By Jim Arber
It was a special day at the Christian Academy of the Cumberlands on Nov. 12. One of their second-grade students, Richard Bradley, had a mother, Renee, come home from Afghanistan on Nov. 11. She had been on assignment for 21 long months and, after an unbelievably trying trip of 36 hours, she finally made it home.
The journey was long but the first leg from her compound to Bagram was especially worrisome It was necessary to travel through unsecured areas with a couple of Afghan interpreters on either side to ensure her safe passage through possibly corrupt checkpoints and anything "unforeseen." It was a trying 45 minutes. The rest of the journey was less stressful as she traveled on commercial airlines. Uneventful maybe, but as most of you can imagine, a 36-hour trip is no fun.
After that long, long ordeal she was surprisingly alert and in great spirits the next day for a wonderful, loving celebration that waited for her at the Christian Academy of the Cumberlands in Crossville. All of the students gathered in their large multi-purpose room for the celebration. Many wore red, some blue, some white, some all three. They had made a large commemorative poster for her and, as you can imagine, were awaiting her entrance with much anticipation.
When she arrived they gave her a warm round of applause and then sang "God Bless America" for her. A touching experience. That was followed by a Q and A session that the children simply loved. The school principal, Douglas Reid, then gave a short speech about how important the role our military has played in Afghanistan, around the world and the great sacrifices that these people make. Imagine being away from your husband and young son for 21 months in an insecure and sometimes unfriendly country. Yes, that's a sacrifice.
Renee, her husband Richard, and son Richard live on a farm in Morgan County near Lancing, TN. Over the months they have added to their original purchase and now own 31 acres of Tennessee farmland. The goal is to raise cattle and pork full time as the opportunity presents itself. Meantime they need to wait for Renee's obligation in Afghanistan to play out. She is on a 21-day leave now and must return to her Afghan base of operations until the "pull out" is complete.
So, you may ask, how did they decide the Christian Academy of the Cumberlands was the best place for their son to attend? After all, it's a good 35-minute ride one way. That's lots of miles for Papa Bradley every day, five days a week. It seems young Richard did attend the local school near Lancing but was not progressing as expected. Not his fault, just not a real challenging school experience for him. So...the search began. After several inquiries they finally sat down with Director Alicia Jones and decided to give CAC a try. It was a great decision. Not only did Richard do well academically but the social environment was very good for him.
A win-win situation except for Papa Bradley. Papa gets to drive to and from every single day. He feels that drive is a small price to pay for the quality education young Richard gets from CAC. Yes, more than worth it.
As for the Christian Academy, it got its start back in 2006. The current executive director, Alicia Jones, had this idea for a Home School Umbrella meant to facilitate home schooling. Problem is, you cannot home school other people’s children. The idea would not die. Calls kept coming in. It seemed like many folks in this small community wanted a school with a five-day curriculum. While a "school" was not Alicia's original idea she was surely being led in that direction. After a year or so they merged with Meridian Christian Academy and moved to their current location at 325 Braun St. in Crossville. They immediately started an expansion of the building to its current size of approximately 18,000 sq ft. It's very apparent that all this was not a chance occurrence. It is a testament to what faith and hard work can accomplish.
Walk in the front door of the academy and you will be immediately impressed. The reception area is clean, efficient and exudes professionalism. Kelly, the receptionist, secretary, girl Friday, and whatever else, is not only friendly and helpful but reinforces the perception of proficiency. Funny thing, no books are stacked all over, no piles of paper strewn about. Everything is clean, neat. It is obvious that someone cares. The rest of the school is equally impressive. Once through security you get a look at a spotless, well cared for environment. They are surprisingly well facilitized. A computer lab, a library, a little nap room for the pre-schoolers, a cafeteria and much more are all available to the students.
Even though this is a young school, established in 2006, one of the early students, Brittany Donohue, continued her education, got her teaching certificate and now teaches kindergarten at CAC.
To summarize, the Christian Academy of the Cumberlands is an impressive and surprising facility. It is obvious that a great deal of faith, organizational skills and determination were required to lift it to its present state. Their mission statement is clear and unambiguous. "...to develop the whole student -mind, body, and spirit- through its academic excellence with a distinctly Christian worldview to equip the next generation."
Anyone out there interested in the academy can call for a personal tour or other information at 931-707-9540.
• • •
Jim Arber is a freelance writer living in Cumberland County. He can be reached at email@example.com.