For The Madera Tribune
Pastor Roger Leach.
Madera South High School has chosen Roger Leach, senior pastor of Valley West Christian Center, as grand marshal for its homecoming parade and other pre-game festivities Oct. 14.
He and his wife, Dixie Leach, will ride in the parade. It will start at Stadium Road and Maple Street around 10:15 a.m. and will travel south to Pecan Avenue. He will later receive a plaque and other items before the MSHS game against Sanger High School.
“It’s a great honor to be recognized by Madera South,” said Roger Leach. “We realize that it’s the newest high school in Madera and, being an alumni from Madera High, I’ve tried to basically adopt Madera South as the school I promote. I felt really a kindred spirit with the administrators, teachers and students there.”
Roger Leach, a former teacher, founded Sherman Thomas Charter School, co-founded Sherman Thomas STEM Academy with Jamie Brock, co-founded Sherman Thomas Charter High School with Tera Napier, and founded the Valley West Affordable Housing Non-Profit, which built senior housing complexes in Madera, Hanford, Taft, Richmond, Monrovia and Van Nuys.
The Madera Chamber of Commerce gave him a 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award in August.
Born in 1949 at Dearborn Hospital in Madera, Leach would be active in student government and Future Farmers of America at Madera High School, where he earned the highest degree FFA award – American Farmer. At Fresno State University, he won awards of academic excellence and Outstanding Agricultural Science Graduate in 1971.
He joined the California Army National Guard in 1973 and was awarded the Outstanding Soldier Award during basic training at Fort Knox. He taught agriculture at Tulare High School in 1972, bio-science at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut and agriculture at Merced College between 1973 and 1978. He was honorably discharged in 1978.
“While working in the fields, Roger’s father suffered a heart attack and was unable to continue farming. Roger dropped his teaching career to go back home to manage the farm,” said MSHS activities director Julie Larrivee.
Later on, the church attended by he and his wife needed a new youth pastor, and so they joined the selection committee. He also filled in, ministering to young people, during the search.
“Everybody we looked at who came in for interviews didn’t meet our standards,” Roger Leach said. “Because we loved our youths so much, we were looking for the very best candidate. Either the husband wasn’t exactly right or the wife wasn’t exactly right … Finally somebody told us, ‘Well, why won’t you be the youth pastor?’ I said I can’t do that. I have a farm to take care of ... but after that there was something within me. My wife told me: is this really something we want to be doing for the rest of our life?”
He asked his father for advice, and he proposed they first see if they could sell the farm. They could and did.
“I started working on the high school campuses with Youth For Christ shortly after that and started building a connection with the high school kids at Madera High,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been doing for the last couple of years is working with kids from Madera South in the mentoring program.”
He and his wife would also co-found Valley West.
“Now, 30 years later, Valley West has grown to one of the largest congregations in Madera … Since 1969, Roger has been married to a gifted musician and his best friend, Dixie. She has an incredible ability to lead a congregation into the presence of God. In 1983, Dixie recorded an album of her music with messages still appropriate for people today,” Larrivee said.
He and his wife have two married sons, associated pastor Lance Leach of Valley West and certified public accountant Nick Leach, as well as five grandchildren.
The patriarch of the Leach clan founded Sherman Thomas Charter Schools in 2002 on Valley West’s 25-acre campus. According to the Chamber of Commerce, the land for the church and school were a legacy from his paternal great-uncle Sherman Thomas, whose first wife was Cordelia “Leach” Thomas. The first 10-acre parcel designated for the church became 30 acres when Thomas deeded a neighboring 20 acres to the church.
He serves in the Madera Ministerial Association with projects like “GOT HOPE”, “LOVE MADERA,” Curb Stripe Campaign for Police and First Responders, Adopt A School, Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast Committee and other outreach efforts.
“Roger will be featured on community fliers that will be posted in local business with our homecoming sponsors … If you know Roger or see him around, please congratulate him on this honor,” Larrivee said.