PAA Welcomes New Principal

August 25, 2016 | Liesl Vistaunet

From a young age, Portland Adventist Academy’s new principal, Sheldon Parris, knew he was being called into ministry work. But he had never thought of education as a ministry until he experienced its power firsthand.

After graduating from PAA, Parris earned a religion degree at Walla Walla University with the hope of becoming a pastor. After graduation, he accepted a position as a dean and religion teacher at Newbury Park Adventist Academy (NPAA) in Thousand Oaks, Calif. “I realized right away that education is as much a ministry as any other ministerial capacity in the Adventist Church,” says Parris. “Children are the future of our church and our world. I cannot think of a better mission than preparing them to lead others to the kingdom of God.”

Parris continued to grow in the field of education as he added additional responsibilities to his work at NPAA. He soon found himself in the role of vice principal and chose to continue his professional growth at La Sierra University. He recently completed his master’s degree in administration and leadership while continuing his work as a vice principal.

His path to PAA is a love story. Parris was raised in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago but moved to Portland when he was 16 and began attending PAA in the middle of the school year. “Although the climate was cold at that time of year, the PAA family was warm,” recalls Parris. “From the first time I walked into the school, I felt welcomed. Students walked me to class, introduced me to friends, invited me to study with them and familiarized me with the American culture. It was exactly what I needed spiritually, academically and socially.”

For Parris, returning to PAA is a spiritual homecoming. “Before I came to PAA, I believed in God, but a relationship with Him was nonexistent,” he says. “But I saw in my peers something that I had never seen before. They were in love with Jesus Christ, and it showed in everything they did. I wanted a connection with Christ more than anything else. I started reading my Bible for the first time, attended Bible studies, paid close attention in Bible class and prayed like I had never prayed before. PAA gave me much more than academic knowledge; it gave me Jesus.”

“I was baptized and my life changed forever,” says Parris. “My time at PAA was the greatest educational experience that I have ever had, and I thank God for leading me there. I certainly would not be where I am today without the experience. I am honored to serve as PAA’s principal, and I promise to give back to the school all that it gave to me and more.”