Ethan Ware, president of Hope Christian Academy says, “At Hope Christian Academy, parents will not be told ‘your child no longer fits’ or ‘we just cannot help him or her any longer.’ My wife and I heard those words from the best public school special learning program in Richland Two and a local private school touted as the best special needs private school in the Midlands.
Both of those schools gave up on our Autistic son. In total, our son was asked to leave or not return to more than five schools by the time he was 11 years old. After the last meeting with that elite private school, I promised myself it would never happen again. That is when we decided with Stephanie Cordum and Pierce Butler to start Hope Christian Academy.
From the beginning, we made a commitment to find a way for every child to find success and finish with appropriate academic recognition at our school. That is why we named the school ‘Hope.’ We provide hope to parents who have exhausted every avenue and still have been told their child cannot succeed.”
Three years ago Hope Christian Academy began with two students whose families realized the need for their children’s special educational requirements. These students were progressing on a continual basis, albeit at a different pace than their mainstream counterparts. They were learning and needed a place to keep learning. Their parents wanted a Christian–based education for them and the search for a fit for their children found limited options available. Hope Christian Academy (HCA) was formed.
“Unlike other schools for students with diagnosed learning disabilities, we want parents to see their child’s success. We conduct a battery of tests for all of the students in the beginning and end of each school year. If we are not getting it done with one teaching method, we will adjust and find another way to teach or develop that child to his or her full potential. We take the commitment of success very seriously,” says Ware.
HCA uses various curricula, and a variety of teaching methods to fit the needs of each child. They have small classrooms with plenty of one–on–one time for each student.
When HCA was formed, they looked for classroom space, approaching Ben Lippen School with the hope of renting space from them. The small school was immediately surrounded by support from Ben Lippen School.
The special needs students of HCA are given many opportunities to interact with the students from Ben Lippen, and the Ben Lippen students have the privilege to interact with and learn from HCA students.
Ware says, “Hope Christian does not measure success only by academic achievement. Every special needs child wants to belong to something bigger and to be a part of the culture they see around them on a daily basis. We located the school on the campus of Ben Lippen so our kids could socialize and interact with others in their peer group. Ben Lippen is a big part of our success. Last year, we formed a middle school basketball team and play area private schools. At first, some fans and coaches unfamiliar with our school did not know what to expect. What they learned very quickly is our kids are no different than their kids. They are serious about competing at their highest level in the same arena as their peers.
“Hope Christian is not associated in academic classes with Ben Lippen School, although Ben Lippen allows our students to participate in non–core academic classes, like art, music, and P.E. Our experience is the Ben Lippen students do not disparage or isolate Hope kids. To the contrary, we find integration of our children into Ben Lippen classes allows for friendships to develop across school lines. For example, our son goes to many Ben Lippen sporting events just like they are his own, and often we quickly lose him to a sea of Ben Lippen students within his age group and social skills.”
HCA continues to grow. In its second year of operation, the school had six students and this year 10, from elementary through middle school. Two highly qualified teachers with many years of teaching experience, work with the HCA students: middle school teacher Susan Hinton has a master’s degree in special education and is teacher for the elementary students, Ella Shiver also has her master’s degree in teaching. These teachers work closely with their aides, Heather Forrest and Rebekah Slater, to provide an excellent educational experience for their students.
Hope Christian Academy is located on the campus of Ben Lippen School off Monticello Road, Columbia. For more information, visit hcatoday.com or call 318-6357.
HCA president Ethan Ware says, “Hope Christian is about giving every student a chance to be successful after a lifetime of failures in the classroom. At the end of the day, if we have done that, we have succeeded ourselves.”
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