Texas Border Business
By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez
Covenant Christian Academy (CCA), a beacon of Christian education in the Rio Grande Valley, recently celebrated an exciting milestone — the annual car raffle of 2023. Milton Gonzalez, Head of the Academy, enthusiastically broadcast the event via livestream, welcoming viewers to participate in the thrill of the draw.
“Hello everyone. We are so excited that you’re with us today. I know that all of you are joining us right now because we have our 2023 car raffle. We do this every year, but today we have a special guest, actually two special guests that are going to be helping us pull out the ticket. Only one hand is going into the drawing box,” he announced to the virtual crowd.
These fundraising events are vital to the operation of the academy. Unlike public schools, private Christian schools like CCA do not have access to government grants or funds. As such, they rely heavily on tuition fees and donations. However, maintaining a delicate balance between tuition affordability and financial sustainability is a constant challenge for the academy.
In fact, Milton candidly shared that the school typically needs to raise about $300,000 per year to meet its operational costs. Despite these financial challenges, the academy has always found generous benefactors in the community — individuals and businesses who sponsor students or contribute to the school’s resources, enabling the academy to continue its mission.
The vision for CCA didn’t stop at maintaining its existing operations. The leadership team of the academy dreamed of expanding the school to include a high school, knowing there was a local need for high-quality Christian secondary education. However, financial constraints posed a significant hurdle. The cost of hiring new staff, procuring equipment, and acquiring additional accreditations made the dream seemingly impossible.
In the face of this adversity, Gonzalez and the leadership team didn’t give up. Instead, they turned to prayer and patience, trusting in God’s provision while dreaming and planning for the future.
During this period of contemplation, they had already secured a plot of land across the street from the school, intending to build on it one day. This vision began to take a more concrete shape when Natasha Del Barrio, a parent with three children attending the academy, got involved.
Del Barrio, aware of the academy’s goals but also its financial constraints, shared the academy’s vision with Mr. and Mrs. Vackar, notable philanthropists in the area. Mr. Vackar had previously supported The Robert C. Vackar College of Business & Entrepreneurship at UTRGV, illustrating his commitment to supporting education.
Del Barrio proposed the idea of building a high school named in honor of Janet Vackar, Mr. Vackar’s wife. Mr. Vackar embraced the idea, seeing it as a beautiful surprise for Janet and a valuable addition to the community.
Within a few weeks of their initial conversation, Del Barrio returned to Milton with promising news. The Vackars were willing to provide the needed financial support to realize the dream of a high school at the academy. Bob Vackar planned to surprise his wife, Janet, with the news that a high school would be named in her honor. It was to be a gift to Janet that she would in turn give to the academy.
With a potential commitment for five years of funding in place, the dream of the Janet Vackar Distinguished Leadership High School at Covenant Christian Academy started to materialize. The seemingly impossible vision was beginning to take shape, a testament to the power of community, faith, and innovative fundraising efforts.
“It was a very Godly moment. I know that God has provided for them. God has blessed them, and they just turned around and blessed us with that,” Milton said. The generous donation from the Vackars was the turning point in the academy’s journey to expand. Without their support, the high school might still be an unrealized dream.
The impact of the Vackars’ involvement extended beyond the establishment of the high school. With the successful addition of the high school, the academy is now looking at expanding onto the seven and a half acres of land they own across the street, envisioning a dedicated campus for their middle and high school students.
The annual car raffle is another cornerstone of the academy’s fundraising efforts. For over a decade, the academy has held this event, selling tickets to the community for a chance to win a brand-new car.
“Every year, every family sells a packet of 10 tickets,” Milton explained. “This year, the tickets were $30 each, and there were 2,500 tickets in the drum. The lucky ticket drawn wins the car — this year, a 2023 Kia Rio. We always pray that whoever gets the car is someone that really, really needs it, and it’s happened every year.”
The funds raised from this event go directly back into the school, supporting technology upgrades and facilities maintenance, among other things.
When asked about the significance of the new high school addition to the academy, Milton stressed its importance, noting the academy’s dual accreditation from the Association of Christian Schools International and COGNIA. These accreditations assure families of the high standard of education provided at the academy.
Moreover, The Janet Vackar Distinguished Leadership High School at Covenant Christian Academy (CCA) has established a partnership with South Texas College (STC). This partnership allows students to enroll in dual credit college courses and even pursue an associate degree while in high school, all for a mere $600.
The academy’s journey serves as an inspiration for all educational institutions striving to expand and improve their offerings despite financial constraints. Through persistent prayer, community support, and creative fundraising initiatives like the annual car raffle, the future of Christian education in the Rio Grande Valley looks bright and promising.
Covenant Christian Academy continues to enhance its educational offerings. The new high school, named in honor of Janet Vackar, stands as a testament to the power of community support and the unyielding dedication of those determined to provide high-quality, affordable Christian education in the Rio Grande Valley. The winners of the 2023 Kia were the De la Garza family.