A Miracle In The Making In Tin City: Wallace Christian Academy

(Previously published in The Duplin Times)

A miracle is in the making in the Tin City area of Wallace. In January 2021, Pastor Chris Jarman of Poston Baptist Church spoke to some of his church members about his vision to start a Christian school in the Wallace area. Together they visited several schools in eastern North Carolina and presented their findings to the church body. The church voted and found 100% approval to move forward with the project. By March, they had formed a committee where each person contributed the best of their expertise in the areas of construction, planning, and implementation. A three-phase plan was born to build a K-12 school. During Phase One, the school will open enrollment for K-2. In Phase Two, enrollment will extend for 3-5. In Phase Three, enrollment will begin for 6-12. By the end of the third phase, a fully functioning private Christian K-12 school will be built on 17 acres of farmland once donated to the church.

Everything you see (behind the church) that was soybeans, belongs to Poston. We decided it needed to grow children for God on this property–not just keep growing soybeans and stuff.

Assistant Principal Charles Blanchard

Right now, Phase One is enrolling for K-2 classes to begin on August 23, 2022. Phase Two with classes for grades 3-5 is expected to be ready to enroll in Fall 2023.  “Our goal is for the children we have in second grade this fall to be able to go into third grade with us the following year,” said Headmaster Steve Le Roux. “We will keep operating like that until the final building can be completed.” 

Headmaster Steve Le Roux with influential director and Assistant Principal, Charles Blanchard

Building for Phase One began last year. The church gutted its existing structure down to the floor joists and rebuilt it as a school. The church sanctuary remained intact throughout the rebuild and will serve as a weekly chapel for the school. The men of the church gave their time and talent to facilitate the rebuild and are still busy finalizing the details of the property today. Construction for Phase Two will begin later this month. “A building has been ordered and will arrive on May 17th (to begin Phase Two),” Mr. Blanchard said. “It will be a shell building that we will frame in and build up for grades 3-5. It will take us till after Christmas to get it finished.”

Charles Blanchard, a member of Poston Baptist Church, has been key in the direction and build of Wallace Christian Academy. Retired from over 40 years of service teaching and administering schools in the Duplin County Public School System, he knew exactly what steps would need to be taken to get the school running and accredited with the North Carolina Christian School Association. He will continue to serve the school in a voluntary position as Assistant Principal. “He has a wealth of knowledge,” said Mr. Le Roux. “He will be an ongoing asset for us.”

Mr. Le Roux also serves as the pastor of Rose Hill Baptist Church (which helped assist and house the Rose Hill UMC church after its fire four years ago). He is excited about the role he will play leading the school. “What Poston has already been able to accomplish in one year has been amazing,” said Mr. Le Roux. Not only did they plan for every detail of the project, but the church also raised $250,000 to fully fund Phase One. As the school grows, the buildings will continue to serve a dual purpose for the church as meeting spaces for church ministries. The final Phase Three building will also serve as a Family Life Center for the church. 

Several families have already taken the step of faith to commit to the school. We are prayerfully interviewing teachers and hope they really have the heart to see this as a mission field the way that we do.” 

Headmaster Steve Le Roux

Mr. Le Roux’s heart for ministry has been a passion throughout his life. He was born in South Africa with a skull injury that was supposed to cause him blindness and a life of pain. Corrective surgery and prayer brought him complete healing. In 2003, Duplin County Schools began recruiting teachers from England. They interviewed and hired Mr. Le Roux. “Those first few years, I was miserable and wanted to go back home. I would come and park behind that dumpster over there,” Mr. Le Roux said, pointing to a nearby convenience store. “I looked out at the field and just thought and talked to God. I had no idea I was looking at the place that would become a school I now get to headmaster.”

Mr. Le Roux’s teaching experience provided the background to know that small class size and the personal touch of reading in a circle matters. That’s why you will see circle tables in each classroom in addition to the individual student desks. The school plans to cap individual class sizes to 18 students. “We don’t plan to turn anyone away,” Mr. Le Roux said, “but we want to also keep the classes manageable.”

Starting with Abeka curriculum, Wallace Christian Academy will provide a thorough education in core subject areas, extra-curriculars, and Biblical training.

We are a Christian school, and we are going to teach a Biblical worldview. Founded on Ephesians 6:10-11, we want to empower our students to know what they believe and be able to defend it in our modern culture.

Headmaster Steve Le Roux

Efforts to teach using the latest technology were important enough to the school to budget for it. “Students will have books as well as IPads to begin their learning process,” Mr. Le Roux said. “Older students will have laptops. We also plan to have fast WiFi and smart TVs in each classroom that teachers can use for instructional purposes.” Technology extends beyond the classroom to the parents as well. Parents will be able to monitor grades and progress online using GradeLink. 

