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Upon leaving Ethiopia to discover the American dream, Betra Amare wasn’t sure what she should expect. What she knew of the US was limited to what Hollywood had shown her. She had doubts whether she would be able to fit in. In Miller, South Dakota, however, her initial worries were put to rest.

At Sunshine Bible Academy (SBA), she found acceptance, joy, and most importantly, a sense of comfort –– all of which are necessary for boarding students far from home.

Welcomed with open arms, Amare immediately felt the love from faculty members and fellow students. “They made me feel at home and helped me get used to my new surroundings,” she shares. “I have made friends who have become my family.”

Here, Amare’s horizons were broadened and her faith was renewed. Above all, she had the backing of a community who would see her through every hurdle. For example, when COVID-19 was at its peak, SBA ensured she was sheltered comfortably and fed well when going back to Ethiopia was impossible.

“This shows how much the school cares about the students,” she enthuses. “Teachers here love what they do and they do it for God. They are always ready to teach with a joyful heart.”

This enthusiasm nurtures students more than a book ever could. Founded in 1951, SBA has decades of experience providing a holistic student experience away from big-city  distractions. Its rural location ensures this, while a spiritual curriculum provides what many schools cannot –– happy students with big dreams and even bigger ambitions.

Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health has found that kids and teens raised with religious or spiritual practices tend to be mentally and physically healthier as they age. When the body and mind are in check, the soul follows suit –– this is a method SBA knows well.

Its signature curriculum is based on the philosophy of Christian education. It relates biblical truths to every crucial area of academic development. Classes are taught from a Christian worldview, and every student is encouraged to explore the Bible on a deeper level. Anyone intrigued is welcome to join them.

Doing so means being immersed in an experience that does not just develop academics but also well-rounded individuals. Personalised attention from an expert faculty ensures every student identifies their passion and pursues it with confidence. Meanwhile, a suite of extracurriculars gives them a running schedule of fun, exhilaration and adventure.

Kim Robbins is a shining example. Born and raised in Virginia, she was stepping out of her comfort zone by choosing SBA. It wasn’t long before she found that sweet spot of “productive discomfort.” Today, she’s exceeded her expectations by thriving both inside and outside the classroom. She’s found self-growth.

“When I first came to South Dakota, I didn’t know anything about agriculture,” she says. “I have enjoyed learning animal science. This city girl now knows so much more about God’s creation.”

SBA is as progressive as it is historic. Alongside core subjects in Bible, English, history, sciences, and mathematics, SBA offers courses in vocal music, instrumental music, visual arts, agriscience, industrial technology, marketing, philosophy, world languages, and computer technology –– amongst many other future-focused study areas.

In fact, long before STEM became a hot topic in education, students here already had early exposure to both technology and engineering.

These offerings make it easy for students to explore their interests and work toward their long-term goals well before graduating. Those interested in advancing to college can begin early with dual credit courses during their junior and senior years.

Meanwhile, students interested in taking the vocational route can choose from courses in automotive, welding, construction and woodworking. SBA even offers preparation for welding certifications.

There’s no better way to thrive in one –– or several –– of the above than in a connected community. Here, teachers work tirelessly to celebrate far more than just matriculations and academic results. Servant leadership, spiritual growth, and genuine smiles are the main areas of focus as well. The enduring relationships forged every day are a testament to this.

“Not only do we find lifelong friends, but we also have staff who encourage us, teach us, love us, and most importantly, pray for us,” says Robbins. “It was out of God’s grace that I ended up loving it here. I have found my second family.”

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