Students at Trinity Lutheran School find purpose in educational, cultural and volunteer opportunities
As the first bell rings and children noisily head to classrooms where they’ll learn about the Mayflower’s maiden voyage and how to multiply two-digit numbers, they will also learn how much God loves them and how to use their gifts and abilities to not only further His kingdom, but to make a difference in their world.
These children are the scholars of Trinity Lutheran School—a one-of-a-kind private institution that is situated below the towering Houston skyline on Houston Avenue in the heart of downtown.
“We offer the parents of our community a place for their child to be educated in a caring, loving and safe environment just minutes from where they work,” said director of advancement at Trinity Lutheran, Lisa Jakel.
Trinity Lutheran School first opened its doors 135 years ago, and has been an integral part of the city’s history.
“There’s an eighth-grader who attends the school now whose mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all attended the school,” Jakel said.
And because many of the children who attend Trinity Lutheran have such deep connections to the historic institution, the school has developed a sense of family among those who attend Trinity Lutheran and their parents.
“We use every opportunity to get our families involved,” Jakel said. “We encourage them to volunteer to run booths, help out with fundraisers and even mentor new families—explaining how events go and what they need to know about our terminology.”
One of the school’s biggest fundraisers to date, the Giddy-Up Gala, will take place on Saturday, February 21 from 6 to 9:30 p.m. It will include dinner, dancing and a silent auction that will help to raise money to not only replace outdated textbooks and build a new playground, but also to fulfill a one-to-one initiative.
“This means computers for every child,” Jakel said. “We have a whole classroom set now, but this would be an [iPad] issued to that child to take home to turn in homework and to do research.”
But giving their students more educational opportunities through new textbooks and technology isn’t the only thing faculty and staff are concerned with. They are also concerned with the hearts of the children they teach and mentor. They want them to not only find community amongst their fellow classmates, but they also want them to find a purpose outside of their school environment.
“We try to involve them and expose them to things that are missions of the church, like volunteering,” the director of advancement said. “We got involved with Volunteer Houston this year. They do a huge St. Nicholas project where they build 8,000 backpacks with books in them for kids who come from Title I schools.”
Jakel challenged the students to donate 135 books to the cause to celebrate the school’s 135th birthday. But to her surprise, the Trinity Lutheran scholars donated 335 books to children who Jakel said may not have a book to call their own.
“Then we went and passed the backpacks out and delivered them,” she said. “The hands-on approach and seeing the rewards of what they had done was very empowering here.”
Not only are the children involved in helping those less fortunate in the community, but they have also taken an interest in the culture represented in downtown museums.
“I’m actually training to be a docent at the Museum of Fine Arts, so I can do tours,” Jakel said. “I brought [the children] to the Monet exhibit last month. I like seeing what kind of wonderful things Houston has to offer and find out how [our school and scholars] can get involved.”
Because the school provides so many unique opportunities and experiences to the students who call it home, there is sometimes a waiting list to get in.
“A lot of our students start here as babies and stay,” she said. “Our infant class is always full and our Pre-2 to Pre-4 classes are always borderline full. However, with K through eighth grade, there’s not a wait because as soon as the list starts to build, we consider whether or not to create another section.”
While it might take some time to become a part of the Trinity Lutheran School family, it won’t take long for your child to become a part of the many athletic and extracurricular activities that also include a Christian-based afterschool program.
“We also have a lot of visual and performing arts,” Jakel said. “We put on a full-fledged junior Broadway musical every year. This year it’s Bye Bye Birdie.”
Although there is a lot to learn and enjoy at Trinity Lutheran, the director of advancement also wants the students to realize that they have a responsibility to leave a lasting legacy for the next generation.
“Our theme to our students is that we are the chosen generation. We want to do something with what we have,” Jakel said. “It reminds our scholars that we’re part of a rich tradition. It pushes them to use their gifts and their talents to achieve change in their communities and in themselves.”