From one Teacher to Another
Ruby Berthole | Class of 2023
Foundation Academy strives to educate our students academically while strengthening their Christian faith. For one Foundation Academy alumna, this connection with faith has not only shaped her journey but has also inspired her to pursue a meaningful career in elementary education.
Ruby Berthole graduated from Foundation Academy in 2023 and now attends Valencia College as an elementary education major. Her favorite Bible verse changes according to her life circumstances, but one that has had a major impact on her is Psalms 55:22: “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” Whenever she feels overwhelmed with tasks, this verse reminds her that her life is in God’s hands. She takes comfort in knowing that if she clings to Him and His Word, God will accomplish His will in her life. Ruby says, “It takes a weight off of me, and I have the strength to keep moving forward.”
During her time at Foundation Academy, an influential teacher left a lasting imprint on Ruby. While Pastor Keith Yarborough may no longer be a part of the FA faculty, his impact resonates in her high school memories. What set him apart was not only his genuine care for students but also his unapologetic commitment to the Gospel. Pastor Keith’s openness about his faith made a profound impression, inspiring Ruby to aspire to a similar fearlessness in sharing her beliefs.
Guided by faith and inspired by faculty like Pastor Keith, our alumna has set her sights on a career in elementary education. She has had many opportunities to volunteer and work with children and finds that she connects with them easily. She realized she wanted to do it as a profession when she was helping to lead a group in Vacation Bible School. During the short time she spent with them each day, she “got to help kids understand life and the world around them — all while sharing the love of God.” Since then, she has felt strongly about pursuing a teaching career.
Ruby plans to continue her education at the University of Central Florida once her time at Valencia is done. We look forward to seeing how she impacts the next generation as a teacher and a follower of Christ!
Making a Splash!
Susannah Cogburn | Class of 2019
Susannah Cogburn spent ten years at Foundation Academy and laid the groundwork for her future career in marine science during her time at FA. Graduating in 2019, Susannah left her mark on FA through her involvement with multiple activities, leaving a legacy of leadership and dedication.
One of Susannah’s greatest accomplishments during her time at FA was her involvement in advocating for a competitive cheerleading team and subsequently being part of its inaugural season. She also cherishes the memories of the senior trip to the Bahamas and her consistent participation in the State Thespian Festival throughout high school.
Mrs. Lee Anne Smith and Mrs. Lisa Amat are two teachers who greatly influenced Susannah. Mrs. Smith, her history teacher throughout high school, was a mentor and catalyst for her academic growth. Mrs. Amat’s science classes ignited Susannah’s passion for the sciences and clarified her future career path.
Susannah was involved in many school activities, from cheerleading and theatrical performances to leadership roles in clubs such as Student Government, the National Honor Society, and the International Thespian Society. However, her standout experience was as the Editor-In-Chief of the Yearbook, where she honed her leadership skills and developed a knack for working in a deadline-oriented environment.
Upon graduating from FA in 2019, Susannah pursued a B.S. in Marine Science at Florida Gulf Coast University, leveraging her high school foundation to excel in college. She has participated in research opportunities beginning in her freshman year of college and has delved into pressing issues like Florida Red Tide and Ocean Acidification. Her research prowess led her to present at multiple conferences and earn the prestigious National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship.
Reflecting on the impact of her FA education, Susannah emphasized how AP and dual enrollment classes prepared her for the academic rigor of college, allowing her to dive directly into courses focused on her major. Her advice to current FA students echoes her journey: get involved, seize every opportunity, and make the most of the FA experience.
Currently pursuing her Master’s in Environmental Science, Susannah’s thesis on organic contaminant concentrations and their effects on osmoregulation in Bull Sharks promises to contribute significantly to marine science.
As Susannah continues to forge her path in marine science, her journey stands as a testament to the comprehensive preparation she gained through Foundation Academy: academic excellence, a fulfilling career, and a strong faith in God. She clings to her favorite Bible verses, Psalms 139: 9-10: “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”
Through her impactful journey from FA to her current endeavors in marine science, Susannah exemplifies the spirit of determination, leadership, and a commitment to making a difference in the world around her.
Foundation Academy to Fulfilling Dreams:
A Journey of Faith and Career
Grace Brazell | 2011
Foundation Academy holds a special place in the hearts of many students, fostering growth, faith, and a nurturing environment for personal and academic development. For one alumnus, Grace Brazell, her five-year journey at Foundation Academy left an indelible mark, shaping her faith, career, and life profoundly.
