by Valerie Malabonga, CDA mom
1. Could you tell us about your time at Coram Deo Academy (CDA)? In what grade did you start? How long were you there? What year did you graduate? Also, could you tell us a bit about your CDA senior thesis topic?
I started in 7th grade, which is the first year CDA was open (I believe in 2007), and I stayed until I graduated in 2014. My senior thesis was on why believers should also read non-Christian literature because of the underlying biblical themes in any great story: good versus evil, sacrificial love, hard work, integrity, etc. I believe my goal was to challenge believers that they can worship the Lord and enjoy spiritual parallels in books that are not expressly Christian, namely The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, and some other examples I have forgotten now. Of course the most important book we must read is the Bible, but my goal was to help believers enjoy good, wholesome stories which reflected their Creator!
2. You are fluent in Italian and taught English in Italy after high school. Did studying at CDA have anything to do with that? Did you have any other jobs after that?
Yes, it did! Learning to memorize Latin vocabulary gave me a tremendous leg up on picking up a new language. CDA also emphasized that repetition and daily study was essential to learning and understanding key principles of math and languages especially. (Now if I always studied daily is another story…)
During my time at CDA I did not work, but immediately after high school and throughout part of college I was a waitress in Fishers.
3. You and your husband own a fitness business, could you tell us about that?
My husband, Luke, and I own a gym in Mooresville, IN, called OutFit. My goal after high school and into college was to become a nurse. After a year and a half on that course, God started to steer me towards another path: personal/group training and health education. While I enjoyed my nursing courses, I realized I was not cut out to be a nurse and the giftings God had given me were more relational and being more on the preventive side of healthcare.
I always had an interest in the human body but did not know much about fitness until I switched my major in college, and starting a business was the last thing on my radar! As my husband and I were gaining experience in health education, we saw a huge need to attempt to merge fitness with faith. Rather than do that at the gym we worked at, God called us away from there and down to Luke’s hometown to start OutFit, and we are coming up on 3 years with the business. We are so thankful to see where it has gone!
4. How and where did you meet your husband, Luke? When did you get married? How is married life so far? Did the people at CDA influence or help you in developing healthy romantic relationships? In what ways?
Luke and I met at IUPUI in 2016; I was a freshman while he was a sophomore. We were on a trip to Florida with Campus Outreach learning how to share the gospel. Married life so far has been fun, challenging, and extremely sanctifying! I would not trade it for the world.
When I was at CDA, especially in the early years, I do not remember dating relationships being encouraged in school. They were by no means off-topic, but it was not the focus of the school. I think since the school was smaller and everyone knew each other, the school attempted to steer clear of drama that would come from breakups, which I am now extremely grateful for. Rather, they heavily emphasized healthy and godly friendships which I believe is important. I also really enjoyed getting to know the spouses of our teachers, and all of the staff were exemplary in how they treated their spouses in a godly manner. (Shoutout to the Hardestys, Grows, Grangers, Gists, and Davies!)
5. Back to CDA, what was your favorite aspect of the school?
I loved being challenged to think for myself, especially through a biblical lens. Because of logic and rhetoric, we were taught much about worldly beliefs and how to spot logical fallacies within them. As someone who is naturally gullible and takes things at face value, this was extremely helpful to learn how to interpret the world through biblical lenses and not just what is fed to me. Now I coach a high school girl taking logic and Latin, and I get to remind her how helpful these subjects will be for her!
6. How do you think your classical Christian education at CDA helped prepare you to be successful in your teaching, college, business, and marriage?
I think above all else, it constantly reminded me to keep Christ at the center of everything. The doctrine of scripture that was sprinkled in our math, science, history and literature classes helped me to see Truth in all subjects. We attempt to be openly Christian at our gym by sharing the Gospel as opportunities arise, and keep the environment wholesome and God-honoring (even for non-believers).
The classical Christian aspect helped me to think of the “why” behind all that I do, and think of my actions as all done before the face of God (“Coram Deo”).
7. Is there anything that stands out about the relationships you developed at CDA? Are you still connected with the people you met at CDA? In what ways? How did your relationships make you the person you are today?
Absolutely! I still keep up with a handful of them, and keep up with the school through my stepbrother & sister-in-law, Patrick and Amy Poer. Since CDA was smaller, it taught me how to befriend people who were different than me, and that you can still have a deep bond without having a ton in common. Keeping Christ at the center of friendships is the best thing for them, and because of that, I have remained friends with several people! I remember everyone at CDA with great fondness and respect, even those I do not see much anymore.
8. CDA’s current “Portrait of a Graduate” highlights the phrases: Contagious Christian, Lifelong Learner, Creative and Critical Thinker, Compelling Communicator, and Legacy Leader. How did CDA help you become any or all of these? In what ways?
The two that stick out to me the most are Lifelong Learner and Critical Thinker. In my senior year at CDA, we took a theology class and I became greatly distressed at a few of the heavier topics. I remember the teacher at the time pulled me aside after class and said, “Even if you don’t understand these topics, you have to start from knowing who Jesus IS.” That has stuck with me all these years, and I know that that conversation with Mr. Hardesty (my theology teacher) was pivotal for my salvation. I was taught that just because I was confused with or did not “like” something in the Bible, going back to square one of knowing that Christ is GOOD is pivotal. I will be forever grateful for that! I still think about deeper questions I have from that lens; it forces me to remember that all of scripture is good because God, the Author, is good.
9. What is next for you or what plans do you have for serving Christ in the world with your gifts?
We are continuing along with our business, OutFit, full-time, and praying for guidance to expand our staff (currently it is just Luke and me). We would love to focus more on the ministry side of that by helping disciple those who engage in our ministry and Bible studies. That keeps us remarkably busy!
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