"I was so upset. I just had to talk to Paige," Amanda says, "so I drove all the way to Caldwell to talk to my best friend. We sat there in the car for a long time, me crying and Paige listening."
Amanda Carrithers and Paige Jansen had been best of friends since they were 2 years old. Amanda's mother was a daycare provider, and Paige was one of the toddlers she watched. Now the girls were teens, with Amanda attending Idaho's largest high school, Mountain View High School. Paige attended Gem State Academy (GSA) in Caldwell, Idaho. Even though the girls didn't see each other often, they were still very close, so it was natural Amanda wanted to talk with Paige when life seemed out of control.
Why was Amanda so upset? Well, it was hard going to such a big school — there were 600 students in her freshman class. Every day she saw teens she had never seen before. She had friends, but she didn't really have that much in common with them. Some wore short shorts and tank tops to school, which Amanda would never wear. Some were exploring Wicca (a modern pagan religion), and while Amanda herself didn't attend church and never had, she instinctively knew that Wicca, witchcraft and casting of spells was wrong.
Thus it was that on this particular October day, during her junior year, Amanda found herself at her wits' end, so she came to pick up her friend from school so they could talk. By the end of the conversation, Paige said, "Well, why don't you come to my school? I love Gem State Academy!"
During the next couple of days, Amanda thought about transferring to Gem State, but she knew her mother would not hear of it. She was enrolled in several college-credit classes at Mountain View, and besides, her family couldn't afford private education. But she was miserable. And so, against her better judgment and without saying a word to her parents, Amanda began to explore the possibility. She perused the GSA website and had more conversations with Paige.
Finally she mustered the courage and told her mother she was interested in changing schools. To her great surprise, her mother was open to it! About two weeks later, when Mountain View was closed for a teachers' inservice, Amanda visited classes at GSA with Paige. Soon Amanda enrolled in the academy for the second quarter of her junior year.
Suddenly Amanda, the girl who struggled to have friends at Mountain View High School, was surrounded by friendly, welcoming peers and open, caring teachers. "At first the family atmosphere shocked me," she says. "I mean, everyone wanted to be my friend!"
Perhaps the thing that Amanda enjoyed most was the daily chapel service. Though she always believed in God, she didn't know much about Him. She had a children's Bible, and so she knew some of the stories. The family had a King James Version Bible that Amanda had tried to read, but she got tangled up in the language — the thees, thous and begats.
When she attended her first Bible class, Amanda didn't know that the Bible was organized by books, chapters and verses. She didn't have a clue what the teacher was talking about when he asked someone to read Romans 3:15, but she soon learned. Now, she proudly says, "I have memorized many Bible verses."
The concept of Jesus' Second Coming was an entirely new one to Amanda. She was familiar with a few Christian doctrines, like that people go to heaven. But the idea that Jesus is one day soon coming back to earth and that "every eye will see Him" was an entirely new concept. The thought that Jesus knows her personally, that He loves her and that He is preparing a place for her thrilled her heart!
"The sports program is also very different," says Amanda, "and it is all because of the attitude of the coaches." During one game when she was at Mountain View, their basketball team was winning by 30 points. "Even so," she says, "at halftime the coach came in and screamed and swore at us because we were not winning by 60 points!"
"At GSA the coaches want us to have fun," she explains. "They care more about sportsmanship than they do about winning. And they encourage everyone to participate, even if they don't have great skill. It is not that way at public school, not at all!"
When asked what she plans to do following graduation, Amanda proudly replies, "I'm going to work at Camp Ida Haven this summer, and while there I'm going to get baptized. I'm also going to be praying about where I should go to college and what to major in."