I was invited to travel up to Columbus, Ohio, to photograph the 26th Annual Arnold Sports Festival for the second year in a row. The festival ran from Thursday, February 27 to Sunday, March 2, 2014 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center located in downtown Columbus. More than 18,000 athletes travel to Columbus annually in order compete in more than 45 sports & events. This year Pole Fitness and Swimming were added to the athletic competition line-up. I ran into a countless amount of body builders, strength trainers and fitness enthusiasts young and old and in all shapes and sizes.
Life has felt a little blurred lately.
Winter is approaching in full force.
The semester is ending and my days as an undergraduate college student are coming to an end.
I am ready to begin a new chapter of my life and embrace the changes.
No matter how cliche that sounds.
Throughout the month of September I photographed a small christian school in Belpre, Ohio, which is about 40 minutes from Athens. After doing some research I was immediately intrigued by the small size of Belpre Christian Academy. I grew up in the suburbs attending fairly large public schools (elementary, middle, and high) with no religious affiliation whatsoever. The faculty and students welcomed me with open arms and were very open about their practices as I photographed and interviewed various members of the school.
Belpre Christian Academy’s mission is simple: to give students a high-quality education tightly wrapped around a strong Christian foundation. With a mere 34 enrolled students, ranging from second to twelfth grade this year, and four full-time faculty members, the school naturally exudes its own persona.
Principal Eric Fullerton says, “We strive to be the best fit for the students that God sends us.”
There is an imaginary line
splitting the classroom in half dividing between a lower learning center,
kindergarten through sixth grade, and a higher learning center, seventh through
twelfth grade. Individual cubicles line each wall, facing inwards. The
workspaces have affectionately been named “offices” to foster a sense of personal
responsibility. Each desk has a
mini American and Christian flag to set on the top shelf to signify when help
is needed. Students are expected to work quietly on self-paced workbook pages
at their desks. If they are stuck or need to check their answers, then the
flags go up.
“Every child is different. Out of
all 34 children here, they all learn differently and at their own pace,”
Principal Fullerton said. “We work on a mastery based curriculum. Here you
master the material before you move on. There are no unfinished paces at the
end of the quarter; you finish or you don’t move on.”
Students are given A.C.E.
(Accelerated Christian Education) workbooks to complete, with tests included, in
five main subjects: English, Math, Science, Social Studies, and Word Building. Electives
are offered Art, French and Spanish or extra bible studies.
The curriculum requires students to
achieve a score of 80 percent or above on all the content in which they are
accessed. If the percentage has not been met, it will have to be re-tested
until the goal is achieved.
“I feel like you learn more here than at a public school. If you don’t
know it, there is a possibility [in the public school system] that you can
still pass and get by, but here if you don’t know it you have to redo it which
I like,” Chase McCoy, a junior, said.
With no state funding, the school registers as a non-profit and makes
money mainly through fundraising and tuition prices.
“We turn no one away for financial reasons. If a parent cannot pay, it’s
ok. If they want a good Christian education and they want to work with us and
possibly volunteer to help out around the school we work something out,”
Principal Eric Fullerton said.
BCA has been an educational institution for the past 41 years; only 19 of
those years have been spent in the small building that currently houses the
faculty and students. Old sports trophies dating as far back as the
1980’s are stacked on shelves against one of the walls in the main hallway
where student lockers are housed. The classroom and the hallway are both
attached to the un-air conditioned gym complete with bleachers, basketball
hoops and a retractable volleyball net. A sense of community is created in the
gym, which is used as a daily opening-assembly space, a cafeteria, and place to
blow off some steam during recess.
“Kids these days don’t realize how
lucky we are to have a gym to use for every day activities,” BCA School
Administrator and Pastor of Calvary Community Church Ken Fullerton said. “Recess
amounted to playing shuffle board in the hallways of the church or running
around outside when this school first opened.”
Ken Fullerton has been the pastor
of Calvary for over 23 years and a BCA school coach and physical education
teacher 15 years before that. He has experienced what BCA has to offer as an
educator and eventually a parent. He happens to be Principal Eric Fullerton’s
father, a 1993 BCA graduate. Family ties continue to run strong throughout the
faculty of the school. Ken is married to one of the teachers, Elaine Fullerton,
and father-in-law to another, Michelle Fullerton (Eric’s wife).
It was not Ken Fullerton’s original
dream to have his son be the principal of the school, but Eric stepped up to
the plate when the past principal, Mr. Nut, retired nine years ago.
“I never thought I would be back in
the mid-Ohio valley teaching. When my father first came to me with the offer I
said no. I continued to pray about it though, and God showed me it was the
right decision to make,” Eric Fullerton explained. “I am not getting rich by doing
this job, but I still think this is where God wants me to be.”