Holy Trinity Moms Share the Successes and Sacrifices of Private Education
By: Michelle Salyer
The Olinde Family
When Elaine Olinde talks about her oldest son, Jack, 22, she beams with pride at his accomplishments as a top rower for Georgia Tech – a member of the four-man varsity team who won gold at the prestigious 82nd annual Dad Vail Regatta last spring in Philadelphia.
While each of Olinde’s four sons have played sports at Holy Trinity – everything from lacrosse to football to basketball to track – it is Jack’s story that touches her heart the most, as athletic successes did not come easily to him. She credits his coaches with instilling in him the importance of “giving it everything” and working tirelessly to improve his skills no matter the outcome. His strength of character and work ethic did not go unnoticed: Jack won the Tiger Award his senior year (2013), the school’s highest award for athletic achievement.
It was this experience, said Olinde – working hard to achieve a goal and sticking with it – that gave Jack the confidence to try out for crew in college, even though he had never rowed before. Jack will once again compete in the Dad Vail this spring and will graduate from Georgia Tech this month. He plans to remain at Georgia Tech to pursue a Ph.D. in applied mathematics.
“We are always telling the boys, ‘You have to put in the hours, you have to put in the hard work, and it doesn’t always turn out the way you want it to, but usually, when you look at it from the other side, you see all you got from it,’” Olinde said.
The emphasis on educating “the whole child” – mind, body and spirit – is one reason Olinde and her husband, Jay, committed to sending their four boys to Holy Trinity, beginning in early childhood. Olinde attended Holy Trinity for sixth through eighth grades, before the school opened its senior high. Her husband also attended private school in his native Louisiana. “I had such a positive experience at Holy Trinity. Even when Jay and I were starting out, we were committed to education for the kids because our parents did it for us,” Olinde explained. “Even when times got tough, we tried our hardest to keep them here.”
Their second eldest son, Nick, 20, will complete his sophomore year at the University of Miami this month, and is studying business with a minor in math. Hunter, 18, will graduate from Holy Trinity this month and is deciding between Georgia Tech and the University of Miami. Matthew, 16, will be a junior at Holy Trinity next fall.
While paying private school and college tuition for four children has not always been easy, the result has proven worthwhile, said Olinde. “Now, having a child in college and one graduating from college, I see what an amazing education Holy Trinity provides. The teachers here know the students, they know their strengths, they know their weaknesses and they push them. When they push them and they’re successful, that builds confidence in the students. When they move on to college, they’re already there; they’re already pushing themselves.”
The Tanner Family
Holly Tanner knows the value of a Holy Trinity education — she started at the school as a first grader in 1977 and remained there through ninth grade in 1986. (At that time, Holy Trinity had not yet opened its high school division). Now, Tanner is enjoying walking the halls as a parent of a rising seventh grader, Miya, age 12, and as an accomplished business woman. Tanner is a licensed physical therapist as well as the co-owner and president of L.H. Tanner Construction, a company she and her husband, Lawrence, built together. In both careers and beyond, she feels her private school education served her well.
“Holy Trinity helped develop those skills and character traits that were required for me to be successful in both my personal life and my professional life, and these are the same skills and character traits I still use today,” said Tanner. “Why would I not want this for my child, too?”
As Miya begins junior high next year, her mom is especially thankful for the skills that Holy Trinity has helped instill in her daughter. “I think one of the most important aspects that I wanted for Miya was to develop a positive self- esteem and a feeling of self-worth and empowerment. It is so important for our children these days to develop these attributes, which I feel Holy Trinity helps develop. It truly lives up to the motto, ‘Start Here. Go Anywhere.’ It is not just the academic development, but it is the character development that Holy Trinity offers and has always offered that makes the difference.”
The school’s character education program has been an important part of the curriculum for the Tanners, and was a major reason they moved Miya from public school after kindergarten. “I love that almost every day, students start in chapel with a positive and spiritual message and singing. How could you not have a great day after that opening?” Tanner said.
In September 2017, Holy Trinity will mark its 60th anniversary, and many alumni-turned-parents like Holly Tanner are feeling the nostalgia in the air. “I enjoy being able to walk in the halls of the lower school and see the tiger mural that my 9th grade class painted. I enjoy seeing Mrs. Killian, who was my PE teacher, teaching my daughter. When meeting the other parents of the students, I realize we each want what is best for our child and are willing to work hard for each of them to have this opportunity.”
