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Archives - September 2018

Steps Out of 'Comfort Zone' lead Nathan Hershberger to Young Alum Award 2018

September 25, 2018
By Jim Bishop with Andrea Schrock Wenger

Pushing himself to study, serve, learn and work outside his comfort zone – something Eastern Mennonite School (EMS) encourages of students – is a key reason that Nathan J. Hershberger ’08 has been named EMS Young Alumnus of the Year 2018.

“Nathan embodies what we hope our students and alumni do,” notes Diana Suter ’70 Berkshire, of the awards committee. “He embraces  the ‘other,’ different ways of living and new experiences, making himself vulnerable while offering his unique gifts.”

Nathan Hershberger '08, Young Alum of the Year
2018, with his wife Katilin Heatwole and Leo on the
roof of their house in Ankawa, Iraq.
Photo by Joel Carillett.

Traveling internationally, living in Iraq, and studying various cultures and religions all feels natural to Hershberger, thanks to a lifelong exposure to the broader world.

Nathan, 28, was born in Managua, Nicaragua,to Jim and Ann Graber Hershberger, who spent a combined total of 17 years in mission-service work in Central America. The family moved to Harrisonburg, Virginia, in 1990. Sisters Sara ‘03 and Rachel ‘04 are school alumni.

After attending EMS grade six through 12, Nathan earned a degree in history, philosophy and theology from Eastern Mennonite University in 2012. A semester in the Middle East,  led by long-time cross-cultural leaders, Linford and Janet Stutzman, helped stir interests in that region longer-term.

While in college, Nathan married Kaitlin Heatwole from Christiansburg, Va. After graduating from EMU, he earned a master's degree in religious studies in 2014  at University of Virginia. From there, the couple was off to Ankawa, Iraq, for a three-year assignment with Mennonite Central Committee. Son Leo, now 2, was born there.

“I don’t think we could have asked for a more incredible cross-cultural experience, living among people who spoke three different languages – Arabic, Kurdish and Aramaic – in this northern Iraqi setting,” Nathan noted.

Kaitlin, Leo, and Nathan along with the seminarians he
taught at St. Peter's Seminary in Ankawa, Iraq, 2017.
Courtesy photo.

Nathan spent much of his time working with two church-related organizations – St. Peter’s, a K-12 school, teaching English and at Mar Qar Dakh School, where he taught 11th and 12th grade history. Kaitlin was program coordinator with a local pastors’ organization that planned projects for people displaced by violence caused by the militant group ISIS.

The food, geography and customs of the region “were amazing,” notes Hershberger. The couple appreciated worshipping and experiencing the liturgy, history and music of a large Chaldean Catholic Church. Professionally, it was also a growing time. “This was my first real teaching experience, but I quickly felt a strong connection with my students,” Nathan stated.

At the same time, he said, he and Kaitlin sometimes struggled with their role in Iraq. “Was I useful?” he wondered. “Living and working in the midst of people facing major problems made it difficult to connect and build relationships, though eventually we definitely made many friends,” he said.

Now Nathan is in a doctoral program in theology at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, and Kaitlin is working on a master’s degree in city and regional planning at University of North Carolina. Long term, Nathan sees himself “teaching on any level.”

“EMHS’ emphasis on international service helped push me in the direction of living overseas and helping people,” he says. That exposure, along with school’s “Anabaptist emphasis on being ‘the people of God,’ and trying to live at peace with  each other, locally and beyond,” had a significant impact, Nathan says.

As part of Homecoming Weekend activities, Nathan will be recognized with the Young Alumnus award and speak in chapel at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 19. The public is welcome. In addition, Nathan will speak in classes and catch up with former teachers who were mentors and key in his journey.

His counsel to current students: “Take it easy, focus on exploring areas of interest and where they might take you. Push out of your comfort zone.” Nathan definitely practices what he preaches.

Peace Dove Puppet Leads Annual Elementary Peace Parade

September 21, 2018
By Andrea Schrock Wenger

A 10-year-old giant dove puppet made of chicken wire, four old bedsheets and other recycled materials led the way once again for the Eastern Mennonite Elementary School annual peace parade to mark the UN International Day of Peace.

As is tradition, fifth graders planned the event which started with the parade, included readings, scripture and song, and closed with a snack of cookies -- made by the students -- and grape juice. The snack “makes us think of  communion,” said Nathan Pineo, “which means we remember to serve each other.”

The giant peace dove puppets are used around the world as part of the Jane Goodall-inspired Roots and Shoots Peace Day, which EMES has celebrated since the school began in 2005. Goodall has been a UN Messenger of Peace since 2002. Each Roots and Shoots project is “a step towards a future in which humans can live in peace in an environmentally sustainable way...,” according to the program website.

