May 28th, 2024  |  Students & Alumni

School Choice a Priority for Parents Focused on Character Formation

Parents across the country are firmly in favor of the option to choose the best schools for their children. According to a January 2024 survey of 2,595 U.S. parents by The National School Choice Awareness Foundation, families increasingly view school choice as a "new normal" in our post-pandemic world.

The report shows that 72% of parents considered new schools for their children in 2023, a staggering 35% increase from the previous year. Of those surveyed, only 29% indicated that the same school type works well for all children in their home.

For Michelee Bechthold, the freedom to choose the learning environment that best suits her daughter's academic needs and extracurricular interests is nothing short of a blessing.

"Being an Arete scholarship recipient has meant the world to our family," Michelee shares. "Having this valuable gift of aid for quality, uninterrupted, faith-filled education has been a continued answer to prayer, and we don't take it for granted."

Michelee's youngest daughter, Inara, has been an Arete scholarship recipient since kindergarten. Now, a sophomore at Georgia-Cumberland Academy (GCA) in Calhoun, Georgia, she is thriving in every imaginable way, according to her mom. Michelee attributes her daughter's flourishing to the years of quality education, positive character formation, and unique life experience-building opportunities she's gained while attending multiple Arete partner private schools.

                                   Inara and her parents, at Georgia-Cumberland Academy

Prior to high school, Inara attended Killian Hill Christian School in Lilburn, Georgia, which, according to her mom, played a significant role in preparing her for the success she currently enjoys.

"Before Killian Hill, she struggled academically," Michelee says. "Inara has always been very social and good at making friends, but she was having a hard time with her classes."

Because of these struggles, Michelee and her husband enrolled Inara at Killian Hill, where their older daughters were already attending. Killian Hill prioritizes and pursues a high standard of excellence, creating a welcoming and nurturing environment for its students. It believes in educating with a purpose as it seeks to train scholars, make disciples, and graduate future leaders.

"Those aren't just words on a wall," Michelee says. "They are very intentional about raising kids both as scholars and as great contributors to society."

"It's cool to be smart there and to get good grades," she continues. "When Inara began attending Killian, she started to catch that vibe—it just clicked for her, and that's when she began to thrive."

Inara entered high school with a clear focus on her studies, music, and athletics. She also understood the value of academic excellence. Killian Hill provided a foundation that is paying dividends for her now. According to her mom, she's a solid student with excellent character. Most of all, she's succeeding academically and absolutely enjoys life.

"When she left Killian Hill to attend high school at GCA, she was so well-prepared and ahead of the game," Michelee says. "They do a great job of building individual character within their students, and I'm thrilled to see that continuing at GCA, too."

Now in her second year, Inara's experience at Georgia-Cumberland Academy is just one more promising step along her educational journey. And she's picked up right where she left off at Killian Hill.

GCA, a co-ed boarding high school located in Northwest Georgia, is dedicated to preparing students for their future, both spiritually and academically. For Inara, it's a home away from home—where she has extended her family as she discovers new ways to grow and mature into a thoughtful, independent, and creative young woman. Michelee says it's precisely the learning environment the family hoped for Inara.

"By the time she was ready for high school, certain activities offered at GCA spoke to her," she says. "It's a boarding school, and everything she wants to do is right there on campus."

Another reason the family settled on GCA is that there's a lot of camaraderie on the school's campus and very little staff turnover. Michelee shared how she appreciates how established the school is—not just the academics and programs but the staff and teachers—and how it prioritizes instilling her family's faith values in its students.

"It was Inara who most wanted to go to GCA, but all of those factors made it such an easy decision to send her there," Michelee adds. "Of course, the financial questions were a big concern."

"But, and I say this over and over again—if we didn't have Arete Scholars, she wouldn't be able to attend GCA. Our daughter could not pursue her interests and education at such a wonderful school without Arete."

At GCA, Inara exercises her academic, social, artistic, and athletic skills. She is a lead singer in Magnify Worship, a musical worship team that performs at church services in different communities throughout the region. The team also offers instructional clinics for young kids interested in playing instruments or singing. From the moment she stepped on campus, Inara knew she wanted to audition for one of these teams.

"She loves being a part of this music team," Michelee shares. "We go up as often as we can to hear their performances and enjoy the music and liveliness of their young, wonderful music."

In addition to Magnify Worship, soccer is another of Inara's extracurricular pursuits. At GCA, she is finding the balance between academic excellence, character formation, and a strong, faith-centered community, all in addition to artistic and athletic outlets that allow her to pursue her unique, individual callings and passions. GCA has everything Inara needs to grow and mature into the young woman Michelee and her husband hope for her to become.

There's a common theme expressed when Michelee talks about her daughter: "She's thriving. I see my daughter thriving in wonderful ways, and we are so grateful for this opportunity."

Thanks to the partial-tuition scholarships offered by Arete, Inara is just one of the thousands of young people who have gained the opportunity to grow their gifts and talents—be it in academics, athletics, the arts, volunteerism, career preparation, or other forms of social and community connectedness.

The meaning of "Arete" is excellence in action. It's a life that is well-lived, both virtuous and courageous. As a young woman, Inara fully embodies these qualities.

According to Michelee, a well-lived life means taking what you've been given, the gifts and the challenges and the trials—all of it—and making the most of your life daily.

"It means that when you go out into the world, a life well-lived is contributing," she says. "A well-lived life is using all the fortunes in your life to propel you and help others do the same. It's also leaving the world, especially the people in it, better than how you found them. I hope that for Inara."

This is also Arete Scholars' aim: to leave people—families who are seeking better educational opportunities—better than we found them. We believe parents know best when deciding their children's education. That's why we work to empower families with expanded education options so they can send their children to the school that best fits their individual learning needs.

"What Arete does and what its supporters are doing matters," Michelee says. "Arete makes such a difference and an impact, and I thank you. This program has been life-changing, not just for our family but for many other families that we've witnessed firsthand."