Jackson, class of 2021, started experiencing bullying at school when he was in third grade. When things didn’t change in fourth and fifth grade, Jackson’s parents knew they needed to try something different. “There wasn’t a lot of kindness from his peers and he wasn’t thriving socially or emotionally. It was hard to watch,” Sarah, Jackson’s mom, remembers. They had heard great things about New Life Academy but never imagined they could afford it. Thanks to Variable Tuition, a donor-funded program which provides needs-based financial assistance to NLA families, they were able to enroll Jackson in sixth grade.
Jackson came to New Life because he needed to feel emotionally safe at school. What he didn’t realize was that NLA would provide him with a home. “My attitude toward school changed when I came to New Life. I felt valued and that people actually cared about me. New Life is a place where I can be comfortable being myself.” Jackson’s parents noticed the “180° change” in their son almost immediately after he started. The new learning environment helped give Jackson the confidence and support he needed to thrive at school.
Over the years Jackson found connection through soccer, basketball, golf, and International Club. However, it was his involvement with Knowledge Bowl that gave him the biggest sense of belonging. “It’s fun to be with people and to debate what the answers [to questions] are. I enjoy learning.” In February 2020 the team won sub-regionals, a first for New Life Academy. In addition to competing with his team, he also helps coach the middle school team. Jackson’s love for school also includes the academic rigor New Life provides through Advanced Placement (AP) classes. “School is really interesting. I love all the subjects we get to learn,” Jackson remarks.
Jackson’s parents say his “moral compas” was always strong, but New Life has really nurtured and grown his faith into what it is today. Because Jackson can talk freely about his faith and learns about Jesus at school, it has helped reinforce the values Jackson has at home. Jackson even recognizes New Life’s role in shaping his faith: “New Life has grown my faith. Instead of thinking about how to protect myself, I can think that maybe other people do love me. And when I felt that love from other people, it made me begin to think about the love of God. New Life has taught me that the point of life is to worship God because He is our creator and we’re designed to worship Him. And I just can’t wait to learn more about Him at New Life.”
Jackson isn’t shy about saying that “school is my life.” And that is why Jackson struggled a few years ago, when he thought he might not be able to return to school, because of some financial hardships his parents faced. However, the family came up with a creative way to keep Jackson at school. With the help of Variable Tuition and some financial support from Grandma and Grandpa, Jackson also agreed to work several jobs to pay for the rest of his tuition; an astounding commitment given his age, but not at all surprising to Jackson’s parents. “Jackson wanted to stay with his friends and his teachers because he thinks of school as his home. His community,” Sarah commented. It didn’t take much convincing for Jackson to set aside money in his paychecks to pay for his tuition because he understands the value of a New Life education. “I don’t feel like it’s a sacrifice to me because I enjoy New Life,” Jackson explains. “Yes, it’s work, but so is school and I enjoy school so it’s definitely worth it.”
In the end, Jackson’s parents are extremely grateful for everything New Life has given their family. “I don’t have any worries about Jackson’s future anymore. He’s got a strong faith. He’s a hard worker. He’s doing great in school and he’s taking college level courses. He’s thriving. He’s going to do great things,” Sarah reflects.
We couldn’t agree more.
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