“This dove has been through a lot,” laughs Lynette Mast, peacebuilding teacher, who built the dove years ago together with her husband, Chris, and school children. “The tradition creates a good memory, even if the puppet is a challenge to store!”

Fifth graders planned the International Peace
Day celebration. They prepared cookies and
grape juice for a snack to remind each other of 
communion and Jesus' call to serve each other.

Verses and Readings

The Bible verses chosen by the student planners included:

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Make sure nobody pays back wrong for wrong but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. I Thessalonians 5:15

The quotes chosen were:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate only love can do that. -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. -- Mother Teresa

It isn't enough to talk about peace one must believe in it and it isn't enough to believe in peace one must work at it. -- Eleanor Roosevelt

Peacebuilding at EMES

Third grader Isabela Jackson enjoys her Shalom
cookie after the school's International Day of
Peace parade and celebration
. Photo by
Susan Stoltzfus

Peacebuilding is core to the EMES curriculum which includes intentionality about how students interact with each other, how teachers and students interact, and how each class connects with the whole school system.

Students learn daily how to manage conflict with restorative practices, including the use of circle processes to create safe spaces to share and process hurts or misunderstandings. 

Download directions for a giant or smaller peace dove puppet, find other craffts and activities, and read about how International Peace Day is celebrated around the world at this site.

Faculty and Staff Stories Bring the Spirit Alive During Spiritual Renewal Week

September 20, 2018
By Andrea Schrock Wenger

Personal stories by faculty and staff members brought the Holy Spirit to life for students at Eastern Mennonite Middle and High School during Spiritual Renewal Week September 17-21. The week’s theme connected with a year-long chapel theme on the Holy Spirit. Instead of the usual guest speaker format, a faculty or staff member spoke each day.

“I’ve attended a lot of Spiritual Renewal Weeks” says junior, Julie Weaver. “And this is the most memorable one I’ve been a part of.” Hearing teachers and faculty share from personal journies as insecure and questioning high school students, about interactions with loved ones and about how they were changed by experiences in other cultures “really connected with me and helped me grow personally,” said Weaver.

Faculty and staff who shared personal stories during the week:
Justin King, high school principal; Wendell Shank, Spanish teacher;
Shannon Roth, government teacher, Patsy Seitz, director of
academics and English 7 teacher.

Shannon Roth -- government teacher, senior class sponsors and chapel planning committee chair -- shared vulnerably and candidly on Thursday about a period in her life as an EMHS student when she spent an hour each morning choosing clothes and applying makeup. “I was trying to hide who I was, blemishes and all. I wasn’t letting my real self shine through.”

When her family moved to Jamaica during her junior year, Mrs. Roth found a culture that celebrated people for who they are, regardless of flaws. “It was so liberating,” she said. “I realized that God made me perfect in my imperfections and that people care more about how I treat them, than how I look.”

Well-loved for her boisterous personality and animated teaching style, Roth urged the students to recognize that the Holy Spirit shines light differently for everyone. “Every one of you has a gift that is needed. God didn't make mistakes in creating us differently,” she admonished. “Be confident in your own gifts and spend more time focusing on your relationship with God and others than thinking about your imperfections.”

Pastors of students were invited to attend chapel Thursday and an appreciation reception in theri honor along with

Diane Burkholder, children’s minister at Lindale
Mennonite Church, catches up with Grady Harman
and Sienna Kauffman of her congregation during a
reception for pastors of EMS students.

students form their congregations. Paul Leaman, head of school, acknowledge and thanked the pastors for their support of their students and the school through attendance at events, and reminded them that they have a “free pass” to all event and lunch at the school. He also acknowledged theri work in the broader community as “we walk through the joys of weddings and births, and tragedies of sudden death and loss. Your work on behalf of all of us is profoundly important,” he said.

The week culminated with a prayer service on Friday in which faculty and staff members offered prayer one-on-one with students who went to them at various spots around the auditorium. Mrs. Roth also had a print out of every student, teacher and staff member from which she prayed quietly during the service. "That way, even if you don't go and ask for specific prayer on your behalf, for someone else, or for a situation, know that you are being prayed for," she said.  

Shaping Lives Through Music, Hostetter Named EMHS Alumnus of the Year

September 13, 2018
By Andrea Schrock Wenger
Janet beams after a program with the Shenandoah Valley
Children's Choir at Eastern Mennonite University where she
was named artistic director in 2014.

A “nudge from God” and a commitment to accompany congregational singing made her go to church on a Sunday in 2014 when Janet Heatwole ‘83 Hostetter says she was exhausted and might have chosen to do what she never did...sleep in.

But being there that morning may have changed the trajectory of her career. A sermon about Abraham and his obedience to move to a place he had never been at a later stage in life, spoke to Hostetter and led her to say “yes.” The "yes" was to a somewhat daunting invitation to become the artistic director of the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir (SVCC).