With an older sister as her only sibling, Grace treasured the familial atmosphere of Foundation Academy. It was during her time here that she honed her faith, discovering a deep connection to her beliefs and values. Foundation Academy provided her with the platform to explore her spirituality and grow as a person.
Graduating in 2011, Grace’s time at Foundation Academy was filled with cherished moments and valuable experiences. She recalls her favorite teacher, Mrs. Christy Higgs, as a beacon of support and guidance. Mrs. Higgs, the class sponsor, treated every student as her own, providing unwavering encouragement and a safe space to express their thoughts and concerns.
For Grace, Foundation Academy wasn’t just a school; it was the launching pad for a fulfilling career. Field trips, such as visiting Sea Camp in 7th grade and a memorable excursion to Marineland in St. Augustine with her Marine Biology class, inspired her love for animal behavior. These experiences solidified her passion for the environment and led her toward a career she adores.
Throughout her time at Foundation Academy, Grace actively participated in various activities, including Student Leadership Institute (SLi), cheerleading, and even basketball, despite her own admission of being “absolutely terrible.” A standout highlight was starting a Bible study during lunch in her junior year, a pivotal moment that expanded her understanding of her faith and leadership capabilities.
After completing her education at Foundation Academy, she ventured into adulthood, marrying a year later. An internship at SeaWorld Orlando led to a job in the education department. Her dream position materialized when she began working with Killer Whales at Shamu Stadium, taking care of their dietary needs, creating environmental enrichment devices, and monitoring their behavior and health. Today, as a mother of two young children, Noah and Navy, she has transitioned into a career as a realtor.
For current Foundation Academy students, Grace offers advice: “Take advantage of all the opportunities FA has to offer! Try every sport or activity to experience as much as you can. It’s a great space to be able to try new things! I would also encourage students to seek out your teachers and administrators. They love you and want the absolute best for you! They have so much wisdom and support to give you. It’s special.” So much so that both of Grace’s children attend Foundation Academy.
Grace finds inspiration in 1 Corinthians 16:14, a verse encapsulating the values instilled during her time at Foundation Academy: “Let all that you do be done in love.”
Foundation Academy serves as a foundation not just for academic growth but for spiritual and personal development. This alumni’s journey is a testament to the impact that a nurturing educational environment can have on one’s faith, career, and overall life.
A Heart of a Lion
Denzel Irvin | 2014
Denzel Irvin is Foundation Academy’s Assistant Athletic Director and Director of Collegiate Placement.
Denzel is a Lion alumni and was part of the class of 2014. He is best known to the FA family as our first Division I athlete in the school’s history. He was joined by his brother Darius at The University of Charlotte. Denzel started for the 49ers in his Sophomore season as a defensive back and finished his playing career with them.
Denzel came to FA because he knew about the success of the Foundation Athletic programs, but primarily to get his academic life back on track, which inevitably happened and enabled him to pursue his dream of playing college football. In addition, Denzel credits the early adversity he faced and the rigorous curriculum that helped prepare him for his career now.
During his time at FA, besides football and the classroom, he enjoyed participating in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and Student Leadership Institute (SLi).
Following his college career and graduation, Denzel became a business owner Get Active Performance Training, LLC, and a fitness coach.
Denzel can aid our athletes here at FA to pursue a collegiate athletic career because he has been through the recruitment process and understands the demands and mindset of an elite athlete. He believes that mentality is everything. He knows that athletes who challenge themselves in the classroom will challenge themselves on the field.
As many of you know, Denzel faced a life-changing health event about a year and a half ago in receiving a heart transplant. He credits the strength of his family and his faith in God for helping him through. Denzel said watching his family be strong daily helped him never waiver that he would get better and his walk with Christ has been strengthened. He sees life differently now and understands that faith can be subjective. Still, as for himself, his faith has never been stronger, and he appreciates life differently than before. His favorite verse is Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for human masters.”
You can find Mr. Irvin’s office in the Kelly Athletic Annex inside the Lunpkins Strength and Conditioning Center or on Friday nights as the Varsity defensive coordinator helping the Lions remain undefeated!
Denzel has a seven-year-old daughter, Maya, in the second grade. His brother Darius and mother and father still reside here in Orlando.
