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Teaching a sound mind, a healthy spirit

United Faith Christian Academy is a private Christ-centered college preparatory school offering small classes, Christian-based curriculum and staff.

The academy was established in 1985 on the campus of Christ Life Church, then known as United Faith Church.

Joe Siragufa, 52, three-year headmaster to UFCA, has taken the leadership role and implemented a new plan with the Be the Blessing program and student interactive Olympics.

Prior to becoming UFCA's headmaster, Siragufa was director of academics at Charlotte Christian School, serving as upper school assistant principal. He joined UFCA as headmaster in 2007.

"Our values maximize the learning and reflect Christ," he said.

UFCA serves transitional-kindergarten through 12th grade. The teacher-to-student ratio is 1 out of 10 and this year the academy has 278 students enrolled.

The school was awarded the 2009 School of Excellence by the Association of Christian Schools International.

"We are partnering with parents to develop the heart, mind, body and soul for our four areas of emphasis: academics, athletics, fine arts and spiritual development," said Siragufa.

One standout component at UFCA is the Be the blessing program, in which an upper school student - sixth through 12th grade - is paired with a lower school student - first to fifth grade.

Together, students are able to create service projects: packing meals for needy families, praying together during chapel and working together during an annual Olympics event held at the school that incorporates the academy's areas of emphasis.

At the annual Olympics, teachers are designated team captains, establishing age-appropriate questions for every grade level.

"The idea is to have every student participate," said 38-year-old Jennifer Hrischenko, director of communication and development.

"Once students get through all of the booths, they get points for winning and extra points for participating with buddies," Hrischenko said.

"The Olympics make us more than a school ... it makes us a family-oriented school community," said Siragufa.

Chapel is held once a week at UFCA, where students study Bible-based topics they're able to bring to life.

Upper school students lead the music aspects of chapel through a praise band.

"As a Christian school, we ask our teachers to be leaders in their classrooms by integrating God's word into their lessons," said Siragufa. "It's our goal that this school would stay true to its vision and mission, which is clearly Christ-centered."

The school has 19 international students; South Korea, Russia, Croatia, Sudan and Ivory Coast natives all have brought new perspective to south Charlotte students.

"What's valuable to international students is if they graduate from an American college prep school, they would have a better advantage at an American university education," said Siragufa.

Siragufa said the school recently has installed a new gym floor and enhanced its writing curriculum.

Laura Collins, mother of second-grader Parker Collins, said she thinks highly of the school and Siragufa's efforts.

"My son loves the school," Collins said, "He's had small classes and great teachers, which we love."

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