2018 Alumnus of the Year

Hostetter -- Eastern Mennonite High School Alumnus of the Year for 2018 -- credits EMHS with launching her on a path that includes more than 25 years of directing choirs and ensembles, and teaching music from the Pre-K to the university level, as well as serving eight years in music ministry at Harrisonburg Mennonite Church, and now as director of more than 200 children in three auditioned performing choirs and three non-auditioned early elementary classes.   

“My music experiences at EMHS were top notch,” says Hostetter. She came as an eighth grader and was quickly motivated by her admiration of older students and respected music instructors. In little time she was singing daily in choir, had picked up piano lessons again, and was part of a quartet with women who remain among her closest friends today. Advanced music class, Touring Choir, Chamber Choir, giving leadership to the quartet and accompanying choir rehearsals are among influential experiences.

Hostetter was selected by the EMHS alumni board for the award in recognition of the hundreds of lives she has touched through music education. “Music is key to who we are as a school, and we know it’s a tool for healing and transformation,” says Diana Suter ‘70 Berkshire, staff liaison to the alumni board. “We are proud of how musical seeds sown here in her early years has shaped Janet and so many more through her passion.”

A standing ovation for the SVCC at the 2018 American Choral Directors Association Southern Division Conference in the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts was a career highlight, says Hostetter. “Having hundreds of music educators and choral directors affirm my students and our work together was so gratifying. I couldn’t have been more proud of my students, their musicianship, professionalism and poise.”

Hartzler is Music Mentor for School and Life

Hostetter credits Jay Hartzler, long-time choral director and music teacher at EMHS for encouraging her to pursue music after high school; she even student taught under Hartzler’s capable tutelage in the fall of 1987 and has enjoyed his mentorship ever since.

After majoring in music at Eastern Mennonite University, Hostetter earned a master of music degree in choral conducting from James Madison University. In the spring of 2008, she served as SVCC guest director and was chosen to take over the helm in 2014 from among dozens of national and international applicants.

Janet shares a library table in 1982 with classmate
Joye Ropp Cavari.

Currently, in addition to the SVCC role, Hostetter is writing her thesis for the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in choral conducting at James Madison University. The research topic--an overview of pedagogical practices utilized by selected international children’s choirs--has taken her to Peru (with the SVCC), Australia, the Philippines, Canada and the Czech Republic.

At Wilbur S. Pence Middle School in Dayton, Va., the choral program grew from 10 participants to more than 120 over seven years, and her choirs received “superior” ratings at District Choral Assessments.

From 2009-13, Hostetter served as Repertoire and Standards Chair for Children’s Choirs for the Virginia chapter of the American Choral Directors Association, during which time she worked with many nationally recognized children’s choir directors. Since 2008 she has had the privilege to teach several collegiate music education classes and has also supervised practicum students and student teachers from three local universities. Currently she is in demand as an honor choir director.

“I’m honored to accept this award in appreciation for the strong music tradition at EMS,” reflects Hostetter. “During my years at EMHS, I experienced how music can positively impact the lives of individuals and communities.  I believe that people can receive emotional and spiritual healing through music made in praise of God."

A number of Bible stories point to this profound mystery, notes Hostetter. She sites: Paul and Silas singing when their chains and the chains of other prisoners fell off (Acts 16:25-26); King Saul was relieved when David played his harp for him (I Samuel 16:23); and King Jehoshaphat won a battle he never fought by positioning men to sing praises to the Lord at the head of his army. (2 Chronicles 2:22-23).

"These stories, along with my own experiences and convictions, have instilled within me, a passion to be the best conductor and music teacher that I can be,” she says.

Married to Eric Hostetter  in 1986, the couple have three children -- Brook ‘09 Benson ‘11 and Jaden ‘16 -- all talented musicians in their own right who also sang under Jay Hartzler at EMS. “That kind of mentorship and training is an extraordinary thing,” emphasizes Hostetter. “I’m grateful to have had it for myself and my children, and honored to pass on the gift in my own career.”

Generations shaped by EMHS Music Program

Six 2016 EMHS graduates were fortunate to sing in Jay Hartzler's first touring choir in 1981-82, and to see their children sing in his final touring choir. Left to right, Wayne Miller '82 with Andrew '16; Janet Heatwole '83 Hostetter (2018 Alumnus of the Year) with Jaden '16; Doris Mast '83 Oberholtzer with Benji '16; Jay E Hartzler; Andrea Schrock '82 Wenger, with Leah '16;  Ruby Kauffman '83 Hostetler Erin '16; and Janice Good '83 Gandy with Ryan '16. Photo taken at final 2015-16 Touring Choir concert at Weavers Mennonite Church.


