This week’s column will not focus on the historical fact that Imani Christian Academy was born in the home of Bishop Donald O. Clay in 1993, with three dedicated teachers and 30 students. It also will not focus on the fact that on Jan. 6, 2010, Imani will open in a newly renovated school that occupies five- and-a-half acres. It will not focus on the fact that the staff has grown from three to 37.
However, it will focus on the personal responses that I received from staff and students, and hopefully will help readers of this week’s column understand how and why Imani Christian Academy is so successful in producing young adults who are spiritually grounded and understanding what has to be done if they are to become our future leaders to salvage this struggling world and its multitude of problems.
I started my interviews with the janitor without any person even aware they were being interviewed. The janitor was always busy, never complaining, but understood very clearly his role and did it willingly and with a smile on his face, and was extremely respectful of all of those in authority. That fact needs to be made clear, because all or most of us have heard some very disparaging remarks made by us and our co-workers about those in authority on our jobs.
Every person in a clerical position that I spoke to told me how much they loved being employed at Imani. It was never referred to as a job, but a mission and not a person had any critical comments about the school. The teachers were next, but they have been interviewed over a long period of time, because every time I visit the school I make it a point to discuss the students with them and ask about the difference in Imani and others they may be familiar with. I have ongoing conversations with the students and I continue to be impressed with their focus and understanding that they are God’s children and have the potential and the opportunities to do and become whatever they choose.
One day last week I spoke to a young man at Imani, asked his name and what grade he was in. He said he was senior who was graduating. He said he will go to college and be an entrepreneur in the electrical field. He is a very positive young man.
Students at Imani Christian Academy, their parents and the entire community can be proud of the positive contributions they have made. The student body is composed of students from different neighborhoods in and around Pittsburgh. In this Christian environment there is love peace and learning.
How is the school so successful? How did it happen?
Imani is a Swahili word that means faith, but faith also requires work.
Faith was originally demonstrated by Bishop Donald O. Clay and others who had the vision to give birth to Imani Christian Academy. As the students move to their new location it is of overwhelming importance that they and the entire city be made aware of some very pertinent facts about how it became a reality. Imani’s board deserves a great deal of credit, because too frequently board members are faceless and nameless, often by choice.
However, there are two names that must be mentioned. The first is Elder Milton Raiford and second, Principal Dr. Marilyn Barnett, who has all of the academic credentials that are required, but also possesses the kind of love for the students and she instills in them that they must and can achieve.
Elder Milton Raiford is a man of unbelievable faith, whose life has very clearly demonstrated that God is still on the throne. Elder Milton could have written the song “the children are our future, teach them well.” I have watched him interact with the students and have heard him address them, insisting they understand that with God’s help everything and anything is possible, and can’t is never and acceptable word or thought. Yes, these are two people whose faith and works go hand in hand.
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(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a weekly contributor to the Forum Page.)