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Global view helps students build faith and character

Foothill Country Day School students are embracing character-building through the school’s interfaith chapel program, which is teaching students to focus on global awareness rather than the particulars of any one religion.

At the private K-8 school, a variety of interfaith topics and presentations are helping students and teachers alike to cultivate open-mindedness and a well-rounded spiritual education.

“Chapel time is about everyday community gathering. It’s a fantastic time to celebrate each other, and we work hard to strike a good balance,” said Head of School Mike Silva. “We are educating future leaders and citizens who need to understand different faiths and spiritual journeys.”

Though the chapel program has evolved since the school was first established, it continues to promote the K-8’s mission to “build character in our children—to stress honesty, courtesy, responsibility and a concern for others,” according to Director of Admissions Denise Zondervan.

“It brings together a common thread in our students,” Ms. Zondervan said. “It teaches values. It’s about education, global awareness and respect.”

In its earliest days, chapel at Foothill Country Day was centered on the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, according to Mr. Silva.

“The foundation has always been there. I think there is a reason our founder only read from the Old Testament,” he said. “The Old Testament lends itself to the general idea for the understanding of love and justice.”

Over the last several years, chapel has evolved to more fully embrace these themes. Chapel is held daily, with each week focusing on a new theme. Thursdays are special, highlighting acts of kindness performed by students.

“Last week it was about compassion. This week is on pollution,” said eighth grader Bailey Scherer. “It’s cool to learn about different subjects.”

Students in fourth through eighth grades take turns making a presentation. They are given the opportunity to run the chapel in their own way, some presenting Native American rituals or Buddhist prayers.

“We know we service a diverse student body,” Mr. Silva said. “We want to connect with all the different spiritual journeys our students represent.”

Fourth grader Andrea Phung said she likes the fact that she gets to develop her public speaking skills while also expanding her knowledge.

“You can learn more things about how to do stuff and be a better person,” said Andrea, who gave a presentation to her peers on ecology on Monday.

Bailey, who helps set up the projector and technical aspects of the daily assemblies, enjoys the fact that chapel helps bridge any divides between the different grades at Foothill Day. Fourth through eighth graders join each other in chapel each day. K-2 meets in its own elementary-level programming immediately after.

“It’s a great way to have the whole school come together,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to get to know other students and listen to the presentations.”

Faculty also hopes it will provide a key foundation in their students’ lives after graduation.

“A well-educated citizen is somebody who has multiple views and multiple perspectives,” Mr. Silva said. “We hope it will plant the seeds so that later in life, when they [our students] are traveling throughout the world, it provides them with practical understandings of others.”

—Beth Hartnett

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