Service, Learning and Vegetables Create Outdoor Classroom

September 12, 2018
By Andrea Schrock Wenger
Eastern Mennonite High Schol Family and Consumer
Science students sort vegetables ​​​​​​at Seasons Bounty
Farm. Photo by Andrew Gascho

When Radell Schrock -- Season’s Bounty Farm owner -- shared about a family medical emergency with his congregation of Zion (Virginia) Mennonite, it unleashed a support network that resulted in student service and learning, and fresh vegetables on hundreds of tables.

“The support from Eastern Mennonite School was a surprise, and has been terrific,” says Schrock, whose wife is hospitalized following a brain injury. “The student, teacher and administrative volunteers have been really appreciated,” says Schrock. The support allowed him to spend time at the hospital and be sure the couple’s infant daughter is well cared for.

Paul Leaman, head of school, learned of Schrock’s situation through their church network. In short order, he arranged for eight students to join him the next morning at the farm, just north of Harrisonburg. The students dug right in, literally, and “were a real help,” according to Schrock, in getting ready for Schrock’s stand at the Harrisonburg Farmers’ Market the next day.

Anna Haarer, Food and Consumer Science teacher
enjoyed a change of scenery as much the sudents.

The following week, Anna Haarer’s food science and nutrition class, spent three class periods at the farm preparing baskets for Schrock’s vegetable subscription pick up, later that day. The students have been studying food consumer habits and discussing what it means to eat local, according to Haarer, a 2009 EMHS graduate and current family and consumer science teacher.

“It was an excellent learning experience,” says Haarer, who was once a student of Schrock’s when he taught earth and physical science at the school. “You can tell Radell really cares about what he is doing. Growing beautiful, nutritious food for local consumption is his passion,” observed Haarer.

The students were a “seven out of 10” on wanting to do this kind of work again for the class, reports Haarer. “It was good to see how the vegetables are prepared and what goes in the subscription boxes,” says a Drake Heatwole ‘21. “It fit with what we are learning about nutrition and eating local.” And, he adds, “working outside was a great change from the classroom!”

Drake Heatwole '21, Anna Haarer, Family and
Consumer Science teacher discuss the subscription
boxes with Radell Schrock, of Seasons Bounty Farm.
Photo by Andrew Gascho.

The produce at Season’s Bounty is grown without pesticides and sheep are raised on grass. The products are  sold primarily through Harrisonburg Farmers Market, through CSA subscription boxes, to numerous local restaurants, the Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction, The Woods Edge Farm Stand and the Friendly City Food Cooperative.


Trisha Blosser Named Eastern Mennonite School Development Officer

September 11, 2018
By Andrea Schrock Wenger

Trisha Maust Blosser has been named Development Officer for Eastern Mennonite School, K-12 effective Sept. 10, 2018. A 1995 graduate of the school, Blosser most recently worked as Development Officer for Harrisonburg’s Explore More Discovery Museum.

“Trisha brings a wealth of connections and experience to our advancement team at a time of growth and excitement,” says Paul Leaman, Head of School. “Her passion for our values of strong academics from a faith-based foundation will help propel us into our second century.”

Blosser will play key roles with annual giving, corporate sponsorships, alumni relations and capital projects, including Let the Children Come. This campaign raised nearly $3 million last year to purchase and renovate property adjacent to the existing middle and high school. The updated K-12 campus will serve some 350 children K-12.

“I enjoy meeting people, understanding their passions and sharing stories that show the impact of donor support,” says Blosser. “As an alumnus of EMHS I can speak to the value of Christian education in my personal, professional, and spiritual life. My grounding in strong academics, creative solutions, and compassionate peers laid the foundation for my college and career,” she reflects.

Extracurricular activities such as Touring Choir enhanced her lifelong love of music, she says. “When I think of times of

Trisha Maust '95 Blosser, new Development 
Officer, talks with Paul Leaman, Head of School.

doubt and uncertainty, I can say that many of the songs and hymns I learned at EMHS carried me through to a place of faith and hope.”

Blosser, a member of Park View Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, was involved in a recent campaign to raise $1 million for a building renovation. “I appreciated working with Trisha on this project,” says Phil Helmuth, long-time fundraiser and a former supervisor of Blosser at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) where she oversaw the phonathon. “She is passionate about her work, asks wise questions, is a good listener, and fun to be around.”

In addition to the Explore More Discovery Museum and EMU, Blosser worked previously as Director of Resources for Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance and with Venture Builders, owned by her husband and father. In her work with nonprofits she oversaw major donor relations and fundraising events, including the Night at the Museum and Jazz in June for the museum. “I am still amazed and humbled by the generosity of our community,” she says.

Blosser earned an MA in history museum studies from State University of New York at Oneonta, a BA in anthropology from James Madison University, and studied in Ireland and Northern Ireland with Eastern Mennonite University.

She and her husband Jeremy, also an EMHS alum, are parents to two young boys.

Photos by Andrew Gascho.

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