Roughly 2,000 competitors from about 200 schools will come to the American Association of Christian Schools competition in Greenville next week. This year will mark the 36th year that BJU has hosted the AACS competition on campus.
It wasn’t always this way. Originally the AACS (made up of 38 state or regional associations) began in Florida in the 1970s, according to Jeff Walton, the executive director of the AACS.
Not long after that, BJU requested to host the competitions on campus, making it beneficial to both the University and AACS.
Walton grew up in a pastor’s home and has held jobs in the scholastic world. He graduated with a bachelor of science degree in education from BJU.
In 2009, Walton took over the executive director position for AACS. He travels every year from his office in Tennessee to the nationals in Greenville.
Walton has direct responsibility for the AACS competition, putting him in charge of the awards program and the rest of the staff that travels with him to BJU to assist in the competitions.
Walton and his staff try to plan the big picture of the competitions five years in advance in order to cut down on any last-minute surprises.
When AACS ends this year, Walton will meet with his group and fill in the blanks for next year, planning it down to the details.
Walton and his staff hold meetings to talk about changes made, how they worked out and what changes need to be implemented in the future.
They also look at a 12-month calendar of activities that have to happen before the next year’s competition.
About a month before the event, it’s crunch time. Walton keeps in contact with David Orr, the Welcome Center manager, through the year before, but a few weeks out, Walton and Orr speak with each other as often as six to eight times per day.
“An intense amount of planning and a tremendous amount of coordination take place between the University and AACS leadership,” Walton said. “But having done this for about 35 years, it goes extremely smoothly.”
The national competitions will be held in various locations on campus from Tuesday, April 12 through Thursday, April 14, with an Awards Program held Friday morning.
Walton encourages university students to be welcoming. He said by befriending the visitors and providing guidance to them, university students can largely impact the experience that high school students have.