PAA Student Rallies Community to Support Lifelong Friend

February 09, 2016 | Liesl Vistaunet

Sarah Halversen and Brogan Baker wobbled together as toddlers while their siblings and parents grew in friendship as well. Baker and Halversen followed in their sibling's footsteps. They attended Tualatin Valley Academy (TVA) and then Portland Adventist Academy (PAA) and shared a love of basketball.

But Baker began to struggle with problems that affected his ability to succeed in everyday life. “After much research, soul-searching, prayer and tears,” says Kim Baker, Brogan’s mother, “we felt God lead us to an intensive therapeutic environment designed to meet Brogan’s complex needs.”

A year ago, with the support of family, friends and PAA staff, Baker enrolled at a school centered on outdoor education, therapeutic mentorship and long-term success.

The specialized education came at a cost. Not only did it require leaving his home, the financial investment was more than the family could bear alone.

“Brogan is like another big brother to me,” says Halversen, a PAA junior. “It was sad to see what he and his family have gone through. I felt like helping them financially was the best thing we could do besides being there for them and praying. I wanted to do more.”

Halversen’s hope to help her friend was perfectly timed with a PAA Bible class. At PAA, students complete Change Agent Projects (CAPs). They organize service projects of their choosing that must challenge them to impact God’s kingdom.

Through carefully planning, Halversen, with the help of her athletic older brothers Ryan and Nick, organized a basketball camp for first- through eighth-graders.

Halverson’s CAP turned into a collaborative effort from an entire community. TVA supported the project with the use of its gymnasium and equipment for the more than 20 children enrolled in the camp. Each child’s parents gave a donation to the Baker family as their enrollment fee.

“We’re so proud of Sarah and her brothers,” says Kim Baker. “The support from everyone has meant so much to our family.”

Brogan’s success story is still being written. In less than a year, he earned his high school diploma and raised his overall GPA. “He is planning to begin some college coursework through distance learning by the end and study for the SAT,” says Kim Baker. The Bakers hope he’ll be home this spring in time to attend and possibly participate in PAA graduation ceremonies with his classmates.

“We are grateful for all that Brogan is gaining,” wrote Kim Baker in a letter she wrote to the PAA staff. “We’re so grateful that he had the foundation of such an extended family through PAA and TVA.”

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