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Diversity Statement

Summary

The First Academy, a Christ-centered school, embraces economic, cultural, and racial diversity. We recognize all persons are uniquely created by God (Psalm 139) and are given specific gifts and abilities which foster a well-rounded learning environment.

Action Steps | Voices on Diversity | Guiding Principles | Resources

Expanded Statement

At The First Academy, we embrace a core set of beliefs which inform everything we do and think in terms of economic, cultural, and racial diversity.

First, we believe the power of the Gospel transforms our thoughts,
attitudes, and actions. 

Ephesians 2:14-16:
Students in Art Class “The Messiah has made things up between us so that we’re now together . . . He tore down the wall we used to keep each other at a distance. Instead of continuing with two groups of people separated by centuries of animosity and suspicion, he created a new kind of human being, a fresh start for everybody. Christ brought us together through his death on the cross.”

Left to our own power none of us loves, honors, or respects God or others as we should. Economic, cultural, and racial differences often become showcases for the ugliness of sin. However, the Gospel shows us a better way. It calls out and kills this sin and in its place raises up and empowers a new kind of life which delights in God and willingly sacrifices for the good of others. The Gospel allows us to see our economic, cultural, and racial differences not as reasons to divide but as opportunities to celebrate the goodness and grace of our God.

Second, we believe in the value and dignity of every person.
James 2:8-9:
Science Lab“You do well to obey the Scriptures: “Love others as you love yourself.” But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it. You can’t pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God’s law and ignoring others.”

Because every person bears the image of God, they possess inherent value and dignity. This dignity is derived from our being marked by God’s image and is not dependent upon our economic, racial, or cultural status. God not only stamps humanity with his image but also sets us into particular cultures at particular times. Like a master craftsman who meticulously refines and perfects, God has given each of us a particular cultural heritage with which to glorify him. This variety is not merely to be tolerated but to be celebrated and embraced for the good gift it is.

Third, we believe in the wisdom and beauty of God’s design for humanity.
Psalm 139:
Middle School Students at Locker“I am marvelously made! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful! God, I’ll never comprehend them! I couldn’t even begin to count them— any more than I could count the sand of the sea.”

Frederick Douglass said, “I know of no rights of race superior to the rights of humanity.” To be human is a staggering reality. God – who created from nothing – made each and every man, woman, boy, and girl in His image, which is to say that in our humanity we all bear the marks of our maker. He has uniquely designed humanity so that we might live in community with him (and each other!) and enjoy him (and each other!) forever.

Fourth, we believe the best about every member of our school community.
John 17: 20-22:
Students in Science Lab“The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, so they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. The same glory you gave me, I gave them, so they’ll be as unified and together as we are—I in them and you in me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that you’ve sent me and loved them in the same way you’ve loved me.”

As God’s image-bearers and as members of the school community, we follow the teaching of John 17 and believe the best about each other, to create a culture of mutual respect, and to encourage deep affection for one another. The fruit of these labors is a learning environment which shapes not only the mind but the heart as well and produces the kind of people who are prepared to be God-exalting, others-focused leaders in their homes, churches, and communities.

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Action Steps and Future Plans

In order to strengthen our school community, The First Academy secured feedback from parents, students, faculty, school leadership, and the School Board by hosting a series of strategic planning sessions with six “Diversity Teams.” The following action steps have been adopted as a result of their work:

Spring 2017 Progress Summary

Under the direction of the School Board, The First Academy Leadership Team is currently executing a 12-month plan initiated in January of 2017 to carefully address the diversity recommendations approved by the School Board on November 11th, 2016. Nearly 40% of the 12-month plan was completed in the first four months. All initiatives in the plan have been advanced, and 100% completion will be achieved by December of 2017.

Summer 2017 Highlights

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Guiding Principles

  1. All that we say and do with respect to race and ethnicity will reflect our commitment to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
    Ephesians 2:19-22 “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
  2. We will collectively accept responsibility for our failures, we will graciously celebrate our successes, and we will humbly walk together in the spirit of love and forgiveness demonstrating an understanding that until we reach heaven we remain sinners in need of grace and mercy.

    Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

    Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

  3. The school will take the primary lead in setting classroom instructional objectives and campus behavioral standards with the home and church as supportive partners. The home will take the lead in discipling the heart and shaping Christian character in the lives of their children through active engagement in the local church and through serving in the community with the school as a supportive partners.

    Proverbs 22:6 “Train up your child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

    Deuteronomy 6:6-9 “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

  4. The school will administer discipline for racial infractions equitably for students of all ethnicities, redemptively with Christlikeness as the objective, and progressively from suspension to expulsion.
    II Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
  5. We will collectively seek to love one another by assuming the best possible motives when engaging in intercultural communication.
    1 Corinthians 13:7 “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
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Diversity Resources

Additional Resources

The First Academy is committed to building a community of students, faculty, staff, and leaders who reflect and celebrate Christ-centered diversity and inclusion. For further information, please review the following resources:

TFA Community Speaks

Members of the TFA family offer insight on their experience at The First Academy.

“We have been a part of the TFA family for over 25 years. Because it is a Christ-centered school, The First Academy is a place that openly welcomes and supports students of all races and ethnic backgrounds like my own family. I could not be more grateful for the countless hours the faculty, staff, coaches, and leaders have poured into my children.”

Victor Thomas
Upper School Parent

“As a new parent, I feel so blessed to have my daughter at The First Academy. Although the start to the 2016-17 school year was a bit rough due to the sensitive student incident involving race, it brought an opportunity for me to see what TFA stands for, and the school has surpassed my expectations by far. The teachers and parents that I have met in the last couple of months have been amazing. Even in hard times, I have seen Christ in the faculty, staff, and leadership, and we are so excited and happy to be at The First Academy.”

Ramon Quinones
Lower School Parent

“I love The First Academy. As a graduate of the school and now a staff member and coach, I have experienced all that TFA offers. This is a place that values every individual, regardless of race or ethnicity, and I am excited about what the Lord is doing on our campus.”

Tierra Brown
Class of 2007, The First Academy

“My parents and I immigrated to the United States from South Korea when I was entering the 3rd grade. I have been a part of many schools, but during my years at The First Academy as a parent and staff member, I have witnessed our school grow and strengthen in academics, spiritual development, and diversity. Many of us look different on the outside, but we all have one goal which is to exemplify Christ at TFA. I am excited to see how God transforms our school in the many years to come for the future generation of students!”

Joyce Kwak
Director of College Guidance, The First Academy

“I grew up in a depressed area of Arlington, Texas, but God has led me on an incredible journey of coaching and mentoring young people. I have worked at The First Academy for almost two years and made many friends. TFA is a strong and diverse community, and I am so blessed by the opportunity to serve alongside godly men and women who are passionate about serving students.”

Alvin Alexander
Assistant Athletic Director, The First Academy

“We have experienced incredible growth at The First Academy in recent years, and I praise the Lord for His favor on us. The TFA family includes students, families, teachers, and leaders from all walks of life, and we are committed to meeting the needs of this diverse school community. God is doing a great work among us, and I look forward to the days ahead.”

Bishop Allen Wiggins
School Board Member, The First Academy

“The key question with respect to spiritual formation and school culture is not one of admissions, meaning which students can get in and which students can’t. The question is, “Do we have teachers in the classroom who are engaged in and capable of leading students to the feet of Jesus?” I believe we have the best faculty in the world and that Dr. Whitaker is leading us to fulfill the mission I desire for TFA – to reach the nations with the Gospel.”

Dr. David Uth
Senior Pastor, First Baptist Orlando

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Content provided by the Office of Spiritual Formation