St. Mark Lutheran Church and School is a second home to me. Its familiar halls support my lifelong church family and the school I have attended since before I was potty trained, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I graduated from St. Mark last year and have completed one successful semester at Houston Christian High School. To be completely honest, I was terrified of the transition. I feared obstacles like not making the volleyball team, not meeting the standards of a selective opportunity known as the Distinguished Scholars Program, and not making friends. However, despite the myriad of problems I dreaded, I never stressed about not getting accepted to HC; I was confident in my educational upbringing. Now, in retrospect, I know that my other worries were also unnecessary, for St. Mark Lutheran School prepared me with more than enough skill, intelligence/knowledge, and determination to qualify for all I desired so I could ease into high school.

I am so thankful for the small class sizes at St. Mark. The teacher-student ratio enables teachers to form relationships with their students, to know how best to guide and teach them. Additionally, the size allows and encourages ultimate participation in extracurricular activities. I was a member of the volleyball team, the softball team, the band, the Girl Scout troop, and more. Better yet, I am still participating in every one of those programs today, as well as new ones. I believe the ability to engage in so much extracurricularly is in direct correlation to class size. However, the fact that all students will likely qualify for any given activity at St. Mark does not mean its groups lack talent or skill. I am one of many examples of St. Mark’s ability to cultivate athletes or musicians who can compete at a high school level, whether in public or private high school, despite the fact that I did not face tryouts or cuts at St. Mark.

Not only did St. Mark prepare me with an overflow of extracurricular capability, it also cultivated me academically to contend with top students from both private and public middle schools all across Houston. I am currently ranked first in my class at Houston Christian, and I credit much of that achievement to the amazing teachers and programs at St. Mark. My teachers pushed me to work hard. They prepared me for a more demanding and important work load and instituted within me the motivation to do my best at all times.

In addition to the school itself, St. Mark provided me with several further learning outlets. For example, I participated in a program known as PSIA where I competed against students from other schools in areas such as creative writing, PROSE interpretation, and math. I took part not for the competition, though it was exciting, but because I learned content my classmates would not be introduced to for at least a year. Now, as the number two student in all of HC geometry, including sophomores, I don’t regret the few hours a week I spent learning math after school hours. St. Mark allows students to compete in Academic Quest, a day of testing and awards with the Lutheran schools in the Houston area. Another great opportunity provided by St. Mark is the Duke Talent Identification Program (TIP), for which seventh graders take the SAT for the chance to be admitted into a summer program which allows them to take a college course every summer until eleventh grade. Without St. Mark, I would not be registered to take a course on neuroscience this summer. From amazing teachers to programs such as PSIA, Academic Quest, and Duke TIP, St. Mark deserves great recognition for equipping students to beat the transition to high school and excel.

Lastly, St. Mark has cultivated me greatly in faith. It has prepared me for both the academic and spiritual aspects of knowing God and His Word. Weekly chapels, daily religion classes, and teachers devoted to Him and to sharing His love planted seeds of faith in me. St. Mark laid the foundation of my relationship with God, and without my knowledge and trust in Him and His plan, I would not be nearly the scholar, not nearly the person I have become. Peace of mind has been a struggle for me, with all my aspirations and my worries, and it’s no wonder my parents trusted St. Mark to teach me about God who offers me that peace. St. Mark also taught me the academic aspect of the Bible. I was a member of a program called Bible Bowl, an oral competition of Bible knowledge, where I learned time lines, geography, random trivia, and more. Even at Houston Christian I encountered a freshman who was unable to identify the difference between a chapter and a verse of the Bible. I heard him ask, “Is that the big number or the small number?” and I was so grateful I was raised in such an amazing church and school at St. Mark. The community, of which I am still blessed to be a part, the extracurricular opportunity, the academic advantage, and my knowledge of and faith in God prepared me for all aspects of high school, and I cannot credit or thank St. Mark enough.

Author: Carina Biar - 2015 SML Alumna