Hiking with sixth graders

Last fall, I enjoyed accompanying the sixth graders on a Beyond the Classroom hike, along with Providence faculty members Mr. Scott Mitchell, Mrs. Mary Wilson, and Mrs. Kendra Forster (nee Dayton). A visiting student I’ll call “John” joined us that day. I appreciated his courage, as he was our only guest, he didn’t know anyone, and he had never hiked before. John and I became trail buddies as we navigated a challenging but exhilarating day in the Los Padres front country. 

During our five-hour hike up Jesusita Trail, John and I ran low on water, overheated in the hot sun, felt our energy lag as the trail steepened, and even despaired a little bit when we finished the “emergency chocolate” and were still nowhere near the top. I encouraged him to think about where we were going and what we would see: spectacular views of the city, sea, and sky from a peak overlooking all of Santa Barbara.

A journey with a distinct destination

At Providence, we like to say we begin with the end in mind. We look ahead to the goal of a Providence education–graduation and beyond–and plan how we can best “prepare students for lives of purpose equipped with the knowledge, wisdom, and character found in God’s unchanging truth,” as stated in our mission.

We have four divisions in our Preschool through Grade 12 school in which to work toward this noble goal. We’ve ascribed a word for each division to articulate how we partner with parents to produce hopeful, grateful, determined, and confident students. Year after year, we build upon what students have learned and prepare them for the next stage of their educational, social/emotional, and spiritual development. We call this the Providence Journey.

Preschool students feel known and loved 

The word for Preschool is nurture. Students engage in play-based learning in a vibrant, dynamic, and safe environment. As a result, they develop social and emotional skills, build self-confidence and independence, and cultivate kindergarten readiness. Modeling the love of God, thoughtful teachers lay the educational foundation that subsequent divisions build upon.

Lower School launches life-long learners

The word for the Lower School is inspire, as teachers instill in students joy for learning that will serve them for the rest of their lives. Teachers nurture abilities, strengthen weaknesses, and guide in knowledge and truth. As a result, students grow in their understanding of God’s love for them and develop a sense of personal responsibility.

Middle School students find their unique gifts and talents

The word for our Middle School division is encourage. Middle school is a season of transition when students begin to discover themselves and their potential. Our Middle School team encourages students to delight in who God made them be as they explore new ideas, consider new perspectives, and develop new talents. As a result, students grow into a learning community and discover each person’s value and significant contribution.

Upper School students pursue excellence and impact 

The word for our Upper School division is challenge. The high school years are some of the most important in preparing students for success in life and college. Faculty train students to use their minds well and seek the truth. Chapel, Bible classes, service opportunities, and spiritual retreats foster character development and teach students to root their identity in Christ. Providence students graduate prepared to engage culture and impact our communities through service, leadership, and civic duty.

Our journey language—nurture, inspire, encourage, and challenge— is intentional because we have a destination in mind. And like every great hike in Santa Barbara, the view at the end is spectacular.

Don’t stop now!

Early in the sixth grade hike, my trail partner, John, repeatedly asked me how far we had to go. “We’re just getting started,” I’d reply. Then, when we were well past the halfway mark, I pivoted my encouragement to “We’re almost there.” But when he said he couldn’t go any further and we were almost to the top, I said, “You’ve never been this far or climbed so high, and I won’t let you miss this view!” Buoyed by encouragement, he ran the last 35 steps to the peak at Inspiration Point. 

John would probably tell you I dragged him to the top, but his big smile of accomplishment as he looked out over all of Santa Barbara was worth every minute of challenge and pain on the way to the peak. The story he had to tell his parents about his journey up Jesusita Trail would be a story of perseverance, resilience, and growth. 

As each division at Providence encourages students to dive deeper, explore, and find a personal sense of calling, we see curiosity and excitement explode and students’ lives transformed. We believe God designs his children—our students—for a much bigger purpose than just graduating from school. God’s call is to an active, adventurous life of leadership, service, and influence. 

No matter when students join the Providence Journey, whether in the earliest years of Preschool or at the threshold of Middle School or beyond, I can’t help but think, “We’re just getting started!” 

Tawny Kilpper
Tawny Kilpper

Admissions Director (K–12)

Tawny Kilpper is the Providence School K–12 admissions director and parent of a Providence graduate and a current Upper School junior. She loves sharing the Providence Journey with students and parents and encourages anyone to reach out for more information.