Nashville area Army offers kids safe haven for learning
By: David Ibata
By opening its doors to school children in these days of COVID-19 and virtual learning, The Salvation Army in the Nashville, Tennessee, metro area seeks to do more than just give kids a desk, a computer and WiFi – but a secure place where they can eat, play and get school supplies and study help.
“We have met with our local school social services and found there are many kids that have not returned to in-person learning and are not logging in to on-line learning,” said Captain Patrishia Knott, corps officer in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. “The school has encouraged us to assist those families.”
Some students in Tennessee returned to their classrooms this fall, but many did not. The Metro Nashville Public Schools, for example, gave families the choice of sending their children back to school or going with virtual learning the rest of the school year. Nearly half chose to stay virtual, the Nashville Tennessean newspaper reported in September.
Major Ethan Frizzell, Nashville area commander, came up with the idea of each corps becoming a “Learning Pods & Resource Hub.” Offered at no cost to participants, the program responds to concerns that remote learning from home isn’t working for many families.
The Murfreesboro Corps hopes to serve about 50 households, Captain Knott said. “We especially want to reach single-parent homes to remove the stress of a parent having to decide whether to go to work, or to educate their child.”
“We’re providing a safe place for children to get tutoring assistance, monitoring of on-line learning, recreation and school resources as well as food each day they attend,” she said. “Our snack ‘hospitality’ room is kid-sized so kids can help themselves to fresh fruit and healthy snacks.”
At The Salvation Army Nashville South campus, Captain Raquel Revaula, corps officer, said the Learning Pods initiative lets children “experience a different atmosphere,” with recreation, music and the arts in addition to online schoolwork.
“We’re offering our property to be a fun and safe place for children,” Captain Revaula said.
The corps previously did not have even an after-school program; it now offers a Bible class, music and arts instruction and recreational activities like soccer, volleyball and basketball – as well as meals, snacks, tutoring and free school supplies – from morning through late afternoon.
Thirty-three children are registered to be at the corps three days a week for 12 weeks through December. Between early start times for high schoolers and parents not getting out of work until late in the day, the corps building is open to students as early as 6:30 a.m. and stays open as late as 5:30 p.m.
Captain Nathaniel Revaula, corps officer and Captain Raquel’s husband, said, “Parents will be engaged as well. We’ll offer ESL (English as a Second Language) and basic skills classes, our Fall Festival and Thanksgiving and Christmas community meals for families of our corps.”
“It’s connected to the vision of the area command and the mission of The Salvation Army: To preach the gospel and meet human needs without discrimination,” Captain Nathaniel said.
Captain Raquel said, “We’re serving people in words and action.”