Hesperia Christian School administrators believe that faith will carry them through, but the economic recession is forcing even the most spirit-filled to lean on God perhaps a little more than usual.
Over the past two years, around 100 students have left HCS because their families couldn't pay private school tuition fees. The school is also assisting about 10 percent of its students whose families are struggling to make ends meet. That monetary loss has created a trickle-down effect, forcing the school to layoff teachers and make other cutbacks.
"We've done almost all the same cost-cutting measures you would at home," said school administrator Cindy Harmon, who early Wednesday morning encouraged members of the community to lend a hand.
But Harmon doesn't want HCS to cater only to the "haves." She wants the 42-year-old institution to continue educating students from varied backgrounds.
"I don't want HCS to become a school of the economically elite," Harmon said.
During the annual "Patriot Hour of Hope" breakfast at Courtyard by Marriott in Hesperia, Harmon and others shared the importance of a Christian education. Not only do HCS teachers have the same credentials as public school teachers, but they accept significantly less salary so they can teach in a Christian environment. As a result, many students are thriving.
HCS senior Shelby Tillotson, who had serious health issues as a youngster, said the school has given her a faith that pulled her through tough times and a direction as a young adult.
"Since preschool I've really had a chance to grow up in the Word," Tillotson said. "I hope to take the confidence I have in my faith. I owe a lot of my good decisions to my school."
Yvonne Harrity, a mother of five with one high-functioning autistic son, said one teacher's generous actions confirmed that HCS was where they belonged. The teacher said she was going to attend a special conference to learn more about students with autism.
"That was my confirmation for me that [son] Ben was where he needed to be," Harrity said.
Such good deeds don't surprise Harmon.
"It's evident to me that God is at work in our school," Harmon said.
Moreover, that's the primary mission of the school: to build leaders with Christ-like qualities.
"We want their integrity to shine through."
Explaining the school's "Patriot Partners for Education" program, parent Bill Hague recounted his family's decision 20 years ago to send their children to HCS.
"This decision has changed our lives for all eternity," Hague said.
Today, his son is passionate about Christ, said Hague, his voice cracking with emotion.
"What more would a parent want but to live in eternity with his children?" Hague asked. "This is not only an investment in a Christian school. It's an investment in our futures."