Binghampton Christian Academy gives students extra support

Binghampton Christian Academy began in 1993 to serve students through the eighth grade, providing not only an academic education but an extra level of support that includes a residential component
Binghampton Christian Academy sits nondescriptly at the end of the Shelby Farms Greenline on Tillman Street, a small set of buildings interrupted by a courtyard and playground.
 
The school was founded in 1993 by two missionaries who felt called to start an institution for the children of Binghampton, because they believed that everyone should have the opportunity to send their children to a school where they can receive a Christian education.
 
BCA covers K4 through eighth grade, and currently has 130 students, 30 of which live in the on-campus dorms during the week.
 
“Our residential program is really helpful because we are able to add that extra layer of support, not just with academics but also spiritual and emotional support,” said Shelley Alley, Director of Development and Communications at BCA.
 
The residential students are chosen every year based on their needs and their situations at home.
 
“Some of our students have difficult home lives and so they need to be on campus for a while,” said Alley. “They stay with us Monday through Friday but go home on the weekends.”
 
The dorms are monitored by adults who prepare the students emotionally, focusing on modeling good relationships and responsibility.
 
Travis and Doris Crutchfield are both teachers at BCA as well as being house parents for the boys’ dorm. They had been teaching at the school for five years when they decided to move into the dorm to take on a more hands-on approach with the students.
 
“God has used our relationship to show the students what stability is,” Travis Crutchfield said. “It was the Lord’s calling for us to do this and we just stepped into the role, and ever since we were given the freedom to make this our home.”
 
With 15 boys running around, the pair have quite a lot on their shoulders, but relish the opportunity to help raise young men in the Binghampton community.
 
“They are aware that what they do at school affects what they get to do at home,” said Doris Crutchfield. “It’s routine so they know the rules, they know how it works. They come home and know what to do.”
 
After school lets out the boys and girls head to their dorms and start on homework before they get free time. The Crutchfields make sure that the boys take care of all their responsibilities before they do anything else, including their daily chores, which must be checked by the older boys.
 
“I grew up with that too, those standards, knowing that they were there for our protection and to provide for us,” said Travis Crutchfield.
 
The house parents do not use corporal punishment; instead the boys live by a system of actions and consequences. They can choose to not do their chores, they can choose to spend their money frivolously, but there are consequences to those actions.
 
“They have to make these choices and if they do not learn how to make them now then later they won’t know how,” said Travis Crutchfield. “We’re just trying to build and maintain some biblical principles: personal responsibility, loving God and loving your country.”
 
The Crutchfields are very aware of the fact that they are being watched constantly, and the boys are learning how to behave through their actions. They take this responsibility very seriously because they see how this behavior is trickling down from the kids to their parents and the community.
 
“The kids see a new normal from us,” said Travis Crutchfield. “They see that it’s normal to be respectful, normal to complete your homework, normal to be on time, and normal to have good conduct.”
 
The basis of the residential program at BCA was to work with students who were suffering due to circumstances away from the school.
 
“It starts at home and this is a solution that’s really trying to focus on that,” said Alley. “Let’s give them that home life, that responsibility, that stability, that love. How does that change the trajectory of the students’ lives?”
 
Not only is every student at Binghampton Christian Academy on full scholarship, the residential program is completely free as well. This type of education would usually cost a family around $6,000 per year and residential dorms would add on another $7,000 per year, meaning families are getting around $13,000 worth of education covered in full every year.
 
Once a student graduates, the staff at BCA works to place them in a high school that matches up to their needs and will continue to supply assistance to the student. Over the past five years BCA has had 70 percent of its students move on to either charter or private high schools. They have a 90 percent graduation rate from high school and 65 percent of those students have continued on into higher education.
 
“We hope that we played some part of that success by getting them so young and working year to year to prepare them academically,” said Alley. “With our partnerships and relationships, we try to connect them with people and schools that they fit well with.”
 
BCA is reaching into the community and working with families to make changes, and they are incredibly passionate about this responsibility.
 
“This is a place where kids can get help and unconditional love and attention,” said Doris Crutchfield. “They can get help here in the dorms or help in the school. They get help obtaining that new normal.”

Read more articles by Lauren Turner.

Lauren Turner is a native Memphian and journalism graduate student at the University of Memphis. She is passionate about her city and the people who inhabit it. 
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