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Nathan Paul

PCA’s Paralympian Alumna Gives High School Coach a Special Christmas Gift

By Uncategorized

December 17, 2021 – Dover, NH – On Friday, Portsmouth Christian Academy Alumna, Liza Corso ’21, surprised high school cross country coach, and longtime PCA staff member, Mike Shevenell, during the school’s weekly chapel service, with a Coaches Medal given to Paralympic medalists to be presented to their personal coaches and trainers.

Corso, a decorated high school athlete with 4 All-State selections for Cross Country, 2 All-State selections for Track, a 4-year Team MVP, 3-year Captain, and holds school records in the 800m, 1600m, 3200m, 1000m, 1500m, and 3000m, returned to her alma-mater on break from college, where she attends and runs cross country at the NCAA Division I level for Lipscomb University in Lipscomb, Tennessee. This past August, Corso flew to Tokyo to take part in the Summer Paralympics as a member of the United States Paralympic Team. After placing in the top 4 in her heat, Corso moved on to run in the 1600m Finals, where she set a personal record and took home the silver medal.

Coach Shevenell, a 25-year member of the PCA Community and head coach of cross country and track, had been told he’d be introducing Liza as PCA’s chapel speaker. What Mike didn’t know is that, at the end of her message, she would turn it back over on Mike, surprising him with his own Paralympic Silver Medal.

“Coach Shev has always been there supporting me and encouraging me to push beyond my limits. I wouldn’t have this medal without him. He doesn’t know this, but I’m actually here to give him one of his own.”, said Liza.

With tears in his eyes, Mike walked up to the front of the school assembly, and joyfully outstretched his arms as Liza placed the medal over his head.

“It was such an honor and surprise to be recognized by Liza in this way. Coaching Liza has undoubtedly been one of the highlights of my 27-year coaching career.”, said Shevenell. “Watching her run Cross Country was an inspiration to me as she was able to run, lead and win races – all while having a low vision condition. It is hard for me to imagine the courage that took. But, she did it with such skill and grace, I often forgot the challenges she was overcoming on a daily basis. In all our years together,  there were very few times when I was reminded that she really doesn’t see everything the way the rest of us do.”

Reaching for the Stars: NASA-Hopeful Senior Lands Acceptance in Dream Aeronautic Engineering School

By Home News, PCA News Stories

PCA Senior Receives Exciting News Prior to Christmas Break

As we get ready to head off for Christmas break on Friday, many students and teachers are ready to take a break from school. However, school is going to be #1 on the minds of many of our seniors over the holidays, as early acceptances begin to roll in. Many of our students have applied to some big-name schools like Yale, Quinnipiac, and Seton Hall, and several are anxiously awaiting the response from their “dream-schools”. One of our seniors received that letter last week. This is her story.

Abby Oberto transferred to PCA from her local school in the summer of her freshman year. Change can be scary for anyone, especially for a high school student in the midst of a school change. Fortunately for Abby, PCA’s loving, welcoming community that we so often speak about was once again clearly evident in Abby’s first month as an Eagle. “PCA seemed inviting and a school that I could thrive in. My first month here was easier than I expected. Because of what I experienced in the past (at my previous school), the love and acceptance that I experienced made it almost too easy to integrate into the school culture. Initially, I was absolutely terrified to come here because I thought that I was going to be an outcast like I used to be, but luckily, my experience was the complete opposite. Coming here was the best decision I have ever made in my life.”

As Abby became more comfortable with her new environment, she quickly began to view the school community as her own, offering to help out in several capacities, even volunteering to be a tour guide for Open Houses run by the Admissions Office. “It honestly happened so quickly that there isn’t one specific moment that I realized that I was truly a part of this community, which goes to show how socially immersive the school is. The first time I ever volunteered was in my freshman year. Mrs. Sipp asked me to be a tour guide at an Open House, and I was incredibly nervous, but through those feelings it felt like I had done this for years, so from then on I kept volunteering.”

