world is no easy feat. Being brought up surrounded by God-loving educators has strengthened my relationship with God and built for me a solid faith and trust in Jesus. It has also planted in me a desire to share Jesus with others. This past summer I was faced with temptations that many teens fall into. I was able to stand firm because of all that I have been taught, learned, and accepted to be true. This past summer I felt the need to keep my actions and words reflecting Jesus’ love. I was able to carefully consider all that I did and said because of my desire for others to see Jesus in me. I have never been more grateful for my parents’ sacrifice in making sure I’ve had an Adventist education. 

In May of next year, I will be graduating from highschool. Soon, I will be choosing a college to go to, picking a major and career path, and after that continue to follow the road that God has chosen for me. Recently, I was able to attend preview days at two Adventist colleges. Both visits were what you would expect: filled with fun activities, campus tours, and informational classes. However, unlike “regular” colleges, the atmosphere that surrounds an Adventist campus is something far different than anything else. These college visits have convinced me to continue my education after highschool at an Adventist college or university. I want to continue growing my faith in God while surrounded by others with the same aspirations as me. One of my favorite Bible verses is Proverbs 3:5-6. It says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and he will make your paths straight.” I want to face the world fully trusting God, just as I was able to do this past summer as a lifeguard. Adventist education has guided my feet to a solid foundation which is only found in God. I want my faith and trust in my Savior to grow as I continue my education, and continue living for Him. This is why Adventist education is important to me. 


Thayer, Jerome. “The Impact of  Adventist Schools on Students”, The Foundation for Adventist Education Institute for Christian Teaching Education Department – General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, March 2008. https://www.fae.education/essays/iv_Thayer_Jerry.pdf

NIV Bible. Bible Gateway, https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs%203%3A5-6&version=NIV