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Mount Dora Christian Academy & Children's Home Appoints New President

York University’s Samuel Smith to join MDCA&CH 

Mount Dora, Florida: Following a nine-month nationwide search, the Board of Trustees of Mount Dora Christian Academy & Children’s Home has selected Dr. Samuel A. Smith, of York, Nebraska, as the organization’s eighth president, effective July 1.

Smith brings a wealth of experience in Christian education and leadership to this position. Most recently, he has served as president of York University in York, Nebraska, a role he began in 2020. Among his accomplishments there, he led the completion of the most extensive fundraising campaign in York’s history, surpassing set targets and securing vital resources for the university’s growth. Under his guidance, York experienced its highest total student enrollment, a testament to Smith’s strategic vision and effective leadership. He also oversaw significant infrastructure developments, including the transition of York College to York University, the acquisition of a new residence hall, and the construction of a state-of-the-art wrestling facility.

Prior to his role at York, he dedicated 19 years of service to Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, holding various leadership positions of increasing responsibility. He began his tenure at Lipscomb as assistant resident hall director and campus minister, later serving as resident life director, associate dean of students, and dean of student life. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Bible and Master of Biblical Studies degree from Lipscomb and Doctor of Education degree from Union University. 

Beyond academia, Smith has been actively engaged in ministry, serving in various capacities within churches. He is a former youth minister at Homestead Church of Christ in Florida and Central Church of Christ in Tennessee. His community engagement includes memberships in Rotary Club, York County Development Corporation, and York County Chamber of Commerce.

MDCA&CH Board Chair John Starling believes Smith’s commitment to fostering academic excellence and spiritual development makes him an ideal leader to guide the organization into a new era of growth and impact.

“We are thrilled about Dr. Smith becoming our next president,” says Starling.  “I am confident that his love for the Lord and passion for Christian education will continue our legacy of cultivating faith-driven world changers.”

As he steps into his new role, Smith looks forward to impacting students and the broader community through collaboration, innovation, and a steadfast commitment to the mission of MDCA&CH. 

Says Smith, “I am deeply inspired by the legacy of those who have come before me and the dedication of our faculty, staff, students, and supporters. Personally and professionally, I aspire to fulfill Paul’s command found in Ephesians 5:1: ‘Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children.’ I desire to see our entire campus committed to imitating God in the classroom, on the field, in the arts, in our relationships, and throughout our community to give our neighbors a glimpse of the Kingdom through our actions. 

“As we embark on this journey together, I am filled with optimism for the future of Mount Dora Christian Academy & Children's Home. I am also keenly aware of the responsibility entrusted to me, and I pledge to uphold the values and principles that have long defined this institution. Together, we will continue to prioritize academic rigor, faith development, character development, and compassionate care for all members of our community.”

Smith and his family, which includes his college sweetheart and wife of 23 years, Lisa, and their three children, Brooklyn, Bear, and Boden, will relocate to Mount Dora following the end of the academic year at York. Dr. James W. Carr, who has served as MDCA&CH president for the 2023-2024 school year, will assist with the transition.

A welcome reception will be held later this summer, with a formal inauguration planned for August — dates and times to be determined.

Media Contact:

Jenn Marcussen, Director of Public Relations

Mount Dora Christian Academy



Four Mount Dora Christian Academy students have earned the AP Seminar and Research Certificate and are currently working toward completing the AP Capstone Diploma. 

Saran Alexander, Maisey Anderson, Jordan Graves, and Ethan Priest have all earned scores of 3 or higher in both AP Seminar and AP Research. Rather than teaching subject-specific content, these courses develop students’ skills in research, analysis, evidence-based arguments, collaboration, writing, and presenting. 

Students who complete the two-year program can earn one of two different AP Capstone awards, which are valued by colleges across the United States and around the world.

To earn the AP Capstone Diploma, they must earn scores of 3 or higher on four additional exams, which will be administered in May. Participating in AP Capstone can help students stand out to colleges, become independent thinkers, and develop key academic skills.

Congratulations to these four outstanding students @mdcacademy!

Read below for more about MDCA's AP accomplishments.

Harding University’s Dr. Keith Schramm joins science faculty for spring 2024

Mount Dora, Florida: Mount Dora Christian Academy is proud to announce the launch of its Scholar-in-Residence initiative, designed to provide students with unparalleled access to academic expertise and real-world knowledge taught from a Christian worldview. This innovative program aims to bridge the gap between high school and higher education by bringing distinguished educators and successful men and women into the MDCA community to engage, inspire, and mentor our students.

