90-Second Stories: We all need a push

When I see graduates like Nate coming back to mentor younger students, it makes my heart sing.

Nate is a young man who entered Hope Academy like most middle schoolers: not quite sure of who he could be. Through the deep care of teachers, classmates and mentors, God is developing Nate’s potential as a leader–and opening his eyes to a whole new world of opportunities in the trades.

Isn’t that what we all need–a community of people to call out and cultivate the best in us? I can think of few investments more rewarding than that.

Soon we’ll be welcoming 500 students whose lives are in the balance, and whose futures are still being written. Would you consider how you might put your arm around one student like Nate this school year?

We’re excited and expectant to see how the Lord will provide prayer warriors, volunteers, and financial partners for our students this school year. Don’t miss out on the joy!

Volunteers Wanted!


Come Visit!

For many people, summer is a season to relax and head to the lake. At Hope Academy, it’s a tipping point.

Much research shows that, while summer learning loss is common, it hits low-income students the hardest–compounding the academic achievement gap year after year.

That’s why Hope Academy requires 4 weeks of summer school for every student, K-8. And it’s making an impact.

Last year, Hope Academy 4th-6th graders made slight gains in math and reading from May to October, while national averages show students backsliding in both subjects.

In addition to more time on task in math and reading, summer school offers our students a rich variety of opportunities to grow through hands-on learning and exploration.

“Summer is an extra special time to enjoy fun things like field trips, more exploratory projects and focused learning modules in the classroom,” says 1st grade teacher Mrs. Look. “I love the extra time with the students!”

In short, summer school is a game-changer for our students.

Thank you to every teacher, parent, volunteer, and donor who helped to make this year’s summer school possible–and a special thanks to our partners at Inverted Arts, Junior Achievement BizTown, and the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation for their generous hand in its success.




Hats off to Hope Academy’s Class of 2018

There is an undeniable grace over the Class of 2018.

God has restored lives that appeared lost to gangs and drugs. He has softened hearts that seemed hardened beyond repair. For children the world calls fatherless, poor, and disadvantaged, He has cast a greater vision for a hopeful future.

“There is so much that we have learned as a class, but the one thing that God has shown us that no other being, idea, or person could show us better, is humility. This is how we should live, with humility, understanding first that God is in control of every situation, and enabling His plans to take control of our lives.”
– Kenneth Granados, Class of 2018


Kenneth Granados, ActSix recipient


Taron Busby, Summer Bridge recipient


While troubling opportunity gaps persist locally and nationally, praise God for enabling our students to beat the odds:

  • Kenneth Granados, a first-generation college student, received a four-year, full-tuition, full-need ActSix scholarship to attend the University of Northwestern-St. Paul.
  • Taron Busby was awarded a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to Augsburg University through their Summer Bridge program.
  • Jose Castillo, a first-generation college student, received a highly-competitive, four-year, full-ride scholarship through QuestBridge to attend Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Other graduates are pursuing employment, community and technical colleges, internships, missions, and four-year universities.


Thank you for your support in making hope happen. By God’s grace, it is making a life-changing difference for our students.


Praise God! College Students Receive Full-Rides

This month, Hope Academy students Jose Castillo, Tian Elder, and Kenneth Granados were each awarded full-tuition, full-need, four-year college scholarships through the Act Six program for emerging urban leaders.


Jose Castillo, Hope Academy Class of 2018, will attend the University of Northwestern-St. Paul (UNWSP) this fall. Jose is considering becoming a physician assistant (PA). “I want to use my money wisely and bless others like I’ve been blessed.”


God is doing amazing things in Tian Elder, Class of 2017, North Central University. Click to see what his teacher and mom say.

Kenneth Granados, Class of 2018, UNWSP. Kenneth is pursuing nursing and missions. “I’m nothing but grateful.”


Jose is the second in his family to receive this scholarship. His sister Shania, who graduated from Hope in 2015, is currently a junior at Northwestern.

“As Latinos raised by a single mom in an urban setting, the chances of both my sister and I going to college — let alone receiving full rides — was really small,” said Jose. “But God made it happen.”

