Grappling with a pandemic and distance-learning is hard. Add area wild-fires and home evacuations and Portland Adventist Academy students undoubtedly carry the weight of loss into their virtual classrooms.

High and hot winds ignited fires that forced many students and staff to evacuate their homes. Learn how to help people affected by wildfires HERE.  (Photo by Bruce Warrington on Unsplash)

While PAA teachers cannot stop the drama of 2020, they will always strive to provide connection and normalcy during these hard times. Inspired by the desire and to combat disconnection during distance-learning, this school year teachers designed a new spiritual program: Homeroom Families.

Every PAA student belongs to a Homeroom Family. In the distance-learning phase, they meet virtually every week. Announcements and a student led pre-recorded chapel are followed by a meaningful discussion and prayer. When students return to campus, they’ll meet daily in a designated room for lunch, announcements, discussion, and chapel.

Maria Bibb, PAA International Student Director and freshman class sponsor, says hosting a Homeroom Family helps her get to know more students.

“I love that I get to connect with students and especially with students that I won’t have in my classes,” says Bibb. “It changes our relationship from a teacher with homework and grading to a mentor or guide to the high school experience.”

Homeroom Families met for the first time following area wildfires that required many students and teachers to evacuate their homes. Shamara Daniels, Junior and Student Association Spiritual Vice President, was one of the evacuees. (Learn how to help those affected by the fires HERE.)

Shamara Daniels welcomed her fellow PAA students to the first week of Homeroom Families.

In her chapel speech, Daniels empathized with those having a hard time. “I know that times are really shaky,” said Daniels, “and you might be losing hope right now. I’ve been there. And sometimes I STILL am there.”

She encouraged students with tangible action. “Hold on to the people that are close to you,” she says. “Call somebody, keep family close, spend time with a sibling, or parent, or even your dog.  Or, even better, grow a relationship with God. Look into His word.”

Daniels shared the verse of the week, Psalm 46:1-3. “God is our refuge and strength…” “ Remember, even if the mountains are falling, God won’t let you hit the ground.”

Shamara (back middle) and her brother RJ (front) and sisters Amy (left) and Simi (right) had to evacuate their home due to wildfires during the first month of distance-learning.

Following chapel, Mrs. Bibb shared with her Homeroom Family a personal reflection on that famous verse. “My favorite part of that chapter is actually verse five,” says Bibb, “it says that during all our trouble, God is in the ‘midst’ of this. So not only is He our refuge, but He is WITH us in the middle of all the troubles of the world.”

That was the heart of Shamara’s encouragement. “You are not alone in this,” she concluded. “It may seem like there is no end. But as long as we keep our faith up and our spirits high we can get through this together – as a family.”


Read a full interview with PAA teacher, Maria Bibb HERE and learn why her desire to connect with students are better met through Homeroom Families.