September 2, 2020

Friends, parents, and my fellow Panthers,


I am beginning my second year at the helm of this historic academy that began nearly 150 years ago. It is a tremendous honor to serve as president, and Katie and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to work with the tremendous faculty and staff of this fine school.


Families all over the Shoals and even across state lines are looking for a successful, growing, affordable, service-oriented, Christ-focused school of excellence with a wide selection of high performing sports programs, in-demand arts programs, and a low student to teacher ratio – a school with deep roots, a long tradition, and an exciting future.


The answer is Mars Hill Bible School.


Mars Hill is a preschool-12th grade private, non-denominational, coeducational, college preparatory Christian day school with roots stretching back to 1871. Through droughts and storms, epidemics and pandemics, Mars Hill has stood the test of time, offering high-quality Christian education and helping young hearts grow in pursuit of love, mercy, peace, and truth.


There has never been a better time to join our mission, to catch our vision, to embrace our tradition, and to take advantage of our offerings.


In 2020, Mars Hill is growing. Our admissions department has been working overtime and our faculty and staff put on one of the best open house evenings to date. As a result of their hard work, we are enjoying an exciting enrollment increase over the 2019-20 school year. And higher student numbers mean that we are making a difference in more lives.


Mars Hill is centered in Christ. Every student, every day, experiences a meaningful Bible class and engages in worship with their classmates through age-appropriate chapel. Our teachers incorporate a Christian vision of the world into every discipline, and our students are encouraged to develop hearts for service. Most of the stories I could tell you about spirituality and character are stories behind-the-scenes -- acts of kindness and extra-mile activities that show the high quality of these students and their care for the life Jesus modeled.


Mars Hill is cultivating a culture of innovation. Last year we became the first private school (and currently the only private school) in the state of Alabama to achieve Cognia STEM certification. We are also proud to be the only TK-12 STEM certified school in the Shoals. Our 1:1 technology initiative means that every child has his or her own dedicated device, and our new elementary STEM lab provides opportunities for kids to create their own robotics and engage in technology.


Mars Hill is expanding opportunity. We now have a literacy-focused team of dyslexia interventionists to help struggling students learn to love reading, encouraging them to achieve their dreams. With small, student-focused elementary classes with no more than 14 students on average per classroom, we are providing children with the personalized, individual attention they need. Our guidance counselors and resource teachers offer help at every stage of learning. From Honors diplomas to dual credit classes, we prepare our students to perform well at the next level and beyond.


Mars Hill is excelling in academics.  Last year’s graduating class received more scholarship money for college than any class before them—over 4 million dollars. ACT preparation is offered to all high school students, and the results speak for themselves. Our average composite ACT score last year was the highest in our competitive area, and among the best in the state. In fact, over 98% of Mars Hill graduates go on to post-secondary education, then off to law school, medical school, engineering and nursing programs, as well as excellent vocational schools.


Mars Hill is also excelling in athletics programs and extra-curricular activities. Our football team went all the way to the championship game in Auburn and is the Alabama 1A state runner-up. Our girls’ varsity basketball team made it all the way to the final four. Erika Mitchell graduated as the second highest all-time 3-points scorer for boys OR girls in Mars Hill’s history. Our cheerleaders had an impressive year, appearing in their own state program and all of our championship runs. Our sports programs include baseball, softball, golf, volleyball, tennis, fishing, cross-country, and more. We also place a strong emphasis on the arts. Every elementary student participates in weekly music, art, and foreign language classes, while every middle and high school student participates in his or her choice of a fine arts program during a special block dedicated to the arts. From Show Choir to band and from robotics to debate, with over 30 sports, clubs, societies and programs for our students to enjoy, opportunities abound for Mars Hill students.


Mars Hill is increasing in diversity. We are thrilled to have the first female vice-president in our school’s history, an increased presence of people of color among the student population, and a school-wide commitment to welcoming and embracing diversity as one of the five main strategic goals of the school.


Mars Hill is developing our physical plant. Over the past year, we have made significant improvements to campus. A campus-wide painting initiative resulted in a streamlined color scheme and a fresh, cohesive look. We have a brand new roof on both the band building and the high school building. Generous, earmarked donations have led to a new press box and ticket booth for the stadium. Our softball field has new posts and netting behind the backstop, and our gymnasium received new flooring and a large video screen—all of which enhance the look and feel of our campus. The school is looking sharp!


Mars Hill is affordable. Our tuition is comparable to the state average and is nearly 40% below the national average of private school tuition. The cost to educate a child is far more than tuition can cover. A recent study showed that, in the state of Alabama, taxpayers pay over $9,000 per child for each year of schooling—which is far higher than our own tuition rate.


Mars Hill is financially secure. We finished the 2019-2020 school year under budget and increased our development total from the previous year. Our donor base continues to provide generously. Due to the foresight and generosity of Dr. Mitch Burford, our endowment is healthier than it has ever been in our 149-year history. And I’m excited to say that this year we have received donations from several new, first-time donors, including alumni who are now investing in a new generation of Mars Hill students.


In all these areas and more, Mars Hill is casting a vision to shape the future. In 1872 our founder and first president, T. B. Larimore, was asked why we exist at all. “Our object,” Larimore responded, “is to perpetuate an institution that shall be an honor to the worthy country and community in which it shall stand as a bright and burning light.”


A century and a half later, that burning light shines brighter than ever before. Our core beliefs, core values, and strategic vision showcase both a strong foundation and an exciting path forward as we shine brightly throughout our community and around the world.


Tell your friends. Tell your neighbors. There has never been a better time to join the Mars Hill family. Open enrollment is currently ongoing, and we can’t wait to welcome you into our rich and rewarding legacy at Mars Hill Bible School—where we love one another, and love rules the school.


Nathan Guy