Noorthoek Academy – Fall 2021

David’s House Ministries (DHMIN) residents have attended Noorthoek Academy for over 20 years. Noorthoek was founded in 1989 to fill a gap in the community for special education after high school. 

The Academy is designed for students who want to expand their knowledge and enrich their lives by learning more about the world around them. The residents who live at DHMIN and enroll at Noorthoek have taken classes on North Korea, South Korea, India, Italy, and many others!

“I think coming to a college campus and being with others in the community benefits the DHMIN residents because everyone’s world becomes a little bit bigger when we learn something new,” DHMIN Life Enrichment Coordinator Lisa Glover said.

Who leads the classes that our residents take? 

Director of Education Sandy Barraza and Teacher’s Aide Donna Pizzo have worked very closely with DHMIN residents over the years. 

Sandy began at Noorthoek Academy 13 years ago. She mainly focuses on planning and implementing the educational curriculum for her students. 

“I really enjoy the David’s House students because of the camaraderie they bring. It can be scary to start something new like a college program; however, having a group of people all participating together provides support and encouragement. Getting to know each of our David’s House residents is a joy to me. Some of the David’s House students have been with us for a long time, and others I am just getting to know. Their love of learning is infectious, which makes them so much fun to have in class,” Sandy said.

Her goal for students is that they will learn something new each week that they can apply to their world. Sandy’s favorite part of every semester is when she sees this happen. 

Donna has been at Noorthoek for six years. As an Aide, she is the extra eyes for the instructor. She watches for students struggling with a task or helps them if they simply need someone to be there for them. Donna also notes their ride and pickup times and assists those that can’t get down (to the pickup area) on their own. 

“Working at Noorthoek was the first time that I learned about David’s House Ministries. The residents of David’s House are always happy to be in class. I love their spirit, joy, and huge smiles. They whole-heartedly join in on classes, field trips, and activities. It’s exhilarating to see their enthusiasm,” Donna said.

What did DHMIN’s Residents enjoy most about this semester at Noorthoek?

“I enjoy the educational opportunities and learning new things. My favorite part of this semester was singing Italian opera. Nester Dorma by Petrucciani was my favorite song.” – Terry

“I enjoy learning about different holidays and how people celebrate Christmas in Italy.” – Julie

“My favorite part of the semester was the crafts. – Lizzie

“I enjoy the classes in general and have been coming to Noorthoek for 15 years. My favorite topic so far was Italy!” – Joel

“I enjoy the crafts and learning about Italy. My favorite part was learning about Rome and the different buildings and history.” – Jon

What will next semester look like?

Next semester residents will learn about extreme environments and how plants, animals, and even humans survive in some of the harshest conditions on earth.

“Since I have been teaching at Noorthoek for 13 years, I have had to create a curriculum for 26 different topics. The idea of lifelong learning is unique at Noorthoek and applies to everyone involved,” Sandy said.

How do residents benefit from Noorthoek? 

David’s House residents benefit in the same way that all Noorthoek students benefit. They are part of a learning environment that becomes more like a family. Students learn from each other but also support one another when things get hard both in class and in life. 

The fulfillment that students get from Noorthoek Academy goes beyond the classroom. Students develop confidence and become inspired to continue learning new things about the world they live in. 

What does a typical class period look like?

It is difficult to say what a typical class period looks like because it changes based on the students’ needs, interests, and topics discussed. Most days start off with students sharing or asking questions about their homework from the week before. 

Since students learn in so many different ways, the instructors try to make each presentation engaging by including pictures, videos, music, and any hands-on activities that seem appropriate. When possible, we utilize resources in the community like the GR Public Museum to enhance further what we are studying in class. 

“We have a lot of fun,” Sandy said. 

To learn more about Noorthoek Academy, call (616) 234-4123.

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