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The Big Two-Oh

As the school dives into its third decade of Kingdom education, new programs complement traditions while Christ remains at the center of it all

1999 - Twenty year staffer Denise Thornton walks her class across “Lake Prestonwood” at the Hillcrest campus. 2009 - Today’s Freshmen perform the Easter Miracle while in First grade. 2002 - The first graduating class marks a new chapter for the school. 2003 - Seniors Luke Cione and Chance Fielder celebrate as little Lions at Homecoming. 2005 - The State Championship tradition for football begins on Baylor’s home field in Waco.

Photos from Lion's Lair archives

1999 - Twenty year staffer Denise Thornton walks her class across “Lake Prestonwood” at the Hillcrest campus. 2009 - Today’s Freshmen perform the Easter Miracle while in First grade. 2002 - The first graduating class marks a new chapter for the school. 2003 - Seniors Luke Cione and Chance Fielder celebrate as little Lions at Homecoming. 2005 - The State Championship tradition for football begins on Baylor’s home field in Waco.

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Spice Girls blared on the radio. Kids collected Beanie Babies and watched Teletubbies. Teens couldn’t get enough of Jack and Rose, making Titanic a blockbuster. There was no Stonebriar Centre, Bush Turnpike, text messaging or even Google.

The year was 1997, the same year Prestonwood Christian Academy opened its doors.

Squeezed into extra space and portable buildings at the old church location on Hillcrest, the new school welcomed over 300 students and 40 staff members who would become the foundation of the school we know today.

Biology teacher Melody Gravett remembers day one. “We taught out of church classrooms, repurposed raquetball courts and modular buildings. We celebrated the small things, like textbooks, school lunches and school/lab supplies, because we knew every day was a gift and the Lord’s provision was a true blessing that should never be taken for granted,” said Mrs. Gravett.

She said, “We started with an awesome group of Pre-K 4 through Eighth grade students who quickly became a family.” Now there are 1,500 students in that family, Pre-K 3 through Seniors in high school.

Current English teacher and 2009 alumna Blair Stephens Paulsen said, “My favorite memory was starting the Homecoming hallway decorating tradition my Senior year.”

Traditions such as Homecoming and Minimester are part of what makes the school unique.

An emphasis on impacting the world for Christ led to the creation in 2002 of Minimester, a week in which students have the opporitunity to serve and evangelize locally and globally.

In its first year, high school students could choose from several local mission opportunities. The next year saw the addition of trips to Honduras and the Amazon as well as college visits.

This spring 403 students will serve either locally or travel to locations such as Uganda and South Asia during Minimester to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Student Government Executive President and “Lifer” Senior Caroline Ford said, “It’s amazing to me that I have opportunities to go places around the world to share God’s Word.”

Photo from the Lion’s Lair archives
2015 – The first Special Friends Basketball Game featuring members of the Lions Middle School teams playing together with those with special needs brings out a full house of fans.

New traditions, such as the Special Friends Basketball Game, quickly found a place in the hearts of the school community. The game, first held in 2015, is held each January as a celebration of Sanctity of Life month. Members from the special needs community join with Middle School basketball players and cheerleaders for a game played in front of a packed Field House.

The school’s pursuit of excellence is rooted in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” One result of that hard work has been championships in athletics, academics and the arts.

Twenty-seven state and national championship banners hang in the Field House. Five celebrate championships from last year alone – Varsity Football, Varsity Boys Basketball, Competitive Cheer, Varsity Baseball and Girls Golf.

Photos from the Lion’s Lair archives
2013 – Before becoming a Laker, Julius Randle commits to Kentucky during a live ESPN event in the Field House.

Senior Kealie Rockvam, a competitive cheerleader, said, “It’s nerve wracking knowing we have won so many times. We have the most talent on the team that we have had in a while, and if we win this year, it will be the first three-peat.”

The school’s International Thespian Society chapter has landed Mainstage at Nationals six times while the Art department won TAPPS state championships five times before moving to the broader VASE competition where they’ve had three Gold Seals in only two years.

“The Art program has been built on a strong foundation of biblical principles, and the teachers encourage us personally. I think we keep winning because we are honest with each other and give constructive criticism. I feel encouraged to make better art,” said Junior Art student Kyrie Young.

Photo from the Lion’s Lair archives
2011 – ITS Group Musical performs “The Addams Family” on Mainstage at Nationals.

Academic programs such as Mock Trial and STEM continue to open doors to the future for students. The Legal Lions became the first and only private school to win the Texas Mock Trial State Championship. The STEM program aims to prepare its 75 members for careers in science, technology, engineering and math through workshops, field trips, summer programs and advanced study.

Clubs including Chi Sigma and GRACE Council, which aim to promote service and diversity, are recent additions.

Chi Sigma, now in its second year, identifies community service and personal growth opportunities for its 226 student members. It partnered with the Tim Tebow Foundation to bring “Night to Shine,” a prom for those with special needs, to the community.

“It was great for him to have a night to spend with other friends. It was great to see both the guests and their parents happy. My buddy’s favorite thing was dancing,” said Junior Brooks Chapman who escorted a special friend at Night to Shine.

GRACE Council advocates understanding within the student body as it relates to issues involving gender, race, age, ability, culture and economic status. Just this fall, the group hosted Chapel discussions on race relations.

Director of Diversity Jenny Brady said, “Diversity is becoming a part of who we are as a school, and that is a beautiful thing.”

GRACE Council member Senior Sophia Taylor said, “With GRACE Council, we provide an environment that allows you to think for yourself. I think we really need that for new students or for students that are torn in their faith.”

Head of School Dr. Larry Taylor said, “We have students who never cease to amaze me. I truly love them.”

Through the ups and downs, Dr. Taylor has stood firm in his belief and commitment to Kingdom education. “People don’t realize what an amazing blessing it is to ‘do life’ with students…to walk with them through their life pilgrimage.”

Both the Plano and North Campus will celebrate the 20th year through special treats on the 20th day of each month.

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