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New Hope Christian School: A ‘God-initiated’ place of learning

By Ralphine Major

“and these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).

These words from the Bible provide a foundation for the New Hope Baptist Church and Christian School. The school is one of the best kept secrets in the Corryton Community.

Nestled in the forks of Bud Hawkins and Shipe Roads, this rural church was founded in 1945. Ralph Waggoner, a Gibbs High School graduate and former pastor who served the church for 23 years, founded the school twenty years ago. “It was God initiated,” Waggoner said. The plans were to build a fellowship hall, but Waggoner felt led to begin a Christian school instead. The school started with nine students in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. Today, the school has 67 students in K4/K5 through eighth grades and ten faculty members. I am amazed at the success of this rural Christian school and marvel at its impact.

Waggoner’s family has been and continues to be involved in the school. The three Waggoner granddaughters were Alpha and Omega students, meaning they completed all grades (kindergarten through eighth) at the school. One granddaughter previously worked at the school. Both of Waggoner’s daughters currently work at the school. Alice Earl is a charter teacher who began there in 1993, and Crystal Ford is a teaching assistant. Teacher turnover is low. Emily Pursiful is the principal (12 years). Other teachers include Sarah Stidham (3 years), Diane Wood (16 years), Melody Whitson (3 years), Ashley Sluss (3 years), Kim Smith (10 years), and teaching assistant Jami Mills (3 years). The school is a member of the Association of Christian Schools International and the Southern Baptist Association of Christian Schools.

Mark Large, current Pastor and Chairman of the School Board, has been at the church/school for six years. “He has a huge heart for the children and Christian education,” board member Joan Troutt told me.

Gail Lay, another board member, said New Hope will be celebrating the school’s 20th Anniversary on Sunday, April 13, 2014. There will be a luncheon for former members, staff, students, and their families after church. The public is invited to attend. New Hope is located at 7602 Bud Hawkins Road in Corryton. Visit www.newhopecorryton.com or call Kim Smith, office assistant, at (865)688-5330.

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