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North Park Celebrates 20 Years of CHET

North Park University Celebrates the 20th Anniversary of CHET

ORANGE, CA (December 11, 2009) – Laughter and serious reflection were abundant last Saturday during graduation ceremonies for students at the Centro Hispano de Estudios Teológicos (CHET), a subsidiary of North Park University and Theological Seminary.

Eighty-one students received diplomas or certificates during the afternoon service, which was held at the Women’s Club of Orange. The event was attended by North Park President David Parkyn and his wife, professor of Spanish Dr. Linda Parkyn, and was just one part of CHET’s 20th anniversary celebration.

The idea for CHET was birthed in 1985 when Robert Johnston, then provost and dean of the Seminary, began consulting with members of the Evangelical Covenant Church's leadership. “Many Hispanic leaders lacked the formal education, financial resources, and language skills to enter into a traditional college and seminary experience. Yet they were gifted and called by God,” Johnston recalls. "An alternate educational option was necessary. It had to provide quality training at accessible costs and allow them to study in Spanish, the language of their birth and of their ministry context.”

Twenty-five students enrolled in classes the semester the school opened in 1989. Now more than 5,000 students have attended CHET, which has satellite campuses in Chicago, Sand Diego, and Claremont, Calif. More than 700 have graduated from its lay leadership, ministerial, lay family counseling, and bachelor’s of Christian ministry degree programs. During any given semester, students represent at least seventeen Latin American countries and an equal number of denominations and independent churches.

The genesis for the school was the closing of First Covenant Church in Los Angeles. That building was sold and much of the money was used to seed the formation of the school as well as the Hispanic congregation in Bell Gardens. Due to growth in both organizations, today a search is underway to find a permanent home for the school.

Deanna Alarcon, who teaches at CHET’s San Diego campus, provided translation throughout the day and evening. Alarcon’s father was pastor of First Covenant in Los Angeles when the people voted to make that donation.

The anniversary celebration included different styles of Latino music by two groups, including CHET students. Cathy Barsotti, consultant to the CHET president and to the board, presented a print by artist John August Swanson whose art, she said, “reflects the strong heritage of storytelling he inherited from his Mexican mother and Swedish father.” Swanson’s work has been displayed at the Smithsonian Institution and the Art Institute of Chicago. He signed the print, “A Centro Hispano De Estudios Teológicos, con la esperanza por la justicia económica”: To the Hispanic Center for Theological Studies, with hope for economic justice.