Mrs. Emma Smith’s first Kindergarten class at Crowley’s Ridge Academy.
On this day in 1953, the doors of Crowley’s Ridge Academy opened to students for the very first time. Some 39 young people attended the first day of classes.
Today is also World Gratitude Day, and I’ll understand if you’ve already jumped ahead to connect those dots.
CRA has always existed within a framework of challenges and worries. It just comes with the territory. From day one, CRA founder Emmett Smith’s grand vision for a Christian school was accompanied by the bruising daily realities of keeping it funded and staffed. Over the decades, as enrollment and support grew, so did expectations, challenges and expenses. I suspect it was shared sacrifice and struggle that unified the men, women, and children involved in the school’s earliest years. Talk to any of them today, and I believe you’ll come away convinced, as I am, that CRA exists in 2020 largely because those folks in the Fifties put their shoulders to the wheel.
And to be sure, the sacrifices didn’t end in the Fifties. Each decade of the school’s history has been fraught with challenges great and greater. Each time, those threats were met head on by friends of the school who were resolute in their commitment to building, funding, and praying over this school as we know it. Sometimes, they held on for dear life through a financial crisis. At others, they dug deep to add needed square footage or new programs and services. Whether in a period of simple survival or promising growth, these people held fast to their faith even as they put on their work boots. They gave of time, talent and — whenever possible — treasure to build a school that would, in turn, build children into society’s leaders and Christ’s followers.
We’re nearly seven decades into the story of Crowley’s Ridge Academy. We certainly should pause today to give thanks for such a long run of success. But one of the downsides to such a long history is that it becomes very easy in the present to disconnect from the names, the stories and the ethos of the institution’s past.
Today, let us all resolve to show gratitude and honor to the heroes of CRA by emulating their passion and selflessness in shaping the school’s future. May we, like them, discern between what is essential and what is comfortable, what is important and what we can do without. May we give of our financial means, but also of our energies. May our commitment to the school include not only enrolling our children but full engagement. May we see ourselves not as customers but as investors and ambassadors of Crowley’s Ridge Academy. And as we face challenges unique to this time in the school’s history, may we determine to collectively rise to meet them, not only for the students enrolled today, but for the vision of a stronger Academy in years to come.
— Terry Austin (‘90)