GREENVILLE—Event-based, nonprofit ministry LifeWise Academy will launch a LifeWise program at Greenville City Schools this fall.
Founded in 2018, LifeWise Academy is a division of Stand For Truth, an event-based nonprofit ministry with a mission to reach public school students. The creation of LifeWise was inspired by a Released Time Religious Instruction (RTRI) in Van Wert, OH, which has a 95% participation rate among public elementary school students.
Stand For Truth and the Van Wert Released Time program worked together to create LifeWise Academy. The first two LifeWise programs launched in the fall of 2019. As of 2021, LifeWise is serving more than two dozen school districts.
This type of program was made legal in 1952. The Supreme Court ruled that students can be released from public school during school hours to attend religious classes. However, these released time classes must be off school property, privately funded and parent permitted.
Typically taught once a week, for a 45 minute to one hour period, the curriculum is designed to take students through the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, over the course of five years. Each lesson reviews a passage as well as a “Living LifeWise” character trait. The lessons’ order and activities are flexible and can be modified as the teacher finds necessary. Classes are usually 15 to 25 people in total.
The program has been successful in surrounding cities within the Miami Valley.
Newton was the first community that Tara Schwartz, LifeWise Miami Valley Field Representative, had a hand in helping.
“They already have almost 75% of their elementary school attend our classes,” she said. “This is huge. That’s 171 students in Newton that are receiving this education.”
LifeWise doesn’t launch a program until three churches are represented by community members. Schwartz said this requirement allows all community churches to come together to serve students.
“There’s already a lot of life changing things that have happened [in Newton],” she said. “From my personal experience, seeing the churches, who have not worked together in any kind of project, they are now working together to serve the Newton students. I have seen that through community fundraising events, it’s bringing the community together for fun stuff, but also it’s for a good cause.”
In addition, teachers have also commented to Schwartz that they’ve seen a real change in kids that go to LifeWise.
“They request the character words we’re focusing on,” she said. “They can emphasize them in their public school classrooms. This is a unified program. I’ve never seen any other program that can have such an impact on all sides.”
Lifewise Director Pat Longfellow and teacher Janalee Lyons will welcome the fourth graders of Greenville City Schools to the Greenville LifeWise Academy on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. Additional schools in Darke County and the surrounding areas that have approved the program include Ansonia, Franklin Monroe, Arcanum, Covington and Milton Union.
“To be honest I have champions in all of the Darke County Schools that are trying to do this, Schwartz said. “We just had Bradford kick off. We just approached the school board in Tri-Village. With the character crisis that’s going on, it’s a great opportunity to meet those needs.”