Andrea Summerville’s New Hope Academy roots run deep. While teaching at a Head Start program in Metro Nashville in 1999, she heard about New Hope while attending Christ Community Church, which was instrumental in starting New Hope. After she’d received news that her Head Start program was being eliminated, a few ladies in her Bible study that were associated with New Hope, including a few New Hope Moms, encouraged Andrea to apply for an open kindergarten teacher position.
Andrea says she was immediately drawn to the uniqueness of New Hope. “I loved the small class size. I was intrigued by the school writing its own biblical curriculum. The research that went into the curriculum design was amazing. I loved the intensity of bringing economic and racial diversity together in a classroom setting. I loved the freedom of teaching young kids to look at the world with a biblical worldview – to bring the Bible into math and reading and writing.”
Circle of Community
Andrea has fond memories of joining New Hope’s staff during its infancy. The school was minuscule at the time, which facilitated community-building with families and faculty members. Having no children of their own at that time, the Summerville’s enjoyed the freedom of doing life together at New Hope. They would even invite children into their home to hang out and build relationships outside the classroom.
“It really boiled down to relationships. The school was born out of [New Hope Founder] Paige Pitts’ `love of the community. The beauty of the school is seeing kids become friends that wouldn’t normally be friends. It was a blessing to pull on the strengths of kids from all different backgrounds.”
During Andrea’s fifth year at New Hope, James began pursuing a newfound calling to join the Air National Guard. The couple was excited to begin this new chapter that would relocate them to San Antonio, Texas for flight school, but they were sad it meant leaving their Franklin community and the visions and passions they loved, including New Hope.
During their one-year stint in San Antonio, God birthed a new vision in their hearts – adoption. After much prayer, some training through a local agency, and a few hills and valleys along the way, James and Andrea began their adoption journey. The journey culminated during their next stop, however, in Little Rock, Arkansas. They received a call from the Texas agency about a newborn baby girl of African American and Hispanic descent, and in a matter of days, they became parents for the first time, opening their hearts and home to a new baby girl they named Wesley.
After a short time in Little Rock, James accepted a full-time position with the Air National Guard in Louisville, Kentucky. Andrea had returned to her hometown, her life very full of motherhood. However, James and Andrea’s connection to Franklin remained strong. God was drawing them back to the city they loved. God was drawing them back to New Hope.
“I’d been substitute teaching, so I’d seen a bunch of different schools. We wanted a diverse environment for Wesley. We’d want diversity even if we were raising white children, but when we adopted Wesley, I think it became even more of a need. We wanted her in an environment that was diverse racially and economically. That just does not happen naturally – especially in private school. And I also wanted an excellent education. The quality of the education, as well as the diversity, just doesn’t happen. Too often you have one or the other.”
Circling Back to New Hope Academy
Today the Summerville’s credit New Hope as a major reason they relocated back to their beloved Franklin. They moved back the year before Wesley began school, and immediately enrolled her in Pre-K at New Hope. Reconnecting with their New Hope Family has truly brought them full circle, with their daughter Wesley having just completed 3rd grade.
“Kathy Peabody was Wesley’s 3rd-grade teacher. Back in the old New Hope building on West Main, Kathy and I had classrooms with a bathroom we shared with us. We were laboring together for a bunch of years. So it’s natural that she taught Wesley. I’ve entrusted my daughter to someone I love and loves my daughter and has loved our family for years. Kathy prayed for Wesley before she was even born.”
Circle of Support
After settling back into Franklin and the NHA community, the Summerville’s’ lives took another major turn. In the Fall of 2013, a young single mom they’d met through a neighborhood friend asked them to consider adopting the baby she was carrying. After sharing the story with only a few people, James and Andrea once again stepped forward in faith, adopting this baby girl born in the summer of 2014. They named her Mia and soon introduced her to their New Hope Family. Coincidently, during Mia’s adoption, Andrea had been leading New Hope’s SAIS accreditation process.
“We came back to New Hope and everyone was so excited and supportive. The New Hope community really rallied. Keisha Brown was Wesley’s teacher at the time, and she knew we were adopting. Keisha was one of the adults Wesley could talk to, and she was very encouraging to Wesley as we walked through an adoption and what it would look like.”
The support didn’t stop there. “Months later, when we finalized Mia’s adoption, our friends, many from the New Hope community, threw us a shower. It was an opportunity for us to thank them for supporting us. During the adoption process, I would be falling apart, but I knew there were about 10 families praying for us. And praying for Mia’s birth mom too.”
The Summervilles, now a family of four, are forever grateful for the many years of community they’ve built within NHA’s walls. This relationship has provided much more than an occupation or even an education. New Hope has blessed them with extended family and love.
“We are non-African American parents raising biracial children. I need people speaking biblical truth about history, about black leaders to my daughters. We are so blessed to have a community that is diverse, that is walking with us to parent these girls. There’s a large group of adoptive parents here. I love that New Hope celebrates the diversity of God’s kingdom and sees that as a natural fleshing out of the Gospel. The Gospel is big enough to build all kinds of families. As we walk through Wesley growing up as an African American woman, New Hope will speak into her as she grows into a Christian woman. That support is invaluable.”