Volunteer–sure. But, Abby has now reached the point of involvement and servant-leadership at PCA where she’s sought out for positions of leadership before she even needs to volunteer. New to PCA’s Upper School program this year is a leadership development program offered to seniors, deemed by faculty, to be suited for positions of responsibility and leadership in one of 5 areas at the Upper School: Fine Arts, Spiritual Life, Unity, Athletics and Academics. Abby is the school’s Unity Prefect, sharing the responsibility with PCA Senior, Dylan Thyng.

“I joined the prefect program to make a strong impact in the school, specifically in student life. It has not only helped me grow as a leader, but as a person. I am stronger and more confident in myself, and in my faith, because of what I have learned from the program.”

In this position, Abby and Dylan are responsible for identifying opportunities to build unity between PCA’s Upper and Lower School student bodies. If you read our article on the school’s “End 68 Hours of Hunger” food drive this fall, you’d have noticed that Abby and Dylan were responsible for the Upper School’s involvement in the food drive alongside the Lower School. Abby and Dylan are now in the planning stages of a winter carnival, meant to build community between the Upper School students and the current 8th grade class.

But, Abby’s not just here to serve. She’s here at PCA to reach her own academic and career goals–the first of which she reached just last week.

“My love for STEM was fostered back in the 4th grade when my science class was doing its astronomy unit. We were given one-page, one-sided articles about each of the planets, and I was mesmerized by the information, so since then I wanted to be an astronomer. Then, I started to pay attention to my dad’s line of work. He is a machinist/manufacturer, and I found that so interesting too. So, I mixed space and tech together and got my dream career of an Aerospace Engineer. So, for almost a decade I have wanted to work for NASA, but I did not learn about Embry-Riddle until my sophomore year when the school sent me a brochure. The minute I looked at it, I couldn’t stop smiling, and I had this feeling that that is where I needed to be.”

From then on, there was no stopping Abby. She always knew she needed to work hard in her academics, but now she knew exactly what she was working towards. She was literally reaching for the stars!

“Since I have always been drawn to STEM, I already was focused on those classes, but how I viewed the information and what I was being taught changed a lot. It was no longer just a lecture or just some facts I need to know for a test that I will later forget about. I have truly absorbed what I have learned in my classes because I will be utilizing that knowledge in the years to come.”

Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University is a private university focused on aviation and aerospace programs with its main campuses in Daytona Beach, Florida, and Prescott, Arizona. It is the largest accredited university system specializing in aviation and aerospace. As the world’s most respected aeronautical university, entry into the program is quite competitive.

But, that didn’t stop Abby from making it her first “space mission”–and we’re all so glad it didn’t. Last week, Abby checked her mailbox and found “the blue box”, something Abby says is a tell-tale sign that she made her dream a reality.

“When I saw the blue box, what they send when you’re accepted, I screamed, but when I opened it and saw the certificate say, “Congratulations, you did it!” I started crying tears of joy. My dream that I have had since I was 11 years old had finally come true–and through my tears, all I could say was, “Thank you, Lord.”

When asked about her experience at PCA, and if she felt she’d been prepared for her next step in her academic journey, Abby emphatically answered, “Yes!”

“The moment I walked on campus my first day, it felt right. The teachers and everyone who has invested into my life here has allowed me to grow into an incredible, well-rounded young woman. Without the resources and the opportunities that PCA has to offer, I would not be anywhere close to where I am now. I would not be excelling in the classroom, as a student leader, and as a follower of Christ. I have had every opportunity to share and explore my passions and discover new ones. PCA’s slogan is “Preparation for Life” and the teachers and staff uphold that statement. I learned to collaborate and work well with others, my faith has been poured into and supported by those around me, and the support that I have from my teachers here and the growth that I have experienced gives me confidence for the next steps in my life.”