These students are soon to join Hope Academy’s 81 graduates who together have received millions of dollars in college scholarships.

More importantly, though, I am so encouraged by the spiritual maturity and perseverance these young men demonstrate. To see our students seeking God in trade school, college, employment, and family gives me great hope.

On behalf of Jose, Tian, Kenneth, and their families, thank you to each person who has volunteered, prayed, and financially supported their flourishing at Hope Academy. You are making a world of difference.

With joy,

Russ Gregg
Co-Founder & Head of School


Lemuel Haynes

People Spotlight – Lemuel Haynes

The following is an article based on the book, “Lemuel Haynes Biography,” by Pastor Luke Walker of Redeeming Cross Community Church in Minneapolis, MN:

It’s 1753 and our friend Olaudah Equiano is still a happy child in Africa. We’re in West Hartford, Connecticut, North American colonies. Jonathan Edwards is finishing his course, the free sons of Columbia are waxing warm against the Crown, and slavery and racism cast their shadow over much of American life. This was Lemuel Haynes’ world. He was born strategically in time, wedged as it were between these influences, pressed by them into a diamond-tipped iron stylus, and destined to inscribe HOLY TO THE LORD on the souls of men.

As to the spec sheets, Lemuel Haynes was a profoundly gifted preacher with wits of steel. He was the first African American pastor to be ordained by a North American denomination and was probably the first to pastor an all-white congregation. He was an American Revolutionary, Abolitionist, Calvinist, Puritan, and Federalist.

He was the Black Republican long before Nas and Jay-Z put their first rhymes together. He was the ebony Puritan centuries before the modern resurgence of Reformed Theology among urban hip hop heads. The woke memes your Facebook friends post have never mentioned him, and yet he was 200 years ahead of his time. He refuses to play nice with our neat little modern categories of race, politics, and religion. He was the American Black Puritan. He bled red, white, and blue and fought for an America to come. Take up and read for yourself and learn the true history and—would to God, were it possible even now—future of this nation.

But above all, Lemuel Haynes took up the sword of God’s word and swung it valiantly for the kingdom of Christ. He lands squarely on the right side of history. God’s mightiest servants all seem to have their glaring faults, and yet, we confess the struggle to find any scandal whatsoever in his life, other than the scandal his very existence was and still is to America’s hypocritical history. Soon, very soon, Lemuel Haynes will have his vindication from God. Will you join the rowdiest black preacher America has yet produced on the side of Christ? For his kingdom is swift in coming. He will right every wrong and bring every act into judgment.

“It was reliance on the merits of the Saviour that supported me. Had I a thousand souls, I would venture them on him.”Lemuel Haynes

Lisa Fields

People Spotlight – Lisa Fields

Lisa Fields is the founder and President of Jude 3 Project, which is an apologetics organization dedicated to helping the African American Christian community to know what they believe and why.

One aspect, of the project that has gained a lot of traction, is their podcast. She hosts the program that welcomes expert guests who often tackle difficult subjects relating to current events and onerous religious topics.

After graduating with a Master of Divinity in Theology, Lisa boldly entered into a male-dominated area of Christian Ministry – Christian Apologetics. She is an important figure in Christianity at this time, due to her passion for making the Word of God known in the African American community. She acknowledges the need for apologetics to be taught in a way that is relevant to those in that community, which has not been done so in the past.

In this podcast episode, Lisa hosts Dr. Howard-John Wesley, as they discuss Apologetics in the Black Church.

Olaudah Equiano

People Spotlight – Olaudah Equiano

The following is an article is based on the book, “Olaudah Equiano Biography,”  by Pastor Luke Walker of Redeeming Cross Community Church in Minneapolis, MN:

History attaches great names to great movements. And yet there remain names whose renown, though great when these movements actually passed upon the stage of history, are blurred over the veil of long years. If the historical movement we are speaking about is the abolition of slavery, the blurred name I hope to bring into focus for my readers is Olaudah Equiano.

