On the first day of school at New Life, I sat in on the 2nd grade class as teacher, Nicodem, welcomed his students and encouraged them for the upcoming school year. “It is not the walls and the roof that make a great school,” he told the children from ages 6 to 15 years old in his room, “but it is students and teachers working hard together so that we can all learn and grow that makes a great school.” He emphasized to the students that although the construction of the building was not completed yet, it was up to each one of them to come with a good attitude and to do their work so that they could have a successful academic year. You see, we weren’t able to get quite as far on the construction as we were hoping for the school this summer, but we got as much as we could done so that we could at least start the classes in the new location nonetheless. And on the first day of school, we welcomed more than 120 students to the school split between our 7 grades and each one came with an enthusiasm for the education they were going to receive. Although it was frustrating to see the project incomplete when we had worked so hard to accomplish what we had, on that first day the children proved to me what Nicodem told his students was true. It is not the walls and roof that make a great school.
And although we will continue to work on those walls and that roof as we are able to truly create a building that will be a safe and inspirational environment for these kids, one thing that I do know for sure is that we do have great students and great teachers. We have kids in this school that have come there from very difficult backgrounds but each day that they arrive with the light shining from within their hearts and their minds excited to learn, you can see that they have greatness inside of them waiting to be discovered and nurtured. Many of the students would not be accepted at other schools because of special emotional, physical, or behavioral needs, but we accept them at New Life School and are committed to finding ways to teach them and involve them no matter what other schools have told them. Others in the school simply come from families that are unable to afford other schools and they arrive at New Life grateful for the opportunity to receive an education for their young minds.
I also know that we have truly great teachers at the school because I’ve been involved in their recruitment and training from the beginning, but it was when we had a meeting with the parents of our students recently that I was overwhelmed to realize just how important these teachers are to the kids in their classrooms. With over 90 parents crowded into the school on that morning I was prepared to respond to any number of questions that I thought they might ask about the operation and the construction of the school, but instead I sat and listened with the staff of teachers and administrators as parent after parent each stood and sang the praises of our teachers who were pushing their students to succeed and making their kids interested in education. They thanked us for the discipline that ensures the children take their studies seriously and the care with which we provide each student with the individual attention that they deserve.
After the meeting I had multiple parents come up to me personally to thank me for what the school was providing their kids. One mother had a 9-year-old son who had been through 4 different schools in the last 4 years being rejected by each after a couple weeks because of a learning disability that he has that caused him to be labeled “unable to learn”. This mother had given up hope for her son ever getting an education until she heard about New Life and decided to give it one more try. Now, although this student still struggles in the kindergarten classroom where we have placed him, his teacher, Jezula, works with him with patience and understanding able to see his potential beyond his disability. On that day of the meeting, his mother took my hand and thanked me emphatically for making him feel welcome there. Knowing that her son was not the only one who had been labeled by this society as “unable to learn” I was proud to know that our school was creating a place for them to believe in themselves.
I had another mother come up to me with a huge smile on her face, the sunlight reflecting off of her golden capped teeth, and tell me that she praised God every morning for this school in her community. She has four children in the school and she said that her two oldest ones had been having difficulty passing through their grades in the other schools that they had been attending before New Life. But after the first year of each of them in classrooms with our teachers, they were making progress like she’d never seen before. She said that our teachers challenged her kids to work hard but still cared enough about them to make them feel like they had value. She said that she saw a difference with our teachers actually being concerned about the individual children rather than just trying to do a job like she had seen in other schools. That’s why when it came time to send her two younger kids to school as well she was eager to register them in New Life as well with confidence that our teachers and staff will all work to make sure they succeed.
Although I know that we, the leadership of Living Media and New Life, still have a lot of work to do to finish what we have started with the school construction project, for now our students, teachers, and parents are proving to me and to the community every day that there is greatness inside those unfinished walls. It is because of that greatness that we are more committed than ever to make sure that physical space housing it becomes just as great. We still need your help to make it all the way to accomplishing our goals with the school. Our fundraising efforts over the summer got us this far, but we still have a long ways to go to get the building finished with a completed roof, floors, and doors and windows. For those who have already donated, we thank you. It is because of your support that these children are finding a place to belong and a place to learn. If you are waiting for a perk still from our Indiegogo campaign, know that you can expect it soon as we work with the children to complete some of them. And if you would like to donate at this time to help us continue the project, you can do so at anytime right here on our website under the Donate tab. Thank you for showing these children the new life that awaits for them with an education!
By Lee Rainboth, Living Media Executive Director