The Wahy Family
Since becoming a single mom six years ago, Heather Wahy has been even more grateful for the support system provided by Holy Trinity teachers, coaches and fellow parents. Her three children, Brianna- Rose, 21; Bryce-Austin, 17; and Braelyn-Shea, 11, each began at Holy Trinity’s lower school. This month, Brianna, who runs cross country at Mercer University, will graduate with a degree in psychology on the same day that Bryce graduates from Holy Trinity with a scholarship and a spot on the soccer team at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee. Brianna plans to begin a master’s degree in pre-physical therapy next year, while Bryce considers studying psychology or exercise science. Braelyn will start sixth grade in the fall.
The last few years have been challenging for the family as they adjusted to becoming a single parent household and Wahy embarked on a second career in nursing. She works two nursing jobs, one in Orlando and one in Melbourne, sometimes 15 hours a day, in addition to pursuing a master’s degree in healthcare simulation. Despite her hectic schedule, she’s determined not to cut corners when it comes to juggling the activities of three very active, athletic kids. “You just work it out. It’s important that everybody gets the same opportunity to try things they enjoy, find things that they’re good at, and do something other than school each day.”
“Working it out” also has meant making sacrifices to keep her children enrolled in private school. “Everything about Holy Trinity is worth the sacrifice,” said Wahy. “For each one of my kids, it’s been fulfilling in different ways. It’s allowed them to experience life, to try things, to experience things in a safer environment.”
In terms of academics, Wahy feels her kids are “tremendously prepared for college, but they understand that education is not just for the grade but for the experience of learning.” To the mom of three, seeing her children build confidence in their own abilities is even more rewarding than a good report card, especially for Bryce, who has ADHD. “It’s incredible to see all the hard work kick in, for them to blossom and say, ‘Wow, I didn’t think I’d be able to do this, but I did it.’”
Despite the challenges and sacrifices of recent years, Wahy said, “The most important thing for me is my children and how they affect the world. I think Holy Trinity has provided them with such a tremendous basis for their character and their consideration of other people. It’s provided them the opportunity to find out how they can go out and serve others, and become happy and fulfilled. It’s given them their best chance.”
The Robinson Family
When eight-year-old Max learned he was going to attend a new school last year, he was scared, said his mom, Maggie Robinson. While his big brother, Lloyd, age 9, is eager to meet new people, Max has always been a little more reserved. Fast forward to the end of the school year and both boys are thriving in second and fourth grades at Holy Trinity. “Max is so happy,” said Robinson. “He has all these ‘best friends’ as he calls them.”
After moving from Indialantic to Malabar last year, Robinson and her husband, Chris, were faced with finding a new school for the boys. They had always planned to send their children to Holy Trinity’s junior high, but began to consider its elementary division at the urging of friends who also made the move from public school last year.
“There’s not one person we’ve met who could say anything bad,” recalled Robinson. “Everybody said, ‘It’s so awesome,’ but we were skeptical. We said, ‘Tell us something bad, tell us the truth,’ but since we’ve been here it’s been awesome for us, too. I can’t say anything bad about the school.”
For Robinson, it’s the little things that stand out the most, like the school’s ambassador program, in which a current school family reaches out to an incoming family so that the new student will know at least one child before starting school. That was key in acclimating Max to his new environment. The family also received a warm welcome at the school’s annual family picnic. “So many people came up to us and introduced themselves and included us. I thought that was so nice; I had never experienced that before.”
This spring, Lloyd participated in Holy Trinity’s Odyssey of the Mind team, winning first place in Brevard County and moving on to compete in the state competition in April. For the first time, the boys are able to play sports at school, including basketball and soccer. Parent Association events like a recent Mother/Son bowling outing also foster a sense of community within the school. And, Robinson joked, “we’ve been invited to lots of birthday parties.”
So far, her only regret is not making the move sooner. “I already tell everybody, ‘It’s awesome. We love it.’ People have said that to us in the past, but we never realized what they meant until we were here.”
At Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy, students benefit from the continuity of an academically challenging, college preparatory curriculum that spans preschool through 12th grade. Founded in 1957 in the Episcopal tradition, Holy Trinity fosters an environment that reflects the joy and peace of Christian values with an emphasis on educating the whole child – mind, body and spirit. Students who “start here” build a strong foundation of skills and are prepared to “go anywhere” – in college, career and life. For more information, visit www.htacademy.org or call 321-723-8323.