To caring people in the Richmond area, the Micah Initiative is a partnership of faith communities with elementary Richmond Public Schools that encourages mentoring, tutoring, and volunteering through its vibrant network of more than 130 faith communities and 23 schools, so that every child believes, “I’m valuable.”
What is involved?
A congregation or other faith community establishes a relationship with a public school which needs help and support. The Principal of the School and the pastor or other designated leader establish a relationship and a preliminary agreement to explore what they can do together. Members of the faith community, coordinated by a member of that community, begin to volunteer at the school in ways agreed upon by the partners. These will usually involve tutoring or mentoring individual students, and may develop in a number of directions depending on what kind of support is needed and what kind of support is available.
Why a faith community?
Schools and children need dedicated, concerned support that people of faith understand. This is not a temporary or peripheral concern for persons of faith, but rather an essential part of human community.Faith communities can recognize the need for the nurture of God’s children and know how to respond. Churches, synagogues and mosques themselves are permanent community institutions and can provide steady support to other permanent community institutions. The faith community is committed to overcoming barriers of race, jurisdiction, economics, and class. Lay leaders of the faith community are central to the establishment of public education in Virginia, and many teachers and educators are dedicated, prayerful people.
What about separation of church and state?
It is our faith that makes us passionate to support the education of our community’s children. Our faith also makes us passionate to respect the proper boundaries between religion and public education. We use our faith to provide the concern, the faithfulness, and the love for children not our own, but not to indoctrinate or proselytize. This has worked well for all of us — the teachers, the volunteers, the administration, and above all, the children, and we believe it has delighted the God whom we serve.
Why the Richmond Public Schools?
The Richmond Public Schools serve the most distressed portion of our metropolitan city’s school age population. Our children come from families which have the lowest income, the lowest literacy level, and the highest degree of emotional and situational stress. All of these situations are remediable with sufficient resources, but the Richmond Public Schools have no more resources available than schools serving and easier population in the surrounding counties, and very few capital resources to replace antiquated facilities. The children of central Richmond, and those who support them, need the steady and concerted support of the entire community for their courageous and difficult journey. This is where we all are most needed. It takes a metropolitan city to raise a child.
Who is the Micah Association?
The Micah Association is an association of faith communities in metropolitan Richmond committed to working with the children of the Richmond Public Schools, and to supporting and encouraging their parents, teachers, and school administrators. It began in 2003, when the Jewish Coalition for Literacy, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and several other faith communities who had developed such programs came together to encourage other participating faith communities. Today more than 100 faith communities and 25 of Richmond’s elementary schools are involved. Richmond Hill provides the non-profit base for the small grants which support the part time coordinators of the Association. The Association has a general meeting quarterly, and has its own steering committee.
How do we get started?
If you would like to explore establishing a partnership with an elementary school for your faith community contact Tiffany Hall or Mary Hetzel the part-time coordinators for Micah. The purpose of their work is to support and increase existing partnerships in the city. For example: they can help arrange a presentation for your congregation, set up a meeting with the school principal, guide you through the early stages of an evolving relationship, and put you in touch with other faith communities with helpful experience.
How important is this?
There is no more important need in our community than the education and nurture of our children. The schools in our most distressed neighborhoods do not have the resources to do this by themselves. Our children’s need is a call from God to those of us who can answer. And what does the Lord require of us, but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God?
Qasarah ‘Q’ Spencer, Program Director
(804)783-7903 ext. 24