Christian education has been a high priority in the thinking and choices of Adventist parents and families from the very beginning of the Seventh-day Adventist World Church. Establishing church schools has closely followed the building of churches in most parts of the world. In many places the building of a school has preceded the construction of a church. Much credit for the growth of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, to more than thirteen million members, has been attributed to its world-wide educational system. It is clear that Christian education has been one of the most, if not the most, effective evangelistic programs of the church.
The Adventist church in Worthington was organized in 1920. With the arrival of the Weber and Mann families, a church school was opened in 1926 with eight students. Classes were held in the sun parlor of the nurses’ residence at the Columbus Rural Rest Home, which in time, became Harding Sanitarium and later was renamed Harding Hospital.
As time went on, the need for a separate school building became very apparent. In 1938, a two-room building was constructed on land donated by Mr. and Mrs. D. K. Nicola and named Twin Elms Adventist School. Classes began with 29 students enrolled. By 1948, it was necessary to enlarge the school, at this time indoor plumbing was added. It is a reflection of the philosophy and the commitment of the church members to note, they believed it was more important to have a school than a church building. Sabbath worship services were held in the parlor of the sanitarium from 1920 until 1951, when the church congregation was able to move into a new facility on Griswold Street.
By 1950, Harding Hospital had grown significantly and was providing health care to over one hundred in-patients. The food company, founded in 1939 as Special Foods and in 1945 incorporated as Worthington Foods, later moved its corporate office from 656 High Street, in downtown Worthington, to an office building adjacent to its plant on Proprietors Road. As the hospital and food company continued to grow, more Adventists moved into the community attracted to the area by the Adventist church and school, as well as by employment opportunities.
Continued growth in enrollment called for further expansion of the school. Classrooms and administrative offices were added in 1956, together with relocation of the entrance from the East side on Proprietors Road to the West side facing the new church on Griswold Street. Brick construction became a part of the new structure. The Twin Elms School name was dropped due to the loss of several fine trees, which had become diseased.
In the early 1960s, it became clear that a gymnasium that could also serve as an auditorium was needed. Plans for an Activities Center were prepared and with a generous gift from Elder Heber and Carolyn Votaw (former Carolyn Harding, younger sister of Warren G. Harding the 29th President of the U.S.) the building was completed in 1963 just in time for a community Christmas party.
By the early 1960s, enrollment in the school had exceeded 55. To meet the growing number of students, a decision was made to enlarge the school again. Four classrooms, a library, and a general purpose room were added. Enrollment continued to grow and, when grades nine and ten were added, reached a level of more than 125 students. In the 1980s, the name Griswold Christian Academy was adopted and day care services for pre-schoolers was initiated. This move strengthened the school financially and added a new source of students.
The school building that had served the school until 2002 is now operating successfully as the Stepping Stones Learning Center, a daycare facility providing care for infants through pre-kindergarten. Rather than discontinue a program that is going well, a decision was made to appoint a building committee to study ways and means for constructing a new elementary school building. In 2006, this vision became a reality when construction was completed on a new five-classroom facility.
Today, Alumni of the Worthington church school are rendering faithful service as ministers, missionaries, physicians, lawyers, educators, scientists, businessmen, and many other capacities. Every Adventist College or University in America has seen a former student of the Worthington Adventist church school join the ranks of their own student bodies. Many have moved on to graduate studies and lives of service.
It is clear the Worthington Adventist Academy has a rich heritage of recognized success and of support from the families that make up the church congregation and others in the community. WAA has enjoyed God’s rich blessings during the years that have elapsed since the school was founded in 1926.