Angela Guerra, a fourth-grade teacher in Austin, Texas, gladly affirms the positive effects of Academy 4 on her students in a recent interview with Cliff Mullen, Connections Minister at Westover Church in Austin.
“The most powerful gift that you can give to any fourth-grade child, any child, is that gift of time...that gift of connection” Ms. Guerra said. “And what you’re doing here, I want you to know, is impacting every single fourth-grade child at Pillow Elementary.”
Ms. Guerra describes how her students adore both Spark Clubs and time with their mentors, and explains that it is the regular individual interaction with adults that impresses her the most. “You know, there’s not a cellphone out, there’s not a screen in front of them. It’s not a test… It’s one-on-one time with their mentor,” she said.
Watch the entire interview with Ms. Guerra below.
Enjoy this wonderful expression of love by Redeemer Lutheran Church to Wooten Elementary School as told by Amber Schraeder, Academy 4 Site Coordinator and Redeemer Lutheran Church Early Childhood Director.
Redeemer Austin and Wooten Elementary began a partnership 4 years ago as the Academy 4 program began. Since that time, Leaders 5 has been added as well as other avenues for support and relationship including an annual school supply drive and grade level activities between both schools. A true sense of family has developed between Redeemer and Wooten.
This year as Redeemer planned the Christmas season the question was raised about how we would take the love and joy of Christmas outside the walls of Redeemer. Our first thoughts went to our extended family at Wooten, and from there the concept of Night if Hope Austin began to take shape.
Every family at Wooten was invited to participate. Wooten parents could register every child, 18 and under, in their household to be shopped for by our team of elves. A total of 516 children from 196 Wooten families registered and gifts were individually and uniquely purchased for each child.
In the two short months of planning and preparation, 200+ volunteers assisted Redeemer staff to shop for gifts, prep materials, build and assemble items, and raise funds in excess of $160,000.
On Tuesday night, December 11, an army of 300+ volunteers assembled in Wooten Park and Redeemer parking lot to provide a Trail of Lights caliber Christmas Party like none other for the registered Wooten families. The volunteer army was comprised of Redeemer members and school families, Wooten staff, Academy 4 mentors and staff, local businesses, and Wooten neighborhood residents. It was truly a spirit of community at its finest! Volunteers ages 17 months to 85, worked side-by-side to provide a Christmas never to be forgotten!
Each family received the following at the Night of Hope event:
At the event, families enjoyed the following activities
The Night of Hope was truly a transformational event for both the Wooten families and volunteers alike. Everyone involved was reminded of the hope that came to this world that first Christmas.
Academy 4 is launching a new blog to communicate some current events and share some wonderful stories from the people who make it all possible – our mentors, club leaders, other volunteers, teachers, and Academy 4 staff.
The initial few months Academy 4 Friday’s have flown by, and I am delighted to say it has been a success! We launched five new schools for a total of 11 this year and more kids and mentors than ever are experiencing the joy of Academy 4 Fridays. Through the efforts of our mentors, club leaders, and volunteers, our Academy 4 fourth graders have experienced many Academy 4 Fridays full of smiles, laughs, and new experiences!
Every month we hear stories that move us and leave us with a smile from ear to ear. Here’s my favorite one so far this year, as told by one of our site coordinators. It will touch your heart.
“One of the life skills 4th graders, Rose, was super nervous about coming to the first Academy 4 and was trying to back out on Friday. She told her teacher that she felt everyone would stare at her because of her wheel chair, no one would talk to her, she wouldn’t be able to do the club stuff, and her mentor would probably be sad she got the kid in the wheelchair. The teacher asked her to just go this one time, and if it was terrible she didn’t have to go again. Rose had a great time at her clubs and she and her mentor were all smiles! When it was over, Rose told her teacher that no one stared, people talked to me, everyone was nice, no one minded having to push my wheelchair, I had so much fun. I love my mentor. This was the best day ever!”
Stories like the one above, reminds us of the important difference we can make together in the lives of our 4th graders.