At the end of the day, that’s exactly what PCA’s mission entails: giving students the opportunities to try something new, the resources to excel at it, and the guidance to identify the best way of impacting the world for good with the skills God has given them. However, it’s up to the student, ultimately, to set goals for themselves as they progress through their academic careers. We’re reminded of the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, in which 3 men are given 3 different amounts of gold by their master. In the parable, one man doubled his five talents, another doubled his two, and the last buried his talent in the dirt. When the master returned, he was irate to find that the 3rd man was so irresponsible with the resources he had been given.

Abby doubled her talents. In fact, she may have tripled, quadrupled, quintupled her talents! Abby set a goal for herself as a young woman, made use of the resources available to her, and accomplished that same goal ten years later. We’re proud of Abby, and overjoyed for the entire Oberto family. We hope to hear many more of these stories from our other outstanding members of this year’s senior class.

Learning Styles: The Analytic Learner

By Better Together Blog
Written by Dr. Connie Lawernce, Dean of Academics

Learning Styles: The Analytic Learner

Learning is a multi-faceted process and the student who knows how to use all learning styles will gain a deeper knowledge. However, while the analytic learner can appear to be the “perfect student,” like all styles, they have strengths and weaknesses. Praise God that He has made us able to learn in multiple ways! Read More

Learning Styles: The Collaborative Learner

By Better Together Blog
Written by Dr. Connie Lawernce, Dean of Academics

Learning Styles: The Collaborative Learner

Did you know there are FOUR different types of learning styles?

While recognizing your students’ learning style may not directly improve their learning, it makes an incredible difference in their engagement and motivation toward the subject. Bernice McCarthy notes in her 4Mat System that although everyone has all four learning styles, there is almost always one preferred style.

PCA uses this method to engage your students when learning new concepts. In these upcoming articles, I will be discussing each of the four styles and how you can support your learners at home! Read More

A New Quarter: Growing in School By Looking Back, Looking Around, and Looking Forward

By Better Together Blog
Written by Dr. Connie Lawernce, Dean of Academics

Getting Better

We are already two weeks into our second quarter, and finishing off the first quarter was a milestone in the 2021-2022 school year!

These new beginnings allow us to look back, look around, and look forward, always seeking to grow into better learners so that we can become all that we are created to be. I encourage you to read the article below and discuss with your child areas in which he or she wants to grow. Praise God for His goodness and for your children!

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PCA Seniors Conclude Impressive Seasons On and Off the Court

By PCA News Stories

Appreciating the Present

Senior year is filled with untamable anticipation for what’s to come. Sometimes, seniors can be so focused on the future that they miss what’s right in front of them. There are lots of “lasts” that come and go senior year that many students can leave unappreciated until long after they’re gone. Last trips to Subway for lunch, last bus rides home from away games, and last pre-game jitters are all moments that seniors, wrapped up in college selections and what they’re going to major in, and whether they’d like their college winters to be 9 or 89 degrees, can take for granted. This feeling of indifference can affect classroom performance as well–papers go unfinished, projects get put off, and high school begins to be a thing of the past before it’s really finished.

That’s not the case for PCA seniors, Joey Skubisz and Maddy Kniphfer. Enrolling at PCA in 5th grade, Maddy and Joey have become essential parts of the school’s student body. Joey is a Small Group Leader at the high school, a co-captain of this year’s varsity volleyball team, an Academic Prefect and a member of PCA’s Honors Orchestra. Maddy is also a small group leader and sits behind the plate as Varsity Softball’s starting catcher. While their athletic performances have garnered lots of attention this year, it’s the impact they’re making in the classroom that makes them truly special.

Joey and Maddy pose for Varsity Volleyball’s Media Day.

“Rarely have I seen a student so dedicated to overcoming challenges and reaching their potential.” says Maddy’s math teacher, Mrs. Shoemaker. “Every year she goes above and beyond to understand the concepts in our math classes. Her willingness to humble herself and seek help is a character trait I wish every student would have. Maddy is hard working, respectful, and passionate. She’s a role model to the younger female athletes at our school, and it’s been a joy for me to see her take that role seriously.”

