2017 Graduates



This spring, Higher Ground was able to celebrate some talented, faithful, compassionate young adults as they graduated from high school. We are so proud of these students and would ask you to join us in recognizing who they have become as children of God, and also in praying for them as they begin new chapters in their lives.   I am honored to highlight these students for you, so you can celebrate their achievements as well. This year, I asked their parents to take time to consider who God created their child to be. What makes this student unique? What special contribution has God called your child to add to His kingdom? What three words best describe your child? Here are our 2017 high school graduates!

JENNA ACKER: Independent, Adventurous, Compassionate

Jenna, daughter of Ray Acker and Sharrie Nechvatal, is driven by her compassion for all of God’s creation.  She loves traveling and camping. She is devoted to caring for animals of all kind, especially her childhood dog, Piper. On mission trips, Jenna could be found caring for and comforting pets and strays alike just as often as she was pouring into the people we were serving. Jenna has a unique way of being able to see the best in people and see them through God’s eyes. She especially enjoys working with older adults and hopes to use her CNA license to work in a nursing home this summer.  Jenna was created with athletic talent as well, using that specifically on Verona’s High School Cheer Team as well as the LaCrosse team. An active leader in Higher Ground, Jenna enjoyed going on the mission trips where she was able to put her compassion for others into action. Jenna plans to attend UW Platteville in the fall to study Psychology and Special Education.

KATE HETTENBACH: Adventurous, [Strong in] Faith, Compassionate

Kate, daughter of Bart and Karen Hettenbach, has always had her faith as a strong and central part of her life. She was faithful in being a part of the Higher Ground community, as a participant in mission trips, lifeGroups, retreats, and service projects. Kate has been created with strong leadership skills and developed those skills leading and planning for Higher Ground gatherings and as a middle school mission trip leader. She is a great model of servant-leadership.  Kate also developed those leadership skills while participating in DECA (a business club) in high school, holding leadership positions in the group and going to State competitions for 3 years.  Passionate about athletics, Kate participated on cross country, basketball, and track teams for West High, playing on the varsity teams for basketball and track. This fall, Kate will attend UW Whitewater to study Social Work.

BRYCE HOPPE: Hardworking, Inquisitive, Kind

Bryce, son of Greg and Nikki Hoppe, has used his gifts both in the community and athletically. Bryce is passionate about swimming and theater. He was part of his high school swim team and USA swimming. He used his talent in swimming to work at the Ridgewood Pool and Verona Natatorium. Bryce also enjoyed using his gifts while participating with the Verona Area Community Theater. Created with a heart to serve others, Bryce also volunteered at the Badger Prairie Needs Network. This fall, Bryce will attend the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul and plans to be part of their swim team as well.

RENATA JAEGER: Strong, Loyal, Compassionate

Renata, daughter of Pete and Dannie Jaeger, loves music, theater,  and making the world a better place. She has a passion for justice, equality, and fairness. She believes everyone is a child of God and lives that out in how she serves and interacts with others. She has a strong work ethic and strives to show her best work in what she does. Renata has always wanted to explore different cultures and see different places where God is working. Renata loves kids, restoring justice, and seeing God’s world so mission trips have been a perfect avenue for her to use her talents! She attended all the high school trips and helped to lead the middle school trips. Renata was also created with gifts in art and music and enjoys expressing herself in these ways. She has been in performances at West High and has helped lead Higher Ground’s band for many years. Next year,Renata will attend UW-Madison to major in Dual Language Immersion Elementary Education with an emphasis on International Studies.

JACOB SCHAEFFER: Diligent, Takes Initiative, Determined

Jacob, son of Timothy and Daris Schaeffer, has shown himself to be a mature, faithful, kind young man who has brought a welcome insight and steadiness to our Higher Ground community.  He loves sports, playing basketball for 1 year and soccer for sports. Jacob enjoys classical music and has also taken piano lessons. Passionate about history, Jacob enjoys reading stories from history with his family. When he was in 4-H, Jacob discovered he was good at archery, air rifle, and making rockets. Jacob has a servant heart, developed through 15 years in his AWANA community, and participation in FLAME (performing arts group) choirs. Jacob’s interests are in Math and Engineering, and he plans to pursue those interests next year through online classes or Madison College.

As I reflect on this year’s graduating class, three words come to mind – Compassionate, Motivated, Leadership. This group of students is motivated to live out their faith and work to make our world a better place. In each of them I see hearts that reflect Jesus’ – hearts of compassion and love, seeing others as God sees them. Their compassion and motivation combined has provided Higher Ground with fresh, bold leadership – servant leaders who go first, serve others, and model love in action. It has been an exciting journey watching these young people grow in their relationships with Jesus and explore the unique ways that God has created them. We don’t have to wait to see how God will use them in the future – we can tangibly see how God has used them to already impact our Church community, their neighborhoods, and our world. It has been a true honor and privilege to walk alongside and learn from these young people. Well done, good and faithful servants!

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