Dixon Bethel Christian High School "Crusaders"

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The History of Bethel High School in Dixon

Dixon (population 16,000) is located along the Rock River in Lee County in Northwestern Illinois. Illinois Routes 2, 38, 26 as well as U.S. Route 52 and Interstate 88 all lead you to the "Petunia Capital of the World". The "Overland Route" of the Union Pacific railroad runs through the south part of town and the Illinois Central once did.
 
Educational studies were not too far to find for Dixon residents. In addition to primary education, Dixon was also home to the Rock River Military Academy, Rock River University, Steinman Institute, Dixon Business College, and Northern Illinois State Normal School. 
 
The city is located on both sides of the Rock River, settled on the North side and the South side. The Bethel Evangelical Congregational Church is one of the oldest churches and Dixon, and is currently located on North Court in the north side of Dixon. For many years, the church offered grade school education, and in the late 1970s and early 1980s, talks of expanding its curriculum to offer high school education were in the works.

High school classes started in the church basement in the fall of 1983, before the building of the ministry center. By that time, junior high students from the Faith Christian School (run by the Faith Assembly Church of Grand Detour) began attending Bethel. 

When a new Faith Christian campus opened north of nearby Grand Detour in 1986, the junior high students began attending that school. High school students were moved to Faith from Bethel in 1988, bringing an end to high school education at the Bethel School. A total of 6 graduating classes of seniors earned their diplomas at Bethel Christian High School.

Today, Bethel Evangelical Congregational is a strong supporter of the Faith Christian School, which continues to operate today. The ministry center building which housed the high school students continues to serve the needs of the church.

Bethel High School "Quick Facts"

Year opened:                    1983
Year closed:                     1988
Athletic Team Nickname: "Crusaders"
Team Colors:                    Maroon & Yellow

Athletics
 
The Bethel Christian High School "Crusaders" competed in flag football, girls volleyball, and boys basketball with other Christian schools. Being small in numbers competition with public schools was not attempted. Coaches' were normally parents or interested church members.
 
Extra-Curricular Activities
 
The Bethel student experience included extra-curricular activities like most schools in the area. Choir and art programs were available for the kids to participate in.

Memories & Information provided by Principal Steve Hicks:

"I was the founding principal of Bethel High School which opened in 1983.  Then pastors Robert Zetterburg and Kurt Graff approached me the previous year about starting a Christian high school to piggy back with Faith Christian, then under the principalship of John Novak.  I was, the year before, teaching at Etnyre Middle School in Oregon.  I spent the year of 1982-1983 writing all the policies, curricula, etc., on my trust typewriter and then at the ripe old age of 28,  we opened that fall (1983) to about 23 kids in the basement of the church.  This arrangement lasted two years until we moved into the building behind the church, even though the gym floor was still concrete then.  Unfortunately, pastors Zetterburg and Graff left after the 1st year. Besides being the principal, I was also the athletic director, guidance counselor, development director, and a teacher of 2-3 classes every semester. I decided to move on to resume teaching. I moved to Florida, and went back into full-time teaching.  I've never looked back, although I do think we did a good work in those years. 

We developed an athletic program. I started a flag football program which played on the field behind the parsonage. We had a girls' volleyball program and a boys' basketball program which also competed against other schools.  They were coached by employees and parents who were generously giving of their time.  We had choir programs, art programs, etc. -- most of the same things in "small form" that the public schools had.  We also had a computer lab with Commodore 64s--remember those?  These were purchased at Montgomery Ward's in Dixon.

When we were in the basement, I remember running upstairs twice a period every period for 180 days to ring the existing Sunday School bell to start and end classes.  I also recall selling Florida oranges every year to raise money for extra-curricular things, delivering them around Christmas in snow and cold.

As far as some other key people, Eric Forman was instrumental in building the school; Jerry Virtue was the head of the church board; Romelle Sikula was my very able secretary.  We had a third pastor, Dick Reigle, I think, who was a good guy and supportive of the school.  By the time he'd come, though, it was too late for me.

I'm 65 and have now taught school for 43 years."

If You Have Any More Information...

We are told that Bethel did not offer any athletics, but may have offered other extra-curricular activities. If you have any other information regarding the history of the Bethel School, especially a timeframe of high school offerings, more photos of the school or great clubs you would like to share, please e-mail this web site at ihsgdwebsite@comcast.net