The history of Cariboo Adventist Academy begins in the camps of lumberjacks working in the Cariboo. Beginning in 1954, Dan Basaraba and the Jacobson brothers were involved in setting up lumber camps and sawmills in areas around the Cariboo, such as Beaver Valley, Williams Lake, and Horsefly. As Seventh-day Adventists, they kept the Sabbath, and therefore, so did their businesses. The ability to work a job that did not require breaking the Sabbath attracted many other Adventists to their businesses, as well as their families, and soon there were children in need of instruction.
Church schools were opened up on an as needed basis. In 1956, a one-room school was opened up at the Basaraba lumber camp, taught by Alice Jewkes. Also in 1956, after evangelistic efforts, C.S. Cooper helped found the first Seventh-day Adventist church in Williams Lake. The new church met in a rented facility, where they also operated a school; Ethel Sawchuk taught in that first one-room school in Williams Lake, for the 1956-57 school year.
In the next few years, schools operated intermittently in Williams Lake, the Basaraba Lumber camp, and at the Jacobson Brothers Camp in Beaver Valley, moving around as needed. Students at the logging camps had limited electricity, but that didn't stop them from having fun: they enjoyed bobsledding down the slopes on cold winter weekends. A school building was constructed in Williams Lake in 1958, on 7th and Pinchbeck Avenue. Classes were offered at that school building for the 1959-60 school year, after which the schools were moved back to the logging camps.
As the years wore on, many of the members started moving away from the rural areas and into Williams Lake itself. In 1961, the other schools closed and the Williams Lake school was opened for good, with Angus Campbell leading a one-room school, now named the Cariboo Seventh-day Adventist Church School. By 1962, the school had already grown to require two teachers; one of the new arriving teachers was Ina Yarema, who would go on to teach at CAA for much of the next five decades.
The school continued to grow. In 1967, church members volunteered their Sundays to build a wooden fence around the school. In 1968, the school expanded to add a third classroom, and in 1969 a fourth classroom was added, with the school being granted authorization to offer grade 10. The limitations of the current school location became apparent, and plans were made to find a new property on which to build a larger school. A 6.44 acre location was selected on the south shore of Williams Lake, on a hill that overlooked the city and lake.
After construction completed, Cariboo Adventist Junior Academy opened on January 31, 1971. The mayor cut the ribbon, while representatives from the Canadian Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists reported witnessing “one of Canada’s finest church schools in location, building, and educational philosophy.” The new school began as an open school concept, with four main classrooms surrounding a resource area and office, without walls. 70 students attended that first year in the new school.
The school expanded quickly. In 1975, construction began on an addition to the classroom building, to house a home economics classroom, a woodworking classroom, and a small gymnasium, which was completed in 1977. That same year, students were asked if they would be willing to attend for grade 11 and 12, and soon Cariboo was a full K-12 academy, with its first grade 12 graduating class of five students receiving their diplomas in 1979. One of the members of that first graduating class was Warren Friesen, who would go on to teach at Cariboo Adventist Academy for the next four decades. In light of the addition of a full high school program, the school was renamed and given its current moniker of Cariboo Adventist Academy.
With the need to convert the mini-gym into an industrial arts learning centre, there arose a need for a new gym building. In 1982, plans for the new gym building were laid, as well as new classrooms for the high school program, a kitchen, a cafeteria, and storage rooms. Many volunteers from the community came to help build the new gym. On October 29, 1987, the new gym was officially opened, with a large celebration where the band played, the choir sang, and a gymnastics team entertained guests.
Music has been an important part of Cariboo Adventist Academy from the beginning. In 1972, the grade 3 choir went to the Kiwanis festival, receiving high marks and winning 2nd place. In 1975, the young grade 3-5 students were involved in a choir known as the “Royalaires,” travelling around to nearby churches, hospitals, and nursing homes, bringing cheer to everyone they sang for.
A band program was added soon after. Both the band and choir went on frequent trips, including an annual long tour to many diverse places in British Columbia and Alberta. Not only did they travel, but they played at a high level as well, with both the band and choir winning first place in several Cariboo Music and Arts festivals throughout the 1980s. CAA students are frequent participants in local music festivals, and at music festivals across British Columbia and Alberta.
Service has also been an important part of Cariboo’s history. In the 1960s, Cariboo students produced radio programs that were broadcast across the Cariboo. In 1978, CAA students went on their first mission trip, to Belize, where they helped build a service building at a church school in Corozal, Belize. Students would go on several mission trips to Mexico in the 1990s, where they helped build an orphanage.
Sports are an important part of CAA’s past and present. Intramurals were serious competitions for students in the 1980s and 1990s, as students competed with each other in hockey and volleyball. In that same period, a gymnastics team travelled around the province putting on shows featuring tumbling and acrobatic routines, while promoting a healthy drug-free life.
Since the 1990s, Cariboo Adventist Academy has regularly featured in CASA (Canadian Adventist School Athletics) tournaments, visiting Kelowna, Burnaby, Abbotsford, and Alberta, annually for flag football and volleyball tournaments, winning a few titles in the process. Cariboo also once hosted a volleyball tournament every year, and currently hosts annual local interschool volleyball and basketball tournaments. Cariboo’s sports teams are known for the high level they play at, while maintaining an even higher level of sportsmanship; and travel each year to tournaments across British Columbia, Alberta, and Washington State.
Today Cariboo Adventist Academy continues to operate on its campus just south of the lake, serving students across the Cariboo region, offering an excellent student-teacher ratio, high quality academics, an inclusive environment, and diverse extracurriculars, so that every child can receive a preparation for life.
Elementary class photo, 1976-77
Students playing floor hockey, 1993-94
Drama club, 1991-92
Praise band, 2011-12
Staff of the CAA Reflections, our school yearbook, 1977-78
Volunteers helping lay the floor of the new gym, 1985
CAA Band, 1995-96
Mission trip to Hogar de Refugio Infantil, Mexico, 1996
Tumbling team at the Grand Opening of the new gym, 1987
The Royalaires choir, 1970s