MHA: A School for the Generations

Speech by Joel Musser at Highlander Hoedown
October 6, 2019

I am a proud alumnus of Mars Hill Academy and a member of the first graduating Class of 2003 – just myself and Amy Stolberg, and, no, I was not the valedictorian of the class, so don’t even ask! After graduation, I attended Hillsdale College and graduated with an economics degree. I came back to Cincinnati, started a career in financial planning, and, 11 years later, I am a happily married father of five.

So something crazy happened this past year – our oldest child, JJ, turned five and ushered in the great “where should we send our kids to school” debate in the Musser home. Naturally, MHA was always the first choice, but the sticker price alone of sending a kid to a private, Christian school K-12, much less FIVE, was enough for us to at least explore the options. In addition, I knew I would face several questions most other parents don’t have to worry about, such as:

What will I call Mr. Brinkerhoff and Mr. Beatty when I see them in the halls? Do I still have to stand when a teacher enters the room? Do they still have the authority to assign me disciplinary essays if I break a rule as a parent? I’m still not sure, but I’m happy to report I have not been assigned any essays as of yet!

Ultimately, our decision was based on three points that I experienced as a student at Mars Hill and now have been convicted of as a parent. 

First, I don’t think there is a place in Cincinnati that prepares its students for the next phase of life better than MHA academically. Yes, the homework scares me as a parent too. I think my and my wife’s SAT scores combined is probably lower than some of these graduates by themselves! Like every other parent here, I am fully aware that I may be completely unfit to help my children with their homework by third grade, if not sooner! But I do want my kids to be stretched academically, and I know that will happen here.

Second, I know firsthand, the teachers and leadership here are amazing people. I mean, who in their right mind would pass on an opportunity to have their kids learning from a Christopher Jero, Dave Liebing, or Amy Kirk? I don’t know all of them, but I bet you could say the same about every teacher here.

Last and most important, I believe whole heartedly in our responsibility as parents to put our children in an environment to be trained up in a godly way.I love the way MHA weaves the Gospel into everything they do and teach. When my kids come home from school each day, I don’t want to have to spend an hour explaining why their teacher – the authority I’ve put over them for seven hours a day – is teaching them things that are contrary to Scripture and what we’re teaching them at home. Instead, I want to be able to reinforce what they learned in school and build upon it. I know that after our kids leave our home, people and influences will be working to convince them to spend their lives focusing on and pursuing things that are meaningless in the Kingdom of God. These are precious years to build a Biblical foundation in their lives. What an opportunity we have to send our kids to a school like this!!

I’m forever grateful that my parents saw and were able to act on this opportunity so many years ago. My dad has always been in social work, and Mom was raising two much younger children at home when I joined MHA as a student in the ninth grade. My parents, with a thin budget and growing family, used the monthly social security checks I received from the death of my biological mother years prior to afford me the opportunity to join Mars Hill. At the time, we lived on the West side of Cincinnati and the school was still growing – adding a grade a year – in Clough Pike Baptist Church in Beechmont. It was about an hour drive one way each morning and afternoon, which is CRAZY to think about in hindsight now that I have my own kids!

As a parent now, looking back, I am absolutely in awe of the sacrifice my parents made to put me in this environment. What an incredible amount of conviction and faith it must have taken for them to begin this journey for me! And now, how amazing that, because of their sacrifices and the seeds they planted in my heart almost 20 years ago, they got to come to Grandparents Day, to a beautiful school building with not just real classrooms, but WINGS of real classrooms and a GYM and hear their five-year-old grandson sing “O, Worship the King” and see his character being developed in a godly way by this same community.

I hope you realize your financial support is what makes this all work. Your investment here is what allows this school to function with such a standard of excellence. And your support is what makes it possible for families — who are willing to make the sacrifices but need a little financial assistance — to provide this for their kids, and potentially impact generations of their family.

So from the bottom of my heart, thank you for your generosity to the school and the children it serves. Thank you for investing in this place that is changing lives and building the Kingdom.