A Clear Direction: How a Free Dinner Energized This Covenant Alum for the Future of the School

by FRANKLIN NORTON

Director of Advancement

On Tuesday, Nov. 15, Covenant alum Alec Phelps stepped back through the doors of his alma mater, hesitant but hopeful about what to expect from his first visit to the the school’s annual Community Dinner.

“I actually was debating on not going right before it started,” Phelps admitted, “but I figured I’d go ahead and show up to get free dinner, see some of my old teachers and say hi to some friends, but I didn’t really have any high expectations.”

Phelps was sat a table with prospective parents, where they asked him frankly about if he would recommend Covenant as a good school for their child. While he told them he was thankful for the opportunities he received here, his initial response to them focused on the negatives he rememebrs – a lack of students, programs, and athletics, as well as an unclear direction and high faculty turnover that he found limiting.

“What I told them absolutely changed by the end of the dinner.  I told them, ‘scratch everything I just said.’ This place is going in a direction that I did not see coming at all. What I saw was a school with a clear, concise direction. I was so excited to see the ways the school is working to retain students, keep them involved, and really form future leaders.”

What impressed him most, aside from the flashy slideshows or enrollment statistics, was the way he saw the school continuing and improving on what he always felt was the greatest strength of the school: building lifelong friendships and meaningful mentorships, something he says he still reaps the benefits of to this day.

“The mentorship and leadership development that I’d just seen on display between faculty and students was phenomenal,” Phelps said. “There are still mentorships from my time at Covenant that I still remember and reference often. Mrs. Stanley instilled a love of West Virginia history in me and a care for my state that I still have and hold to this day. My biology teacher inspired me to pursue medicine. She and I are actually still in contact, and she just recently helped me find research opportunities for this upcoming summer.”

After graduating from Covenant School in 2018, Phelps attended West Virginia University where he studied Molecular and Cell Biology. He joked that while English was never his strong suit, his freshman English professor noticed a talent in him and pushed him to double major in Biology and English, a recognition he credits to the writing and rhetoric instruction, especially in Senior Thesis, that he received at Covenant. (While flattered, he did not take this professor up on her offer.)

After earning his bachelor’s degree, he was admitted to Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, where he just completed his first year. When he moved back to Huntington, he moved in with two of his classmates from the Class of 2018, a testament to the lifelong friendships he says Covenant has gifted him.

“I’ve kept lifelong friends – we still love each other and we will always have that bond. I think rigor does play a part in this bond, that the curriculum encouraged a collaboration and sharing of thoughts that made me more comfortable with forming deep connections with other people.”

While Phelps has always been thankful for the ways Covenant has shaped his life, as an alumni, he never expected to be a part of the community again.  It wasn’t until attending the Community Dinner that he says he felt energized and mobilized by the vision and mission of his alma mater.

“There’s a clear direction that I think all alumni would approve of and be impressed with,” Phelps said.

For the future, he’s hopeful to see the new building come to fruition, continued student enrollment, and retention, and more alumni engaging with the school, that they would be able to see what he saw and say, “wow, this has really become quite an impressive institution.”

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