Our Story

Our Mission

We believe every Adventist school in North America has the opportunity and responsibility to be among the best in its community. The Alumni Awards Foundation (AAF) develops programs to recognize excellent performance and explore issues challenging Adventist schools.

Our mission is to awaken the Adventist community to the full potential in Adventist education.

Our Story

The Alumni Awards Foundation (AAF) is composed of volunteers willing to fund, advance and sustain greater excellence to Adventist schools. We seek to honor and preserve the uniqueness of Adventist education, which aims to impart far more than just academic knowledge, by encouraging students to seek truth, develop character, and foster friendship with God.

AAF has been active for more than 14 years. Over this period of time, we have seen both positive and negative developments in Adventist education. Research shows that support for Adventist schools is waning due to financial instability, inconsistent leadership, ineffective school boards, and a loss of “brand loyalty” to the Adventist name, among other factors.

The decline of enrollment in the Adventist school system as a whole has long-term implications on our well-established connections with one another as well as our potential for evangelism in North America. The future of Adventist colleges, churches and hospitals is threatened by the pending crisis in Adventist K-12 schools. In a fast-shifting marketplace of educational options for Adventist families, we believe addressing critical needs in our schools is not something we can wait to do until we feel comfortable. AAF wants to be part of the solution by empowering Adventist schools to move from surviving to thriving. The North American Division of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (NAD) has been fully engaged in this process, but the funding and leadership have been provided by laity.

Early Days

In 1995, the Adventist Alumni Achievement Awards (AAAA) was born as a joint venture project between Philanthropic Services for Institutions (PSI) and several concerned Adventist alumni. AAAA’s original mission was: 1) to stimulate excellence in Adventist schools through recognition and reward (Academy Award for Excellence program), 2) rebuild relationships with disconnected alumni of Adventist schools (Outstanding Alumni Awards program), and 3) bring new funding and energy to support the survival of Adventist academies.

Each year, AAAA sponsored a 3-day weekend that included a golf tournament to benefit Adventist schools, and a gala to celebrate one outstanding Adventist academy in which students and administration would participate. The selected academy would receive a major grant. AAAA would also award one or more very successful alumni of Adventist schools. AAF would donate $5,000 to a school of each alumnus’ choice.

After three years of start-up support by PSI, AAAA became an independent 501 (c) 3 nonprofit foundation and changed its name to the Alumni Awards Foundation (AAF).

In 2003, AAF started the Excellence in Teaching Awards program because the Board recognized that excellent schools are grown from dedicated, passionate teachers. Since then, up to 10 teachers have been selected each spring to receive a cash gift, medallion and Certificate of Excellence. The Excellence in Teaching Awards program continues today.

Since its establishment, AAF has awarded grants exceeding $1.4 million to Adventist schools in North America. AAF has recognized 14 exemplary Adventist academies, 57 distinguished alumni and 106 exceptional teachers.

Evolving Mission

In 2008, AAF expanded its mission to not only reward schools, but to facilitate progress in Adventist education. As a part of AAF’s new focus, the Pilot Light Podcast was conceptualized. The Pilot Light Podcast is the first and only conversational radio program for leaders in Adventist education. Episodes candidly explore new issues facing today’s Adventist schools.

The following year the AAF Board of Directors had many significant conversations with leaders of the NAD and its education department in which they were briefed on recent challenges facing Adventist schools. Through these conversations, the AAF Board also learned that officials in higher education held deep concerns about the viability and sustainability of their feeder K-12 schools. When 13 Adventist college and university presidents were asked to take a vote measuring their confidence in Adventist K-12 schools, they unanimously voted “no confidence” in the ability of their feeder schools to grow. Inspired by these conversations and others, the AAF Board went looking for a deeper understanding of what was really happening to the Adventist school system.

In 2009, AAF began hosting half-day events all around the country called Renaissance Adventist Education summits. At these regional hearings, the AAF Board of Directors assembled a diverse mix of distinguished professionals, young parents, educators, and church leaders to identify obstacles preventing excellence and financial solvency in Adventist K-12 schools. Each event included focus group discussions to discern and prioritize an agenda for awakening change in Adventist education. AAF has hosted four summits to date, with more than 700 guests in attendance.

Development of a New Operations Model

AAF works in strategic partnership with organizations and individuals who also believe in the preservation and development of Adventist schools. Through these partnerships, AAF has been developing an alternative operations model, currently known as the Renaissance Network, designed specifically for Adventist K-12 schools. Under the proposed model, schools would have the opportunity to become part of a network that provides quality assurance and creates a common culture of excellence among participating schools.

AAF seeks to drive a strategic process that will result in a strong, sustainable network of Adventist schools throughout North America. Our goal is to preserve and improve an education system that has brought countless young people into life-changing relationships with Christ and with the Adventist community at large.

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