Dr. Keith Schramm will join the MDCA faculty as the first scholar for the spring 2024 semester. He comes to us from Searcy, Arkansas, where he taught for 30 years in Harding University’s Chemistry and Biochemistry Department. He holds a Ph.D. in science education from Western Michigan University and has been a member of both the American Chemical Society and the National Association for Research in Science Teaching. He will be teaching chemistry.

“We are very excited to have Dr. Schramm join us as our first Scholar-in-Residence,” said MDCA Head of School Keith O’Neal. “We believe our students will benefit from the scientific expertise and perspective Dr. Schramm will provide and look forward to having him on campus.”

The Scholar-in-Residence program is a testament to MDCA’s mission of educating, equipping, and empowering students to love God and others, pursue excellence, and impact our world. It will offer unique opportunities for students to interact with accomplished individuals across disciplines who will bring their expertise, passion, and insight to the learning experience.

Key features of the program will include the following:

  1. Professors and successful individuals from a variety of disciplines, including science, mathematics, communications, business, and Bible and missions

  2. Guest lectures that expose students to current research topics to inspire their intellectual curiosity

  3. Mentorship and the opportunity for students to work closely with experts as they explore academic interests

  4. Career guidance and community engagement to help students make informed decisions about future educational and professional pursuits

About Mount Dora Christian Academy: Established in 1945, MDCA currently serves 800 students from preschool through grade 12. We believe in the power of a Christ-centered community to cultivate faith-driven world changers. Building on our legacy of faith and service, we educate, equip, and empower our community to love God and others, pursue excellence, and impact our world. The fulfillment of our mission can be seen in our 2023 graduates, who earned $4.8 million worth of scholarships and logged more than 8,500 hours of community service.

Each year, the Advanced Placement Program recognizes high school students who have demonstrated outstanding college-level achievement through their performance on multiple AP Exams. 

Twelve MDCA students were recognized as AP Scholars this fall: Saran Alexander, Maisey Anderson, Elijah Atwood (Class of 2023), Emma Ferebee (Class of 2023), Jordan Graves, Allison Horsford (Class of 2023), Rachel Horsford, Gabriella Llano, Dillon Mancauskas, Ethan Priest, Dakota Williams, and Jomar Yournet (Class of 2023).

To qualify for the AP Scholar award, a student must earn a 3 or higher on three or more AP Exams.

Read below to learn more about MDCA's achievements in the AP Program.

Minds on fire: MDCA recognized by AP Program for igniting academic excellence

Every fall, the Advanced Placement Program recognizes high school students who have demonstrated outstanding college-level achievement through their performance on multiple AP Exams. This year, the program has also begun recognizing successful schools that have met criteria anchored in research-based relationships between AP and college outcomes.

This year, Mount Dora Christian Academy met two significant criteria set out by AP and the College Board.

The first of these is College Culture. To meet this criteria, 40 percent or more of the graduating class must take at least one AP Exam during high school. MDCA earned the Silver Level in this category, with 59 percent taking at least one AP Exam.

The Academy was also recognized for College Optimization. To meet this standard, at least 2 percent of the graduating class must take five or more AP Exams during high school. At least one of the exams must be taken in ninth or tenth grade so that students are spreading the AP experience across grades rather than having the pressure to complete them all in one year. MDCA earned the highest-level award, Platinum, for having 17 percent of the 2023 graduating class take at least five AP Exams.

The AP Program, administered by the College Board, offers college-level courses and exams for high school students. The advantages of AP include earning college credit and placement, saving time and money, helping students stand out to colleges, and helping students keep their college and career options open.

MDCA School Counselor Amanda Nunez further explains, “Taking AP classes allows high school students to demonstrate success with the highest academic rigor available to them. This is important for the college application process as it shows universities that our students are successful in college-level coursework, including skills such as analyzing, synthesizing, and writing. Students can also earn college credit hours by earning a passing score on the AP Exams each May, which will save them time and money later on in college.”

The Academy currently offers 10 AP classes on campus. Students also have access to additional courses through MDCA’s partnerships with Ethos School and FLVS. To learn more about AP, visit