Oneida Baptist Institute is a place of new beginnings. We typically have a very transient student population—the average stay for one of our graduating seniors is traditionally two years.
Student recruitment is a critical element for our ministry. It typically takes 100 new students looking for a new beginning in a new school year to get us back to the previous year’s enrollment. Although the Class of 2019 had only 38 students, our average graduating class is 55 students, and we anticipate 60 to 65 graduates in 2020. In addition to the 55 students who usually graduate, we also typically lose 40 to 50 underclassmen from one year to the next.
In anticipation of these 100 new students, we spend much of our summer improving facilities, hosting volunteers, hiring new staff and training our folks for another school year. Coupled with the return of previous students, the arrival of these new students can almost seem overwhelming, especially for our new staff.
Our students, and in particular our new students, will be looking for a new beginning. They will need a fresh start and/or second opportunity at life and success. Many of these students will bring new challenges, struggles, baggage and heartache – but they will also bring us great joy and the opportunity to minister to them and to share the gospel with them.
Some of our students will not want a new beginning. They would prefer to remain in their familiar surroundings, regardless of whether or not that setting was healthy or good for them. The parents and guardians of our students are typically seeking a new beginning for their youngsters and believe Oneida will be just that for their child.
If a young person will simply give Oneida a chance and make a good effort, his or her new beginning will very well turn into hope and life eternal. It is very rewarding to watch one of our young people begin to figure things out, make better decisions and improve their behavior and academics. However, there is nothing more rewarding and fulfilling than seeing one of our kids give his or her life to Christ.
We will have some bumps in the road next month. Some of our students will act out. Some will leave us. Some of our staff, new and old, will question their calling to this ministry. However, with the Lord’s favor, grace and strength, we will endure and overcome.
When this school year ends, I will be thrilled to tell you about some of the successes of our students who found a new beginning at Oneida. Thank you for helping us to provide kids from all around Kentucky, the country and the world with a new beginning and hope in Jesus Christ.
Larry Gritton is president of Oneida Baptist Institute.