About Sonrise Academy
At Sonrise Academy, we desire to follow and glorify Jesus in the city of Lebanon, Pennsylvania. We seek to do this through providing an early childhood education experience that offers a solid academic foundation; creates an environment for positive socialization; promotes spiritual growth; and honors and serves families in Lebanon and the surrounding area.
At the core of Sonrise Academy is our desire to love the children of Lebanon. We are a school where students are encouraged, supported, and nurtured so that they can go out and love others as they walk their life paths. We assess the needs of our students and do our best to help them receive the care and instruction they need to grow in a healthy way. At Sonrise, students and teachers enjoy learning, playing and being together!
A Founder's Calling and Vision
Ever since she was in fourth grade, founder Ashley Durniak knew that she wanted to be a teacher. Ashley graduated from Shippensburg University in 2002, with a degree in elementary education. Looking for a job after graduation proved to be not an easy task. Two weeks before the beginning of the school year, she was offered a kindergarten position at a private school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Not knowing too much about kindergarten, she quickly prepared for the year. By the end of the first day, Ashley knew that God wanted her to be teaching kindergarteners. It was a wonderful school year for Ashely. And as she prepared to get married and move to Berks County, she was offered another kindergarten position in Wyomising.
After the birth of her first child, Ashley stopped teaching and became a stay-at-home mom. Although she loved being at home with her daughter, she knew that God still had a plan for her in the way of teaching. On a Monday afternoon, Fall 2007, Ashley got a call from her mother-in-law . She told Ashley that, while in church, she heard God speak to her about Ashley. He told her that Ashley was supposed to open a preschool in Lebanon. While Ashley knew how to teach, she knew nothing about starting a school. So, she tucked the idea away in the back of her mind. But God was after her.
The idea of starting a school kept burning in Ashley's heart and finally, in January of 2008, she sat down and developed a vision, mission and business plan of Sonrise Learning Center. She took the plan to her pastor at Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Lebanon and he agreed that starting a preschool in the church was a good idea. Ashley met with the Cornerstone elders in February and Sonrise Learning Center was approved. At this point, Ashley knew that she needed help.
God led Ashley to speak to Courtney Hershey about helping her run the school. While they attended the same church, Ashley and Courtney didn't know one another well. During their first conversation, Courtney stated that she had just left a job that she loved to stay at home with her two small children. Her oldest child was currently enrolled in a preschool program and Courtney loved what he was doing and learning while at school. It was clear to both women that God had led them down a path that brought them together to form a wonderful friendship and birth Sonrise together!
A Dream Becomes Reality
Sonrise Learning Center officially opened its doors in September 2008. Two classes were offered, a three-year-old class and a Pre-K class. 18 students were enrolled that first year. The 2009-2010 school year led to an increase in enrollment for both classes.
In December of 2010, Courtney expressed that she felt God was leading Sonrise to leave the Cornerstone building and relocate to a bilingual church in the city, Iglesia El Faro. The church was located in a more populated residential area of Lebanon where more families of the city could be reached. After a great deal of prayer, Courtney and Ashley met with the senior pastor's wife in July. As they explained their desire to have Sonrise connect with El Faro, they noticed the pastor's wife was crying. She explained that she had a dream in December that she knew was from the Lord but did not know what it meant. She shared her dream:
There was a river running along the side of the church. Over the river was a bridge that led into the church. Suddenly, the river transformed into a large group of children walking across the bridge into the church.
The pastor's wife explained that God must have been showing her that Sonrise was the way to bring children into the church. At that moment, all three women knew that it was God's plan to have Sonrise relocate to El Faro.
Sonrise Moves to the City
The 2010-2011 school year was the first year at El Faro. The match was perfect since the building that houses El Faro was originally built as a school. Sonrise was blessed by the location and, in 2011-2012, a third day was added to the Pre-K class and a two-year-old class was added. A school board was also formed and Sonrise began the process of becoming a nonprofit organization. As the nonprofit status was approved, so was a new name for the school. The original name of Sonrise Learning Center was changed to Sonrise Academy.
As we enter into our eighth school year, it is amazing to look back and see all that the Lord has done and know that He still has big plans for the future!