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As a little girl in third grade, Katie Matson recalls learning about the theory of evolution. It was a theory that confused her, because it didn’t match what her father would talk about when she and her siblings gathered around to hear him read scriptures from the Bible.
Her mother, by then, had passed away, and Katie had come to love her teacher very much. Katie knew the teacher had a college degree; compared to her father’s eighth-grade education, she found herself thinking that her teacher might know more than her father did.
She felt herself beginning to doubt her father and, in turn, doubt the God he had taught them about.
“It was scary to grow up with that doubt,” Matson said during an interview Friday. “I never told my father; he would have been very disappointed.”
It wasn’t until she was in her early 20s that she would regain her complete faith in God.
In an effort to spare her own son the confusion of learning about evolution – and the subsequent pain she feared he would endure, as she did, if this led him to doubt God – Katie Matson began homeschooling her son.
“The burden of his little soul was so strong in me,” Matson said.
A few years later, after trying to find a school based on Christian principles that she could send her son to – and after sending up many prayers asking God to bring a Christian school to Carroll County – Matson realized that God was actually calling on her to make it happen.
So, in 1989, 25 years ago, Matson started the nondenominational Christian Academy of Carrollton in the basement of Valley Christian Church, located at the corner of 11th Street and Gillock Avenue. The school began with about a dozen students and three volunteer teachers.
The academy continued operating out of that church for four years. By the fifth year, “I kept enrolling students,” Matson recalled, even though she knew she was running out of space for them.
But God had a plan. She said she received a phone call from Pastor Pat Butcher of the Family Worship Center, “just two or three weeks before school was starting,” with an offer of space at his church for some of the academy’s classes.
“We were very thankful to the two churches for allowing us to exist in their two buildings,” she said.
About that time, she and the CAC board of directors started looking for land where a permanent school could be built and found five acres being offered for sale for $12,000 by Atofina (now known as PMC Organometallix Inc.).
Located just off of Hwy. 36 East, near the Gap Hill intersection of Hwy. 227, “it was just a big hill and a swamp” at the time, Matson recalled. “But [CAC board member] Jim Smith said it would be a good spot.”
The school was finally completed in 1996. Soon after, Matson said she began working to raise funds for a gymnasium, which finally was completed next to the school in 2009. Until then, CAC basketball teams had to travel to the Morgan Community Center in Bedford for practices and games.
“So many people wanted us to borrow money (to build the gym), but I knew God didn’t want us to do that,” she said. “We still had a mortgage on this building.”
Today, everything is paid off. “We are totally out of debt,” Matson said. “It’s a godsend.”
She said the school has always relied on donations, along with tuition, which is about $255 a month per child. Families with more children receive discounted tuition rates per additional student; some students also qualify for scholarships.
“We’ve never received great big donations,” she said, adding that some people still balk at the tuition rates, which she said are very low compared to most other Christian schools in the region.
But the bills always outpace the revenue from tuition and donations, she said.
“We try to be very frugal, but we make sure the children all have books and whatever they need. I’m amazed at how the Lord has made it work,” she said. “Faith is built by knowing he’s there with you. What you need comes right when you need it.”
She attributes much of the credit for the school’s success to the hard work and dedication of her board members – particularly Smith and his wife, Janice, and Cecil and Marie Van Diver, all of whom have served on the board since the very beginning.
Success also comes from the many CAC parents who volunteer whenever they are able and the tremendous support from the community at large, she said.
At its peak, the school has had as many as 175 students enrolled. Matson said the opening of other Christian schools in the region has affected her enrollment, which used to pull in families from all of the surrounding counties, and from Oldham, in Kentucky. A sister school recently opened in Madison, Ind., which has attracted students from that city and Milton, Ky., that once attended here, she said.
This year, CAC has 103 students, and the academy offers classes starting with 4-year-old kindergarten through 12th grade.
Matson said she’s hoping the enrollment will grow again, particularly now that the school can offer a variety of athletic programs. Students participate in basketball, volleyball and tennis and also have an opportunity to participate in cross country and track, she said.
Next year, CAC is adding an archery program.
A life’s mission
Matson said she had always wanted to be a missionary, and thought she would travel to exotic locations to do God’s work. A few years ago, though, she said she realized building this school had been her mission all along.
“There is nothing that has humbled me so much as this school – seeing how the Lord works through it. It’s been amazing,” she said. “I had never dreamed I would homeschool my son, but it prepared me to know how to do the curriculum here. I believe God prepares us as we go along, as we follow his leading. …
“He gives us such strength and comfort when you need him. … When you’ve experienced it over and over and over, it’s a fantastic journey.”
Christian Academy of Carrollton is hosting a 25th anniversary celebration on Friday, April 25. The public is invited to an open house from 2-5 p.m. at the school, as well as a 7 p.m. program in the gymnasium featuring performances by local vocalists. “We want to share how the school started and how the Lord has sustained us and helped us to grow,” said Principal Katie Matson.
For more information, call CAC at (502) 732-4734.