55 years of excellence in education with Christian values!
To understand the trajectory of Academia Menonita, its origin, its roots, must be known.
On February 26, 1957, several English-speaking North Americans who lived in the San Juan area started to meet regularly to worship the Lord, study the Bible, and share in brotherhood. Among them, there were the families of Dwight and Robert Ehret, the Troyers (who traveled from Aibonito for each meeting), the Fanhdrichs, and the Benders. This Mennonite brotherhood was called “The Way of Life Church”, and they met humbly at the second story of the Ehret Funeral Home, sharing the floor with the professional ambulance and oxygen service. In 1958, Pastor John Driver was assigned to pastor the group and to organize a Spanish-speaking congregation. Pastor Driver guided the set the group for its future development and decision taking. A youth group was organized, and included Alfredo and Rosa Meléndez, Roberto and Enrique Miranda, who contributed very much to its development. The congregation continued growing and included more couples who contributed with the work, like it were Lowell and Lidia Cender, Ron and Betty Low Collins, Evan and Marie Riehl, Allen and Ruth Martin.
On March 6, 1960 the “Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Metropolitana” was formally organized, and included English-speaking Mennonites, as well as Spanish-speakers. As the congregation and the programs continued to grow, the place was not big enough for the congregation’s needs. This is why it was decided to search for a new location to build a church and a school where they could offer services that would satisfy the spiritual-educational needs of the metropolitan area community. With the help of the Mennonite Board of Missions, among others, and after a extensive and arduous process, the congregation moved to their new location in Summit Hills in the spring of 1961.
The congregation understood that the work of the Mennonite Church of San Juan was key for the development of the Mennonite Church in Puerto Rico. Also, they understood that a school should be established in order to strengthen a community service that would be of real impact, meaningful, and necessary. This school would serve as an instrument of witness and development of the Christian faith, where its personnel would provide an education of quality, and a Christian environment and behavior, which would lead to the student’s integral growth.
That is how, on August 14, 1961, Academia Menonita began its first day of classes, with a single group of kindergarten and one of first grade. Mrs. Ruth Martin was its first director, who together with Mrs. Driver, taught the classes. The Pastor John Driver and Mr. David Helmuth were in charge of the rest of the operational areas.
One of the first achievements that year was the construction of a volleyball court, which was possible thanks to the special contributions of the parents, the Sunday schools, and individual persons who wanted to help.
The following year, the second and third grades were added, with Mrs. Ruth Thomas as Director, and teachers Lydia Cender, Lora Miranda, and Vionette Ramos, and Mr. Ronald Welty as school bus driver, bookkeeper, and maintenance. During the subsequent years, more grades were added, and the structure that began with the dual purpose of worship and education, was not large enough anymore. A second floor was constructed in order to complete seven classrooms, two offices, two bathrooms, and a teacher lounge. Said building is where nowadays most of the elementary level classrooms are located.
In 1965 6th grade was added, completing the elementary level. In 1966 the construction of a second building began, under the direction of Mr. Eli Miller, a contractor from Michigan, who got in charge of the project together with his son David, both in voluntary service. During said year the first floor was completed, providing a library, a kitchen, a cafeteria, and two bathrooms. This capacitated both the church and the school, to diversify their activities and services to the community.
In 1967, the second floor was constructed, the so awaited temple. The temple was dedicated on October 1 that year, with the particularity of a simple and rugged crucifix, made of two logs that were dragged by the current of the sea, and found by Clarence Stutzman and Richard Burkholder at the beach shore. That cross symbolized the centrality, the simplicity, the firmness of Christ and His Gospel. Academia Menonita continued to grow, as every evangelizing work must do, completing the 9th grade in 1971, with its first graduation in May 1972. Because of the huge need expressed by the community, in 1977 the Pre-Kinder grade began. The growth continued until, finally, in 1980, the 12th grade was included, culminating with the first High School graduation in May 1981.
The dedication of the personnel, parents, students, church, and community has played a primal role in the development of Academia Menonita and in the achievement of its evangelizing and educational mission. Also, the admirable work of the voluntary personnel who has worked at this institution throughout the years, has been an example of sacrifice and love towards the fellow people, because many leave their families and friends in their respective countries or states, in order to work voluntarily in a countrywhich culture, language, and even the climate is different, in which they do not know anyone when they arrive.
Besides the highly qualified and motivated personnel, Academia Menonita has been blessed with the leadership and direction of Administrators, Directors, and Principals as:
Mrs. Ruth Martin, Mrs. Ruth Thomas, Mr. Richard Burkholder, Dr. E.G. Carper, Mr. David Powell, Miss Ruth Stover, Miss Elizabeth Meléndez, Mr. Carlos Romero, Miss Carol Glick, Mrs. Lora Miranda, Miss María Teresa Santiago, Mr. Bryan Stauffer, Mr. Michael Ingold, Mrs. Oneida Santiago, Dr. Dalila Rodríguez, Mrs. Margarita Kolthoff, Mrs. Blanca Nieves, Mrs. Ana Rosa Irlanda, Mrs. Carmen Milagros Córdova, Mrs. Migdalia Pérez, Mrs. Wanda Gil de Lamadrid, Mrs. Ivis Ríos, Mrs. Marta Ballester, Mrs. Ramonita Rivera, present Administrator of the academy, and Miss Joanie Miranda, present General Director.
Today we count with employees whose love and commitment towards Academia Menonita has made them remain working at this ministry for many years as one of its strongholds, including present employees such as Magda Valenzuela with 35, Zuleyca Lugo with 29, Teresa Ruiz, María L. Concepción, Ann Concepción, Frances Piñero and Maribel González with 25, Enrique Bonilla with 24, Sonia Ramón with 23, Francisca Nassar and Franklyn Christensen with 22, Laura Rivera and Ángel Mercado with 21 years of service as employees of Academia Menonita, among others.
Academia Menonita’s present students as well as its alumni, have outstood in the areas of leadership, academic and professional excellence, community service, missions, music, and sports, in Puerto Rico as well as abroad. They have proved that it is possible to lead a successful life serving Christ, even though it requires sacrifice; and that they were equipped by their families and their school, with the tools needed to develop their gifts and offer them in service to others, in Christian love.
As years go by, the school community, the curriculum, and the physical facilities have gone through countless changes and transformations, but it has remained that first vision and commitment of a group of Christians that wanted to improve the world through a special ministry, by offering our children the opportunity to develop academic and spiritually, sowing God’s Word in those who are the hope for humanity’s present and future. And, towards that same goal is focused our school mission and vision of the future.
The history of this teaching center is an accumulation of individual and collective experiences, of influences contributed by each being that has had contact with it, and therefore, its trajectory is part of the unbreakable stem, founded on the Rock of Christ, that maintains this ministry standing tall, this mission called “Academia Menonita”.