On May, 30, 2010 Elisa Siofele Young, superintendent of education for the Southeastern Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, succumbed to breast cancer, in Los Angeles, CA., while undergoing treatment.
Elisa was born in Pago Pago, American Samoa on June 22,1945 to Pastor Papu and Fa’auliulitoaletuimanu’a Siofele. The third of nine children and the oldest daughter, she attended elementary and high school in American Samoa and Suva, Fiji.
She received a Bachelor’s in Mathematics from Union College, of Lincoln, Neb., and a Master’s in Educational Administration from Loma Linda University, of Loma Linda, Calif.
Elisa served as the fifth superintendent of education for southeastern, from 2004 to 2010.
“Southeastern education thrived under her able leadership,” said Hubert Morel Jr., Southeastern Conference president, “She took it to a higher level.”
During her tenure as superintendent, Southeastern attained a 100 percent teacher certification status for the first time in its 31 year history. For four consecutive years, Southeastern was the only conference of the eight conferences that comprise the Southern Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists to hold this distinction.
She achieved this by implementing the SEC Teacher Institute, a partnership between Southeastern and the Oakwood University School of Education, of Huntsville, Ala., which was held at Southeastern.
Prior to the implementation of the institute, in-service teachers seeking to maintain certification would spend the summer at either to Oakwood or Southern Adventist University, of Collegedale, Tenn.
The process was an inefficient one. Many courses needed for certification were offered on a two to four year rotation.
By evaluating the transcripts of teachers, Elisa was able to design a course schedule based upon the certification needs of the teachers. Under her leadership, Southeastern was the only conference in the Southern Union that did not experience a decline in student enrollment during the recession. In fact student enrollment increased and she increased the number of schools in Southeastern by three.
In 2005 she created a resource instructor position to develop innovative educational programs, provide educational support and enhance science and math education in Southeastern.
One such program was the annual Southeastern Conference Conference-wide Science Fair Competition.
Elisa understood the importance of providing opportunities for students to experience and embrace science and math and not shy away from pursuing careers in these areas. Believing that all children should be taught of the Lord, Elisa instituted the Southern Union Early Childhood Program. Prior to this time, Education in Southeastern focused on K thru 12 education.
While many churches within Southeastern had Early Childhood Education Programs in place, her move to implement early childhood education in Southeastern meant that these programs would have to follow the guidelines of the Southern Union, which included the use of a Christian based curriculum.
“Elisa was the finest superintendent in the Southern Union,“ said Conrad Gill, Superintendent of Education for Southern Union. Prior to serving as superintendent of education, Elisa served as a missionary in African, a teacher and principal at the Mt. Calvary SDA School, of Tampa, Fla., a principal at Miami Union Academy, of North Miami, Fla., a principal and early childhood center director at Elim SDA School, of St. Petersburg, Fla., and associate superintendent for the Southeastern Conference.
Elisa was an advocate for Adventist Education. One could often hear say, “Adventist education does not cost, it pays.” She not only promoted Adventist Education, she lived it. Each of her four daughters are products of Adventist Education. Tonya is a medical doctor, Trina is an educator, Teresa is a physical therapist and Dora is an attorney.
She is survived by a beloved husband, Pastor Theus Young; Children: Tonya Young-Henley, M.D. and her husband Robert Jr., Trina Bowden and her husband Remelus, Teresa Young and Elisa “Dora” Young, J.D.; Grandchildren: Samara Bowden, Robert Henley III, Taimane’ Henley, Brenden Henley, Remelus Bowden II; Sisters: Chief Leilali Lockhart, Dorcas Togafau; Brothers: Filiupu Siofele, Chief Faumina Siofele, Pastor Willie Siofele, Pastor JoeSiofele, Pastor Freddie Afereti, and Pastor Sato Siofele.
She also leaves behind scores of aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews who will miss her greatly.