Written by Dr. Steve Whitaker, Head of School.

The First Academy is a special place for many reasons. Today I want to introduce you to JD Graham, a student who brings happiness and joy to all he meets on our campus. JD is a third-grade student at The First Hope, a division of
TFA dedicated to teaching children with special needs in a Christ-centered environment. JD has two siblings, Ashley (4th grade) and Kyle (1st grade), who attend TFA’s Lower School. JD’s parents, Jason and Lindsay, had a few goals when searching for the right school for their family. It was important to them that JD would be able to attend a school alongside his siblings, but also be able to thrive in an environment that is specifically designed for his special needs.

JD is a prime example of dedication and perseverance, both in and out of the classroom. At a recent varsity football game, (held on September 30) we were able to recognize and honor JD for his stellar performance as a member of the swim team in the Special Olympics, held in August of this year. He won two first place ribbons, one for the 25-meter freestyle and one for the 25-meter backstroke. During the season, he trains three times a week and has aspirations of becoming a member of the TFA varsity swim team one day.

JD’s mom, Lindsay, shared with me that JD was so excited to be recognized at the football game. He told her it was “the best moment of his life” as so many TFA students rallied behind him and supported him. She also shared how wonderful it is to see the students of The First Hope involved in main campus activities including athletics and the arts. Often times, we are so busy moving through our daily routines that we forget to stop and think about what a beautiful place The First Academy is because of our inclusivity and diversity. This week, the Graham family reminded me how blessed we are to have friends like JD at our school.

In 2009 The First Hope program was launched thanks to a generous gift from TFA grandparents Tracy and Jeri Schmidt. Tracy is a faithful school board member and Jeri recently published a new book entitled The Foster Thing that teaches young girls to embrace Biblical virtues. Since the day The First Hope opened, hundreds of special needs children have blessed The First Academy by allowing us to invest in their lives. We look forward to serving these students for years to come. Thank you for the opportunity to serve your family at The First Academy. We are looking forward to a wonderful start to the second quarter of the school year.