MODESTO – There it was right there practically in his backyard.
Tucked away along the furthest recesses of Sisk Road stood the complexes of Modesto Christian. The school wasn’t particularly large, and it didn’t have the widespread reputation that other parochial schools – like Ripon Christian on the other side of the Stanislaus River or Central Catholic on the other side of the freeway – enjoy.
And when Phil Waterford’s son, Eric, decided to transfer there as a student, it wasn’t so much for the in-class instruction but the school’s status as one of the premiere sports powerhouse programs in Northern California.
It worked. Eric Waterford ended up parlaying his experience there into a scholarship to a Division 1 men’s basketball program in the Pacific Northwest. But for his father the experience at the school helped reinforce the ideas that he and wife had tried to instill in their children from an early age.
“I think that the small-school atmosphere kind of had that family like feel to it and it provided good overall direction to the students and added an element of theology that I thought was important,” he said. “That wasn’t the primary reason that he chose Modesto Christian, but it presented the basics and the fundamentals about good, sound clean living – the sorts of things that my wife Rose and I have been trying to teach our boys their entire lives.
“It was a good experience for him and a good experience for us.”
Making the jump to a school like Modesto Christian was easy for Eric. He was already involved in church, and his parents praised the concepts that would be taught in the classroom even when he was away from school. His father credits that experience with keeping him focused when he got to college.
“It was a really smooth transition because a lot of the things that he heard were like echoes,” Waterford said. “They were the sorts of things that he was hearing at home and that provided a great sense of consistency. I think that consistency made a big difference as he himself prepared to move forward into the world.”
His younger brother Brandon followed suit and spent the end of his junior high years on the campus. He would eventually transfer to a Modesto public high school – something of his choice – which didn’t make Waterford flinch in the slightest.
As long as his children get the dose of family and faith that they need elsewhere, he said, the in-class instruction can come from anywhere.
In fact, his oldest son Phil Waterford Jr. attended Sierra High School in Manteca and based on his time there, Waterford said that he could have just as easily seen himself pulling out his checkbook and paying for his education based on what he got out of it.
“When you talk about a private school certainly there’s an expense that’s associated with it,” Waterford said. “But I would have paid for Phil to have gone to Sierra High as well. We have good teachers here that are just good if not better than what you’ll find at a private Christian school. I think that they serve the students well, and at the end of the day that’s all that you’re looking for.”