The Beginning of a Beautiful Partnership

About 160 New Life Academy students came to Bethel for their very own Royal Academy experience on January 5-6, 2023. These high school students immersed themselves in the Bethel community to explore business, fine arts, and STEM as part of their own J-term experience.

By Katie Johnson '19, content specialist

January 19, 2023 | 10:45 a.m.

Bethel University would not have been able to offer this program opportunity to New Life Academy without the continued financial support of State Farm, who also helps fund the summer Bethel Business Academy. Thank you, State Farm!

Bethel University would not have been able to offer this program opportunity to New Life Academy without the continued financial support of State Farm, who also helps fund the summer Bethel Business Academy. Thank you, State Farm!

A special buzz spread across campus during the first week of J-term 2023. As snow kept accumulating and Bethel students grew familiar with the condensed rhythm of their month-long classes, about 160 students from New Life Academy in Woodbury, Minnesota, joined the Bethel community on January 5-6 for their own Royal Academy experience. These high schoolers filled campus with joy, energy, and curiosity during an occasionally quiet time of year.

Plans for this experience have been in the works for the last year or so. New Life Academy offers a program called IMPACT for students to self-select into one of four different “houses” focused on business, STEM, fine arts, and humanities. Professor of Business Julie Hedlund and Brandon Mellett, director of strategic initiatives at New Life Academy, had been talking about offering a Bethel Business Academy for New Life Academy students during their J-term experience. Mellett said the opportunity would only work if Bethel could offer Royal Academy not just for business, but the STEM and fine arts groups as well. Students in the humanities house already had plans for their J-term experience.

While Hedlund and her team were familiar with offering Royal Academy as a summer camp available to any high school student, this was the first year to try out expanded program options for one large group of students from one high school during J-term. Hedlund reached out to faculty from different departments to see if they could pull together programming for all three houses. “Anyone who’s been involved in this has been tremendously supportive,” says Hedlund “The faculty have been great. Everyone recognizes that this is an opportunity for Bethel, and they’re just willing to jump in and help make it a success. It’s come together very quickly and very well with the support of faculty, administration, and staff.”

Their efforts were priceless as they collaborated and planned to have high school students experience different Bethel programs and spaces. The fine arts students helped the music and theatre department prepare for the upcoming opera, The Marriage of Figaro. They worked with Bethel students and faculty on set design, costume creation, and character development. These students also attended a creative writing session with the English and journalism department, a session with the art and design department, and a tour of the media production facilities.

“Graduates of New Life Academy are strong academically, faith-filled, and forward-thinking, and they have a history of thriving at Bethel. Not just as individual students, but also in their contribution to the Bethel community. We appreciate this unique relationship.”

— Jessica Daniels, associate provost of innovation and partnership

Five different programs came together to offer sessions in the STEM field. The physics and engineering department as well as the math and computer science both offered sessions and opportunities to explore Bethel’s lab spaces. The nursing, biokinetics, and social work programs joined forces to provide a healthcare session. The business department invited students to explore each of the emphases through different sessions: marketing, accounting, finance, human resources, entrepreneurship, and analytics

In addition to these sessions specifically designed to suit individual houses, Hedlund and her team collaborated with the Office of Admissions to offer large group sessions for each house. Admissions counselors offered insight about the college decision process and how to discern if a college suits the student’s goals and values. These sessions not only helped students picture themselves in a college environment, but explained what they needed to do to get there, which was especially helpful for first generation college students.

The entire experience culminated with a celebration in Bethel’s Underground. New Life Academy parents were also invited to partake in a worship experience, a brief message from Bethel President Ross Allen, and a meet-and-greet with different academic departments. After a few busy days, New Life Academy students reflected together on what they learned about college, their specific interests, and what life at Bethel is like. Hopefully, this experience is just the beginning of a beautiful partnership.

“Our hope is that some of the students decide that they want to come to Bethel as a result of their experience,” Hedlund says. “I think that people who spend time at Bethel see what we are all about and are touched by it, touched by the presence of God here and the people.”

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