Tuition is competitively priced at $4500 a year per student and it decreases per child for families with multiple students enrolled. “We also have the Opportunity Scholarship for families within certain income brackets that want private school education but think they can’t afford it,” Mr. Le Roux said. The scholarship can cover the whole cost of tuition for approved applicants. 

On April 9th, parents and future students of Wallace Christian Academy had the opportunity to visit the campus for an Open House event. Everyone was excited for classes to start in the fall. 

Enrollment is still open for students to join the 2022-2023 school year. For more information, check out their website at https://www.wallacechristianacademy.com/ or come pick up an application at 4121 S. Highway 11 in Wallace.

The State of Education and How Tutoring to the Top is Making a Difference in Wayne and Duplin County, NC

Recently, a local high-school story went viral when it showed old equipment, broken floors, and rats in the school. That story was further detailed with descriptions of fighting and complete lack of control or respect in the classrooms. Teachers are overwhelmed and physically assaulted in classrooms. Administrators are overwhelmed. Students are ruling the room in anarchy and chaos. It’s not just this one school, nor is it all gang-related activity. This is the state of norm with kids in many schools today.

How can we expect teachers to control a room where they are scared and fear for their lives?

How can we expect proper authority to be established when state budgets are constantly seeing cuts to funding instead of increases?

More and more parents are tired of trusting the broken public education system. As a result, more and more families are pulling their kids out and into private schools. More and more new schools are appearing as well.

But what do you do if you can’t afford to send your kid to private school, nor do you have the time to stay home and homeschool them? How do we tackle the learning gaps when our kids come home with mountains of homework and frustration over all the things they don’t understand?

The best we can do is become active advocates for the care and education of our children. Whenever possible, that should include tutoring to help students overcome the deficiency they are experiencing.

(The following story was originally published in The Duplin Times.)

According to the US Census Bureau, 33-34% of people living in poverty in Wayne and Duplin counties are 18 years old or younger. Research suggests that constant changes, stress at home, and unequal access to learning resources contribute to lags in learning in the classroom. For things to get better, there has to be a concentrated effort inside education to recognize and assist where there is need. Tutor To The Top, part of the non-profit mission of Rones Chapel Area Community Center, is a free K-12 tutoring program that can help. 

Tutor To The Top has been serving southern Wayne and northern Duplin counties since 2016. They offer tutoring with credentialed, experienced tutors to anyone that needs it–regardless of socioeconomic status. Tutoring sessions are by appointment only and one hour a week per child. Appointments are available after school between 4 and 7pm at partnering locations. Sessions are currently offered at the Steele Memorial Library in Mount Olive and Rones Chapel Area Community Center in northern Duplin county. 

Recently, the program opened a partnership with the fitness and wellness center, Dream Works, in Warsaw. Brian Dicicco, the facility director, said they were excited to provide the space for Tutor To The Top because “we operate on a faith-based set of values and want to be able to offer services to the community–not just be a fitness and wellness business”. In addition to low-cost memberships, Dream Works offers rentable spaces and has partnered with other community outreach events such as the Toys 4 Tots Drive with the Salvation Army in December 2021.   

Since COVID and remote learning, 20% more families saw the value in tutoring services and enrolled their children in Tutor To The Top in 2021. The increased demand just makes funding more challenging. Families are encouraged to donate to help cover the cost of tutoring, but they are not turned away if they are unable to pay. Neither are tutors lessened in their pay for the services they provide. What keeps the program alive is individuals and sponsors willing to donate funds to the program. Connie Wells, CEO of the Rones Chapel Area Community Center, said “generosity can come from the most unexpected places. Sometimes parents struggling to put food on the table are the biggest donors to the program because they see the value in investing in their children’s education.” 

Parents with children in the Tutor To The Top program through 2021 had glowing things to say about the program. “In their feedback forms,” Connie Wells said, “they told us that in 2021 one student’s math grades went from 13% to 91% in three months, another student made the honor roll in the first semester, and many more found that tutoring helped bridge the gap for their child’s remote COVID-related learning. Almost all parents recognized their kids have an increased self-awareness from tutoring that empowered them to be better advocates for themselves in classrooms as well.” 

What everyone agreed on–parents, students, and tutors–was that they want more time together. Tutors have invested in growing character–not just better grades–in their clients. Connie Wells said this is because “we are interested in growing professionals not just helping kids pass tests.”

To contact the organization to sponsor Tutor To The Top or to enroll a child in tutoring services, email RCACC@earthlink.net, call (919) 658-0476 and leave a message, or go to their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/RCACC.NC/