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A Christmas Story from SAS
Posted 12/15/2016 07:00AM

Sara and Casey Milford are first generation college graduates. When they married 19 years ago, their commitment to education was one of the bonds they shared. They vowed that education would be a priority for the children they would raise together.

Sara was determined that her call to the Episcopal priesthood would not be a burden to her family. She chose the School of Theology in Sewanee because she felt the presence of God on the Mountain and believed that the Sewanee community would be a welcoming place for the Milfords' four children. Their decision was made easier by Casey's ability to work remotely.

The couple enrolled their younger children, Avery and Autumn, at Sewanee Elementary School and decided to homeschool their older children, Ashton and Alexander.

That plan lasted for one semester.

Homeschooling was more difficult than anticipated. Ashton was topping out of the math offerings available from the online program they were using. Work and school commitments left little time for supervising the children's learning, and neither child was being challenged. Wondering why they were even bothering when it seemed like such a financial stretch, the Milfords inquired about Ashton and Alexander enrolling at SAS.

With tuition support from the seminary, a matching grant from SAS, and financial sacrifices made by Sara and Casey, the children were able to to begin classes that January.

When Sara graduated from seminary and accepted a position as curate of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Hot Springs, she had every intention that the whole family would return to Arkansas together. SAS had other ideas.

The school community valued Ashton and Alexander's contributions in the classroom and in the mountain biking, soccer, and swim programs. We knew that their quiet and positive leadership would be valuable in the residential houses. Sara and Casey were invited in to talk about boarding options. They agreed to the meeting but only, they thought, to placate the SAS staff. Boarding school had not been seriously considered.

Ashton is now a senior at SAS. Alexander is a sophomore.

What changed the Milfords' minds? The Sewanee community had become a network of support and a second family to their children. Their experience with SAS assured them that Ashton and Alexander would be cared for and nourished, physically and spiritually. The Milfords value academics, music, and physical activity and saw the school encouraging their children in all of those realms. They welcomed SAS's approach to religious education which provided a strong Episcopal base through Chapel and Compline but also encouraged their children to pursue their own faith journey through the study of world religions and an openness to other traditions. The Episcopal Employees' Scholarship and additional need-based financial aid helped them to meet the greater expense of boarding tuition.

Although boarding school is not a familiar option for those Sara serves, Sara finds that her older parishioners, whose grown children often live far away, understand that the quality and quantity of love that you feel and express for your children is not affected by distance. That shared experience has created an intergenerational bond that they all value.

"We know how fortunate we are to be able to give our kids this opportunity. It is a true gift," said Sara. "The sacrifices we have made have been worth it. The support that the SAS community has given us is beyond our dreams. We are grateful."

The generous financial support of our alumni and friends makes it possible for us to welcome families like the Milfords. A heartfelt thanks to those who have given this year to help us fulfill our mission to provide an SAS education "for those for whom such experiences might not otherwise be available."

In this Advent season and throughout the year, we join Sara in her gratitude. We thank the Milfords and all of our families for sharing the joy of their children with us as our Father shared the joy of his Son, our Savior, with humanity. And, as the new year dawns, we commit ourselves anew to lives of honor and loving service.

Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Sincerely,

Karl J. Sjolund
Head of School

Your financial support of SAS is always welcome. To make your tax-deductible contribution before the year's end go to our Make a Gift page or contact the Development Office at 931.598.5651 x2125.

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