This September, San Fernando Valley Academy (SFVA) celebrated 120 years of providing quality Christian education.
In 1902, The Fernando College became the first Adventist secondary school in the Southern California Conference territory, with 37 students. With the opening of La Sierra College in 1923, The Fernando College closed and continued to operate as an elementary school, adding more grades through the years, until the first high school class graduated in 1961.
The theme for the 120th celebration was rooted in 1 Samuel 7:12: “Samuel took a single rock and…named it ‘Ebenezer’ (Rock of Help), saying, ‘This marks the place where God helped us’” (MSG).
This theme echoed throughout the event, and many alumni and friends of the school came together for the momentous occasion. The program was filled with thanks to God for His leading throughout the school’s history.
As the program kicked off, Southern California Conference (SCC) President Velino A. Salazar recounted Ellen White’s visit to the San Fernando property when she was attending the 1901 camp meeting and her subsequent visit to speak to the students. Salazar then read from an article in the Review and Herald: “The best education that can be given to children and youth is that which bears the closest relation to the future, immortal life. This kind of education should be given by godly parents, by devoted teachers, and by the church” (Ellen G. White, “The Best Education and Its Purpose,” Nov. 21, 1893).
Salazar highlighted the vital role of the school and its faculty and staff in the lives of SFVA students. “Three institutions working together to raise a child,” he reflected. “This is the village that [Bible and music] teacher Lee [Rugless] was mentioning a few minutes ago!”
Current and former students shared their musical talents throughout the program, and many joined in a mass choir directed by Rugless. Graduates of years ending in 2 and 7 were honored, and time was dedicated to recognize those who have been instrumental in the history of SFVA and the lives of its many students. The sermon was shared by Tony Anobile, vice president of the Southwestern Union Conference.
Many entities recognized this milestone in different ways. “It wouldn’t be a birthday party celebration if there were no gifts,” remarked Kathleen Diaz, SCC treasurer, as she presented a check for $10,000 on behalf of SCC.
Further congratulations came from around the denomination. Letters of congratulations from the Southern California Conference, the Pacific Union Conference, the North American Division, a former SFVA board chairman, and more were read. General Conference President Ted N.C. Wilson also shared his greetings and encouragement via video.
The city of Los Angeles also recognized SFVA’s impact, and SCC Vice President for Education James P. Willis II presented a certificate from councilmember John S. Lee to congratulate the school on “more than a century of excellence.”
The celebration closed with a dedication of the special anniversary rock created for the occasion, set in the quad with a plaque commemorating the theme found in 1 Samuel.
By Lauren Lacson