Sooner or Later
Danny Stutsman | 2021
Danny Stutsman came to Foundation Academy in the ninth grade. Coming from a public school background, his family was looking for a Christian school with a strong football program. They knew almost immediately that Foundation was their home.
Danny’s favorite thing about Foundation was the caring relationship between teachers and students. He always felt supported by his teachers and coaches and felt that they were invested in his success both in the classroom and on the field. Danny’s mom Suzy also noticed that the atmosphere at Foundation was more nurturing and encouraging than in previous schools. She remembers how excited teachers were to talk to her about Danny’s classroom successes and how many of them would show up at games to support Danny and his teammates.
Danny is now beginning his junior year at the University of Oklahoma. He has achieved great success as a linebacker on the Sooner football team and is thankful for the work ethic instilled in him during Foundation football workouts and practices. He credits his time in Foundation classrooms with teaching him time management and study skills that have served him well in his college studies.
Danny plans to pursue a career in the NFL after finishing college and eventually wants to work with another of his passions – cars. We wish Danny the best as he continues his college career, and we are excited to have been a small part of his journey!
A Guiding Light
David Orlando | 2016
Coaches can have as much influence off the field as on the field, and sometimes, those can go hand in hand, especially when centered on a foundation of Christ. A certain play can impact a player and cause them in return to live out that positive moment time and time again in their own lives. By reliving that moment in their minds, they begin to influence their everyday decisions based on their foundation of faith and love for God of which has been instilled in them from their past. This is shown in this FA student
spotlight with David Orlando, a graduate of Foundation Academy and now at the USF College of Medicine is on the path to becoming a doctor.
David Orlando graduated from Foundation Academy in 2016 and joined FA as a second grader. His family was seeking a new Christian-based school in the Winter Garden area, and it was the love and support of his family that helped with the transition for David from his previous school and throughout his time at FA.
David wasn’t sure what to expect coming to a new school, but what he found was a family, a family of teachers and coaches who would guide his life in ways he couldn’t at that time understand. When you ask David what he remembers most about his time at FA, is quick to tell you stories about several of those teachers and coaches: From Mrs. Amat, who would teach a workshop on five different ways to appeal to diverse learning styles, to Mrs. Schedfstad, who taught him that listening and conversing with those who
may share different beliefs can lead back to the truths of the Bible. “Mrs. Schefstad taught [us] how to talk to people who believe [in] different things [which] I used a lot at Southeastern,” David said. “Figure out what you believe and why.”
Football was also a big part of David’s high school years, with several coaches assisting in paving the way to his future. David played several positions, including safety corner, receiver, and running back, and eventually became Captain of the Varsity football team. He took his talents to Southeastern and played football there and credits Coaches Walker, Lord, and Murry for staying connected to his faith and roots and helping him achieve his current goal: attending med school at USF.
David also met the love of his life at Foundation Academy as friends in 7th grade and later dated in 9th grade. Abigail and David have been married for five years and graduated from FA together in 2016.
If given one piece of advice to fellow FA students, David shares: “Wrestle with your faith because when you have that, life outside FA is hard. I wouldn’t have survived if it [wasn’t] for my relationship with the Holy Spirit. By God’s grace, I am [here today]. He is sufficient.”
You may have seen David around as he has previously helped coach as the defensive back coach and defensive analyst at FA. David’s path to medicine was highly influenced by his Dad being in pharmaceuticals, and David also has a passion for medical research and community outreach. He has two publications with Mayo Clinic while frequently volunteering with Tampa Bay Street Medicine and USF Bridge Clinic. He greatly enjoys learning how to help people and serve others.
David Orlando is a true example of what FA is all about: family and how things come full circle, even when you least expect it.
All in the Family
Gabe Walker | 2016
Jon Worley | 2022
Lorena Saunders | 2010
We know that our alumni are blessed with various gifts and talents from God. We are especially grateful for those that have decided to return and share theirs with our school and our students- most importantly!
Gabe, Jon, and Lorena believe God has called them to be a part of our Faculty FAmily and has let them here. Gabe was interviewing for a job he wasn’t overly excited about when Robert approached him to join his team. Jon hadn’t thought about IT as a career until Tim called, asking him if he was interested in an internship. Lorena was pursuing education and training that would lead to a career as a nurse but kept being let back to teaching.
Their leaders have shared that each brings something special to their team, and they have high hopes to see them continue to positively influence and impact our school and students.
