There are many reasons why people choose to invest in New Hope. Many feel called to the anti-poverty work that the school is doing. Others are drawn to the mission of unity within the diversity of Christ’s body. Still others believe deeply in the classically-based curriculum that cultivates wisdom and virtue within a Christ-centered worldview. In all likelihood, everyone who is reading this finds within themselves some mixture of all of these and then some.
If we might be so bold as to try to distill what our community finds so compelling about God’s work here at New Hope, it is simply that we offer hope. We offer hope for students who are so often overlooked and disfavored in our society to move beyond the cycle of poverty and live into the full flourishing that God desires for them. And we offer hope for all of our students to experience the full blessing of Jesus’ prayer in John 17 that “…they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
But as we prepare for the school’s 25th anniversary next year, are we fulfilling that mission? Are we living up to the vision that God gave to Paige Pitts in the beginning? We can look around the halls and see that we have the right pieces in place. As always, we have the most diverse school in Williamson County – 40% of our students pay full tuition, 40% are on scholarship, and 20% receive some level of sliding-scale financial aid. Slightly under 50% of our students come from a minority culture, and slightly over 50% come from the majority culture. As always, these students are receiving an excellent, Christ-centered education from our outstanding faculty. But what about when these students graduate after sixth grade? Does New Hope make a long-term difference in the lives of the students that our community supports so generously? We are humbled, encouraged, and excited to share that the answer is “yes.”
We have always valued our alumni immensely, but now that New Hope will have 20 graduating classes (once commencement exercises are complete in May) and our oldest alumni are in their early thirties, New Hope is looking to our alumni in ways that we never have before. We have two staff members in Ashley Van Zee and Tangie Lane who attending to our older and younger alumni respectively. We have an Alumni Council for the first time composed of Forbes Smallwood, Nate Scheibe, Savannah (Beasley) Allen, Megan (Sauder) Gaines, Mary Julia (Tunnell) Craft, and Tariah Lane. We held our first Alumni Fest in October. And we even have five students of alumni in second grade through pre-kindergarten! Clearly our alumni believe deeply in what they received at New Hope during their formative years.
The numbers reflect this as well. As we all know, New Hope sits within Williamson County, which has the highest-ranked school system in the state of Tennessee. New Hope’s alumni exhibit similar outcomes to their peers in Williamson County Schools (WCS), whether we measure for the school populations as a whole or drill down further into the data to see how we are serving students below the federal poverty line. 97% of all New Hope alumni graduate high school (96% in WCS), and 80% attend college of any kind (86% in WCS). Our scholarship students (students below the poverty line) graduate from high school at a 95% rate (89% in WCS), and 61% of them attend college (63% in WCS). And while it’s encouraging that New Hope is keeping pace with the best school system in the state, we are most encouraged by our alumni college graduation rate. Positive life outcomes (health, income, mental health, crime avoidance, etc.) increase for everyone (but especially students from low-income backgrounds) by graduating from high school and attending college, but college graduation changes life outcomes the most dramatically, and this is where New Hope is making the greatest difference. Amongst all Americans, 45% hold a college degree, and in Williamson County this rises to 59%. But New Hope Academy alumni graduate from college at a rate of 66%. And most strikingly, NHA scholarship students graduate college at a rate of 40% compared to 13% of students from poverty nationally!
And this good news goes far beyond the numbers. A little over a year ago, our Academic Director, Cady Wilson, drew up New Hope’s “Portrait of a Graduate,” which outlines our hopes for New Hope students as we send them off into the world. It consisted of three main descriptors. We want each graduate to be: a Christ-centered worshiper, an avid and proficient learner, and an agent of change. When we look at our 366 graduates over 19 graduating classes, we are thrilled that this is what we see.
We see avid and proficient learners earning valedictorian and salutatorian honors at Christ Presbyterian Academy and Battle Ground Academy. We see them making the most of their college experiences at all the colleges listed in this report. We see Angel Hernandez becoming the first in his family to attend college and studying business at the University of Tennessee. Carlos Soria graduating from Montgomery Bell Academy and moving on to Washington University in St. Louis. Andrea Lopez and Isi Beach training in the medical schools of Vanderbilt and the University of Vermont respectively. And Mason Grow studying law at Georgetown University.
We look at the beautiful, multicolored faces of our alumni, and we see Christ-centered worshipers honoring God with their voices and their time and their resources. We see Dimitri Thomas writing a 90-day devotional entitled A Moment with Abba. We see Quintavious Johnson and Andrew Thompson lifting their voices in praise. And we see Campbell Wilson serving at St. John’s Anglican Church that meets right here on New Hope’s campus.
Finally, we look at the hands and feet of our alumni making a difference in the world on behalf of God’s kingdom as agents of change. We see Scott Tunnell pivoting from a business career to teach in low-income neighborhoods in Chattanooga and now returning to be the first alumni faculty member at New Hope. We see Bethany Kirkpatrick pouring into her kids at Rocky Mount Prep School, a Title 1 school in North Carolina. Tariah Lane and Paxton Perry using their voices to advocate for equity and justice in Franklin. Sydney Jensen working long shifts as a nurse in Nashville. And seven of our alums (Samuel Gaston, Howie Smith, Josh McGuire, Stephan Satchell, Brian Ramirez, Evan Henke, DeWayne Robinson) serving in various capacities in the armed services.
We’re so proud of our alumni going all the way back to our first graduating class in 2001. So many teachers and administrators poured into them and prayed over them for so many years. But not only that, those 800 former students and those 366 alumni could not have received the kind of education and experience that they did without the generation support of thousands of donors and supporters. YOU ALL helped sow the seeds for this hope to shine forth, and now it is bearing fruit in the lives of these young men and women, and as Jesus said, the world will know Him better and see Him more clearly because of it.Click here for Alumni Giving.