Russ Gregg, Head of School
Our campaign to grow Hope Academy will enable us to serve more than 500 students with a God-centered education by 2017. As we have learned these last thirteen years, we are dependent on God working through you, our Partners.
So I want to convince you and encourage you today. First, I want to convince you that growing Hope Academy for inner city youth is more important than ever. And second, I want to encourage you that your compassion is making a difference in lives here.
First, why is growing Hope Academy more necessary now?
Child Poverty is on the Rise
According to the U.S. Cen- sus Bureau, child poverty rose 56% in Minnesota during the last decade. In 2010, one out of every ten Minnesotans lived below the federal poverty line —annual incomes of less than $22,050 a year for a family of four or $10,830 for a single adult.
More recent figures suggest that poverty rates have increased even more, especially within Minnesota’s communities of color: 24.4 percent for Latinos, 37.2 percent for African-Americans and 39.5 percent for American Indians (footnote: link).
And we know that economic forecasts are predicting that this rise in child poverty is not going to change soon.
Despair & Death Among Teens
Also, teenagers are dropping out of school in record num- bers, joining gangs, and killing one another. In the last thirty days, four teenagers have been murdered in this area.
Despairing over one of the murders, a local parent said, “This is a group of kids that isn’t even old enough to drink, drive, or pay rent. I just want all the violence to stop.”
The Phillips neighborhood saw a 41% spike in theft, and a 25% spike in homicide rates from last year to this year. (footnote: link)
The most compelling reason to grow Hope Academy, however, is the loss of truth in our schools.
“Harvard is a case study of how the greatest univer- sities have lost their educational souls at the same time as they have achieved dazzling excellence.”
In 2006, the former dean of Harvard, Dr. Harry Lewis, wrote an important book called, Excellence Without a Soul: How a Great University Forgot Education. Lewis argues that true education is not the same thing as classroom teaching. He writes:
Over the years I have been at Harvard—nearly forty, if my student years are included—the quality of everything at the University has improved, except the most important thing. The students are smarter, the faculty more distinguished, even the pedagogy is better—but students are less challenged than ever to grow in wisdom and to become the responsible leaders on whom the fate of the nation will de- pend. Harvard is a case study of how the greatest universities have lost their educational souls at the same time as they have achieved dazzling excellence.
The great civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., wrote similarly in his essay, “The Purpose Of Education”:
The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think in- tensively and to think critically. But educa- tion which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gift- ed with reason, but with no morals.We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education. A complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.
Students at Hope Academy learn not only how to read and write with excellence, but also that they are created in the image of God, and therefore subject to God. They discover not only who they are, but also that God has a great purpose for their lives and how to live their lives in order to bless others.
Growing in Compassion
Second, I want to encourage you in your compassion for inner city children these last thirteen years.
Compassion is a beautiful thing in a person’s life. As a matter of fact, it’s God-like. When God declared his name to Moses, He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Psalm 145:8). Compassion is God- like.
But how does God grow compassion? I think two things are required for compassion to flourish in a person’s life.
The first is a sense of God’s blessing and his call on every one of us to be a blessing to others. Four thousand years ago, God chose a pagan man, Abram, and his wife, Sara, to become his covenant people. In calling Abram, God told him how he would both bless him and also make him a blessing to others. In Genesis 12:1-3 we read,
The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you…I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
The second thing necessary for compassion to flourish in a person’s life is a sense of shared suffering.
Compassion is developed in our lives when suffering becomes personal. Many times it’s suffering in my own life or the life of someone close to me that helps me to empathize with the suffering of others.
But I can also be touched by the needs and challenges of a complete stranger.
The key, I think, is making it personal.
For those of you who are Partners, you are compassionate because of your sense of God’s blessing in your life, and because you have made the hardship of a student here intensely personal.
Hope Academy is only possible because of our “compassionate and gracious God” working through you.
In addition to thanking God for his work through you, would you join me in asking the Lord if he might grow
his compassion for inner city youth in the hearts of hun- dreds more?
By 2017, our Long-Range plan is to serve 160 more inner-city students—a total of 550—with a God-centered education. May God’s compassion spill over from our lives into others.
Should it be His will to achieve it, may God get all the glory.