Robert East said of Gabe: “[He] is a hard-working and vital member of the facilities team… His work ethic embodies Proverbs 14:23, “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.” (ESV) He is also an excellent communicator with the students, seen mainly through his coaching roles. I am excited to see his growth in the FA family, as he is a quick learner and willing to take on any task. He will be a leader for students for years to come.”
Tim Nethers said of Jon: “While a student here, Worley was inclined to test the limits of the technology systems; this is typically a good indicator of the skills needed to intern as a Help Desk Technician. When I found out Worley was not pursuing Information Technology, I reached out to gauge his interest in IT and see if he would be interested in interning with our team. We have set Worley on a Goal plan that has him working towards his first IT certification … We look forward to seeing Jon achieve his first milestones and certifications. These certifications are the gatekeepers to Careers in IT and can lead to a lucrative career with some experience.”
Tanya Murphy said of Lorena: “Lorena began working with our preschool team last year as an aide. She has a tender, helpful spirit and loves the children. She decided to pursue her Child Development Associate credential, which allowed her to meet the requirements for a preschool teacher at Foundation Academy. The opportunity presented itself this year; she is the K4 classroom teacher of the “Koala Class.” I have known Lorena as a student at FA for many years. I always appreciated her organization and determination to do her best at any task she was given to do. She is a natural teacher, and I have seen the Lord work in her life. She is a strong addition to the FA team as a classroom teacher. I love being in her classroom and observing her interaction with the children. Her “Koalas” love to sing worship songs and have developed strong habits that prepare them for Kindergarten. Things have come full circle for Lorena and her relationship with Foundation Academy.”
Each credits experiences they had here at Foundation Academy as students are part of why they joined us as FAculty. Some skills they have learned and carried with them are discipline, organization, and speaking in front of a group. They feel that the relatable life experiences shared by Faculty and Staff have also positively influenced them and helped shape who they are today.
When asked if they have any advice for current FA students, Gabe offers: “Stop trying to fit in, expand your horizons, and be you, be unique!” Jon says: “Do not let your identity be defined by others but by God alone.” Lorena wants students to know: “Do not let anyone steer you away from the gifts God has planted in you. Tune into what he wants, not what others are saying.”
Thank you, Gabe, Jon, and Lorena. Our school is better with you here, sharing your gifts and talents with the students and us! We will be forever grateful to you.
Medical Alumni Spotlight
Alexis Good (Buckles) | 2018
Kristin Collison | 2016
Madison Strong | 2016
Kate Claerbout (Campbell) | 2016
The road to a career in the medical field is a rigorous academic journey. These four women felt equipped to embark on that journey with the excellent Christ-centered education they received at Foundation Academy. Alexis Good (Buckles) B.S. Nursing, Kristin Collison Doctorate of Occupational Therapy, Madison Strong B.S. Nuclear Medicine Technology, and Kate Claerbout (Campbell) PharmD (2023) all graduated from Foundation Academy and are all thankful for the teachers and experiences they had as FA students. They credit the Lord with their success as He has carefully woven the pieces of their journeys so that these women could use their gifts and talents to serve Him while helping others.
Alexis, Kristin, Madison, and Kate all dreamed of working in the medical field from the time they were very young. Alexis grew up watching other family members working in the medical field, and she knew she wanted to help people. Kristin chose occupational therapy after a mission trip with Winter Garden’s First Baptist Church. She recalls, “The day we left … I knew exactly what God had called me to be. From that point forward, I did everything possible to reach my goal of becoming an OT… God has truly guided my footsteps throughout this journey.”
It will come as no surprise that these women excelled in science while students at FA. They all expressed that their teachers and experiences at Foundation Academy impacted their success in the medical field. “The teachers… were great examples and constantly pushed me to reach my potential both as a student and as a follower of Christ,” Kristin said. Madison added, “Mr. Campbell was my chemistry teacher, and he never gave up on me. He always pushed me to do my best which resulted in my love of Chemistry. Even today, he continues to encourage me and cheer me on!” Kate shared, “I have always been passionate about school, but having teachers that were intentional with me, saw my potential, and challenged me to help reach it made such a difference. It encouraged me to care about the quality of my work and make them proud because of how they cared for me. This has carried over into my education and work, making me passionate about what I do.”
