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Building a Strong Foundation

Education isn’t just about academics: It’s about guiding and supporting children as they grow while showing them how to become conscientious community members, and Foundation Academy approaches that tremendous responsibility with the respect it deserves.

The private Christian school for children from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade also ensures that faith-based fellowship is incorporated into its daily life, from the generosity of The Family Church’s shared resources and property, to inviting proactive involvement from parents, guardians and other caretakers.

“Preparing students for the future starts early,” says Amanda Donaho, the Lakeside campus principal. “It starts with a great partnership with parents, with teachers who pour themselves into their students every single day, and letting a child know they’re loved, that ultimately Christ is their foundation. I think when that’s the root of everything, the academics just fall into place.”

Of course, academic success remain a top priority for the school. Encouraging and empowering students to be curious, eager learners has informed Foundation Academy’s educational approach since its 1958 opening.

With such a nuanced, multifaceted approach to nurturing children academically, emotionally and spiritually, it’s no wonder that Foundation Academy—which has one Winter Garden location, its campus on Plant Street, for pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade classes; another, the Tilden campus, for seventh through 12th graders; and the Lakeside campus in Orlando, which currently offers K-4 instruction—has seen “amazing growth across the board.”

Donaho illustrates that growth by citing Lakeside as a perfect example of what happened “once the community learned that we’re here:” The campus that opened four years ago with five students now has a student body of 78.

“The biggest thing has been word of mouth,” Donaho explains, adding that the academy’s stellar reputation and demonstrated quality of education at every level have contributed to those surging numbers. “Our families sharing their experiences and kids saying they love it here, that they feel nurtured and taken care of, made the biggest impact on our growth.”

Next year, that growth will manifest in Lakeside adding fifth- and sixth-grade instruction to its campus. Since new curricula necessitate new academic facilities, Lakeside’s expansion will include a new building, scheduled for completion in February 2023. It will include eight classrooms and a wealth of new enhancements to the school’s STEM and science programs, as well as opportunities for outdoor learning like a weather station, a garden and places to observe hatching animals.

“Our sixth graders will have a middle-school feel in an elementary environment,” says the Lakeside principal. “They’ll have an opportunity to change classes and have multiple teachers. They’ll have differentiated math instruction, if they need a higher level math, or other middle school or high school classes. They will have lockers, electives—everything you would want as a middle schooler in a place that keeps their hearts a little younger for a little while longer.”

In addition to the academic shift that comes with educating a whole new level of learners, Donaho is excited for Lakeside’s oldest student leaders to realize and embrace new hands-on lessons in real-life skills, like mentorship and setting positive examples: “With the growth of the fifth and sixth grades coming, it does put those older kids on campus in a place where they can step up and take on a leadership role.”

She adds that Lakeside expanding to include fourth graders this year has already showcased how ready they are for what lies ahead. “We’ve been able to let our fourth graders partner with our kindergartners during recess time. One of the really cool things is watching those fourth graders help the younger kids with soccer skills. It motivates the kindergartners while giving leadership opportunities to the fourth graders.”

Donaho anticipates the expansion will present a whole new way for Foundation Academy to prepare its young pupils for the rigors of high school, and eventually college and their adult lives—especially with her own passion and flair for encouraging creative, independent thinking both in and beyond the classroom.

“It’s so important that kids come into a space that helps them be creative and think outside the box, where they can really learn and explore,” she says. “It helps them become confident learners when they’re active and engaged and have the opportunity to try new things. … That, hopefully, is guiding some kids toward their career someday.”

And with her own daughter now attending Foundation Academy as a 10th grader, Donaho has seen the benefits of its holistic approach to developing compassionate, curious young adults: “Any school can have great programs. But, as I’ve said about my own daughter, if she’s excelling academically but doesn’t love God, doesn’t love other people, I’ve missed my mark.”

Although, of course, returning alumni and second-generation students are certainly indications of how successfully Foundation Academy has fostered a long-lasting, far-reaching community of graduates who never forgot the school that felt like a second home.

“For me, it’s about what they’re learning besides the classroom materials, trusting the teachers who are with your kids for seven hours a day and pointing each student in the right direction,” Donaho says. “We’re starting to get students whose parents were students at Foundation—that’s been such a great full circle.”

Foundation Academy

Three campuses in Orlando and Winter Garden
(407) 877-2744