God’s School, God’s Way
Tree of Life’s Mission to Spread the GospelJuly 28, 2023
The shovel felt heavy with the weight of significance. Todd Marrah, superintendent of Tree of Life Christian Schools, and his mother, the school’s founder, posed for a picture on the dry dirt of what would become their fifth campus.
“We have held this sentiment dear from day one of the school’s founding,” Marrah shared. “That this is God’s school, and that we are committed to loving as many kids as possible into loving Jesus—whatever it takes.”
The college prep school, started nearly 44 years ago, serves a diverse population of students in Columbus, Ohio. “We have 1,000 students that represent a variety of backgrounds, ethnicities, churches, and socioeconomic statuses—and they are all thriving together,” Marrah said.
In fact, 50 percent of students that attend Tree of Life are able to do so thanks to government vouchers. Three hundred of the school’s students are at 200 percent of poverty or less.
“Students represent 250 different churches, 25 different nations and 59 different zip codes,” Marrah said. “Our heartbeat is to raise kids to love Jesus and each other. We can see God moving in the lives of those students who came to us from public schools.”
One former student, Walter Blanks Jr., came to Tree of Life in middle school on a voucher after having nearly failed in an under-resourced public school.
After plugging into the school community, Walter truly flourished. He graduated from Tree of Life in 2014 and went on to serve as a national spokesperson for American Federation for Children, championing educational freedom.
“When I first stepped into the doors at Tree, my mother knew it was going to be a lifesaver,” he reflected. “I wasn’t entirely convinced at first, but I was also a teenager who thought jean shorts were a good idea!”
Walter felt that the school community itself helped him not only to survive his teenage years, but to thrive throughout them.
“My years at Tree were transformative. I came into the school multiple grades behind, and the staff quickly got me caught up. I played sports, multiple instruments, and even had the chance to visit Europe. Tree of Life exposed me to a life that was no longer about survival but thriving in all areas of life. I am so thankful for the people that have brought me along the way to ensure that I become everything God has created me to be. Without Tree, I have no idea where I would be or what I would be doing. I am extremely grateful!”
True success stories like Walter’s are plentiful. Some graduates have even gone on to attend prestigious universities like Princeton and New York University.
The school’s leadership remains passionately committed to fostering a culture that is “Jesus centered and student focused.”
Their Life Care Office, a unique team of trained professionals, exists to help meet the social, emotional, and spiritual health needs of all students.
“The ACSI Accreditation visiting team highlighted our Life Care Office as a strength,” Marrah shared. “The Care staff members are available, engaged, and committed to helping students who are struggling. The kids line up at their door because they know the staff are relational and love Jesus. They are there to help students navigate the challenging waters of today’s culture.”
The school’s leadership is also committed to creating an environment that is conducive to spiritual development.
“We only hire highly relational staff and teachers who understand that it’s their job to be in relationship with Jesus and with kids,” Marrah said. “We believe all spiritual transformation happens in relationship.”
The school employs spiritual assessment tools every year for grades 7-12.
“We also utilize Dr. Milt Uecker’s questions that evaluate the elementary school atmosphere and environment to see if it’s conducive to spiritual formation,” Marrah said. “I believe you can meaningfully evaluate the culture and environment to see if it’s conducive to the work of the spirit.”
As the school prepares to open its fifth campus, Marrah looks forward to embracing any opportunities for growth on the horizon.
“We would have never told you that we’d be 1,000 students on five campuses, but we want to help as many kids as possible hear the gospel and be discipled in a Christian school,” he shared.
“The Lord is providing for His heart to serve more kids from every demographic. And we are watching Him provide out of his heart. We are building two new additions—they’re completely paid for. Donors have supported this vision as well as the local church. Our vision is that more students will get out of the government schools and into Christian schools.”
To learn more about Tree of Life Christian Schools, visit their website.