“Joey and Maddy are exceptional, naturally gifted athletes but they bring much more to our program than their abilities to hit a volleyball.  They both have helped establish a culture within our program of caring, respect, hard work and, most importantly, glory to God.  They are leaders by example and play the game hard, leaving all effort out on the court.  They have earned the respect and admiration of their teammates, coaches, and opponents as evidenced by the various awards and accolades they have acquired.” says Varsity Volleyball coach, Kevin Carreiro.

“For the past 6 years, I have had the great joy and privilege of watching these young women grow in faith and mature into well-respected individuals.   Both of them are as passionate about the game of volleyball as they are about those they share the court with.  They have consistently placed the team’s goals first and the result was one of the most successful seasons in our program’s history.”

Skubisz and Kniphfer await the final point in this year’s NHIAA Division III Quarterfinal Match vs. Trinity High

Crushing It On the Court

Skubisz and Kniphfer not only uplifted their peers in the classroom, they also helped carry Varsity Volleyball to its first Final Four since 2007.

“Joey is a power hitter, fast and versatile.”, says Coach Carreiro of Skubisz. “She has an impressive vertical which allows her to contact the ball much higher than the opposing team’s block, allowing her to exploit the opponent’s defense.  She has spent much of her career as a defensive-minded middle-blocker and was quickly approaching the career blocks record.  Entering this season, we moved her to the outside to take advantage of her power as a hitter and consistent passing.   In doing so, she led the team offensively, nearly breaking the single-season kills record.”

“Maddy is also a speedy, well-rounded player with great versatility.  She has been a libero for most of her career tallying over 350 varsity digs.  She has tremendous court coverage and can get to virtually any ball that is hit to her side of the court.  This year she stepped into the role of setter and, in much the same way, she managed to track down nearly every second ball no matter where it was passed.  Her serving abilities have improved year after year and has become dominant to the point that she could take sole control of a set from the service line.”

Joey Skubisz hammers home a kill.

The two seniors were absolutely critical to the team’s regular season and postseason success, accumulating a lengthy list of accolades and accomplishments over the 2021 campaign.

Skubisz was named to the AVCA All-Region Team, becoming the first New Hampshire volleyball player to earn the recognition since its inception in 2006. She was named AVCA Player of the Week on two separate occasions, becoming the fourth player in school history to earn the recognition. joining Ashley Vining ’17, Becca Jones ’20 and most recently Lindsey Hatfield ’21.

Joey was also the first in school history to do it twice in one season.

Joey was also named the Granite State Conference Player of the Year for Division III, again, a first for PCA Volleyball. Finally, Joey finished her career as one of the best to ever do it at PCA, her 192 Season Kills and 364 Career Kills are the second all-time in school history.

Kniphfer was named to the Granite State Conference All-Conference Team for her efforts this season, finishing her volleyball career in possession of three school records. Kniphfer walks off the court for the last time as PCA’s record-holder in career aces with 201, season aces with 106, and season assists with 355.

Both seniors were named First-Team All-State by the New Hampshire Volleyball Coaches Association. Both were named Senior All-Stars in the state of New Hampshire. And, their 62 career matches are at the top of the all-time list at Portsmouth Christian Academy.

As icing on the cake, the 2021 Varsity Volleyball Team received the NHVCA Team Academic Award, maintaining above a 3.0 GPA. They also received the NHVCA Community Service Award for giving back through funds raised or hours of service completed during the 2021-2022 volleyball season.

Maddy Kniphfer sets for Joey Skubisz in NHIAA action

Reflecting on the Past

“Honestly it feels so amazing and exciting.”, says Kniphfer of holding 3 of the school’s all-time records.

“I would not be here if it wasn’t for my amazing coaches that have helped me grow in my skills. This year I was going in with an open mind. I was the libero for three years in a row, but, in club season I was a setter, so it opened up new horizons for our playing this year. Honestly, I have grown to love this new position.”

