Growing KNIGHTS for the Future
Mark Riga is a Columbia Christian graduate, and he has some regrets. He would like to share his story...
Mark started school at a Christian school but soon transferred to an elementary school near his home. All through elementary and on into middle school in the Madison school district, Mark had a vague sense that something was missing in his life.
When he entered high school, the emptiness grew. Expectations of success in life began slipping away, and hopelessness took over. His classmates knew him to be a tough football player and wrestler, and he learned his lessons well: always be tough and look tough. But toughness didn’t take away the emptiness he felt.
Mark’s mom, sensitive to his desperation, came home one day and suggested that he consider a Christian school she had visited.
Mark had never experienced a school where every student was encouraged to learn and challenged to grow academically. Although Mark admits that he never sang during chapel, he said the message was convicting. He always felt encouraged hearing stories from the Bible and songs of praise. Mark’s parents had brought him up with the character traits that Columbia emphasized, but Mark said he never felt free to show his true colors. Mark was tough, but he also had a side that only a Christian environment could nurture.
At Columbia, Mark decided to play soccer. He had never before played soccer, but all of his classmates encouraged him to play. Choosing to play soccer, Mark said, was the moment when he was able to let all the guards down and fully embrace the Columbia spirit. Mark would also play basketball for the first time, earning the opportunity to play in the state championships in Baker City, Oregon. Mark says that Columbia gave him opportunities he would only dream about in his old school. “I became ambitious for the first time in many years and knew that I would be successful. I had many devotionals at Columbia and through these devotionals I gained the courage to join the Military.” Mark’s greatest gift, in his short time at Columbia, was the gift of courage and the desire to try new things.
Now Mark regrets finding out about Columbia Christian School so late and wishes that he could have started at Columbia in elementary. He said he wonders what life would be like if he’d had a longer experience at Columbia.
Mark can only wonder what life could have been like, but because of Mark’s experience at Columbia, life will be different for the rest of his family. The changes they saw in him and the relationships that he built inspired four families to make Columbia Christian their home—Mark’s younger sibling and four of his cousins and their parents!
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