Kristin shared how Foundation Academy equipped her not only academically but also spiritually on the road (which she describes as more of a rollercoaster) to becoming an Occupational Therapist. “FA guided me by giving me the tools to establish my relationship with God, which is truly the greatest preparation I could have received. The journey to achieve anything in life will bring disappointment, and it will be hard, harder than you can imagine, but the spiritual foundation that FA gave me was a tool that helped me face anything that the world could throw at me. The teachers, coaches, and mentors that consistently poured into my life still impact me today. I used to think it was so cheesy that people said ‘FA is for life,’ but now, six years out of high school, I can confidently say that statement does ring true.”
Alexis would like to encourage current FA students to take full advantage of the tightly knit community of Foundation Academy. She says to seek wisdom and advice from FA teachers because “Your teachers want the best for you!” Kristen and Madison’s advice is to pursue your passions and follow your dreams despite life’s obstacles. Madison shares, “Remember one thing: no matter what, keep pushing, praying, and pursuing Christ.” Kate’s best advice is not to be afraid to deviate from your plan. She says, “What we see as detours or missteps are often the best learning experiences.”
These women are grateful for the FA Family who have helped shape them into who they are today. They remind students to keep an adventurous spirit, to strive to learn as much as they can, to study hard, and to learn new things!
Amy Reynolds | Class of 2010
Meredith Leiferman | Class of 2011
Amy Reynolds (5th Grade Teacher, Plant Street) and Meredith Leiferman (Language Arts, Tilden Campus) graduated from Foundation Academy in 2010 and 2011. They can remember a time when all students were on one campus, they remember retreats to Camp Kulaqua and trips to sea camp, they remember a time when our school was small and our faith was great, and they credit the Lord for seeing FA through it all. Their mothers Sarah Reynolds (Principal, Tilden Campus) and Melinda Leiferman (Math Teacher, Tilden Campus) both worked as teachers in the school as their girls were growing up. It didn’t start out that way. Mrs. Reynolds started her career as a bank manager and Mrs. Leiferman was an accountant. Both women felt the Lord calling them to education, made a career change, and began teaching. The Leifermans and Reynolds have seen many changes at Foundation Academy, but one thing has remained the same, God’s goodness.
Our first Foundation Academy campus was Plant Street. The Tilden property was purchased long before any of these women began with FA, but it lay vacant for a long time. Sarah remembers a day before they started construction when they brought the teachers to the Tilden property to pray. They spread out all over the campus to cover it in prayer. Although the school had seen difficult times in the past, Melinda said, “God has provided and protected us always. God just wanted Foundation Academy to be here!” When it was time for their girls to graduate from Foundation Academy, both mothers prayed for that same provision and protection over them as they began to choose paths for their own lives.
Amy and Meredith both said they were never going to be teachers! Amy planned to pursue a career in the medical field, but soon felt drawn to change her major to education. While student teaching, she asked her class to spell the word “perfection.” A little boy said, “Jesus is perfection!” As a public school teacher, she couldn’t affirm his statement, and she knew then and there that she wanted to teach in a Christian school. “Private school it is!” she said. “Why not go home?” Meredith changed her major several times, but it wasn’t until she had the opportunity to sub for Betty Marvin’s class at Foundation Academy that she decided to pursue education. She recalls reading a short story to the FA students and thinking, “This is it!” Her first full-time position with Foundation didn’t come until she asked Carol Grosshans to make her the middle school Bible teacher. “I want our kids to know Jesus!” Meredith said. She wanted to help be a part of a program that would foster a love for studying the Bible.
These four women consider themselves members of a sort of secret club of people lucky enough to work with their mom or daughter. “It’s a dream!” Sarah Reynolds said, “to work with your child. It’s neat working at Foundation Academy, and being a Christian, and seeing how many children they are speaking life into.” “It is so nice to have your best friend there for you every day, and know exactly what I’m going through,” Amy added. Melinda shared, “watching them makes me so happy for them! It’s so nice to see your kids fulfilling their calling, and I can see they are happy doing it. You can ask any of the students and they will tell you how wonderful they are.” The women all expressed gratitude for working in a Christian school. Melinda said, “I know that no matter what I’m going through there are people at Plant street, Tilden, and Lakeside who will say, what can I do for you, how can I help? We are a family. We don’t just say it. It’s really true!” Although Sarah and Amy Reynolds and Meredith and Melinda Leiferman are families, they all agreed they are thankful to be a part of a legacy of true family in Christ with Foundation Academy. Happy Mother’s Day!
