Doing Good: Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter aims to close education gap

Doing Good

Hope Academy will provide a different education experience for children who have experienced trauma.

Bentonville, Ark. (KNWA) — A child who has experienced trauma can struggle in a normal classroom setting. But a new public charter school is providing an educational setting in which these kids can thrive.

Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter helps kids in traumatic situations.

“physical or sexual abuse, abandonment, neglect,” Hope Academy Principal JakeGibbs said.

And that can have long-lasting effects.

“Parts of their brain that would be responsible for critical thinking, communication, executive functioning, that doesn’t get any exercise. The only part of the brain that is highly attuned is the part of the brain that knows how to survive,” Gibbs said.

So the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter is expanding.

“We just felt it was time to charge forward and try something new in education and bring our expertise along to help,” NWACS board member Mary Zettle said.

NWACS is ready to open Hope Academy. It is a new tuition-free public charter school. It’s open to people in all area school districts if a child’s development has been affected by trauma.

“There’s just such a need in the community to help kids that maybe don’t really fit in the mainstream school situation,” Zettle said.

Hope Academy is anything but mainstream.

“We’re different because we have smaller classroom sizes. We have a high student to staff ratio. Each classroom will have one teacher and two paraprofessionals. We’re going to place a high priority on therapy,” Gibbs said.

On top of teaching, staff will help these children heal.

“Kids can often see adults as people who aren’t safe, people who can’t be trusted so it’s our responsibility to bring back that feeling of safety,” Gibbs said.

Hope Academy plans to open in August. At first, it will be available for students in kindergarten through third grade. You can apply between now and February 14th. For more on how to apply, click here.

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