When Providence Hall in Santa Barbara opened its doors three years ago, only 25 students were enrolled in its classes. Since then, the Christian school has tripled enrollment. But making sure students can continue pursuing the school’s motto — “Truth, Beauty, Excellence” — regardless of their financial situation is the focus of a new fundraising effort that launched Monday.
About 150 supporters of the school gathered at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort to enjoy dinner and to hear syndicated columnist and talk-show host Dennis Prager speak as part of the school’s “Engaging Ideas of Consequence” series.
Students from low- to moderate-income families make up about two-thirds of the student body, and more than 80 percent of the students receive some form of financial aid.
Four seniors — Chloe Eaton, T.J. Jan, Rebecca Shasberger and Daniel Evarone — kicked off the evening by reciting the Preamble to the U.S.Constitution. Dr. David Winter, the school’s headmaster and former president of Westmont College, followed, sharing a few words about the school’s mission.
“This series is going to be an important one,” Winter said of “Engaging Ideas of Consequence.” “When we turn on the television or the radio, we don’t get a lot of that.”
High school may be the weakest educational link in the U.S. education system, according to Winter, and he said he’s become “captivated” with the importance of those years of a student’s life.
“These four years may be the most significant developmental years of their lives,” he said. “We really don’t need another second-rate school. Let’s make (Providence Hall) rigorous and challenging and stimulating.”
Prager took the stage, encouraging the audience to give all they could, and touched on the school’s motto. Excellence, he said, “is a dirty word. … We don’t even have that in sports now.”
Prager touched on everything from immigration, religion in America and the country’s heritage. Stressing that America is at a crossroads, Prager touted the importance of the Nov. 2 election, calling it “the most important election since the Civil War.”
Because the tiny school doesn’t have many alumni as of yet, Winter said it will continue moving forward in seeking donations.
“We believe this school is here at the right time,” he said.
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The school will host an admissions open house from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 7 at its campus at 19 E. Micheltorena St., as well as a preview day for junior high students from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 15.