Jonathan Yarborough | Class of 2016
Jonathan Yarborough made the decision to choose Christian education when he was in 9th grade. “God did a lot in the four years that I was here!” he said. This decision impacted Jonathan’s future in a big way, and he gives all of the credit to the Lord. The athletic program was one of the things that drew Jonathan to FA, but after an injury, he found himself hanging up his cleats and picking up a camera. He started out filming highlight reels for the football team, but God had more in store for Jonathan.
Jonathan was a part of FA’s 2014 missions team to the Dominican Republic. Two weeks before leaving for the trip, he broke 2 ribs playing soccer, and was unable to participate in the manual labor necessary for the trip. He decided to do what he could by picking up his phone and filming the work God was doing in DR. Once he was home, he had the opportunity to share his video with others. “God used me playing soccer and breaking ribs (when I thought I might be able to play in college) to direct me to what He really wanted me to do, which was use video to show what God is doing around the world.”
Jonathan continued to develop his filming skills at FA as a part of the media program. He took classes, helped film the State of the Academy, and made graduation videos. His media teacher Joe Cioffi taught him not only to capture media, but also to follow after God courageously. “If God has called you to do something, you can do it!” Mr. Cioffi encouraged him. Jonathan is thankful for Mr. Cioffi’s influence on him and says he wouldn’t be where he is today without him.
After graduation, Jonathan attended Southeastern University where he studied film production and participated in their missions program. While on a mission trip to Cuba, a woman approached him and said, “God wanted me to tell you He is going to send you all over the world to use your camera. He is going to use you and your ministry in the future to reach all types of nations.” When he returned home, the director of missions pulled him into his office and said word for word what the woman in Cuba had said to him, “I want to send you all over the world to use your camera…” He offered Jonathan a job in the department as a videographer for their mission trips. Jonathan was moved and thought, “Ok God, obviously this is something you want me to do.” He went on to travel to over 30 countries throughout the world, filming mission work through SEU!
Jonathan met his wife Sarah on a mission trip through Southeastern, and after graduating the two of them continued to bring glory to God through film. Together, they have partnered with Compassion International, Exposure Missions Conference and many independent missionaries in persecuted countries around the world. Sarah says, “We use film much in the same way that a worship leader uses their voice, to point people to God and to amplify what He is doing.” They tell the stories of the miracles God is doing all over the world. Their passion is to share this, Jonathan says, “The stories in the Bible aren’t just stories. God is still doing the same thing He did back then, if not more. It’s just either we’re not looking or no one has told us. That is our heart behind doing this, is to be able to share that with people. God is moving the same all over the world, in your home just as much as He is in a hut in Africa.”
Jonathan and Sarah Yarborough have recently launched their own nonprofit ministry called “Por Siempre Ministries.” Their website states, “Everyone has a story. Every story is worth telling. Using film as a vessel to testify the glory of God.” You can learn more about their ministry here: http://www.porsiempreministries.org In July, they will move to Puerto Rico for 9 months to partner with a ministry there to encourage their missionaries and share the story of what God is doing in PR. They hope their videos will challenge people to do whatever God has called them to do, and to use their gifts to bring glory to God.
Clayton Grimm | Class of 2014
“Be a good steward of what God has given you. Otherwise, you might miss out on what God has for you.” – Clayton Grimm ‘14
Clayton Grimm is one of our own Legacy Lions. He attended Foundation Academy PK – 12th grade. Clayton took full advantage of his time here at FA. “I feel like I’ve done everything: sports, arts, choir, student government,” Clayton said. This well-rounded student had his first experience with drama in 7th grade when he performed the “nerdy character” in a show called Ducktails and Bobbysocks. “I still have a copy of it on my bookshelf!” he shared. “I was committed to doing the best I could do.”
Grimm recalls his teachers being very encouraging. “It was the first moment I made choices and people recognized it. I worked really hard!” He even remembers Coach Lord telling him, “That was really good!” This encouragement stuck with Clayton and propelled him to continue pursuing his new found love for performing.
In middle school, the school headmaster suggested students read a book called Do Hard Things. “I’m gonna read it!” Clayton thought. Grimm developed perseverance as an FA student, even in the face of adversity. He said he would love to share this message with current students, “Challenge yourself! I try to put myself in situations that are uncomfortable and challenge myself. Don’t just float. You may do well, but there’s so much more you could be doing. Once you get comfortable, it’s time to move up and move on!”
