Arrow-right Camera
News >  Features >  Washington Voices

Upper Columbia Academy: Small school offers big opportunities

The people around her wonder how Upper Columbia Academy senior Lindsay Nelson fits it all in – the Advanced Placement classes, the flute ensemble, the piano playing, performing in two choirs, playing varsity basketball. About the only down time she has during the day is her 20-minute commute to her school in Spangle from her home in Spokane.

“I really like it,” she said of her drive. “It’s quiet time for me.”

While she works to juggle her schoolwork and many activities, Nelson is thankful for her two free periods a day that allow her to do homework or practice the piano. “I have to manage my time,” she said.

Nelson has attended Seventh-day Adventist schools like Upper Columbia since first grade, but that isn’t the only reason she attends the high school she does. She also likes the music program and the teachers. “I love it here,” she said. “It’s a really good school.”

The school’s small size has allowed her to blossom. Her senior class includes about 75 people. “I find it easier,” she said. “If I was in a bigger school, I probably would be more reserved. I wouldn’t be as out there.”

This year Nelson is taking AP calculus and AP English to pick up a few college credits. “For math it’s just the next step up for me,” she said. “English is one of my easier subjects anyway. I like it.”

Nelson plans to attend Walla Walla University, which is also a Seventh-day Adventist school. She hopes to become a teacher like three of her grandparents. Her grandfather, who died in 2009, was a teacher who particularly inspired her. “I really looked up to him,” she said. “I want to do something to help people. I’ve been told I’m good with kids, and I really love kids.”

Nelson’s faith is important to her. She recently returned from a two-week mission trip to Honduras where she preached at different churches and taught a class on amphibians to second-graders in a bilingual school. But Nelson speaks little Spanish, and she and another girl acted things out to try to get their point across. “It was a little bit harder because I wasn’t sure how much got through,” she said.

Her faith can also be seen in her singing. “We don’t do competitions,” she said. “We play for church. I think music is a good ministry.”

Nelson said she makes it a point to try to be nice to everyone. “I make an effort to do that,” she said. “I don’t like status, like who’s popular and who’s nice. If I don’t like someone, I try to find the good in them.”

Still, Nelson said she isn’t sure why she was selected as the notable student in her class. “There’s a lot of people here who are very talented,” she said. “I’ve just been really blessed, I guess.”