The idea of our Student Life Program started in 2009 when I was having a conversation with a parent about how surprised she was that her teenager did not know how to use a can opener. Our Mercy Ships kids have amazing opportunities to see the world and experience so much but can miss out on some the smaller aspects of life like learning to cook, joining clubs at school or pursuing a new hobby.

The Academy decided that we needed to create a space to give our students an opportunity to experience new things and develop some of the skills that they will need later in life. We covered skills like Cooking, Budgeting, Stock Trading, Lifesaving, Basic Vehicle Mechanics, Etiquette, Sign Language, Logical Thinking, and Basic First Aid. We also offered some fun ones that help our students learn from crew members about their passions and gifts in area like acrylic painting, knife making, Acting 101, Worship, Cheerleading, Outdoor Living, Singing, Crocheting, Cake Decorating, Sewing, Film Making, Basic Malagasy, Firefighting, Fitness and Nutrition, Architectural Design, Watercolors, and Cardio-Fitness Training.

How does this work? Every Friday afternoon the Grade 6 to 12 students use the last two lessons of the school day to participate in our Student Life Program. Typically, we offer four sessions of 6 – 8 weeks each school year. Students are given a choice of three or four options, one of which is always a community service, or as we call it the ‘Blessing Others’ option. Students need to take one Blessing Others option each year, these have included service in the galley, HOPE Center, on the ward, working alongside Crew Services and the Dining Room teams, or refurbishing the poolside chairs.

We are grateful to crew who offer their time and share their gifts with our students. I love seeing how in just a few short weeks a student can uncover a new gift or passion for something they would never have thought of. This program gives our students a chance to discover so many things about themselves and the world around them.

Planning, organizing and ensuring that our students have these opportunities takes hard work, I am thankful for the many teachers who work behind the scenes to make this program happen, and the many crew member who offer to be Student Life Presenters.

In the past, Carys Parker shared her passion for film-making with our students as they make short-films to be used during the Monday Morning Meetings on the Africa Mercy.


Written by Nikki Aldum – Academy Director