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James River Preschool Academy: Encouraging a Brighter Future for Families

First Baptist Church
Lindsey Argo

After 10 months of planning, the desire to help impoverished households in northern Springfield has come to fruition. James River Preschool Academy began its first session last week, welcoming 24 poverty-level families into the free program. Part of its mission is building relationships with the children and their families over a two-year period. Tami Parsley is the Early Childhood director at James River Church.

“This is a faith-based program,” declares Parsley, “we want them to know in the front end, that this is who we are and this is what we believe.”

   James River has partnered with First Baptist to offer the program. While there is no requirement to be a part of any church organization, engagement in the faith is encouraged.

 In addition to the free schooling, the family partnership requirement aims to help parents learn and grow alongside their children. Specifically, the church is looking to help non-working parents who have the availability to participate.

The parents are asked to attend a life skills and parenting course on a weekly basis. They will be sent home from the class every Wednesday with a bag of groceries and a feeling of support.

Parsley describes the family partnership as, “a weekly points system for the parents.” Each parenting unit must earn 80 out of a possible 100 points, weekly, to keep their child in the program. These points can be earned by arriving on time when dropping of and picking up their children, ensuring their child is clean and in their provided uniform, engaging in daily at home reading, and so on.

Parsley explains that the church will be “pouring into” these families.

“We fully believe that God can change their circumstance,” Parsley comments. “So much of getting out of poverty is having faith, it’s a huge component, and then also having a network of people surrounding them that will pour into them and mentor them on an ongoing basis,” she continues.

 Parsley adds, “Our goal is that these families start attending First Baptist that they choose to become part of the church body.”

First Baptist Church provides the space for the preschool free of charge, while a private donor has funded the cost of the program’s first year. Convoy of Hope provides household items that food stamps do not, and Victory Trade School assists parents in their job search.  

If you would like to get involved or have and questions about the program, contact Tami Parsley at James River Church.