Revitalizing community youth with the Bridge Ministry
On October 5, we attended the ribbon-cutting for the opening of The Church Academy Lafayette. As the newest component of Bridge Ministry’s community revitalization vision, TCA is a private Christian school, for students in K-6th grade in Lafayette’s Four Corners Neighborhood.
Per an inspiring blog post by Nelson Warner, Chair of the Board, on BridgeAcadiana.com, quite a bit in the last 16 years has led to this moment. Back in 2001 there were two schools in the area, which closed due to desegregation, and as crime escalated, parents still had the school choice option, providing relatively good schools. By 2003, the Bridge Ministry moved into the neighborhood, at a time when the kids there were often three to four years behind their classmates, and about 70% were dropouts. The Bridge was determined to change those numbers.
Fourteen years later, Nelson notes that crime is down and trust is up, and through their efforts with hundreds of volunteers, tutoring programs, partnerships with local schools and more, kids are now graduating and going on to higher education opportunities. Then this year, in a poor economic decision, the school board re-zoned the entire neighborhood to a D-F school in town. Through conversations, they learned parents now really had no choices for their children—discovering it may take 3-4 years for all the children to win their school of choice lottery, and then only three of 43 parents could provide transportation. They felt hopeless.
In polling parents, they asked, “If you had a real choice of schools for your child, what kind of school would you choose?” Most said, “We would dream of having our children go to a good, private, Christian school, just like the schools the people across town send their children.”
In loving response, the board of the Bridge sought partnership with TCA in early 2017, and with their support, students were invited to apply for the 2017-2018 school year. The fully accredited school welcomed 36 students for this school year, taking advantage of the Arete scholarship program. The school plans to grow to 75 students in 2018-2019.