As a high school student, Clayton signed up to be the school’s mascot, Luke the Lion. Mrs. Uhrig, a former teacher, recognized his talent and told him, “You’re funny!” She encouraged him to audition for shows inside and outside of school. He found high school level productions to be much more challenging and said Mrs. Uhrig “held his hand” through the process.
Another major influence on Clayton during his time as a student was his drama teacher, Mrs. Cogburn. “I cannot sing her praises enough. She’s like an Olympic coach!” Mrs. Cogburn took Clayton and the other theatre students to many performances. One that stuck out to Clayton was The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. “We became obsessed!” Grimm recalled. “We couldn’t stop talking about it.” Clayton and a friend decided to take a scene from the show to a district competition. Their first year of districts had been a disaster, but this time, they couldn’t not rehearse. They were so well prepared, they received a superior rating for their entry. The next year, Mrs. Cogburn let them do the whole show. Clayton and his theatre friends continued to compete and perform. Clayton believes surrounding himself with friends who shared his passion and motivation was one of the keys to his success.
After graduation, with the support of his family and teachers, Clayton went on to NYU and studied theater as a part of the Tisch / Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute. This intense conservatory program taught him to do research before stepping into an audition and to be prepared, to push his limits, and not to be complacent, and even provided him with the opportunity to study abroad in France. The connections he made at NYC led to his first job out of college assisting with casting. Clayton said he often worked three jobs trying to make rent in NYC before he booked his first performing gig playing the role of The Flash in a D.C. Justice League show touring the Middle East.
While living in New York, Clayton also found time to give back. As a member of the Foundation Academy Praise Band, under the direction of former teacher Mr. Goff, Clayton learned to play several different instruments. He used this skill as a part of the 52nd Street Project, a program for kids who do not have access to Arts programs. The project gives students an opportunity to work with composers and performers to write their own music.
Clayton continued to audition and booked two children’s theatre tours: Charlotte’s Web and Blippi: The Musical. He had to choose. He chose Blippi, and as they say, the rest is history. Grimm went on to do the national tour and now plays the role singing in Spotify albums, on YouTube, and in three shows on Netflix.
So what’s next for Clayton Grimm? “I’m just silly. I don’t know what the future holds!” Clayton’s favorite verses are Jeremiah 29:11 and Colossians 1:11. He is working hard in all things for the Lord and is trusting the only One who truly knows what the future holds. This kind and inspiring man also shared his love for studying the fruit of the spirit and leaves the next generation of FA students with this, “It’s important to be kind. If you have fruit, people will notice and appreciate that even more than the work you do. It’s more important to be kind and show that you care.” We are thankful to have had such a kind and hardworking student come through Foundation Academy, and we hope his story encourages our students to continue to be all God has created them to be.
Wes Murray | Class of 2010
Wes Murray graduated from Foundation Academy in 2010. “You couldn’t get lost in the crowd,” he said. The one-on-one attention he received from coaches and faculty helped to equip him for life after FA. Wes was a part of the very first Foundation Academy football team. He said,” Coach Lord was an awesome mentor to me.” He even describes him as a father figure.
Wes also appreciated the time set aside each week for Chapel. He said the speakers delivered messages that were applicable to his age group. “Even 10 years down the road, I still think about the messages, and I’m thankful for the speakers.” The spiritual development Wes received during his time as an FA student led him to start his own Bible studies after graduation, to pursue his passion for ministry and health, and even to return to Foundation Academy as a football coach. “Foundation Academy was a valuable investment. It helped me to not just do what I needed to do to get good grades and get by, but to actually grow as a person.”
After graduation, Wes spent 2 years playing college football, worked in California as an executive protection agent, and earned his Master’s Degree from UCF in Health Sciences. Currently, Wes is a D1 head training coach and competes in Powerlifting and Strongman competitions. He holds 3 records for the state of Florida and is ranked 8 in the nation. “I’m transitioning in my career from learning to lead. I’m at a place in my career where I’m more focused on helping other coaches grow and develop.” Throughout his career, Wes has always held tight to the promises of God. The foundation laid for him through his education here at FA has equipped him to not only succeed in his career but also to lead others to personal success and a closer relationship with the Lord.