An Inside Look at DA's Boarding Program
This year, Dakar Academy (DA) expanded its boarding program to include a new campus home for middle school girls. The new home—the Giffen Home—joins the pre-existing Maxwell and Stacey Homes, which are located on the other side of the turf across from the D-building.
“[The Giffens] are awesome,” the middle school girls say unanimously.
“[The Giffens] are always there for you,” shares Abby G., sixth grade.
The decision to separate the secondary girls into a high school home and middle school home was made when the boarding administration felt there was a need to focus on the middle school girls as a whole.
“Our middle school boarders have slipped through the cracks in the past years,” says Mrs. Jewel Evans, boarding administrator. “They are no longer blended into the high school girls. Everything done in the [Giffen home] caters to the middle school age, especially with devotions.”
After being in the DA dorms since sixth grade, Precious C., junior, shares her insight on what 5 years in the boarding program has taught her.
“Expect a home away from home,” she says. “You form a sisterhood with people you wouldn’t expect. With the boarding parents making sure you are loved, it becomes a family.”
Waa Kër. While the word means family in Wolof, it holds a much deeper meaning to the students who live and make a home on Dakar Academy’s campus. Joseph P., alumnus and former boarding student, sought inspiration from the local language and suggested this phrase to help mold the boarding program philosophy.
Mrs. Evans expressed the purpose of the program.
“[It’s] to be an extension of the family,” she states. “We are here to meet the needs of the missionary family by providing boarding because there are so many families that have no other educational options for their children.”
Although boarding students feel as though campus life is an extension of family, it also comes with a strict schedule.
“It is the epitome of organized community living,” says Kirsty B, senior. “Expect yourself to adjust, be flexible with personal space and organization, like your schedule.”
Kirsty elaborates that her day consists of waking up at 6 am in order to get ready, drink her coffee and chat with her boarding sisters before running off to school. Various projects and extracurriculars keep her busy until 5 pm, so time management is essential. She rushes home in the evenings to eat dinner with her boarding sisters and finish homework before daily devotions are held at 8 pm, followed by lights out at 10 pm.
However, it’s not all hectic living. Boarding students and boarding parents alike share some of their most treasured memories from over the years.
“Going on the home outing every year, or when we went to Saly with the girls last semester,” says Ezra B., senior.
“When the Maxwells let us sleep in their apartment with the AC on,” says Kirsty.
“[Years ago], I lost a baby boy when I was 7 and a half months pregnant and I always wondered what it would be like to raise a boy,” Mrs. Evans recalls. “Last year, the Lord gave me this gift [in the boys’ dorm]. I just loved seeing what it was like to be a mom to teenage boys. On Valentine’s Day, I was not expecting anything except from Uncle Evan, and the boys got me—not one—but two huge bouquets of roses and wrote a card saying such loving words. It was very memorable.”
Despite the familial atmosphere that the campus homes try to create, some advice from veteran boarders might shed some light on how to thrive in them.
“Be willing to accept new rules and be open to meeting and living with people you don’t know,” says Kirsty.
“Pay attention to the rules,” says Ezra. “Use your brain, God gave it to you.”
“Become someone the boarding parents can trust,” says Kirsty. “Be respectful and don’t make beef with anyone or go looking for an argument.”
Not only has the boarding program created a homey atmosphere by providing three unique living spaces that match each home’s personality, but areas have been upgraded with newest technology. Google wifi pods have been installed to boost internet so that more students can be online. Faster internet means content protection software has been put on all devices, so the dorm parents can monitor who’s online and what they are doing. Building a family means keeping the ones you love safe.
Published by contributing student writer Kaley Logerstedt