By Gabbie O’Grady
DOUGLASS TOWNSHIP, PA. – Over seven decades, Pine Forge Academy’s mission has grown and evolved, changing with the times to prepare students for college and beyond.
Indeed, times have changed for the academy, a private Seventh-day Adventist school in rural Pine Forge, Douglass Township. The school, which opened in 1946 on land once owned by Thomas Rutter, an abolitionist and iron miller, turns 70 this year.
“Our academy has evolved from being an institute to provide vocational and academic training to students pre-civil rights movement,” said Nicole Hughes, school principal.
“The focus then was students being able to get equal education access.”
Many classes involved a variety of focuses, including college preparation.
“We had a huge college-prep focus that had a lot to do with what was going on in the nation at that time,” she said. “We were more focused on the civil rights movement.”
The focus now has shifted for students to accomplish more than equality.
“Now in the 21st century, we’ve moved to a place where we’re focused on creating a curriculum where students focus to be the best and first in class at universities and to be innovators and entrepreneurs,” Hughes said. “The concentration isn’t just about college anymore. It’s also about after college.”
Students are encouraged to improve a community during their careers by creating jobs, she added.
The academy provides skills for students to do this in their classes and by bringing in speakers who are entrepreneurs and leaders in their fields.
“You should be able to lead with a Pine Forge education, go to college and go back to change your community in a way that is impactful and immediate,” Hughes said.
Vocational skills also have evolved at the academy over the years.
“Vocational training looked like carpentry or cosmetology 30 or 40 years ago,” Hughes said. “In this age, 21st century vocational skills are very different. They include those things, but they are also entrepreneurial. They could be marketing-based or social media based.”
Though times have changed, the original values Pine Forge was built on remain.
The school is rich in history, operating on land that in the days of slavery was a terminal for the Underground Railroad.
“This can still be a form of civil rights in today’s world, actually,” Hughes said of the school and its focus. “There is still a large income gap for people of color to not of color.”
Contact Gabbie O’Grady: 610-371-5021 or firstname.lastname@example.org.