Olaudah Equiano was kidnapped from his West African home as a young boy and eventually found his way into the machine which was the transatlantic slave trade. He passed through the hands of many owners in West Africa, North America, England, and the West Indies before earning his freedom and becoming the most famous and wealthy person of African descent in the transatlantic world of the 18th century.

He documented his sorrows and joys in what would become the prototype weapon of mass abolitionism, his self-published autobiography, The Interesting Narrative. This remarkable book sparked an entire literary genre of its own, the slave narrative. It went viral. It was arguably the powerhouse behind early abolitionism. The Narrative brought the horrors of slavery into intense focus for the world to see.

The most striking contents of his autobiography are his spiritual transformations in becoming a Christian. He encountered the Bible through his oppressors and was granted the discernment to see through their false Christianity and grasp the real treasure for himself. The tale of his conversion is deeply moving. Let us hear the man himself: 

It was given to me to know what it is to be born again… Christ was revealed to my soul as the chiefest among ten thousand… Now every leading providential circumstance that happened to me, from the day I was taken from my parents to that hour, was then in my view, as if it had just then occurred. I was sensible of the invisible hand of God which guided and protected me when in truth I knew it not: still the Lord pursued me… The amazing things of that hour can never be told.

His Christianity played the central ideological role in his abolitionism. He snatched the Bible from the hands of his oppressors and used it as a weapon against them. He armed himself with biblical truths and hurled them at this Goliath system with great accuracy. His God gave him success.

This Herculean figure was the transatlantic world’s most interesting man.


People Spotlight Dr. Eric Mason

People Spotlight – Dr. Eric Mason

The Importance of our People Spotlight Series

Hope Academy believes that the Gospel informs the shepherding of the hearts that the Lord has entrusted to our care. We strive to give our students a Biblical understanding of God’s purpose for their life in all areas of our instruction. Our goal is to equip our students to be the type of men and women that Lord calls them to be in Scripture.

Representation matters to everyone, but it carries significant weight to minorities, who are under-represented in the culture today. The value of a black child seeing a person that shares their skin color in a positive light, whether on the screen or in a book, is invaluable. Dreams are then realized. Goals are set. The future looks brighter.

Dr. Eric Mason is the founder and pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, PA. He has a passion for bringing the joy of the Gospel of Jesus to urban areas by planting churches and training local leaders.

It is difficult to pinpoint one area that Dr. Mason has impacted most. He has invested much in the urban setting in areas such as education, health, behavior sciences, law and criminal justice, etc. One of the subjects closest to his heart is a restoration of manhood in the Black community. This passion has lead him to write a book on the subject titled Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole. He also holds seminars through Epiphany’s ministry training on the subject of manhood.

He states, “Jesus Christ came to reestablish and reaffirm Biblical manhood that had died and so that’s why men are broken and God hasn’t called us to be childish men. He’s called us to be manly men and therefore in our culture we have to allow the Scriptures to influence that.” In the following video you will hear Dr. Mason express God’s heart for the restoration of men.

He continues, “We need this sense, this urgency that the men around us and our sons need to be discipled and poured into and challenged beyond childhood to adulthood.”

Check out the Hope Difference today!

Great Hoax Blog Post

The Great Hoax: Christianity is a White Man’s Religion

In the United States, February is the month that we celebrate Black History Month. It is extremely important to remember that Black History did not begin with slavery and the observance of the history is not exclusive to only Blacks, but for all of us. The collective contributions to our world by African Americans is something to acknowledge and celebrate together in this diverse nation with troubling roots.

This month, Hope Academy wants to bring Black History to the forefront of our minds by featuring guest writers and small biographies. Our intention is to raise our collective voices in proclaiming God’s goodness to His people through His plan in bringing the Gospel to the nations.

The following is an article by the talented artist Curt Kennedy:

Do you know what the greatest religious hoax towards the black community is? Christianity. But not for the reason you’d expect. In recent years, there has been a rise of black people leaving Christianity, for a number of reasons.

Among those reasons, there is one that consistently rises to the top. Christianity is a white man’s religion. Christianity is a religion designed by white people for white people. The black folks who are leaving, want to worship something that is specifically for black people.

