Meet Jeff Smith.
Jan 29, 2016.
Jeff SmithJeff is a Cascade dad. A businessman in our community. A Godly man. And a faithful volunteer and supporter of Grace Cascade Christian Schools.

When we approached Jeff Smith about using his story in our new blog category for our website, “Face of Grace Cascade”, he was a little hesitant. You see, Jeff’s main desire is to talk about the students. Specifically our middle school and high school Brain Bowl teams. He sees these 27 students put in hours and hours of their personal time to practice and perfect their skills to complete in academic competitions against other middle school and high school students throughout our valley, and he wants to make sure they receive the recognition that they deserve. (See side bar to learn more about Brain Bowl.)

So yes, brain bowl is a really awesome thing and we do like to talk about it. But we also want to talk about Jeff.

Jeff Smith is the owner of a mini-storage business. Because he has great employees that manage the day-to-day operations of his business, he is freed up to volunteer at Grace Christian School and to do other interests. Last year while volunteering in Miss Debby Swope’s classroom, she asked him if he could help her by going to Cascade Christian High School and assist with the coaching of the Brains in Black (brain bowl) team to help them prepare for their tournament at the end of February. Miss Swope has been the middle school brain bowl coach for several years. In 2014, she was asked to coach the newly formed high school brain bowl team as well. Trying to coach two teams at the same time on two different campuses was a difficult feat, so to have Jeff’s willingness to come alongside her last year as an assistant coach was an answer to prayer. Jeff had such a great time, he offered to return this year to assist again with the high school team.

“I had so much fun working with them (high school brain bowl team) so of course I volunteered to do it again this year. It’s very rewarding to me because I get to hang out with a great group of kids who constantly make me laugh because they are so full of life and they are working hard to accomplish something that only a few people get to do. It’s awesome to be around them!”

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High School Brain Bowl team practicing during lunch.

Jeff is also helping with Miss Swope’s 7th graders as they are carving chess sets to be auctioned off at the school’s benefit auction. In addition, he assists with grading papers and does whatever is needed to be done in the classroom.

When not helping in the classroom and coaching Brain Bowl, he is busy working with our auction coordinator as a member of the Auction Procurement Team. Jeff, with his friendly smile, has visited several establishments throughout the valley, procuring donations to be auctioned off at the annual Benefit Auction in April. And if that isn’t enough to keep him busy, Jeff has graciously offered his help with planning and preparing for his daughter’s 8th Grade Promotion which takes place in June.

Why, you may ask, does he volunteer so many hours of his day to the school? Here is his answer:

“I love doing these things because it helps me stay connected with my daughter’s class since I’ve been helping in the classrooms since she was in 3rd grade. These kids are pretty special to me and I love being around them.”

When Jeff is not helping at the school he is woodworking as a hobby or enjoying a ride on his Harley. Jeff has had young people come to his wood shop where he has taught them how to carve and has even assisted a group of young boys in building a project. Jeff dreams of having a bigger shop someday where he can work with more kids and help them experience the satisfaction of making something with their own hands.

So yes, Jeff did let us talk about him, with conditions:

“If it brings more light to our students and the Brains in Black Team I’m all for it! I also hope it will encourage other parents to get involved and help use their God given gifts to help all our kids.”

On behalf of Grace Cascade Christian Schools we say, “Thank you Jeff Smith”. Thank you for your heart for the Lord, your desire to see kids succeed, and for your practical help as well. Volunteers like you, who provide a black bone to support our students and our programs, are what makes Grace Cascade a unique place that feels like “home”.[/two_thirds][one_third_last]

EXPLAIN BRAIN BOWL

For those who may not be familiar, Brain Bowl is an academic competition – much like Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit. Two schools compete against each other at one time. A moderator asks questions from categories such as literature, sports, geography, mathematics, etc., and the team, comprised of 5 members, who buzzes in first receives 2 points if they answer the question correctly. If they do not answer correctly, they lose a point and the opposing team has a chance to answer for 1 point. After a pre-determined number of questions have been asked, the team with the most points is considered the winner of that round. The school with the most wins of two out of three rounds is considered the winner of the match. The questions are provided to the moderator each week by Southern Oregon University (SOU), who oversees Brain Bowl through their Pre-College/Youth Programs.

At the middle school level, the competitive season runs from January 11 to March 18. And just like a sports team, they can qualify for District championships and then possibly move on to higher levels of competition. Grace Christian has been blessed with several years of competition success under the coaching of Grace Christian middle school teacher, Miss Swope. Last year they went into the Semi-Finals undefeated. In 2010, one of our Grace Christian middle school teams even competed at the national level in New Orleans!

This year we have twelve students on the Grace Christian Middle School Brain Bowl team. As of this date, they are undefeated with three wins.

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Middle School Brain Bowl team preparing for competition.

The Cascade Christian High School team is comprised of fifteen students who practice several lunch periods each week – giving up social time – and even come in at 6:30 AM on Wednesdays to practice with the middle school team. Now that is dedication! Unlike the weekly competitions that the middle school team has, the high school meets for one all-day tournament on the SOU campus. This year our varsity and junior-varsity teams will compete Saturday, February 27. High School Brain Bowl does not take into account the size of the school, so they are competing against large schools such as North and South Medford and Ashland High School, as well as schools similar in size, such as St. Mary’s. The top four teams from the tournament will compete in the semi-finals live on television. The winner of the semi-finals will than compete in the final, also televised on the same day.

Cascade Christian began competing in high school Brain Bowl two years ago and advanced to the semi-finals in both 2014 and 2015.