When Joe Tua arrived at Upper Columbia Academy (UCA) his freshman year, he was like a ship without an anchor. His mother had died after a long battle with cancer, and he and his four siblings were parceled out to whoever would take them. Joe ended up at UCA.
With no parental support at the age of 15, he had a rough year. He was the centerpiece of many prayer sessions as he struggled with grades, appropriate behavior, accountability and God. But it gradually dawned on him that his teachers were going out of their way to help him, and he began to respond.
Joe didn't notice the changes at first, but when he went home for the summer, back to the environment he had come from, he noticed that he was a different person. The people he was with at UCA influenced his life for good, and Joe wanted to come back to UCA for his sophomore year.
Toward the end of that year, Joe was in financial trouble. Once again the teachers at UCA went out of their way to help. Word got out that he was in need of help in order to stay in school, and the response was such an exciting answer to prayer. Enough worthy-student money came in to keep him and 12 other students who were also in financial crisis in school for the rest of the year.
Joe will graduate in 2008. His years at UCA have transformed his life from a kid set adrift at a young age to a confident young man with his course firmly set on a life of service to his fellow students and the Lord.
Transforming young lives and educating them for life are two of the many goals of Upper Columbia Academy. Helping students stay in school is the goal of the Upper Columbia Academy Foundation.
The foundation officially began operation in April 2004, with the singular purpose of assisting students with financial scholarships, which would enable them to receive a Christian education at Upper Columbia Academy. Approximately 100 students have benefited from the $100,000 that the foundation has been able to distribute in their first three years.
The idea for an academy foundation was born when Linnea Torkelsen, UCA alumni development director, asked a group of alumni to share their dreams for the academy. She thought they would be interested in raising funds to build new buildings that the school needed. However, when asked what they would like to do, they said they would like to start a foundation.
After hearing about the foundation and catching the vision, conference and academy administration welcomed it. Jon Corder, Upper Columbia Conference treasurer, said, "With budgets in the churches and conferences being increasingly tight, organizations like this foundation will be the way for our schools to receive additional funding for scholarships, services and buildings."
The foundation is an independent organization, governed by a board which consists of interested alumni and friends who want to be involved in assisting qualified young people with financial assistance so that they may attend Upper Columbia Academy. The foundation is qualified under state and federal tax codes to accept tax-exempt charitable contributions and its endowed funds are managed by a professional independent investment firm.
Debbie Nelson, foundation director, says that most of the current money came from significant donations. The academy has given the endowment money they had to the foundation to manage, and other donors have asked that their gifts be managed by the foundation, including several estates.
"Estate planning will become a focus of the foundation because that is where much of the future funding will come from," said Doug Wells, foundation vice president. "A number of the honor classes are giving gifts, and we are encouraging each graduating class to give a portion of their class gift to the foundation as well."
Tom Stanyer, foundation president, says, "We would like to build the foundation money in management up to the $5 million level. It will take time and much of the money will come through estate planning."
Through the years the academy has worked with friends and alumni to donate funds for the school to use at their discretion. That money goes to help run the school and provide additional services that otherwise might not be available.
"There are more kids in need out there than there is money, and the foundation can fill that gap. There would be additional students in school if there was money to help them. That is why, as a foundation, we want to increase the amount of money we make available," said Stanyer. Wells adds, "We want Upper Columbia kids to attend UCA. The long-term goal is to have a large enough endowment so that the income matches the needs."
The foundation relies on the academy administration to recommend students who need financial assistance. For more information about the Upper Columbia Academy Foundation, contact them at: P.O. Box 31382, Spokane, WA 99223 or (509) 499-6223.