My Story

To be honest, I can understand the resentment coming from black people. I am black myself. I’m as black as they come, at least in the way that black people tend to evaluate each other (Ghetto/Gangster = Black).

I grew up in the Washington, DC metropolitan area with no dad. I was raised by a single mother alongside my older brother by three years. I started getting arrested at age 7. Later, I would start selling crack cocaine and I was really good at it. This led to me eventually getting into a broad day shoot out with a rival gang, which then led to me facing 43 years in prison.

After doing some time, I got “saved,” but it was hard at times.

Believing in Jesus can be tough all on its own, especially when you keep hearing things like, “How could you believe in a God that let your ancestors be slaves?” or the all too familiar, “Black people weren’t Christians before the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

They used Christianity to keep us enslaved. We were kings and queens in Africa before white people came and kidnapped us!”

The African Role in Ancient and Modern Christianity

Now on the surface that may sound right. Yes, black people were enslaved. Yes, the church did relatively nothing about it. Yes, white people were the ones in charge of these atrocities. Yes, they often twisted the Bible to make blacks feel like being slaves was our God-given responsibility.

But is that Christianity? I think not. Is it true that black people are only Christians today because of slavery? I think double not.

This is where knowing real history pays off. The actual truth is that white people, still to this day, got their theology from Africans, not the other way around.

Beginning with the Bible, we see that Africa played a huge part in the early church. Some of the most influential church Father’s were African. Long before Europe ever heard of Jesus, Africans were getting baptized and preaching the gospel. A few things to take note of:

  • Luke 23:26 Simon of Cyrene (North Africa/Lybia)
  • Acts 2:10 Africans from Egypt and Libya were there at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came
  • Acts 8:26-36 An Ethiopian Eunuch believes and is baptized. Ethiopia is Central Eastern Africa
  • Acts 11:19-24 Men from North Africa (Cyrene) were pushing the girl of Jesus Christ

We must always remember that God wanted scripture to show that Africans were believing the Gospel. This was long before Europe was Europe, as well as, about 1600 years before Slavery.

Wait! There’s more!

Men like Tertullian (155-240), often called “the founder of Western Theology” was from Carthage (Tunisia) North Africa. He also invented the term “Trinity”

Origen of Alexandria (185-254) wrote On the First Principles, which systematically laid out principles for Christian Theology, which became foundational for theological writings that came after it.

There are more to choose from, but perhaps most important of all was  Augustine of Hippo (354-430). To this day, his books The City of God, and On Christian Doctrine are revered as one of the important works in redemptive history. His writings have influenced Western Christianity and Western philosophy. He was from Hippo Regius in North Africa.

The Truth of Christianity

So the truth is this:  Without Africa and Africans, there is no Christianity. God used black people to change the world forever. Christianity is not a white man’s religion. It was Black Africans that made it possible to understand some of the deepest truths about Christianity.

So, when I hear people say Christianity is a white man’s religion, I laugh, because without Black Africans, white people wouldn’t believe what they believe about God. That knowledge came from Africans.

I’m proud to be a Christian, if for no other reason than the rich African theological heritage.


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If I wasn’t at this Jesus school…

One of the greatest opportunities we have at Hope Academy is to teach children that God is love. Let me tell you how that is making a profound difference, on the most practical level.



“Mrs. Hayden, if I wasn’t at this Jesus school, I’d probably hit that kid!” said one of our Kindergarteners. Something is registering with him; love is working its way into his heart.

“Miss Mann, can we just work out our problems before we celebrate Valentine’s Day?”asked a tender-hearted second grader. Students are learning that love means moving towards others in kindness–especially when you don’t like them.

“I’m very thankful for Mrs. Pearce’s tough love,” one of our graduates reflected. “Some people are soft and just want to please you. She wanted us to understand what was good for us.”

Praise God that love is so much more than a nice sentiment, conflict-avoidance, or sweeping things under the rug. At Hope Academy, “We love because he first loved us,”and that makes all the difference.

With a grateful heart,


Russ Gregg
Co-Founder & Head of School