If there is one thing that 7-year-old Kyan Wakefield has enthusiasm about, it is prayer. The second-grader loves to pray. In fact, he gets a bit overzealous at times, and is gently reminded to cut it short when he leads the prayer at his new school, HOPE Via, in Racine.
That doesn’t surprise his parents, Fatima and Charles Wakefield. They stand their family of six on faith. It was during a school supply drive at their church, Reconciliation Ministries International, where they met HOPE Principal Castenzio Venegas. The church had gathered supplies for needy families who would be attending HOPE, and Castenzio was explaining what Hope Christian Schools had accomplished in Milwaukee and what the organization wished to achieve at its first Racine school.
“I told my husband that I thought I wanted to move Kyan after I heard him,” says Fatima. “Kyan attended Roosevelt School, just around the corner. It’ s a fine school. My two older children went there. But Kyan is a little different. We love him. But he needed something different. It bothered me as a parent that he was in the first grade and was not enjoying school,” says Fatima, who is an economic support worker for Racine County Human Services. “I was a little troubled about sending him back. He wasn’t feeling positive energy there. He wasn’t feeling embraced.”
“I realize that in a classroom of 30-plus kids, it is difficult for teachers and the students,” she admits. But the turning point about her enthusiasm for Kyan to attend Roosevelt surfaced during fall conferences last year, when one of the teachers began with a list of negative reactions to her son before she landed on a positive attribute. Kyan struggles with attention deficit disorder, and can pose some challenges. But that isn’ t the total sum of who he is, says his mom. “We are a Christian family, and we have raised our family with Christian values and morals,” she says. “HOPE School not only identifies Kyan as a child, but as a child of God. No matter what his behavior, Kyan is a child of God. He is destined and has a purpose.” There is no doubt of that kind of respect and support for students at HOPE, say Kyan’ s parents.
“Since Kyan has been at HOPE, he never has told me that he doesn’t want to go to school,” Fatima says. “I like that my son is happy. The classroom is small. He can talk about Jesus and pray for his friends without getting turned around.”
“The staff at HOPE gets my son. They hug him. They nurture him. In fact, when we went to school for the fall conference, it started with a prayer for him,” says Fatima, emphasizing how the atmosphere fits perfectly with her family’ s home life.
Charles, Kyan’ s father, appreciates the way HOPE is forming his son to accept responsibility, and how staff stays in very close contact with parents. “He comes home with homework every night. I like that,” says Charles. “The teacher shoots us a picture or a note every day with something positive about the day.”
HOPE is genuine, says Charles, who says the staff’s care and attention is palpable even in how he is greeted each morning as he drops his son off to school and when he picks him up at night.
“I’m glad my wife talked me into this,” he says, chuckling. “They have patience for him. They are teaching him like we raise him. And the fact that in the first two weeks of school his reading went from here,” he says, waving a hand around his knees, “to here,” he adds, waving his hand above his head, “That’s what you want to see.”
One of Kyan’s favorite pastimes is shadowing his dad at his barbershop, Chuck’ s Celebrity Cuts in Kenosha. Kyan reads to his dad in the truck as they travel to work on the weekends. “I wait for him to get stuck,” says Charles, “but it rarely happens. I was listening to him read on and on, and I said to him: ‘They taught you how to read all of that in school?’ and, he shrugged and said, ‘Yeah, Dad’.” Kyan confesses that reading is not his favorite pastime. But his mom got him a few books about sharks and hurricanes that he found interesting. “Sharks don’t really want to eat people,” he says quickly, sharing some of his new knowledge. “When he does read, he remembers,” smiles his mom.
Kyan is in HOPE Via’ s first second-grade class, and that gives him some special feelings about responsibility. “Since my class is the first, that means we have to keep the school nice and clean for other kids that come. We have to keep everyone happy, too.”
At HOPE, that certainly seems to be what they have accomplished for the Wakefields.