When asked what drew her to play volleyball in the first place, Maddy says, “Ever since I was little I always looked up to the high school volleyball team. Going to their practices and just watching, shagging volleyballs, and just talking with them. Since then, I just have found a love and a passion for the sport and found that it is a great outlet for me. My mom also used to be a volleyball coach, and I wanted to be like her, so that really helped spark my passion to play.”

Flashback: Then 8th-grader, Kniphfer waits for the serve on PCA’s varsity junior high team.

Flashback: Then 8th-grader, Joey serves on PCA’s varsity junior high team.

“To be completely honest, neither of these achievements were ones I was striving for.”, says Joey of her numerous recognitions. “I was just focused on pouring my heart out into the sport that I love. When Coach Kevin told me that I was up for Player of the Year, I was surprised that this was really something within my reach. After our loss to Newfound, the news of officially earning the title of Player of the Year was exactly what I needed to show me God’s ultimate plan, love, and authority. Not long after this, hearing about being named to the All-Region Team brought me an excitement that I couldn’t contain. All-Region was something I never thought to be achievable. Playing at a D3 school, our players don’t get a lot of coverage or recognition on that scale. I was extremely blessed to have a coach who is my, and every one of my teammates’, biggest supporter. He got my name out there and made sure that my abilities were known– and to him, and for God’s work through him, I am unspeakably grateful.”

“I originally played because all of my friends were playing. After a few years of playing solely for that reason, I fell in love with the sport. I had played every sport you could imagine, but I had never felt the way about any of them the way I do about volleyball. When I got to high school and played with Coach Kevin, my love grew to a passion, and it continues to grow every time I touch a volleyball.”

Preparing for the Future

While Joey and Maddy have had exceptional careers at PCA, they both know that graduation is quickly approaching. Both are continuing to work hard in the classroom to set themselves up for success. Maddy and Joey were both named the AVCA’s Best and Brightest, an award given to volleyball players across the nation who maintain above a 3.0, demonstrating excellence on and off the court. Maddy and Joey were the only two volleyball players in the state of New Hampshire to receive the award.

Looking back, both girls are extremely appreciative of their student-experiences at Portsmouth Christian Academy.

“One thing that I will miss is the special close knit community that we all have here. I am going to miss all of the loving and dedicated teachers and the family that I have built here. My best advice that I could give to the underclassmen would be to lean on your peers and know that you have a huge support system that can help you no matter what.”, says Maddy. “PCA has been a huge part of my academic success. They always push us to make sure we are successful in whatever we do. After I graduate, I want to go to college for social work. I am extremely excited what God has planned for me and my future.”

Joey, looking into the field of neuroscience, was unapologetic about her love of learning. “Unashamed to sound like a complete nerd, I love school and I love to learn. This really helps me with my academics. I try to go into each class with a mindset that is ready to learn. I spend a lot of time on school work, but it pays off in the end. My top choice for college is Yale, and I am eagerly hoping for an acceptance–although it is a reach. PCA is an amazing school, and an even better community. We are blessed with such a wonderful faculty and staff who pour their hearts into each and every student.”

Joey also gave some advice to underclassmen to not look past high school before it’s over. “Cherish every Brookwoods (trip), cheering with your class. Every homecoming event, dressing to impress. Every moment spent singing random songs in the senior lounge. Every moment spent together is a moment you’re going to miss when you’re looking towards graduation–so cherish them all.”

Participating in the Speech Meet: “Why Do I Have To?”

By Better Together Blog
Written by Dr. Connie Lawernce, Dean of Academics

Why Do I Have to…

Participate in the Speech Meet?

Often students ask why they have to do something for school, such as memorize scripture or participate in the Speech Meet and we haven’t provided parents with the reason(s). Since, for our Lower School students, the Speech Meet takes place each year, this article explains the purpose of this event. As always, the more students put into the event; the more they get out of it.
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