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Timothy Christian students experience diverse learning opportunities through Renew program

ELMHURST – Timothy Christian High School students found ways to serve and learn through the diverse opportunities provided by the school's eight-day Renew program between their semesters this school year.

Tyra Bone, Renew coordinator for Timothy Christian Schools, said Timothy Christian started offering the program in 2015, and all of the high school students participate in the program. Students can choose to go on a mission trip or take on-campus classes with a discipleship or service component, and juniors and seniors can choose to spend the eight days completing internships or shadowing opportunities.

Bone said the program allows students to interact with or serve people with whom they wouldn't necessarily spend time otherwise and take classes that might work as a regular course. Both Timothy Christian Schools staff and external instructors from the community teach the classes, she said.

Bob VenHousen, director of advancement at Timothy Christian Schools, and his wife, Judy, led a group trip with 28 students to the Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago, where they worked with Sunshine Gospel Ministries.

Judy VenHousen said the trip included going to Chinatown to learn about immigratrion, serving in a food pantry in the Hermosa neighborhood, learning the reasons why people experience poverty and eating lunch with homeless people in the Loop. Bob VenHousen added students asked the people for advice and learned about their stories.

"The entire trip was so eye-opening," said Maddie Schaafsma, a student who went on the trip.

She added the homeless people she interacted with had "so much hope."

"I felt so humbled," Schaafsma said.

Senior Nick Johnson took two classes in this year's Renew: "WW2 D-Day: Invasion of Europe" and "Learning from Lyrics – Gain a Deeper Understanding of Your Favorite Songs." In the class about D-Day, the instructor shared World War II devotionals, such as journal entries soldiers wrote about their experiences of a "connection with God" in the midst of their fear, Johnson said. As part of "Learning from Lyrics," students learned about songs and artists they might not ordinarily listen to, such as Nigerian musician William Onyeabor.

Junior Lindsay Mahler had an internship at CDH Cancer Center in Warrenville, where she shadowed doctors with different specialities in oncology. Mahler said the experience "definitely reaffirmed" her interest in pediatric oncology, as she saw the "resiliency" of the children undergoing treatment.

Freshman Kate Buikema went on a group trip to New York City, where students volunteered at a food bank and tutored elementary-school children through Operation Exodus. She said she wants to continue volunteering at food pantries and encouraging others.

Bone said Timothy Christian Schools is looking for more businesses and professionals who might be interested in hosting students for shadowing opportunities for next year's program. Anyone interested in doing so should contact her at

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